Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More about the flowers in my yard

If I sounded before like I wasn’t that happy to see a gerber daisy pop up in my yard let me put that rumor to rest.  I was thrilled to see this today.


And even though I told myself I wouldn’t do it again this year, I bought a mandivilla when I saw one at Fred Meyer.  It wasn’t too expensive, and look at this color.



Here are some other things happening in our yard.  The trellis full of variegated honeysuckle.  It bloomed for about a month and boy did it make my olfactory system happy.


I bought these purple & white petunias and have loved them.  At the last minute I added some mystery double petunias and they are beautiful.


A mystery plant bloomed and it’s this beautiful lily.  Now I just wish I hadn’t caught it in an experimental support system for a dahlia plant because it’s hard to see.  Next year it gets a home of it’s own.


In the front yard I have a yellow calla lily which I just could not resist.  Next year I hope I can get a white one too—they’re just beautiful.


I’m sure you don’t remember how annoyed I was that the flowers on my front porch in NC never grew evenly, but I’m equally annoyed that my pots in front of my garage here don’t either!  (Again…it’s amazing what a difference a few feet can make.)


And in the backyard, beautiful potential.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Girls Camp

Before Christmas I had a call to come in for a meeting with a high councilor.  I couldn’t imagine what he would want to talk to me about, and it turns out I never would have guessed.  He told me that they wanted to call me to be over the service projects at girls camp. 

I accepted the calling, but with tremendous reservations.  For one thing, the last time I went to girls camp it ended in a hurricane.  (True story.)  For another thing, I’m not as young as I used to be and I wasn’t sure camping for a week was going to work for my body.  And for one last thing, I really had no idea what he was talking about.

The short version of this story is that at our stake’s girls camp every day the girls rotate through 3 activities—certification, service, and a devotional aptly called “destiny.”  I was to, with a committee of youth leaders, come up with and execute 4 days of service projects for 3 groups of 50 girls each day. 

The actual doing of camp was both better and worse than I had thought/expected/dreaded.  The service was great.  Each day (x3) I taught for 5-15 minutes to set the stage for the specific project.  Sometimes I forget how much I love teaching.  The projects went off well—some of them much better than I had even imagined.  I felt like I successfully completed year 1 of what is typically a 3 year calling.

The camp setting was lovely.  For the first few days I didn’t go much past the cabin in which I was sleeping, but on Thursday our service activity involved a lot of walking around specific areas and I appreciated that my girls could come to a facility like this.

My concerns about camp proved to be well founded.  I didn’t get enough protein some of the time (good thing I had my own stash of greek yogurt) and one day there was a shortage of food in general.  I definitely didn’t get enough veggies and next year I think I will take salad jars and just keep them in a cooler in the walk in refrigerator in the lodge.  At the last minute I told the camp director I couldn’t be a cabin mom because I was concerned about not being able to get enough sleep and I think this was a good call.  As it was I had break-through pain one night and was awake from about 3am on rubbing my painful SIjoint/muscles.  I switched that night from a bunk with a foam pad to an air mattress and did a lot better, so I think that will be my plan for next year.

On the last morning after I’d gotten my stuff all taken care of I walked around and took some pictures.  And then I happily went home—back to civilization and my comfy bed and best of all…my own clean bathroom!


How oft would I gather thee...

In Sunday school today we talked about the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal.  The teacher asked what the purpose of this magnificent display of God's power was.  My first thought was that it was to prove that Baal was not real and had no power and that it was God that has power, but then I realized that the real purpose was to bring the children of Israel back to God.  So often in the scriptures it talks about God's commitment to the children of Israel in a way that quite frankly baffles me.  How can God continue to love Israel this much when they continually turn away from him?  In the scriptures it says things like "How oft would i gather thee," and "Mine arm is lengthened out all the day long."  Someone in Sunday school made a comment about how much the Lord must love the children of Israel and I had to sit and think about that for a while. 

My dad has always told me that I would never know how much he loved me until I had children of my own.  Recently I was reflecting on how much delight my kids give me and how much I love them.  My dad's words came into my mind and to my surprise I immediately rejected them, thinking that that my dad could not love me this much, not with this kind of feeling.

I find I have a similar feeling about God.  (No surprise there, right?)   Sure he may love the children of Israel for some unfathomable reason.  He may be seeking after them and reaching out to them in ways large and small all throughout history.  But me?  Not me.  He couldn't love *me* like that...

Could he?

I think I have some work to do here, some examining and cleaning up of old belief systems.  And I think that I need to do a better job of likening *all* of the scriptures to myself, so that next time I read "How oft would I gather thee", I remember he means me.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The view from here

One of the things that I have loved here in Oregon is my yard.  I had lots of reasons to be really worried about my yard--we had a nice big lot in NC that provided us with lots of green and lots of privacy and I liked both of those things.  As we looked at houses here we realized that while most houses had a lot of green, few houses actually had privacy.  In fact we were horrified to hear that new homes in our part of Oregon are being built with 14-15 homes/acre!

But back to our yard.  Most of the homes that we had looked at had other homes right behind them.  One home had the high school right behind it...I was not sure that was a good trade off.  But our house is in a relatively unusual setting.  It has a much older home behind it, one that sits on 1.1 acres instead of the 1/5-1/6 acre that is the norm for our neighborhood.  Not only does this property have tons of trees that are right behind our fence, but the house itself is on the other side of our neighbor's house!

The north side of our backyard borders another piece of property for 15 or so feet and we can see that house from our yard, especially when the leaves are off of the deciduous trees in the winter.  We are hoping that operation bamboo will address this issue in coming years, because I really like the feeling of not having anything/anyone back there.  Russ and I love to sit out on the deck and read or chat and enjoy the hummingbirds and flowers and feel like we're almost alone in the world.

PS--we changed out the sprinkler heads in the back of the yard so that they would spray in a whole circle instead of just getting the grass.  This will make it possible for us to grow more flowers back there which is of course my plan.  Flowers, flowers, flowers.  But one thing we didn't expect is that now we have a permanent watermark on the fence.  It's not too attractive, but I tell myself that as the clematis grow they will cover much of it, and hopefully we will have other tallish flowers that will cover the rest.  It's certainly worth it to keep those flowers alive!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Price They Paid


Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly making my way through “The Price We Paid,” a non-fiction book about the handcart pioneers.  I’ve ended up reading it in bits and pieces, so it’s effect has accumulated gradually.  Yesterday I was out shopping for much of the day and had lunch by myself at Panda Express.  I had anticipated this possibility and wanted to be able to read more so I took the book with me and read it while I ate.  (A bad habit I am not succeeding at breaking myself of…) 

As I read I was certain that if people in the restaurant were looking at me they would be sure I had some kind of problem—the look on my face could only have been horrified as I read more and more details about the terrible conditions that the Martin & Willie handcart companies experienced. 

And then within a few seconds the look on my face changed…as I tried to hold back the tears that threatened to escape.  One of the passages that really touched me deeply was describing the death of John Linford in the Willie company.   He had been ill for much of the journey across the plains and eventually had to be pulled in a handcart.  His children attributed his death to starvation.  Before he died his wife asked him if he was sorry they had undertaken this journey.  This is what he said,

No, Maria.  I am glad we came.  I shall not live to reach Salt Lake, but you and the boys will, and I do not regret all we have gone through if our boys can grow up and raise their families in Zion.”

How can you not be moved by that kind of stoicism and faith?!?

I’ve blogged before about growing up without pioneer ancestors of my own, about not really caring about the pioneers besides getting to sing some fun primary songs about them every summer.  This book has reminded me of how much my feelings have changed as an adult and how grateful I am for the sacrifices that were made that bless me today.

I firmly believe that the church as it exists today would be entirely different if it were not for the movement of almost the entire body of saints to a relatively isolated area where they could worship and learn and grow away from interference and persecution. 

I am so grateful for their sacrifices and their examples.  Ffor being able to read in their stories that having the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives was worth making sacrifices for.   That the short term pain and inconvenience was more than offset by the eventual blessings.  I am grateful for the price they paid.

Happy pioneer day!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flowers you will NOT see growing in my yard

There are all sorts of fun things blooming in my yard.  And more to come.  But I have noticed a few flowers that we will not be bringing home.

First: the weird


Seriously, this flower thing looks like it’s an alien. 


At least that one has a pretty color to it.  Unlike this one, that has nothing to recommend it.  Meh.


Or these, which look like a goth plant person went crazy in the plant lab…such a waste of potentially pretty flowers!


These lilies which in their regular colors (white or yellow) are divine, but this variety was almost black.  Blech.

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by someone who cares that you have nice looking flowers in your yard.

Winking smile

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A new favorite flower?

For two years now I have missed my favorite North Carolina flowers.  I’ve missed my mandevillas because they were a summer staple for me for the last 15 years—always at least one but sometimes more, blooming like gangbusters all summer long.  Sigh…

And I’ve missed my gerber daisies because when they did bloom they were so great and provided such great photo ops.  I’ve planted a few gerbers here but they are very limited in colors because they get some kind of disease here.


I often buy plants from the 50% off clearance rack at Lowes, and last year I bought some dahlia tubers.  I had no idea what they were, but the picture looked promising.  They turned out to be HUGE yellow flowers, so heavy that I had to stake them to keep them upright.  I enjoyed them enough last year that this year I bought more at Costco.  I’m still waiting for most of those to bloom this year, but already I can tell that I might have another favorite flower.  In most places in Oregon you have to pull up the tubers to over-winter them so they don’t rot, but in our back yard the towering evergreens sheltering from behind the back fence kept off most of the rain and prevented these from rotting. So I have great hopes about them coming back. (My plants get to over-winter in the ground.  Or die.  That’s just how it is.)  Here are some pictures from the back yard right now.  I can’t wait to see the rest!


Monday, July 21, 2014

My what big eyes I have.

I spent the last week at girls camp.  This is, in and of itself, fodder for several blog posts.  But today I want to talk about what I did (and didn’t) do at camp.

I was in charge of the service rotations every day—a total of 3 hours per day for 4 days.  I went up on Monday morning so I was there for 24 hours before any of the girls arrived.  In light of these facts I took with me:

  • 5 magazines
  • 3 books
  • 4 books on my tablet
  • materials to prep the gospel doctrine lesson I was teaching yesterday
  • my computer so that I could catch up on blog posts
  • my computer so that I could work on a new blurb/blog book
  • my computer so that I could work on a North Carolina book.

What I actually did at girls camp:

  • prepped for gospel doctrine lesson
  • read 1 book

Do you know what this feels like?  This feels like I am perpetually living my life with eyes that are “bigger than my stomach.”  I am perpetually falling short and perpetually frustrated.  Sometimes I think the problem is in my performance, but more often than not I think the problem is my inability to plan time well—in this case knowing how long each of those things would take, how much of each day the basics of living would occupy, and how much “extra” time I would actually have.   I’m not sure what the answer is.  I think it’s always a good thing to have more books with you than you can read, for instance.  (Because the opposite is unthinkable!)  It’s always a good thing to have more projects rattling around in your mind rather than be unable to think of anything at all to do.  But I do think it would be a healthy thing for me if I could inject just a little reality into my life.


And while I’m thinking about this…I wrote up a rest-of-the-summer “wish list” a little while ago.  I’m fully aware that I can’t get everything on this one done, but at least I have a good list to choose from!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cooking lesson


When I woke up Russ was teaching Jenna how to make a ham & veggie omelet.  Made my heart swell with happiness!  (And not because I was going to eat the omelet.)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An existential crisis & tender mercies

In the last few months I’ve had a lot of great travel adventures and spent a lot of time with wonderful people that I love.  It has been terrific.  These trips had a primary objective of spending time with the people I love and a secondary objective of helping me prevent/deal with seasonal depression and they were entirely successful.

But there was one unexpected consequence.

The combination of spending this time with these awesome people and the fatigue caused by traveling caused (let?) my tired brain to start thinking about all of the wonderful qualities I’d just witnessed and from there to begin to feel that because I didn’t _____ like this friend, ______ like that sister, and was sure I would never ______ like another friend, I was never really going to be any good.

On the one hand, the rational logical hand, I knew it was ridiculous.  But when you’ve been traveling and are super jetlagged it’s sometimes hard to make your brain let go of the ridiculous because it makes So Much Sense in that tired unhappy brain.  So I went through my first few days home with a cloud of “I’m just not much good” hanging above my head. 

By the beginning of this week I was starting to emerge from the jet-lagged fog.  My rational mind was working hard to ignore the tired pity-fest that had been going on and I was making some headway. 

And then, like a one-two punch, out of the blue I received two messages from two lovely people.  Both of those messages commented specifically and lovingly on things that they had observed as strengths in my life.  It was like a slap in the face, only the good kind.  These messages stopped me in my mental tracks, said look here, you are not anyone else, you are you, and you have some wonderful strengths.  It was like balm to my inadequate feeling soul and I instantly felt a course correction inside of me.  Isn’t it amazing when someone says something that may feel totally random to them and it is exactly what your soul is needing?  I am very amazed, and very grateful.

So thank you my kind friends for your words that meant more than you could know.  I can only hope that someday I am able to help to someone like that…

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Their World


“Does Leo go to Calypso’s Island?”  she asked.

It was as if she was speaking a foreign language.  “What?”  I asked in return.

“Does Leo go to Calypso’s Island?”  she asked again, still the same question which still meant less than nothing to me.  But then she changed it the third time, “Dad, does Leo go to Calypso’s Island?” 

“What on earth are you talking about???” I asked her.  And she told me it was something about the book “The Mark of Athena,” which she was reading and she knew Russ had read.


It was interesting in that moment to see the thought processes happening in my head.  “I should read the rest of those Percy Jackson books.  I really should.  He’s read them, and several of the kids have, and I’m totally on the outside of this world and these conversations.  I should read them.”

But another thought crept into my brain, slowly around the edges as these frantic need-to-be-a-part-of-this thoughts were occupying the center.  And this other thought, this calm and relaxed thought, said, “Don’t.” 

“Don’t read it.  Let it be their thing.  His and hers.  His and theirs.  Let them have a place of connection that is theirs alone.  Resist the impulse to need to be everywhere.  To be everything.”


And so I won’t.  I have plenty of books to read, after all.  Instead I will smile when I hear them talking what seems like gibberish to me.  And I will be delighted.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Overheard at the dinner table

One morning last month a couple of industrious birds built a nest right by our back door.  The eggs must have hatched while we were on vacation, because we could tell when we got back and worked out in the yard that they were very worried every time we were out there.  They would perch in various places around the yard chirping, but would never go back up to their nest.



Rachel (who of all my children still at home is most interested in my cameras) stalked them from inside the house to get some pictures of the little birds and the parent birds.



I hadn’t realized what great pictures she got—she was persistent! Every time she would watch the “birdlets” (that’s what we called them) she would give us an update on how they seemed to be doing, what they sounded like, and how the parents seemed to be doing.




Tonight she came to the dinner table looking down.  She explained that she hadn’t seen the birds at all today, and so they must have learned to fly and left the nest.

I agreed that if they had learned to fly, the parent birds might have decided that there were better places to hang out than right by our busy back door.

And then Josh said, “We’d probably better go ahead and have a bird funeral, just in case.  And we can name them Pecky 2, Pecky 3, and Pecky 4—you know, the best friends we never knew!” 

The kids laughed and laughed and we talked about them burying that poor dead bird years ago.  How is that 4 years can be so long ago??

Monday, July 7, 2014

Family Night Fun

We had a great (though slightly ADD) family night lesson on what it does and does not mean if we say we “know the church is true.”  (Part of our series of family night lessons on controversial church topics.)  After the lesson Josh went to work on the computer and Russ & I played Ticket to Ride with the triplets.  I have to say that they are old enough now that playing with 5 people and the American expansion pack is pretty much like a full out brawl.  I was completely blocked out of one of my cities within the first few moves.  Jenna, we discovered, is completely a game pessimist.  She was sure that every move anyone else made was going to ruin her game.   And Russ—well this was a side of Russ we rarely see.  He spent most of the game growling!  Rachel could have ended the game before anyone else was done, but she was kind and let us all finish.  What a crazy game!


Choosing Oregon

About 2 years before we moved to Oregon my cousin’s husband’s job changed policies and they had to relocate from a moderately rural area on the outskirts of Atlanta to the San Diego area.  She has been one that has commented on my blog over the last two years with real understanding of how painful it has been.

I just read on her blog that her husband has taken a new job and they are moving to South Carolina.  I was astonished.  Stunned, even.  South Carolina?!?  Land of huge cockroaches and humidity and fireflies and honeysuckle.  Wherever she is in South Carolina, it can’t be too long from the warm beach—which sounds just like paradise to me.

Earlier this year I found out that one of our Durham friends had gotten a new job and after only a year away was moving back to North Carolina, to a city about 2 hours further south.  Let’s be honest—I was consumed with envy.

And yet…


After we got back from our spring break in Utah this year my younger kids started doing a lot of “living in Oregon” grumbling.  Which is unusual for them because they have had so many good experiences living here.  Now you may think this grumbling is because they’re picking up on my vibe, but I’m very careful to keep my vibe out of their sight.  They know the move has been difficult for me (they would have to be unconscious to have missed that one) but I really have worked to be positive around them about living in Oregon.  I do my working-through-difficult-feelings here or with my friends, but not within earshot of them.

Anyway, I started to be concerned about the grumbling and decided for the end of the school year to assign a 5 paragraph essay on “why living in Oregon is a good thing.”   And do you know what, by the time the essays were all the way done (which I hate to admit was a few days after school was done) their attitudes had changed and the grumbling had slowed down or stopped.


When we were in Durham I got asked frequently how the kids were doing, or variations on that theme.  And what I said comes back to me in this moment, the moment when I learn that someone else is lucky enough to be moving back to the southeast. 

I loved living in Durham.  I LOVED living in Durham.  I will cherish our time there for the rest of my life.  But Oregon is great for my kids.  They are happy here.  They have so many opportunities here that they never could have had in North Carolina.  They have friends who live only blocks away and a youth program that is big and thriving.  They can take classes at the schools and will get to go to released-time seminary.  I love seeing them having all of these great experiences—experiences I never expected that we would be able to provide for them. 

It’s interesting to have this dichotomy.  This is such a terrific place for our kids, while it’s still not what I would have chosen.  But because of how good it is for our kids, now I would choose it.  Even though I’ll be (figuratively) waving goodbye to my cousin while holding a sign that says “totally jealous” with my other hand.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine

One night we were sitting at the big table in the beach house playing The Game of Things.  (An excellent and always hilarious game—we highly recommend it.)  The format is easy and always funny.  The reader reads a prompt that starts “Things that…” and then it continues with something like “you shouldn’t do in a cemetary,”  or “you shouldn’t say to your boss,” or “will keep you out of heaven.”  And on and on.  I’m sure you get the idea.  Then you try to guess who wrote each answer.  One of the interesting things about this type of game is that themes develop over the course of a game.  We’re still laughing about the time that everyone’s answers included some variation of Dick Cheney shooting someone.  Or the time the good answers included Lindsay Lohan and/or (probably and!) viagra.

I can’t remember what the first prompt was that night, but someone’s answer was “Can’t help loving that man of mine.”  It was repeated over and over again in different variations for the rest of the night.  The highlight was probably when Mahon (who was trying to figure out if he knew who had written a particular answer) asked Jason, “Jason, are you ‘Loving that man of mine?’”  Awesome moment.


I was just looking through some pictures from the beach this year that I hadn’t looked at before.  In the middle of a group shot with everyone doing their own version of crazy, I saw this:


And when I saw it, I promise you I thought, oh yes.  That is who he is.  Sweet.  Cute.  Slightly mischievous.  And that is exactly how I feel about him.  Entertained.  Amused.  Delighted.  Because I really can’t help loving that man of mine.

It doesn’t always feel that way, of course.  Life gets in the way so much of the time and and we feel more business than bliss.  But then we have a moment like this long weekend, where we end up getting to do a lot of things together.  We talked and laughed and planned and dug bamboo.  It was a great two days, and I felt exactly the way that picture shows me looking at him.  Can’t help it, you know. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Overheard at the Dinner Table

The kids were talking tonight about what kind of pet they will get when Josh leaves on his mission.  (I made a limited promise a few months ago about this.)  Though I’ve only promised one or two types of pets, they were throwing around all sorts of ideas including a bearded lizard or a ferret.  (Neither one on the short list.) 

Josh suggested: I know just what you can get them, a group of pets that will both entertain and teach them about the circle of life.  You get them a pair of fancy mice, and then you get them a snake.  Let the mice breed and have babies.  Then you feed one of the babies every week to the snake…

At this point a great uproar broke out around the table, the rest of the children insisting that they would never feed their mice to a snake/that they hate snakes/that they really want a ferret/bearded dragon.  Chaos. 


The best part about it?  The best part is that I’m noticing that sometimes now I don’t have to insist that the kids all stay at the dinner table for a while after they’re done eating as I have for years now.  Sometimes I notice that they’re just…staying…


Friday, July 4, 2014

Free Range Kids

Several years ago I read the book “Free Range Kids.”  I was already sort of a free range type mom, but this book solidified and intensified my desire to provide my kids this kind of life—a life where they felt that the world was safe enough to explore without me hovering behind them at every step of the way.

Oregon has been a great place for this—the kids have often gone over to hang out with their friends at the local elementary school that is in our neighborhood—where sometimes they do things I’m not too happy about when I see the pictures later.  (I found this picture on my phone after one trip to the school.)  They also have gone on long walks and Jared goes frequently to a small skate park about a mile and a half away. 


This year when we were making travel plans to go to NC to the beach, Olivia’s mom asked if Rachel & Jenna could stay longer with their family.  Cindy Lynn and Jason each spent a month in Utah the summer they were 15; traveling on their own, armed with a cell phone and directions and phone numbers to call in case of an emergency.  The girls aren’t quite 14 but I figured that traveling together would make up the age and maturity difference.

I knew that Olivia’s mom would take them to their gate, but on our flight out to NC we taught them the different steps of the rest of the flight process—how to find your flight info on the monitors, how to find your gate, how to read the map of the airport terminal.  We looked up online to see what food places were available in the terminal they’d be flying into in Las Vegas.  We activated an old phone and got some cash.  We told them that we thought they would have a great time and that they would be *just fine* traveling without us. 

And then we left them in NC and flew home.

The boys and I flew the exact same itinerary on Wednesday so I knew that they’d be landing in Las Vegas right at 9 this morning.  Sure enough, within a few minutes my cell phone was buzzing with text messages reporting that the flight was long, boring, and uneventful.  Apparently the highlight was the little snack packs of cookies and finding out that one of the drink service options was hot chocolate.  (How did I not know this?  That would have been most excellent at 7AM the other morning!)  Pretty soon I received this picture, a permanent record of their adult-less trip through the Las Vegas airport.


I’m happy to have them back here with us.  But I’m even happier that they’ve had this experience—that they’ve done something bold and grown up and that they’ve lived to tell about it.  I hope that it makes them feel like they are going to be just fine in the world, that it is not too scary of a place.  Because, after all, they flew home from North Carolina by themselves!


(I think Russ needs a refresher course on focusing the camera before taking the picture.)