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!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I've written before that I organize my life with post it notes, and I frequently write myself a note and leave it somewhere that I will see it and be reminded.  When we moved into this house there were a bunch of things we needed and other things that I wanted. I was trying to restrain myself and not spend any more money than I absolutely had to, so I made a list of things I still wanted to buy and put it up on an out of sight cabinet in the kitchen.  As I bought things I crossed them off of the list, but the note was still there a year and a half later when Jason got home from his mission.  (What can I say?  There were still things I was going to buy!)

One day after he'd been home for a while I happened to glance at my list while getting plates and noticed that there had been a small addition.

It made me laugh so hard!  Then I couldn't take the note down, because it made/makes me happy every time I look at it.

Then after Mahon and Cindy Lynn visited in February I noticed yet another addition.

I couldn't take that down either, could I??

Last note. I've been planning for a couple of months to go on a whale watching trip right before the kids went back to school but I kept forgetting to make the reservations.  So one night I wrote the word "whales" on a post it and put it on the bathroom mirror.  When I woke up the next morning this is what I saw.

Sometimes the small things sure bring big happiness!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Showing my love through cookie dough

Long ago (when I was a younger mom and still sure I knew almost everything) someone told me that they showed love for their child by buying them things.

I was appalled.  I'd known immediately when I first heard of the book "The Five Love Languages" that whatever my love language was, it wasn't gifts.  In my (young) wisdom I knew that there were better and healthier ways to show love than to buy things.


Years have passed since that time.  I can still remember an intermediate moment when I had the realization "I am buying my child's love with this purchase here and now."  And I still did it.  Because right then I wanted to show love and that seemed like a good way in that moment.

I've shown love to my kids many different ways since then.  I've given rides and massages and back scratches, I've had late night talks and long phone calls.  I've played board games and card games and done things I didn't want to do when I was too tired to do them.  All of it because I love these kids like crazy and want them to know it.

I was laughing this morning as I wondered how many batches of cookie dough I've made in the weeks that Josh has been home.  Three of them I can't blame on him--they were for the day I took snacks for 90 kids to band camp.  I could have gone to the store and bought something, of course, but once again I was showing my love for my 3 band kids by bringing the good stuff, real homemade chocolate chip cookies. 

Usually Josh wants regular cookies, but a few days ago I made chocolate chocolate cookies with both chocolate and mint chips.  I baked some cookies and put the rest of the dough in the fridge where Josh found it and declared it the best cookie dough ever.  Yesterday I made more, once again baking just one batch and putting the rest in the fridge. 

This morning I noticed that while no more cookies have been baked, the cookie dough is almost gone.  Guess it's time to make another batch.  Josh leaves for Rexburg in a couple of days and I have to show my love by making cookie dough while I can.