Sunday, June 29, 2014

A list of lists

Things to be grateful for in the Denver airport:
Lots of food choices
Outlets by our gate
Bathrooms near our gate
The toothbrush in my purse
Comfortable chairs to try to sleep in
The train ride between terminals
That the always present sound of the moving walkway was sometimes soothing
That we got a flight out the next morning!!


Things I miss about North Carolina:
Flowers growing along the interstate.
crepe myrtles
air like a warm embrace
lightning and thunder
gray skies that mean a storm is coming
the smell of honeysuckle in the air
the beach
blue birds
southern accents


Things I do not miss about North Carolina:
feeling sweaty all of the time
wanting to put my hair in a ponytail all of the time
slow service

Saturday, June 28, 2014

It is what it is

Invariably when I’d be talking with my aunt and we came upon a difficult topic, she’d say (in her still-a-southern-girl-after-all-these-years accent) “It is what it is, honey!”

And I, in my wisdom, would think things like “No!”  And “Do not go gently into that good night!”  And stuff like that.

Because I was sure she was wrong in giving in and letting it be.  Whatever it was, I thought she should fight to change it and make it different.

But as I’ve gotten older my feelings have changed.  I’ve seen the endless frustration I can (and have) cause myself by trying to change situations in my life that I actually have no control over.  I’ve seen the energy that can be wasted, the anger that is the result—none of it is good.

So now I’m working to be more like my aunt.  Working to realize that there actually are a lot of things in my life that I can’t change.  That fighting things only brings more exhaustion and frustration into my life.  Working to understand deep in my heart that in the end I’ll be so much better off if I can say with her, “It is what it is, honey.”

(now if only I could say it in a terrific southern accent!)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Reflections on leaving the beach

I am sitting in a darkened room, listening simultaneously to the soft sound of Russ breathing in the bed nearby and the washing machine running downstairs, waiting to be able to go and shift yet another load of wet towels before I go to sleep. 

I already know what tomorrow morning will be like—years of long experience have taught me not to hope for more than I’ve already experienced up to this point.  Not another walk on the beach, not another late breakfast after sleeping in, not another stolen swim.   Instead it will be a scramble.  We will scramble to eat, to wash the dishes quickly, to finish packing everything up and haul it out to the cars and pack it in.  If we are lucky we will be driving out of the driveway at 10, already hot and sticky, a caravan of beachy Cinderellas leaving the ball at the last possible moment while the clock strikes behind us.

Tomorrow morning will be hurried and hectic and sweaty.  For a couple of hours my sadness at leaving the beach will be camouflaged by the work-work-work of getting us all out of here.  But tonight, tonight while I sit in the dark, I mourn.

I’ve always felt sorrow at leaving the beach.  There are so many things to love here: the escape from regular life, time with friends, long lazy days, nights filled with games, the ocean I love so much.  But now the beach also seems symbolic—reminding me how our life has changed, remind me that things once taken for granted are now so difficult to achieve.

I can see that the only way through this is gratitude.  In this moment it is so easy to lose track and let the magnitude of this experience be eclipsed by my sorrow.  So instead I will remind myself what a privilege it is to have been here.  What a blessing to be able to afford not only to stay at the beach, on the beach, but also to have the means to travel here.  Yes, we made choices and sacrifices in order to be able to use our money this way, but to have the ability to make this choice and those sacrifices is a privilege.  When I focus on these thoughts my heart fills with gratitude—for the beach and the ocean, for our friends, for the house that sheltered us, for the safe travel at every step of the way, for life situations that allowed this. 

I am so very blessed to have experienced this week of beauty.IMG_4851

Monday, June 23, 2014

And me without my camera.

I usually bring one of my cameras out to the beach safely ensconced in a ziploc bag, but on our first trip out I forgot.  I played in the waves and then sat in the sand for a while, idly chatting and watching.  And then it happened.  I noticed how perfectly adorable Kate was; sitting there with a pink and white sun hat atop the wavy hair, pudgy arms moving the sand shovels back and forth to the bucket.  This is too cute, I thought, I should grab my camera.  Followed by the realization that the camera, any camera, was up at the beach house. 

Inside I had a quick battle.  Do I stay or do I go??  Part of me wanted to dash up into the house and grab a camera.  But I listened to the other part, to the part of my brain that was arguing for being in the moment over trying to record the moment.  I told myself that there was no guarantee that the cute moment would still be happening if I left to get the camera.  I told myself to sit there and watch and enjoy.  And I obeyed.

I won’t lie—I wish that I could have had my cake and eaten it too.  I wish that I had a picture of Kate in that classic beach moment because she was precious.  But at the same time I’m glad I stayed.  Glad I stayed right there, right in the moment.  Because it was beautiful.  Even if I have no photographic evidence of that fact.


(This is a picture from today.  When I made sure to take the camera!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Days like this will make me grey(er).

It started yesterday evening.  One of my children came to me in the laundry room to tell me that something bad had happened to them.  Without disclosing any of the private details I can tell you that the child was badly shaken but not hurt, and that the end result of the disclosure was a phone call to the bishop and from him on to the stake president and the church’s abuse hotline.  At the end of an already exhausting day (Nine errands!  NINE!!) it really wiped me out. 

This morning as I was writing out a list of things that need to happen before we leave tomorrow.  While I was writing Jenna came in looking for her new shirt that is to be worn for the all important family beach picture.  As I talked to her I finally realized that when they were trying on alllllll of the new shirts I had ordered from Kohls she had not taken the darling shirt she had chosen up to her room but had left it with all of the other shirts.  Which meant yeah, I returned it to Kohls last Friday.  And it’s no longer available online.  (Did I mention how cute it was??)  So now we need to figure that one out.  You know, today.  In my spare time.

After a quick lunch at our ward’s book club I came back home to get started again on Stuff That Must Be Done.  My alarm on my phone went off, alerting me that I needed to stop everything and check everyone in for the flight tomorrow.  (Don’t ask me why, but we ended up with each person having a different confirmation number.)  I started checking people in.   (Did you know that if you’re checking in on Southwest starting at the first moment you can, the amount of time it takes until you can check in the next person gives you a boarding position that is 10 lower?  Yeah, me neither.)  When I put in Jared’s confirmation code the website told me that his ticket was cancelled.  Well obviously that was a mistake, so I put it in again.  And got that message again.  I had to breathe pretty deeply at this point to keep myself from panicking and I started searching my email for another confirmation code for Jared.  No luck.

As soon as I had the rest of us all checked in I called Southwest.  Waited on hold for about 5 minutes.  Finally got a nice-sounding lady on the phone and tried to continue breathing deeply so that I didn’t yell at her.  Explained the convoluted situation as clearly as possible.  Yes, 6 people.  Yes, 6 different confirmation codes.  No, weren’t intending to leave our youngest child Home Alone.  (No, I didn’t mention that he is only the youngest by 2 minutes.  It didn’t seem relevant.) 

As the woman at Southwest dug into our records she was able to make sense of what I was saying and finally saw that when someone at Southwest had made a reservation for Jared in March, they had cancelled it 9 minutes later.  Fortunately (FORTUNATELY) there were 2 extra seats available on our flight tomorrow and she pulled one of them for Jared.  Then she put me on hold for  what seemed like forever and went to consult with the help desk.

In the end they gave Jared a new reservation and charged me the original price for it.  I was more relieved than I could possibly say.  And equally exhausted.  I finally ate my lunch at 3. 

Now I think it’s time to eat some chocolate.  And take a nap.  What can I say?  Desperate times call for desperate measures…

Monday, June 16, 2014


I have in my mind an image of what my life will look like, will feel like.  It will be a life of deliberateness and connection and above all, a life with a measured tempo.



Instead I feel myself hurtling, projectile-like, from one calendar item to the next, the breaks in between inevitably crammed with the necessary minutiae of living and raising a family.

I find myself unwilling to give things up, to pare back where I could.  I can see why some would, but in cutting back I would lose the things that are for me, the things that add zest and happiness to life.

And so I will  keep on keeping on.  Hurtling through time and space, wishing for that calm picture in my mind and yet knowing that it cannot, it will not exist.  Because I am unwilling to make it happen.

Father’s Day fun

Best father’s day idea ever.  Even Josh wanted in on it!



Thursday, June 12, 2014

To be known

“I could not stop thinking about you and how much you will love some of these shots as much as I do! You may want to sit down for this,” her email read.

Curious as to what shots I was going to love, I clicked the link.  This is what I saw.


And this.


They really did take my breath away.  I read the article and watched the accompanying video with total jealousy that someone got to take those pictures.  And I felt gratitude that my friend knew me well enough to know that I love lava and I love the ocean and that I would love these pictures.

We lived in Durham for so long that I had a lot of friends that knew me well.  Living in Oregon for the last two years has been interesting—to feel like no one around me really truly knows me, knows what makes me tick, knows my little quirks and oddities.  No one here in Oregon knows that I need a nap every day, and that I probably need a piece of cheese, and that I like to think about everything.  I know that will come with time, but in the meantime I’m so grateful to have friends who really know me, because being known like that is love.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Overheard on the way to dinner

Jared: I had to put away 3 people’s music in band today.
Rachel: Yeah, we had to leave early for choir.  Jared, thanks for sorting all of our music for us!
Me: Aren’t you glad you let him come along for the ride?
Josh: Yeah, and that you didn’t kill him in the womb?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Smells like home to me!


Variegated evergreen honeysuckle blooming outside our front door!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Books that changed my life

I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember and I’ve read far more books than I ever could remember.  As an adult, though, I’ve read a few books that have stuck out in my mind because they changed me in significant ways.  I thought I’d write a bit about them.  [I am deliberately not including the scriptures, though they have and do change me regularly.]

The Divine Center by Steven Covey –I read this book during the time we lived in Pocatello, probably when I was about 24 or 25.  The concept that we can only successfully center our lives on Christ is still something I think about regularly.  The really important thing for me in this book though was his writing about scripture study. The things he said changed the way I thought about scripture study forever.

Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson—I can still remember the issue of the Ensign that had the article by him that later became his book.  The idea that it was not enough to believe in Christ, but that we must also believe Him, that he can and will save us, was amazing to me.  I of course had never thought of Christ in this way, and it was the beginning of a new understanding of and appreciation for grace and the atonement.  I read this in the first couple of years that we lived in North Carolina, so I was probably 27 or so.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman—One of my friend told me one day about a class her sister had taught in Relief Society about a new book.  As my friend described these different “love languages” everything she said made so much sense to me.  I read the book as quickly as I could get it and felt like it helped me understand myself and my family so much better.  I think I was 28 or 29 at this point.

Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Foundation—One year I was in Utah and my sister offered to loan me Leadership and Self Deception.  I was so impressed that I bought The Anatomy of Peace as soon as it was published.  These books helped me see myself and my relationships to other people in such a different way.  I am often not successful in living the principles in these books, but it sure is a noble goal to be working towards.  I think I read these books when I was about 37 and 42.

Real Love by Greg Baer—I blogged here about my experiences with Real Love.  I still try to live by these principles and they have made such a difference in my life.  I’m far from perfect at loving unconditionally, but in the places where I have really made a big effort in my life I have seen wonderful results.  I think I was between 38 and 40 when I first was introduced to Real Love.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Adventures with personal revelation

A few weeks ago I was in Miami staying for a few days with Lindsay.  She & her husband were telling me one night about several great podcasts that they had listened to.  They were so enthusiastic about them that I was motivated when I got home to put some on my mp3 player so that I could listen while I worked in the house and yard.

I listened as I was working out in the yard, then later while I was driving somewhere.  When I got home I set the mp3 player and earbuds on the back of the sofa and forgot to ever put them away.  A couple of days later I decided that I wanted to listen again but couldn’t find the mp3 player.  Remembering that I’d last had it on the sofa I looked around there without success.  I went and looked in other possible places, then returned to look around the sofa again.  I walked throughout the house looking in various places, always circling back to the sofa.  At some point in the evening Josh and his friend came into the family room to play xbox and I worried that I looked like a circling vulture, walking around and around the sofa hoping that this time I would spot the elusive mp3 player or the red cords of the earbuds.  Eventually I gave up and went to bed.

Several days later I wanted the mp3 player again and started praying to be able to find it.  Again I walked through the house and again I kept coming back to the sofa, even picking up the sections and looking under them, but not finding it.  I kept praying as I looked, but no luck.

Yesterday I wanted the it again and so I prayed again and looked again.  I even picked up the sofa pieces and looked under them again.  And then as I stood looking at the sofa, on a whim I pulled one of the seat cushions off.  There they were, black mp3 player and red earbuds.  They really had been in the sofa all along, the place where I’d felt impelled to look without even realizing it.


Several months ago I taught a class on personal revelation at a Saturday event for women.  For months I read and studied about personal revelation to try to understand it better.  I studied hoping to understand better what it was and to know how to improve my chances of experiencing it and recognizing it when it came. 

Teaching the class was a great experience.  Preparing to teach it was a great experience.  But in the end I felt no more certain of receiving revelation that I had when I started. What I did feel was more certain that revelation was happening in my life and that there were principles governing it.  That generally I had to be living worthily to receive revelation.  That it was harder to receive revelation when my life was noiser.  That revelation NEVER felt like revelation.  That revelation was rarely one bit “louder” than it needed to be to get the job done.  That revelation was often only apparent in retrospect.  That revelation was never mine to claim, but only God’s to give. 


And that is why when I found the mp3 player and earbuds I had to smile.  That’s right, I thought, I was a little irrational in my searching, continually coming back to the sofa to look.  It probably was just the smallest touch of personal revelation, nudging me back and back and back again until I looked in the right way.  Prompting me to offer a prayer of gratitude, gratitude that I can listen to a podcast again while I work, and gratitude that God would help me, even in such a small thing.  Gratitude for personal revelation in my life.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Overheard at the dinner table

Last night the family started eating while I was at the front door talking to a friend.  When I got back to the table this is the conversation I heard:

Russ: None of the kids are going to let me live with them when I am old.
Rachel: Well I’m going to have lots of pets and he’s allergic.
Jenna: I’m not changing any diapers, that’s all I’m saying.
Jared: I’m going to be an astronaut so I’ll be in space all of the time.
Josh: At my house we are eating only chocolate ice cream and butterscotch candies.
               [Russ doesn’t like chocolate ice cream and was traumatized by almost swallowing a butterscotch candy when he was a kid so he won’t eat them now.]
Josh: Mom, what foods don’t you like?
Me: Well…I don’t like pickles and mustard.
Jared: She doesn’t like seafood!
Josh: At my house we’re eating fish stuffed with pickles every day.  DIPPED IN MUSTARD!

And there you have it.  Another family dinner where love flows (like mustard) around the dinner table!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Part 1: Operation survive the Portland winter

Durham Diaspora Book Club

At the end of February I flew off to Las Vegas for my first winter trip.  (Explanation back here.)  I could never write about it as beautifully and as truly from the heart about that weekend as Lindsay did here.  But I still wanted to write about the experience.

The whole idea started back in the fall.  Kim, who has lived in Vegas this year, had chatted a group of NC friends who are now living in the west, saying that her family was going to Utah for a weekend and could anyone else get there.  That conversation ended up with Katie suggesting that we should have a destination book club sometime during the winter.  I thought that would be a great idea (since I was already looking for fun plans for my long & dreary Oregon winter) and eventually 11 other women were on board.  Katie appropriately nicknamed it the Durham Diaspora.  [diaspora: a group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time.] 


In the end we had people from

  • North Carolina—1
  • Florida—1
  • Northern California—3 (one sadly wasn’t able to come)
  • Arizona—1
  • Oregon—1 (me!)
  • Utah—4
  • Nevada—1

In the winter sometime before Christmas I had the best idea—that having been a book club in North Carolina, we should actually do some reading and have some discussion while we were together.  So I bit my tongue and waited until the holidays were over (and people were less overwhelmed) to make my suggestion that we read 2 books, one fiction and one nonfiction.  We ended up reading “What Alice Forgot” and “Friendship Doesn’t Just Happen” and both provided us with great discussions. 

Durham Diaspora-106-106

I don’t know anyone who has read “Alice” and not enjoyed it.  My bookclub here in Oregon read it last year, in 2012 when we went to the beach in NC all of the women read it and loved it, we had a terrific discussion in Vegas and afterward Russ even read it (tore right through it!) and loved it. 

What took me a little bit by surprise was the stats when we started to talk about the Friendship book.  One woman was still living in Durham but her good friends were all moving this year.  Two of the women had been living in their new homes for 2.5 years.  One felt very much a part of the ward and community, but the other (who had had twins right after moving) didn’t.  Next to the 3 of them, I had lived the longest in my new home.  Two would be moving in the next few months.  This was seriously a group in transit and so the discussion about friendships was timely.

In addition to the seriously wonderful book discussions (and of course the conversations that followed) there were a couple of other great experiences.

Durham Diaspora-9-9

On Friday afternoon before the Utah group arrived several of us went to an “art installation” in a  Louis Vuitton store on the strip.  The whole experience had a touch of surreal to it—from the moment when they brought us all drinks before telling us about the artist, to the moment where they brought us each a wooden crate to hold our shoes and purses, and definitely including the moments where we walked around in what seemed like 2 enormous egg shaped spaces while different colors came and went.  The highlight was when, after realizing what great acoustics there were, several of our talented friends sang “Let it Go” before we left.

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From the Louis Vuitton store we went to a chocolate store for a snack before heading back to Kim’s house.  The hot chocolate there was a serious revelation!


The next day after we got our picture taken with a slightly creepy Elvis look-alike by the big Vegas sign.  When he told us we could come swimming at his apartment any time, (leer, leer) I said that we would love to, and that we would bring our 30+ kids along with us.  We were quickly uninvited!

The highlight of the experiences we had on the strip was definitely eating at the Wicked Spoon buffet.  It was not cheap, but I think that by the time we were done most of us felt it had been well worth it.  Most of the food was completely delicious and a lot of it was beautiful too.

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We ate, and ate, and ate, and ate.  And rested, and ate some more.

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Before I quit the subject of the buffet, I should mention that Martha is an excellent person to be sitting by at such a buffet because she is so bold about trying new things.  Here I am after we decided to try bone marrow.  (You can see Martha is wondering “why would someone eat this on purpose??)

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By the time we were done with the buffet we all felt like we looked more than a little pregnant…


We had hoped to go out to see the red rocks but it ended up getting too cold before we made it there so we just took a picture.


Later back at Kim’s house before our discussion about “Alice” we had lots of hilarity brought on by the purchase of several packages of mustache stickers—one of the true “you had to be there” moments of my life.

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Some people left late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, and the rest of us went to church together before leaving for our different locations.  I was last to leave and felt lucky to have extra time to visit with Kim before heading back to Oregon, totally refreshed in mind and spirit, though seriously tired in body!