Last week I put mealworms in the blue feeder cup again to try to tempt some bluebirds up to my deck.
Let’s just say it was strike 2.
Thanks to Tropical Storm Nicole!
Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . .
. . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . .. . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us.
~~Thomas Merton: No Man is an Island
~~Jeffrey R. Holland
Don't try to dazzle everyone with how brilliant you are. Dazzle them with how brilliant the gospel is. Don't worry about the location of the lost tribes or the Three Nephites. Worry a little more about the location of your student, what's going on in his heart, what's going on in her soul, the hunger, sometimes near-desperate spiritual needs of our people. Teach them. And, above all, testify to them. love them. Bear your witness from the depths of your soul. It will be the most important thing you say to them in the entire hour, and it may save someone's spiritual life.
We come to expect God to accept our understanding of what his will ought to be and to help us fulfill that, instead of learning to see and accept his will in the real situations in which he places us daily. …The plain and simple truth is that his will is that he actually wills to send us each day, in the way of circumstances, places, people and problems. The trick is to learn to see that- not just in theory, or not just occasionally in a flash of insight granted by God’s grace, but every day. Each of us has no need to wonder about what God’s will must be for us; his will for us is clearly revealed in every situation of every day….The temptation is to overlook these things as God’s will. The temptation is to look beyond these things, precisely because they are so constant, so petty, so humdrum and routine, and to seek to discover instead some other and nobler “will of God” in the abstract that better fits our notion of what his will should be.[It is] the temptation faced by everyone who suddenly discovers that life is not what he expected it to be. The answer lies in understanding that it is these things- and these things alone, here and now, at this moment- that truly constitutes the will of God. The challenge lies in learning to accept this truth and act upon it, every moment of every day.
When I came downstairs on Sunday morning everyone was out on the screened porch.
Listening to Russ read from the last chapters of the 7th Harry Potter book. Yes, that’s right, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, he’s read them all. Aloud. In the last few months. For hours at a time. That is some feat of the vocal cords.
Sunday night after dinner they were at it again. The end was so close they could all taste it.
And then, all of a sudden, there it was. It was over.
I am amazed. What a man. They love reading with him so much and have no idea how lucky they are.
PS—Rachel suggested tonight that they read book 7 again.
One morning during our first full year of homeschooling, 8 year old Cindy Lynn came and confessed to me. She had been lying to me, she said, telling me that she had finished school work and chores that were not done.
I do not remember how I responded to that confession, but I am sure I didn’t handle it well. I was young and overwhelmed, trying to balance her school needs with the care of a difficult one year old and another child as well. I was probably frustrated, annoyed, and angry.
Recently I got a chance to try again, and all I can say is that I am grateful for the years that have passed and all that I have learned.
When I went up to bed that night, a sobbing Jared met me at the stop of the stairs.
I was surprised and a little alarmed. It was 9:30, and he had gone to bed just after 8:00. What had happened that he was awake so much later, and so upset? I pulled him into my room with me and held him on the couch.
“Mom,” he cried, “I think you are going to be mad at me!” And then he sobbed harder.
What a good opening line from him—what a blessing to me that he started that way! It reminded me that I have been trying so hard to love my children unconditionally—no matter what they do or say. How nice of him to remind me in that first moment that what I wanted to do was LOVE HIM. So that what he remembered was that he was loved, even when he had done something wrong.
“Oh Jared,” I said, “I don’t think I will be mad at you. I just love you too much to be mad at you!” And then I held him for another minute.
Finally it all tumbled out. I had made a comment just as he had gone up to bed about being honest in his piano practicing, and it had gone straight to his tender little heart. He confessed with such anguish, “I lied to you all week, Mom. I haven’t even practiced the piano at all!” And then he cried again.
I hugged him more and told him again how much I love him, and that I love him even if he lied and didn’t practice the piano.
We sat for a few minutes, me hugging and him sobbing.
When he started calming down he told me through hiccups and sobs that it has been so hard to start practicing again, and about his frustration with how much he had forgotten over the summer.
I thought about how I was actually happy that Jared had made these bad choices right now, when he could learn some vital life lessons without it being too painful.
I sympathized and told him that I’m having a hard time getting back into the routine of things too.
And then I did it—part two of handling this the right way. I said, “Jared, I’ll bet you’ve felt awful this week!”
He agreed right away. It had been a terrible week for him.
I explained, “That’s the Holy Ghost, telling you that what you were doing was wrong. And that is so awesome that you heard the Holy Ghost, and you listened, and you made the right choice to come and talk to me about it!”
I hugged him some more, patting his back and thinking of how much I love this youngest child. From the moment I first saw him the morning after he was born, I have loved his gentle, easy going spirit that is so much like his father’s.
As he calmed down, I reassured him that in his piano lesson the next day we would review all of the things he couldn’t remember, and that he could always ask me for help when he was ready to practice. I asked him if he thought it was better to do the work of practicing or feel so bad, and he said that it would be much easier to practice rather than to have to feel so guilty.
Before he went back to his bed, we said a prayer together. I asked Heavenly Father to help Jared know how much his dad and I love him. And to help him make good choices, and keep listening to the spirit. Last I asked that Heavenly Father would help Jared be excited about being able to serve Him by playing the piano, especially by being able play the piano when he is a missionary.
We closed our prayer, hugged some more, and then my sweet boy went calmly to back to bed, while I thanked Heavenly Father for all that he has taught me in the last 14 years.
My dear Gerber friends,
It appears that my little rant this summer about your lack of performance might have been a little premature.
Perhaps you just needed more time to grow.
Or maybe the hot summer is not your finest season.
Whatever the reason, your blooms right now exceed all of my expectations.
Your flowers brighten my deck
and give me plenty to photograph.
I was not expecting this bounty of blooms, and I am delighted.
Even the cat is a fan!
Please except my humblest apology for my earlier attitude, and just ignore me while I take a few zillion pictures.
Because you are so beautiful.
And next summer I’ll be a little more patient. Because I’ll remember the beauty that is coming after the heat is over…
[I have a couple more posts that I wanted to write about my trip to Utah, but it has taken me a while to figure out how to adequately express the feelings that are in my heart…]
Their lives are ruled by the schedule of daily dialysis. Six days a week, three to four hours each day. Almost 24 hours out of each week spent tied to the machine that filters her blood.
No one ever knows what type of patient they will be until the opportunity arrives—stoic or bitter, whiny or afraid. Her family is fortunate;she is a good patient. For twenty-one months now she has responded to each crisis with faith, rarely frustrated or resentful. She bears the difficult moments quietly and refers to the future with optimism.
She inspires me.
Always kind and attentive, he cares for her now with even more gentleness and love. In addition to his challenging professional work he is now the home dialysis nurse—preparing each piece of equipment, gently inserting the needles, monitoring the process. He listens and watches for the alarms that indicate something is not working right, and then makes adjustments; changes her arm position, raises or lowers her feet, holds her hand, rubs her cramping legs.
He inspires me.
They move through the days one at a time, trying to figure out how to balance work, home, health, children, and church. Always with stress, but also always with faith in Heavenly Father’s ultimate plan for their family.
They inspire me.
It all started at the beach one night 11 years ago. I wore my glasses into the hot tub so that I could see all of the beautiful stars that show up so well in the dark beach sky, and as I sat and stared at the stars I saw it.
A shooting star.
I don't think I'd ever seen a shooting star before then--and I was instantly a fan.
(That is why I still wear my glasses in the hot tub at night at the beach, even though it looks totally dorky!)
On our way to Utah last summer we stopped for a quick visit in Moab. We drove into Arches in the late afternoon, walked around to see a couple of arches, and enjoyed the beauty of the sunset.
After the sun was completely down we got out and sat on the van and watched the stars. Jason and I had read an article in National Geographic about “light pollution” in the night skies, and how few truly dark places are left. Knowing that Arches was a truly dark place we had decided we would star watch there. And I hoped we’d see a few shooting stars.
The sky was really amazing that night, and almost all of us saw shooting stars. The kids were so excited. I was excited because I knew it wouldn’t be the end of our star watching on that trip.
A couple of weeks later we were visiting Cindy Lynn & Mahon in Rexburg. One night we went to some sand dunes near Rexburg. These sand dunes are amazing—so many of them, so high, and out in the middle of no where! We happened to be there on the night that was the apex of the Perseid Meteor Shower.
It was an incredible and beautiful experience.
This summer for the Perseid Meteor shower we were back at the beach and back in the hot tub having a great time watching the shooting stars. I still get so excited every time I see one. (And I still have never wished on a shooting star!)
I happened to pick up a copy of Boy’s Life the other day, and was really interested to see a page about meteor showers. It turns out that there are more than the two/year that I knew about. In addition to the Perseids in August and the Geminids on December 13th and 14th, (brr!) there are the Draconids on Oct 8th & 9th and the Orionids on October 21st and 22nd.
I think I’m going to be doing a little star watching in October!!
This summer we got hummingbird feeders for our deck, and we have really loved them.
Before we could love them, though, we had to deal with a problem.
The ants were much faster to discover the feeders than the birds were, and they were apparently willing to give their lives in trying to get some of the nectar. The first time I went out and looked both little feeders were filled with dead ants floating in the nectar, and there was a line of ants all the way up the pole and down to each feeder waiting to get in.
In a word, it was gross.
(I’m not a fan of ants.)
I did some research online, and ended up deciding that my solution would be the medieval one.
Yep, you read that right. Moats to keep the ants out.
I made them with old detergent lids and clothes hangers. I was a little dubious, but filled with water they worked like a charm.
Not only did they keep the ants from being able to get to the hummingbird feeders, but they also provided a place for the beautiful goldfinches to perch and get a drink of water. (Sorry, no pictures of that.)
The ant moats were a rousing success.
Later in the summer I decided it was time to try to attract bluebirds to my deck. Accordingly I bought a special cup at the wild bird store (seriously—it’s a wild bird store) and spent far too much money on a dixie cup filled with meal worms to entice the bluebirds.
I set it all up and waited for the bluebirds to come.
Instead, guess who came. If you guessed ants, you’re right. And I have to give these creatures credit; they are amazing.
Because those ants carted off every one of the mealworms before any bluebird had time to think of looking!
And they were only half as big as the mealworms!
Obviously another moat was needed. Which meant I had to wait for another laundry detergent lid to become available.
While I was waited I experimented with some old cherries, since bluebirds are supposed to be interested in fruit too.
We never did see any birds, but we did see some lovely creatures.
This week I finally made the new ant moat and now it’s installed with another batch of mealworms in the feeder. So far I’ve only seen a bee after the mealworms…hopefully the bluebirds will discover them soon.
I’ll keep you posted!
Why is it that being gone for most of one day invariably means I will spent all of the next day recovering from the inevitable chaos that resulted???
I want to live in a world with anti-entropy. Where things just get cleaner and more organized as a result of every day living…doesn’t that sound great?
P.S. I finally remembered that there was a bad smell in the pantry that I have not had time to check out. Yuck. All I’m going to say is Potatoes Gone Bad. And thank goodness for clorox wipes!
I recently posted about how sad I was to have friends moving because their husbands had finished their post-graduate education at Duke. I said that it was the downside of getting to know so many terrific student families in our ward here.
A couple of weeks ago we got to experience the upside, when a family that moved away about 4 years ago came back to visit before they spent a week at the beach.
[Just a note: this should tell you something about the awesomeness of the NC beaches—that this family came all the way from Seattle to spend a week at Emerald Isle!]
It was such fun to see them, to hang out and talk, and see how big their kids are now.
And it was also wonderful to get to meet their newest family member, Lilly. Lilly & I had lots of fun together.
So consider this an official invitation, to all of our friends who have already moved or will be moving. Our door is always open, we’ll always have a bed for you and if you’re lucky Russ will make you breakfast. Just be sure to come back and see us!
(P.S. Can you tell which family had just gotten home from a week at the beach and which family was just getting ready to go to the beach???)
It always takes me by surprise, this transition from summer to fall. Last week the kids and I went to the pool and basked in the heat every afternoon; this week the mornings have a hint of chill in the air and the oak tree is suddenly studded with leaves of gold.
The summer flowers still flourishing on my deck are juxtaposed against the backdrop of impending autumn.
Summer is never long enough for me. Both greedy and nostalgic, I always want more. One more day in the ocean waves, one more day reading away an afternoon by the pool. One more squash from the garden and one more sultry night filled with fireflies.
It is a relief to me this year to know that as much as I have loved the summer, I will also love the fall. I will enjoy walking in the cool mornings, I will relish snuggling into my silky blanket on a chilly afternoon, and most of all I will revel in the rich brocade of nature’s palette as this beautiful place that I love shifts from deep green into yellow, red, and gold.
All against the backdrop of the incomparably blue Carolina sky…
At the airport in Salt Lake you check in and get tags for your luggage, but you don’t part company there. Instead you take your bags down a little farther where you hand them off to go through a security check.
When I flew home a couple of weeks ago I had two pieces of luggage with me. A big suitcase and a small duffle bag.
First I handed off the suitcase to the worker there. He rolled it into the line of waiting suitcases. Then I handed him the duffle bag.
I could tell by his response that he expected the duffle to be fairly light—full of things like pajamas and mascara.
Instead, he almost dropped the bag.
“What on earth is in here???” he asked.
“Well,” I said, “That’s a bit of a story…”
Costco in Utah has a product that Costo in North Carolina don’t have. (Besides Tilapia Loins.) (Actually I haven’t checked. I really don’t know if you can buy Tilapia Loins here.) Anyway, in Utah you can buy raw tortillas that you take home and cook right before you want to eat it.
For a tortilla loving girl like me, this is total nirvana. It’s like dying and going to homemade tortilla heaven.
Since I took a lot of stuff belonging to other people out to Utah in my suitcase, I thought there was a good chance I’d have some space available to bring something back. And from the beginning I planned that that something was going to be raw tortillas.
(I just noticed that I’ve used the word “yum” quite a bit lately in my blog. Sorry about that!)
So one day there I was in Costco. It was in the middle of the week, but I figured I could go ahead and get the tortillas and just store them in my brother’s fridge until I left.
Just one problem.
I couldn’t find the uncooked tortillas in the store. I looked and looked and looked. It didn’t help that their store was laid out nothing like ours so I was pretty lost. Eventually I gave up and took the rest of my stuff to check out.
“Did you find everything you were looking for?” asked the perky Utah clerk.
“Well actually…” I decided to go for it. “I was looking for the uncooked tortillas but I couldn’t find them anywhere.”
Just at that moment another worker walked by and heard what I said. She explained that they were in the process of remodeling, and that those tortillas had been moved just that morning. “Do you want me to go get some for you?” she asked.
I wavered. Half wanting not to be a bother, and in a hurry to leave. The other half (the hungry half) wanting those tortillas.
“Sure,” I said.
“How many do you want?”
Ummm…I didn’t know. How many? A lot. Enough to eat for a while. And to share a few with my kids. But how many is that?
“Four!” I said. “No, Five!” (Whatever that means!)
In a few minutes she was back.
With a BIG BOX. That looked HEAVY.
With some trepidation I looked in. There they were, my four, no five, bags of raw tortillas.
And they were huge.
How big, you ask?
Yep, just over 4 1/2 pounds per bag. If you need a comparison here, a box with 4 sticks of butter is exactly 1 pound. These were heavy bags of tortillas!
I thanked the Costco worker for tracking down the tortillas for me and paid for them, frantically doing the math in my mind. Five bags of tortillas that weighed four and a half pounds each…the math did not come easily but I finally figured out I had just purchased just over twenty two and a half pounds of tortillas. And that I was probably not going to be able to fly home with all of that!
In the end I left one package of tortillas with my awesome brother and sister in law to thank them for letting us stay at their house and for letting my tortillas live in their fridge for a couple of days. I also gave a package of tortillas to Cindy Lynn, and I brought home just three. Not quite 15 pounds of tortillas, it was still enough to make that poor duffle bag seem unreasonably heavy.
“Tortillas?!?” the security worker said incredulously. “That’s what’s making this bag so heavy???”
And that, my friends, is why I was not surprised to get back to North Carolina and find this hiding under the packages of tortillas..
And I have had a freshly cooked tortilla for lunch and dinner almost every day since I’ve been home. Whether or not I’ve needed one!
Now I’m trying to figure out who the next person I know that is traveling to and from Utah…to see if they’ll bring me more tortillas!
Of all of the flowers I planted this year, the impatiens have performed the best. Never mind that they started the smallest; this appears not to matter. In almost every situation they have grown enormously and brought beautiful color to our yard.
They didn’t even seem to notice or mind that they were planted to fill in under a more important plant (the non-flowering mandevillas in both of these pictures!) or in old pots or even an old plastic box. They just grew and grew and grew.
Every now and then when they hadn’t been watered enough they wilted in the hot sun, but as soon as the sun went behind the tree they perked right up again.
The impatiens have been star performers.
Which was why I was a little surprised to walk out the other day and see the impatiens in 3 pots at the end of the driveway looking like this.
I could not figure out what had happened. Did some bug come through and kill off all of the flowers? I was so perplexed, and so sad.
Then Ken suggested that maybe the deer had been snacking on our impatiens.
How dare they?!?
We have had a deer free yard for 9 years now. I think we had them fooled, because for most of those 9 years we’ve also had a plant free yard.
They’ve obviously caught on to the fact that the situation is now different.
And every morning, they’re having breakfast while we’re in bed!
You guessed it. The parade of broken things in our life that started earlier this summer has not ended. Last week our little car spent most of the week in the shop again (this time for the AC) and then then, well, it was the well.
At first we couldn’t figure out what was going on. The water pressure hasn’t been good for a while, but then it got dramatically worse. And from time to time the water would have a little tinge of our Carolina mud in it. Tasty.
Russ and our nice neighbor finally took a look at some of the bits and pieces under the house and they came to the conclusion that there was most likely a leak in the well, and that it was time to call in the profe$$ionals.
$$$ Of course it was. $$$
So a few days and $1700 later the professionals pulled the pipe all out, found the leak, recommended we go ahead and replace the pump while everything was out, and then put it all back together. They even dropped a pebble in the well so that we could hear it plink into the water below.
And then they recommended that we not use the water for the next 24 hours to let things settle.
Wanna know why?
Yep, that was what came out of the hose after 24 hours.