Saturday, December 26, 2015

The whipped cream and the mousse

I shake the whipped cream can (yes sometimes we do eat whipped cream out of a can and actually my kids love it so much that they will spray whipped cream out of the can straight into their mouths if you can believe that!) and try to spray it on my pie, but even though it sounds like there is still whipped cream in there, nothing comes out. It must be empty, even though it doesn't sound that way.

My hair styling mousse, on the other hand, is just the opposite. I have been sure for 3 months now that it was empty.  Each time I shake the can there is a pathetic little rattle, & I think "it is surely gone, and I will have to break out that new can," but then I give it one last try, and much to my surprise out comes enough mousse to do my hair for the day.  I am astonished every time.

It occurred to me this week that there is a life lesson in this for me, in the whipped cream and in the mousse. And the lesson is this: that some situations in life are like the whipped cream. Sometimes it seems like there is something left, but that is deceptive, because it really is all gone. And sometimes situations in life are like the mousse. It seems forever like it is all gone, but there is still more left. 

I think the message for me here is about openness, about accepting that there is so much that I just don't know.  And about having a heart that is open enough to allow each situation to be what it is without judgement in the moment. That some things will end sooner than expected, and some things will go on for longer than they appear to be able to. 

My new goal: to receive what I receive with gratefulness and to focus on gratitude when something is over.  But also to realize that things are not always as they appear and those endings may not be as obvious as I am inclined to think.  Lastly, to rejoice about the extra mousse, the unexpected gift. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

This Christmas

This Christmas will always be...

The one where Mahon and Cindy Lynn (and Kate!) lived here too.

The one where Jenna got all art and cat stuff.

The one where Rachel got all batman stuff with her replacement phone.

The one where Jared guessed everything he was getting, either before Christmas day or before he opened it.

The one where Josh ordered all of his own presents (plus presents for everyone else) from China.  

The one where a grossly disproportionate number of presents under the tree were for Jason, because I mislabeled some boxes and the girls mislabeled some packages so then amost everything Jason opened was really meant for someone else.  Poor boy, present after present snatched from his hand the moment they were opened!

The one where most of what I got said "beach."  Necklace, bracelet, sweater, puzzle, all ocean themed and lovely.  

And, as I sit here thinking about it, the one where I'm not sure Russ got his big present at all.  I'll have to do some investigating after nap time.  (UPDATE--he did open it in a moment where things were a little chaotic.)

One funny story from the day so far:  My dad and Ramona sent a picture, and as I unwrapped it I looked at it and thought that I didn't know who the artist was.  But what I said out loud was "I don't know who that is."  And the kids were all like "MOM!!  That is JESUS!!"  And Jason said "I have two friends who'd love to teach you about who that is."  It was hilarious, and I will think of it as I enjoy the picture by Simon Dewey.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Be Still My Pounding Heart

I’ve heard people get up and bear testimony, saying that knew they needed to do it because their hearts were pounding so hard.  Until this month I don’t remember ever having that experience.  But this month as I sat on the bench with no plans to get up and do anything, my heart started beating so hard that I expected that Russ sitting next to me could probably feel it as well.

I used to feel a mix of compassion and interest and envy when I met people who had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Compassion and interest because I knew that their experience and transition wasn’t always easy, and envy because I was always a little envious of their chance to come to know that this was the truth.  I knew, yes, that all of us have to be converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but that seemed to be so much easier, like starting a race from the halfway mark.

I don’t believe that anymore.  After the turmoil that I’ve seen and heard about and read about and lived in the last 18 months I don’t believe that people get a pass just because they were born into the church.  I now think that at some moment (or many moments) in time they will have to grapple with the ideas and doctrines of the church just as every new convert does.

My own experience has been unexpected and frustrating, but also interesting.  It’s been interesting to see as I’ve taken old beliefs out of the closet that is my brain, shaking them off and examining them in the light, which ones are things that I truly do believe as adult and which are things that I feel like I misunderstood along the way, things which were taught to me in error, etc.   It’s also been interesting (interesting in the abstract if I can let go of the pain of this being my experience) to see what beliefs have settled back in as a foundational part of my testimony.  

The first one is the existence of God & his son Jesus Christ.  I feel like I sing a line of a primary song over and over again, whenever I am outside or driving or noticing things in nature.  “In all the world around me.”  Again and again, whether I see the beautiful fall foliage, the mountain range, waterfall, blooming flower, I hear it in my head.  I think our beautiful world is such a gift of love to me from them.  I feel their love in the beauty of my life, in the sweetness of little Kate, in the moments that are clearly tender mercies.  Sometimes when I look at my own children and feel so much love for them I then wonder how it is that God can feel so much more for us, and I am grateful that however it is, he does.

The second one, interestingly, is the organization of the church.  It’s been over 25 years since I realized as a frustrated overworked young mother with too many callings that the church and the gospel weren’t the same thing, but that the one existed to provide a framework and to help the other function.  As I’ve been on my own personal journey, however, I’ve come to have a greater love for the church even as I have a greater understanding of it’s imperfections.  Greater love for the imperfect men who literally devote their lives (at a time with others their age are living lives of leisure) to lead and guide the church.  Greater love for the imperfect organization that helps to teach the same truths to me in Oregon or in North Carolina or in Africa.  And greater love for our bishopric who also give so much of their time and energy to help and shepherd their ward family.  I am filled with love at the idea that everyone is working so hard in their little sphere, imperfectly, because of their own desire to participate in the kingdom of God.  

There is still so much that I don’t know, but I’m grateful to feel again that there are things that I do know.  

And interestingly, once I’d finished my testimony and sat back down—my heart was as calm as it could be.  Curious indeed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Dear family & friends,

Shallow confession: I didn’t send out a Christmas letter last year, mostly because we didn’t have a family picture that I was excited to send with it.  Which is too bad, because I would love to have been able to tell you about the highlights of our year; Josh starting college at BYU-I, Rachel and Jenna getting to be on the varsity winter guard team at the local high school, and all of us getting stuck overnight in the Denver airport on our way to our beach week in North Carolina.  But alas, I didn’t, and so you will never know.
But this year there is a picture!  And it is good!  So good, in fact, that I am motivated to repent of my old slacker Christmas letter ways and actually send this one out…Before Christmas!  Who knows—stranger things have happened.
2015 has been an surprising and wonderful year.  For the two or three of you who haven’t heard our amazing news, in February Cindy Lynn’s husband Mahon was unexpectedly laid off, and in March he got job near us.  In September they bought a house 10 minutes away from us.  It is one of the best things that has ever happened to our family and we are still delighted every time we see them.  
The runner up in the list of best happenings of 2015 was our trip to the beach.  The waves were rough this year but the conversations were great, the games were fun, the food was delicious, and no one had to sleep in any airports.  Other fun experiences this year included babysitting Kate for a week while Cindy Lynn and Mahon went to Maui, a trip to Utah for the girls to get their wisdom teeth out in April (it really is cheaper, people), finding out the next week that Jared needed his out too, and having Russ’s dad come visit for a week.
Russ ends this year as he began it.  Slaying the dragon that is Intel every day to provide for the family, and working with the 14 & 15 year old scouts at church.  We will not comment more on either of these other than to say that he deserves every bit of down time he gets.  He went with Jared on a terrific high adventure trip to the San Juan Islands where he sadly didn’t see any orcas but did get to ignore the rest of life for several days.
My year has been filled with adventures: weekends with friends, driving to Utah alone to meet Russ for a marriage conference, surviving girl’s camp, growing lots of flowers, canning endless jars of beans, and battling to keep slugs out of our house.  (I am cautiously hopeful that we have finally won that battle.)  When Guy came to visit I enjoyed taking him hiking and to the coast.
Cindy Lynn and Mahon have spent most of their year trying to survive moving twice and keeping up with 2.5 year old Kate who is super.  (Super adorable, super verbal, super stubborn, and occasionally super cranky.) Mahon is working at Nike and everyone has appreciated his access to the Nike store.  Our feet thank him.  Cindy Lynn is trying to find an agent for a novel she has recently finished, taking care of Kate and their new home, and trying to stay healthy.  She’s just finished a course of IVs which the CF clinic here let her do entirely at home—what a blessing.
Jason is halfway through his first senior year at BYU but will have another year before he graduates in chemistry.  He’s working in a lab on campus and also TAing for a chemistry class.  He stopped singing in the Men’s Chorus last year because he was too busy but now has joined the ballroom dance team because he had too much free time.  In the rest of his spare time he likes to go rock climbing.

Josh is halfway through his second year at BYU Idaho.  After working a telephone survey job much of last year he took a full time job this semester in a potato factory.  He decided that full time job + full time school was too much for him, but he did enjoy getting to drive a fork lift.  He is off track winter semester and looking forward to living at home again for a few months, although Jared has not yet committed to sharing the bedroom and the closet again.
Rachel, Jenna, and Jared are having a bunch of new experiences this year, starting with full time public school for their first year of high school.  Initially I was very sad to have our homeschooling end, but they are having a great experience and I’m enjoying having time to play with Kate, hang out with Cindy Lynn, sew, and even quilt a little.  They were all in the marching band this fall and it was fun to see the show develop.  The girls were in the color guard and worked with rifles and sabers, and Jared marched with his sax.  As they learned the new show the girls had such bad bruises on their arms that Rachel got called into the assistant principle’s office to be sure that everything was ok at home.  Russ & I had the dubious pleasure of getting to run the concession stands at the football games, and our feet, back, and legs were glad when the season was over.  Now we have started teaching all of them to drive, although the logistics of figuring out how to get three kids each 100 hours of driving experience is mind boggling.  
Rachel is enjoying the high school experience.  Every day she tells me that she hates her classes and her teachers and that high school is boring, but I think that secretly she loves it all.  She especially likes seminary (though not so much reading the entire Old Testament) and her color guard class.  She and Jenna have just started the winterguard season and they will be traveling in the spring to the World Championships.
Jenna took a bold step a few months ago and went from long hair to a pixie cut and it’s so cute.  Jenna isn’t quite as excited about going to public school as her siblings are but she’s having some good experiences. She also likes seminary and enjoys working with the excellent choir director.  She’s looking forward to having an art class next semester.
Jared resents the fact that he is always mentioned last in these letters.  (From the other room he says “True dat.”) Jared was never so happy as when the marching band season ended (he hated it) and the wrestling season began. (He loves it.) Sadly for him he’s having to do fundraising for wrestling and for next spring’s lacrosse season at the same time; if you’re interested, wreaths are $25 and raffle tickets are $10.   ;)
It goes without saying that it has been a highlight of our year any time we have seen any of you.  Living closer to Utah and getting to see family more often is a delight, visiting North Carolina this summer was wonderful, and we tell people here that one of the benefits of having lived near Duke is that our Duke friends now live all over.  If you are ever in the area we’d love to see you.  

We hope that each of you has a joyous Christmas season, filled with the things that make it meaningful for you.  We are so grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with so many of you as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

With love,
Russ, Cindy, Jason, Josh, Rachel, Jenna, Jared, Cindy Lynn, Mahon, and Kate the Great

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Sabbath vs. the Fabric

I cut out a bunch of things the other night, taking advantage of a moment where no one needed me and I felt motivated.  I'd purchased this cute cuddly flannel fabric the afternoon before to make a dress for Kate.  She's gotten bigger and the last time I made her a dress I made a mental note that the next time I'd need more fabric.  But the more I bought wasn't enough, and I found myself on Saturday evening out of fabric still needing to cut out the bodice pieces.  

I drove down to JoAnn's with only minutes to spare and then looked for my bolt of snowman flannel.  Up one aisle and down the other, through all of the Christmas fabric, and then again.  I even spied on other people's baskets and went to the cutting counter to make sure it wasn't in their "just cut" pile, but with no luck.  I searched their website online so that I could show the worker what I was after but it was sold out online too.

I left the fabric store at 9pm in a quandry.  Hillsboro has 2 JoAnn's--isn't that great?!?  So there was a possibility that the other one would have my fabric.  But--Sunday.  

I went back and forth.  We don't shop on Sunday, and unless we're traveling and there are no other options, we hold a firm line on that.  But clearly this fabric was super popular--out in my regular store and online too!  What if one more day was all it took for the rest of the fabric to be sold?  The rationalizer in my head started in: the workers were already going to be there!  I could at least call and get them to hold the fabric!  Lucky for me my conscience was also going strong with it's mantra, "Not on Sunday."

I told everyone about it yesterday when the home teachers were here.  That I was visibly making my stand before the Lord, showing that He is more important that fabric.  Even more important than fabric that's already all cut out and just waiting for a few more inches.  I planned how I would still make the dress if I couldn't get more fabric, because I was sure that's what would happen.  My plans didn't really make my heart happy because I just couldn't see how I could make it still look good.  But it was better than nothing.

As soon as it was 9 this morning I called the other JoAnn's and described my dilemma.  The lady put me on hold to go look for the bolt of fabric and was back a few minutes later.  "Do your snowmen have green scarves and red scarves on?"  "YES!!!" I told her, absolutely thrilled.  And then Kate and I drove down there a while later and picked up the fabric, which I'm hoping will turn out to be a cute dress.

But one thing it will be, regardless of how cute it is or isn't, is a visible symbol. A symbol that in a moment where a big part of me wanted a pass, the other part of me held the line, knowing that integrity and obedience are far more important than cute snowman dresses.

PS--I can't take all of the credit for this decision, or even most of the credit.  Here's something I put on instagram last week:  

I've been thinking a lot recently that we are in many ways the beneficiaries of habits instilled by our parents. Sure, we have to make the decision to keep doing these things. But it's so much easier to continue what we've done our whole lives rather than to have to learn a new habit. Today I'm grateful that we both came to our marriage with the "church is what we do on Sunday" habit. I think it blesses our lives in many ways...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Winter Whine

It's 3:54 and it looks like twilight already.  It's bad enough that the days are so short, but the daylight savings change seems to add insult to injury.  By Christmastime it will be fully dark by 4:30 every day.

I see this sign every time I drive to and from Utah.
 I always have several feelings when I see it.  First, certainty that I should be headed towards the equator instead of away from it.  Second, surprise (even after all this time) that Portland is farther north than Rexburg.  Since Cindy Lynn spend several winters in Rexburg I know how bad those winters are, and I'm extremely grateful that the proximity to the coast tempers our winters.  But still--we are so far north!  And last every time I see the sign I'm at least a little depressed by the knowledge of the coming winter gloom, the short days and the gray skies, and the seasonal issues.

Today is a classic Oregon winter day.  It's rained for much of the day (even hard sometimes) and while it's been dry this year and rain is a good thing the resulting gloom is, well, gloomy.  It's obviously time to get my winter game plan in place to be sure that I'm ok during the long gray months.

But first, just for the moment, I want to whine!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dahlia lessons: You might be surprised

Last lesson (so far) from the dahlias.  I've realize this year that I just really don't know what I'm going to like and how much I'm going to like it until I actually see it.  Some of the dahlias I thought I would love have been only so-so.  And this one that I bought on clearance on a whim--well it has rocked my dahlia lovin' world.

So maybe I'd better stop thinking I know how things are going to work out...'cause I just might be surprised.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Such fun Halloween sewing this year.  First I made my first (but not my last!) table runner.  I paid to have it quilted and it's not bound yet...there's after Halloween for that.

Then on the spur of the moment I made a table runner for Alisyn so that I could make a cute pattern I'd seen online after I'd already made mine.  It turned out so cute and Alisyn was very surprised.

Then on the spur-er of the moment I decided that one of the fabrics I'd used on Alisyn's table runner was so great that I needed to make a dress for Kate that she could wear for one week this year and would still fit her next year.

So much sewing fun!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dahlia lessons: There will be more

Is it so odd that I feel like I get these little messages from the spirit, messages triggered by things like my dahlias?  Probably mostly things that I already know, but perhaps need reminders of.

Cut dahlias die oddly.  The back petals (which sometimes aren't very visable from the front of the flower) start to wilt and eventually drop off.  The front of the dahlia with it's remaining petals can look good for another couple of days until it all finally withers.

The other day I was working at the sink/kitchen window, which is where I usually put the vases of dahlias.  I glanced over and noticed that another one was starting to wilt.  As per my normal anti-change stance I immediately had a (small) sinking feeling that the flower's beauty was dying.

And then the thought came clearly to my mind, "There will be other beauty."

At first I thought that it meant (truly) that there were other flowers blooming in the yard, other flowers that I would bring to my kitchen counter.

But then I realized how much broader this idea was.  I'm always so sad when a good experience is over. (Anti-change, remember?!?)  Sad when every week at the beach is over, sad when my sister's weekend is over, time with friends, always sad.  I've been thinking all year that I need to gain some equanimity about the fact that change is a constant of life, and this little dahlia message reminded me of that.  That change is always going to happen, but that there will always be more beauty ahead.  Maybe similar beauty, maybe different beauty.  But I won't be left without.  Hopefully as I love my flowers it will help me learn to trust.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dahlia lessons: Enjoy the view from where you are

This year I'm picking dahlias all the time...anything that gets too heavy for it's plant, any time it's been windy and some stems have gotten broken, anything (last year's decision) that has the audacity to bloom facing the fence.  It's been delightful to have so much beauty in my kitchen.

One of the surprises has been this big dahlia I got on clearance a few weeks ago at a nearby nursery.  I didn't want to resist because the price on these end-of-season plants was great but I wasn't absolutely sure I loved the flowers.

Ha.  They are A-Maz-Ing.  Some of my very favorite.  (Yes, I do have less favorite in case you were wondering, much to my surprise.)

One day one of these amazing red spiky flowers needed to be cut.  It had grown oddly on its stem and I just could not figure out a way to get the front and center of the flower to face out.  I tried stuffing support things into the neck of the vase, tried different vases, even tried taping the stem to the edge of the vase to keep it in the "right" place.  

All to no avail.

One day I was doing the dishes and glanced over at my badly angled flower.  But then I noticed something.  From this sidewise view of the flower I could see into the center, see the yellow at the inside of all of the petals.  From this sidewise view the flower was big and full.  This sidewise view was actually beautiful.  And then I got curious.  I moved over in front of the flower and bent down so that I could look at the proper "front" of the flower.  And it was just kind of messy.  

All that time I'd been frustrated with the flower for not staying in a position to show it's front, and it turned out that the front wasn't that great.  It was one of those moments that I really could hear the spirit inside of my head, saying, "Just enjoy the view FROM WHERE YOU ARE.  Stop wishing you were somewhere else, or the situation was in some other way different.  Enjoy the view, because it is actually BEAUTIFUL."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

And ye would not...

The picture I do not have: Rachel sitting at the end of the church bench, head resting on her legs after getting back from yesterday's band competition at 3:30AM this morning.  I told her--come and sit by me and you can lean against me.  But not my oft prickly teenager who rarely is willing to sit by me in church anymore; she was fine where she was.

I sat there for a minute feeling sad about the situation (her fatigue, her need to be separate from me, etc) when a scripture came into my mind.  I wonder if this is how Christ feels when he is so ready to help us with our problems and we resist his aid.  Perhaps through a need for independence, like Rachel, or because we are so distracted, which is usually more my problem.  This morning in sacrament meeting I felt a little the longing I would imagine Christ and our Heavenly Father feel: Won't you please let us help?  We are here for you, just right down the bench.  All we want is to help you feel better, to be here for and with you in your moment of need.

4…how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.
 5 And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
 6 O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.  3 Ne 10:4-6

PS--I so wanted to snap a picture of her.  I could have done it so carefully no one would have known.  I had to restrain myself pretty forcefully!   

Thursday, October 15, 2015

In the Twilight Zone with trash bags

My version:
Eighteen-ish months ago I visited Lindsay and stayed at her apartment in Miami.  (Such beauty!  Such a wonderful trip!!)  At some point I asked if she had a grocery bag I could use for something.  She went into the kitchen and instead of the billowy bag I expected, put a small triangle in my hand.  I was perplexed and asked why the trashbag was so small?  She explained that in such a small apartment she had to store things efficiently.  I was enchanted by the triangle trash bag and asked her how to do it, and have spent the intervening eighteen months folding grocery bags--my own and other people's as well.

This weekend Lindsay and Katie were at my house.  I pulled out a grocery bag and Katie made a comment about it.  I explained that Lindsay had shown me the way of the triangle grocery bag.

Lindsay's version:
I've never folded grocery bags like that.  I've always tied them up in knots like this.


Isn't that the strangest thing?  I'm sure, she's sure.  But if she's right, who taught me to fold the grocery bags???

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Balancing energy for shift work at the shrunken crossroads

I am frequently reminded (inside my own brain) that Julie Beck said several times in women's meetings that a person can work one or one and a half shifts, but not two.  Maybe I just remember this because I like to assuage my guilt that I don't have a two-shift body.  But I think I remember it because of what it means in my life right now.


Many years ago then-church president Ezra Taft Benson gave a talk encouraging mothers to be at the "crossroads" for their children.  He suggested that it was important to be available to talk with their children before and after school, before and after dates, etc.  When he gave this talk I wasn't yet a mother, and when I thought about it in later years I figured it didn't really apply to me because our home was all crossroads, all the time.  It was ok for me to be a mom who checked out after dinner, because I'd already spent the whole day with all of my kids.  It was ok for me to take a nap in the afternoon because I was spending all day with my kids.  It was ok for me to go to Utah for a week because normally I was spending all day every day with my kids.  Etc.


Now I find myself in the moment that is the junction of these two ideas.  The one, that no person can work two shifts.  The other, the importance of being at the crossroads, maybe even with cookies.  And all of a sudden our crossroads have gone from all day, every day to before school, after school, and some days not until 9pm after school.  I suddenly feel an imperative to really BE THERE!  But the THERE involves the beginning of the first shift and then the second shift, or maybe the beginning of the first shift, a few minutes at the beginning of the second shift and then the end of the second shift.

It's tempting now that I have days to myself do just DO WHAT I WANT.  What I have wished I could be doing for all of these years.  (Though let's be real, sadly I don't have the energy to do half of what I wanted to do all of these years.)  Instead I find myself trying to figure out the pacing puzzle every day.  Today the kids will be home then, and then, and then.  How will I order my day to have energy at the right moments???

Some days I succeed.  Success ALWAYS includes a nap.  I was a napper before, but in this "now I have to be on in the evenings" lifestyle naps are crucial.  When I don't get them I don't succeed.  When I don't get them I notice something, usually be 7 or 7:30, and that is that my face stops being able to smile.  Seriously.  Sometimes my failure has good reasons.  Sometimes it's because I've helped someone out or spent time with another person instead of getting the nap I need.  But the fact remains that I have to pace myself; allocate energy precisely if I'm going to hit the important marks.

All of this is just a reminder to myself to keep trying, to keep working on it.  Yesterday wasn't too great.  Today wasn't either.  If I keep trying, hopefully I'll get better at the balance of it all.  Crossing my fingers... nonsense title that actually does make sense ever, right?

Monday, October 12, 2015

This stage

Several times in the last year I've been able to spend time with my friend Susan, and each time we've talked about how great this stage is with it's increased freedom and flexibility.  Both of our oldest are married, we both have college kids, she has one on a mission, and our youngest are all in high school.  There is so much to love about this stage.

The funny thing is that I've spent my whole life dreading it, sure that I would be miserable without my houseful of little kids.  Despite the fact that said houseful always exhausted me and sometimes made me miserable!  But change is change, and as I have now come to realize I dread all of it.

This weekend Lindsay and Katie came to visit.  We had a terrific time.  Segways and desserts and rain and waterfalls and beautiful vistas and endless conversation.  Not much sleep at any point, of course.  And then they flew off home yesterday, I drove back to church and taught my Relief Society lesson, and came home to take a 2.5 hour nap.  Then I was actually in bed by 10:30 (a rarity for bedtime-hating me) and decided at 9:30 this morning (still in my pajamas) that I was ready for another nap, which feeling I did not fight.  

When I got up from my nap I ate and then decided to put this puzzle together that's been sitting around for almost a year.  It was easier than I'd realized and went together quickly, and I enjoyed the peace of working on it in the living room.  Still in my pajamas.

I'm loving this stage.  I need to remember this--that the dread turned out to be needless in the end. (This time and so many others.)  That life keeps being good, and in some ways gets even better.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

After the game

By the time we are all done closing up the concession stands the field is empty, bare under the still bright lights.  Most of the debris from the high school crowd has been swept up and someone is driving a little cart around picking up garbage.  By this time my feet hurt so much all I can think of is getting off of them.

Russ and I volunteered to help with the concession stand several times last year (as part of our band parent volunteer hours) and at the end of the season were asked if we would be willing to take over running it.  It seemed like a reasonable way to meet our volunteer responsibilities and we agreed.  Between last year and this year whoever ran the other concession stands pulled out and for the first game we ran all three--one under the grandstand, one on the visitor side of the field, and the band concession stand near where the band sits.  The night of the first game we were at the football field from 5 until 10:30 and I'm sure if I'd had a pedometer I would have put over 10,000 steps on it in those 5 1/2 hours.

The second game we didn't have to do the visitor's concession but poor Russ was on his own--I was in Utah for girl's night and Kate's wedding reception.  Our team was playing another local team on a scorching evening and they were run ragged selling cold drinks all evening and trying to keep the chocolate from melting.

Last time things seemed a bit calmer, though there were several panicked runs to Costco for more buns when we realized that we were running out faster than expected.  The one thing that didn't change was the sheer exhaustion at the end of the evening.

It's made me think of my own life of a teenager and the awareness that I never saw my mother as a human being with a full life of her own.  I think I saw her as most teens see their parents--as a person who existed mostly within the context of my own life, a person who of course was there to make things easier and better for me.  A person who provided food and did seem to be working a lot and who sometimes frustrated me and let me down.

I'm sure I never saw her as a person who had her own full inner life going on.  I never saw her as someone overwhelmed by the job in front of her, I doubt I realized the exhaustion she experienced by the end of every day.  I never thought about her getting up in the night to feed babies or wishing she could have a break with friends or a date with my dad.

One day my kids will know, just as I know now.  They'll know the things we didn't want to do but did for them.  They'll understand about the fatigue and the worry and the work, that these are so much a part of every parent's life.  The appreciation we may feel is lacking now will not be then, not when they understand.

Every now and then these moments happen; moments when I wish I could call my mom on the phone and tell her something.  And this is what I'd tell her now.  I'd tell her that I love her even more now that I'm seeing her sacrifice from this side.  I'd apologize a million times over that I was so self absorbed that I forgot to notice that she was a real person, and say that I'm glad I came to know the real her before it was too late.  And I'd thank her for all that she did for me--the things I remember, the things I don't remember, the things I never knew about.  All of it, done for me, just like I do it now for my own kids.

Purse sadness

I just happened upon this purse. I was shopping for Josh for something else and I saw it on the clearance rack and was immediately taken by it, especially at a deeply discounted price. I think someone must have swiped the little brand label that was meant to hang on it and that was part of the reason it was so cheap. I have carried it and loved it for the last year and a half in a way I did not know I could love a purse. Now the straps are starting to break and I think my heart is breaking a little along with them.

I've always been a very practical purse person, carrying a cheap Walmart black purse that met my needs. But I don't know that I can ever go back to living that way again. Its not that I'm going to spend a lot of money for a purse because then the cost / benefit analysis would be all off. But I'm determined to find another purse that I can love...for the right price.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jenna's mandala & essay

The first assignment all of the kids had in freshman english was to make a "mandala" (a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism) about themselves and write an essay about it.  Jared's mandala was pretty sparse, but Jenna and Rachel both made beautiful mandalas and wrote beautifully revealing essays.  I wanted to make sure that these weren't lost forever so I'm putting them here.

My Mandala
Just a Chapter in my Story

Mandalas originated in India, first appearing in buddhism and Hinduism. It is a circular art form, often used in religions for spiritual or ethnic purposes. Personal mandalas can be used for many things, some common ones being meditation and reflection. They can also be used as a way of personal expression or story-telling. My mandala is not the whole introduction of who I am, nor is it the whole story of myself. My mandala is a representation of some of the aspects of my life and parts of myself, which I’ve split into my Family, my Religion, My Negative Part of Me, The Musical Part of My Life, and my Interests.
The center of my mandala, known as the “bindu”, represents my family. My Family has always been very important to me, and I love them, so that is why there is a red heart. The heart is also wrapped in a wave, because my family loves the beach, and we go there every year. Above the wave there are three peas in a pod, which represents me being a triplet.  Below that there is an eight which can also be interpreted as an infinity sign. It is an eight simply because there are eight members in my immediate family. It is also an infinity sign because in my religion we believe that families can be together forever, and since I love my family, this is a very important thing to me. All of these things also have yellow in them because they are happy things, and then most of the background in the section is yellow because it represents joy. One thing that has been a big struggle for my family is Cystic Fibrosis. My oldest sister was born with CF and it has made a lot of things very hard. Because this thing is a really sad aspect of my family, the background color changes to blue behind the symbol that represents CF, which is the purple Cystic Fibrosis ribbon.
Instead of making a solid border, I made my family section merge into the section below it which is my religion. I did this because the importance of families is very emphasized in my religion. Some other things in the section are some symbols of my religion (which is LDS). One of the symbols is the tree of life, which represents the love of God. Another thing is the empty tomb, which represents Jesus’s resurrection, and the sacrifice he made for us. Another thing is the LDS temple, which we believe is a very holy place, and a house of God. Above this there is a yellow sun because my religion is a happy thing. Lastly I left the background white to represent peace, because my religion can often help me to find peace when I’m having a hard time.
At the top is the negative parts of my mind. I’ve always felt like my mind is sometimes just a mess. This section might seem like a mess, but perhaps that’s just one more way it represents what’s going on inside my head. The background for the picture is black because this is a dark and hard part for me. In this section there are two pictures of me. The first represents all my red and hot emotions that come from problems I have. The red in my head is for rage and panic. The yellow in my shirt for the feelings of insecurity and being afraid. My shoes are red, with a lightning bolt because when I get these feelings I feel like I need or want to get away. There is then a thought bubble that represents my mind. The first symbol in the bubble is an ear with red lines representing sound going to it. This picture represents misophonia, which is a disorder that  makes me feel rage or anxiety whenever I hear a trigger noise.  This has always been a big struggle for me, so it is a symbol that takes up a lot of room in the bubble, and is also my main inspiration for making the first figure of me covering their ears. The Warning sign, as well as all the other exclamation marks throughout the section represent my anxiety.  The second picture of me symbolizes the more blue and cold emotions, like sadness or hopelessness. Everything on the figure is blue to illustrate that, and there is a chain and ball around the feet of the figure to show that with those emotions I feel more like not wanting to move or go on. Next, the picture of people represents the problems I have with people, and communicating with them. I am a shy person, and an introvert and I feel I have a really hard time connecting with people, and I often feel like because of my poor communication skills I often get misinterpreted by people. I also feel like I maybe am terrible at communicating and connecting with people because sometimes it takes me a while to process things, or to think of something else to say, which is what the loading sign in the bubble stands for. Lastly in the bubble the swirls of fog, and the question marks represent my overall confusion I have for who I am and how I should feel about things. I feel like I’m always trying to figure out where I am and where I stand. They also represent the confusion I feel in myself because I have a hard time sometimes figuring out what to say and how to interpret my feelings into words.
The part to the left of the picture represents the musical part of my life. It is connected to the negativity part with a pair of earbuds leading from my ears to an ipod in the section. This is because music is often a thing that can help me to cope. There is a brick wall mostly separating the two sections, which is there because I often use listening to music to block out things. The music notes coming from the ipod transition from red angry colors to calmer colors like green and blue, to represent how music helps me. Beside the music notes there is a ukulele, which is yellow because playing the ukulele makes me happy, and also because the one I have is yellow. Beside that is a guitar, a piano keyboard, and a flute because these are all instruments that I play. The background for this section is pinkish red because music is something that I love.
The last section is on the right of my mandala and it is my interests. This part is also connected to the negativity part through a paintbrush held in the hand of the second picture of me, illustrating that things like this can also help make me to feel better. The paintbrush itself represents art, and the heart with the painting coming from it represents multiple things.Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, which is why I chose his painting to go in the heart. The painting represents my love for art and for Van Gogh. I also chose Starry Night out of many of his other paintings because the night sky is something I’ve always found enchanting. Next in the picture there is a cat, which illustrates not only my love for cats, but my love for animals in general. When I was little I was really obsessed with “fashion” and was always playing around with it. Now I’m not so crazy about it, but I’m still interested in style which is what the little clothes in the section represents. I also really love drawing and writing which is what the pieces of paper with the words and the drawings illustrate. Finally, The rifle, sabre, and the flag that is my border is there because I do color guard. The background for the section is orange because it’s a color that could represent enthusiasm, and these are things that I’m enthusiastic about.

My mandala symbolises many things about my life. There was also some symbolism in the way my mandala was organized. The Family and Religion section were merged together not  only because of the influence that family has in my religion, but also because I felt that both of these things could be in the center of my mandala. The Music section went beside religion because music is an important part of religion, and as I already mentioned, it is beside the negative section because it is something that helps me with that. The interests section was next to the negative section for reasons already written, and it was beside the religion section to show that I can have both my religion and my interests side-by-side, and still have everything work out, because often it seems people believe that there are a lot of restrictions on all the “fun” I can have when I’m religious. Ultimately the Religion section and Negative section were opposites in the sense that they were on opposing sides, but also because the background colors, black and white, were opposites. I did that to kind of represent how my mental illnesses are separate from my religion, and how I believe that these negativities in my mind are worldly things and trials I will not have when my life on earth is over, while religion is what I will have after this earth. Lastly, my mandala does not represent all of me, but does illustrate some aspects that make up who I am. For example, I do talk a lot about my religion in this, but I am a lot of things other than religious. Overall I think that making a mandala is a great thing to do because it helps to be creative and to be self expressive.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rachel's mandala

One of the first English assignments for all of the kids this year was making a "mandala."  A mandala is a Buddhist symbol that represents the universe, and their universes were supposed to represent them.  Then they wrote an essay to describe their mandala.  I thought Rachel's and Jenna's were amazing.

Rachel Ray


Per. 4 A

                         Mandala Essay

In Sanskrit, mandala means “Container of sacred essence.” A mandala is a circular design, that means many different things to different religions. In Christianity, mandalas come in different shapes such as: Halos and stain glass windows. The purpose is to represent the window to heaven. In Islam, mandalas represent that God is in everything that we do, say and see.
I chose to make my mandala with some of the things that I feel make me who I am. The center section is dedicated to my family. I chose the center part because family is the core of my life. On the right side is the storybook characters, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. I chose to put them there to show the relationship I have with my niece. She love theses childhood characters with a passion, wanting someone to read her the stories whenever she comes over to our house. Below is ocean waves. My family and I love the beach and try to visit the beaches in North Carolina as frequently as possible. Next to the waves is one of my churches’ many temples, as my religion is very important to myself and my family. Above are two people holding up their joint hands forming a heart. These figures represent my parents, and the number 6 in between them represents my siblings and I. On the far side is the ribbon for Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic illness that my oldest sister has had since birth. I chose to put it there to show how important she is to me. The background color for this section is bright yellow because yellow, to me, is a happy color.
The theme for the bottom part of  my mandala is my love of theatre. I love plays and musicals to a great extent. I drew a person in the crowd looking up at a stage with the comedy and tragedy masks which are the symbols of theatre. The red of the curtains and black of the back wall represent a song titled “Red And Black” from my all time favorite musical “Les Miserables”. The stage color is gold because theatre is so special to me and gold represents passion magic and treasure.
The left side is dedicated to North Carolina. The background is blue because of the summer skies in NC. By the left side I drew a playhouse that was in the backyard of my best friends house. We spent countless days cleaning and fixing up the playhouse, making it our own. It symbolizes both my love for North Carolina and the memories it brings. Beside the house is as rain cloud. North Carolina summers bring a lot of thunderstorms, and while I was scared of them growing up, I later learned to love them. It also symbolizes sadness as moving was very hard. The blue background turns to grey where I drew a small figure hugging their knees close to them; this represents a period of depression I went through during and after the move.
The top section is centered around my interests. There is as music note and treble clef because I love listening and playing music. next to them is the “POW” sign from comics, and the colors surrounding it are some of the colors found in Superhero editions. Below the sign are sheets of paper because I like to write poetry and short stories. On the right side is a bookcase because I love books. I hardly ever read a book without liking it. Reading is something that distracts me from things and takes me on adventures. Bordering this and the next section is a white rifle, my favorite equipment to spin in color guard.
The last section is based off of my hate towards math. Due to being born early, I have a small disability that affects the part of my brain that would normally store math facts and so math is especially hard for me. The fade of the black into white is to show the problems melting into regular life. The background is a dark purple because, to me, it means a sad and dark color, representing my feelings about math.

I could not fit everything that I would have liked into my mandala, but I feel that what I have will help people understand me more. I really enjoyed this project, and while making it I feel I have learned more about myself and accepted myself more.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Family Pictures

We've taken a new family picture and I'm super excited to send it out for Christmas.  There was a good deal on big canvases right when we took it so I ordered it and it's sitting in the dining room waiting to go on the wall right now.  I came into the room the other day and noticed that something was off about the picture.  Apparently not everyone loves it like I do...

For a while there was a concern that someone was putting a hit on Rachel.

Once Mahon saw the fun that the kids were having with the picture he had to get in on it.

Sigh...I don't think I'll ever be able to look at the picture the same!  ;)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sister Adventures

At our favorite place, the Best Western in Park City.
We've tried other paces but always come back here.
Side note, the Park City Walmart is also a regular stop.
Laila just sent me a couple of paragraphs from a biography she's reading about Harper Lee called "Mockingbird Next Door."  This part touched her heart and does mine too, especially since I just got back a few days ago from our annual sister's night.  (Which was supposed to be in Portland this year but had a quick change to Utah when Val's Kate announced a wedding reception there the same weekend.)  I feel like compared to many people we got the short end of the stick having to live so much of our lives without our mom.  At the same time, though, we were definetely blessed in the sisters department!
"That year also marked the beginning of a tradition, one that yielded an abundance of adventures, misadventures and always stories.  For the decade after their father died, the three Lee sisters took annual trips, seeing much of the country by car, train and even riverboat.  At this time in their lives the difference in their ages mattered less... So, Alice, Louise and Nell would talk and plan, correspond and anticipate and them meet up in the designated city.  They would look around if any museums or restaurants drew their interest, but then they would take to the open road or board a train.  One vacation would end and they would begin thinking about where to go next....
    As different as the three sisters were they all had their aunt Alice's sense of adventure.  They could squabble with the best of them, but their pleasure in one another's company, the way the made their own fun, was obvious.  On one such trip in 1965 the three sisters met up in Ohio to take a river boat down the Mississippi to New Orleans.  They boarded the Delta Queen on Saturday for the eight day trip to New Orleans.  That last day, as they waited for their luggage before getting off, the three women did what they had been doing all along.  The reclined in chairs on the deck, soaking in some sun, laughing, talking, finishing one another's stories.  A passenger they had not met approached the sisters. 
    She said "Do you mind if I speak to you?"  and we said "Certainly not."  She said, "I've been watching you all week.  You have never mixed with anybody.  You haven't participated in any of the entertainment, as most of the passengers have done.  And yet you seem like you've had the best time as anybody!"  And we just said "We are three sisters, and we live in different parts of the country, and when we get together this is what happens!"
That is certainly true of us--we have the best time, even if we're just sitting by the wall on a cruise ship!  I think I liked this excerpt best though because it reminded me that the best is yet to come--we have years ahead of us of having great times together, years to sit in the hot tub, get pedicures, spend too much time at Walmart, eat delicious food, talk for hours in the hotel room, and laugh like we do few other places.  Once again I have to say thank you to our mom, she really gave us the best gift possible.
We were laughing in this picture that it took us until
3pm to get dressed and out of the hotel room!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Welcome to the Pacific Northwet

It was during the summer that I first saw them.  Shiny marks on the floor, both the wood floor and the carpet.  Marks that almost looked like someone had swiped a narrow trail of glue that had dried; but of course that was not it.

Later I saw them again, behind the couch, near the trash can, in front of the sink.  This time I tried touching the place on the carpet to see if I could feel anything but whatever was there disappeared as if glittery gossamer.

I sprinkled around a bit of salt before we left town, hoping that this would stop my mysterious invader, but when Cindy Lynn came by she saw it was not enough.  She spread the contents of a box around the floor and we hoped it would ward off the slimy evil.  I left the salt on the floor for several weeks before I finally vacuumed it up, certain that enough time had passed.  

The first week went by and then the second and the floor remained clean.  And then it happened again.  Tracks by the trash can and tracks by the sink.  Once again I spread salt along the walls, hoping to see something dead and dreading seeing something dead at the same time.

And then last night I saw it.  There was no clue where it came from, but I can tell you it went to a watery grave.  Dare I hope this was the only one???

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Beach memories

Every year we come away from the beach with hearts and minds full of memories.  Some memories repeat themselves year after year.

Crossing the bridge to the island.

Our first glimpse of Big Bertha.

Crazy amounts of shopping and multiple trips to Food Lion.  A menu of our favorite foods.

Car treats.  Sand in my ears.  (Why does this surprise me every year??)

This year we played in the kayaks again,

the girls made sand sculptures,

and we celebrated the triplet's 15th birthday and Josh's 20th.

This year we filled the hot tub to capacity, and then some.

As always we watched the ocean and listened to the waves and rejoiced that we were able to be there again.


Then there are the memories that are specific to particular years.  The year of the dragonflies.  The year of the tidepools.  The year we weren't at Big Bertha and the year of mother styles.

One of the strongest memories of this year I'm sure will be the number of shark attacks in North Carolina at the beginning of the summer.  I think we were all at least a little freaked out about it.  Thankfully there wasn't another bite in the month before we went.

My other strongest memory will always be the massive sunburn I got from going out to swim in the rain.  The clouds were so heavy that I was sure I didn't need sunscreen...unfortunately when the clouds started clearing I ignored that niggling little thought and didn't go get sunscreen.  I was burned so badly that my forehead was swollen.  I regretted that decision for the rest of the week!

This year will always be remembered as the year that Russ tore a muscle goofing around in the Portland airport as we began our trip.  He couldn't even get in the water for the first few days.  This year will be remembered as the answer for every game was some variation on nipple hair, with the occasional exploding whale.  This year was the first year that all of the kids entered wholeheartedly into playing games.

This year was the year we did jigsaw puzzles to prevent Alzheimers.

This year we had crazy storms, and I loved it because we just don't get storms like that here in Oregon.  On Friday I woke up from my nap and looked outside and it was raining.  Then I noticed that Russ was down on the beach under the canopy reading.  Within a minute or two the rain intensified and it was POURING.  When I looked at the canopy I saw that Russ was moving from the middle to the side because the wind was blowing rain underneath.  He ended up having to take the canopy down because of the wind and rain.

Every year we try to plan to do family pictures on the day with the best weather possible.  This year was a total fail--the night we took them was incredibly windy.  And then Friday evening after the rainstorm was perfect!

This year Jared was acrobatic at the beach.  Since he wasn't willing to listen to my worries and not try to do flips, I figured I might as well take pictures.
This year we took a drive by our favorite little neighborhood on our way home from church,

and this year the air conditioning repairman had a great sense of humor!

Every year--such wonderful memories!!!