Monday, December 26, 2016

Love (2.0) and Friendship

[a moment of silence please to appreciate my clever Jane Austen reference in the title...]

Last week I finished a book called "Friendship for Grownups."  It didn't say anything I didn't already know, but was a good reminder of the importance of friendships in a woman's life.  When I finished the book I started thinking about friendship in my life right now.  I feel like I'm in a strange place, caught in between the demands of my life, the needs of my family, and the amount of energy I have available.  Friendship looks different to me right now than it did before we moved to Oregon.

I decided that I would pray for guidance to know if there's more I should be doing now in the area of friendship.

------

I was at work on Wednesday and two patients were waiting by my reception desk.  I had been chatting with one of them and she made a comment about not liking to backtrack when she was out running errands.  That made me laugh, because I HATE backtracking!  I've recently been fussing at myself for being so neurotic about it, and have tried to tell myself that if I have to drive in the direction that I just came from all will not be lost.  When I told her that I hated backtracking too, the other woman started laughing and said that she was the same way!  We talked for a few minutes about how crazy this thing makes us and how our husbands (mostly) don't understand, and we laughed and laughed.

-------

Wednesday after work I was at the dentist getting my teeth cleaned.  The hygienist was super chatty which was fun except that it's hard to have a two-way conversation when you're having your teeth cleaned!  At some point she was telling me that she has a problem with sounds, and she started describing some kinds of sounds that bother her.  (The bathroom fan, her always-drumming-on-something husband.)  When she next had her fingers out of my mouth I said, "I'm just the same way!  I hate repetitive sounds, and almost all sounds when I'm tired."  Then I told her that I had learned about a syndrome called misophonia, sometimes thought of as a hatred of sound.  We talked about the sounds that make us crazy and how frustrating this is our lives.

------

When I got home and was thinking back over my day, still feeling some of the emotions of the day, I had a memory.  In the first year or so that we lived here I read a book called Love 2.0.  The author (a professor at UNC) redefines love not just as a something that we're depending on our significant others to provide for us, but also as micro-moments of connection between people—even strangers.

When that came to mind I had an ah-ha moment.  I hadn't thought of the Love 2.0 micro-moments in a long time, but I realized as this came to my mind that I'd had two significant Love 2.0 moments that day, moments that had been fun, joyous, in the one case filled with laughter (it's too hard to laugh much when someone's hand and a sharp object are in your mouth) and in both cases really satisfying.  

------

I think this was an answer to my prayer--not just having these two experiences in the same day, but also having such a clear recollection of them instead of them just being rolled into the detritus of the day, and then having the memory of the Love 2.0 book.  I think this answer was showing or reminding me that there are different kinds of connection that can be emotionally satisfying in my life.  It's definitely something I need to keep praying about, but I love seeing this answer.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Magic connections

There's some magic in a real connection, I think.  You can't guarantee it will happen, you can't make it happen, you can just hope.  A lot of the time Russ & I live our lives in our normal pattern.  Normal hugs before and after work, normal kisses in the kitchen, normal conversation about what just happened or what's coming up.  But sometimes, usually later at night, magic happens and there's a different connection, a connection beyond the mundane.  Then we talk and talk and talk.  Work issues and resolutions, interactions, stories, frustrations, laughter about excel files that are just moments from becoming sentient.  Laughing and listening and knowing that we're going to really pay for this late night tomorrow, but always so glad it happened.

You can't make it happen, I've tried before.  That's how I know that when it does happen it's magic.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

math lessons
(learned the hard way)


sometimes
in math
x=y.

but sometimes
x≠y
where x=what i need
and y=what you can give.

i have learned
it does no good
trying to change
what is.

if you cannot
change y
and
i cannot
change x
it might be better
to set that
problem
aside
for now.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cindy and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

I got up too late to eat breakfast before I left.
I forgot to take my water bottle into the gym.
I got a headache from exercising.
I bought Greek yogurt at Fred Meyer to get rid of the headache but then spilled some of it on my exercise pants.
When I got back to the car after buying Rachel's marker at Michael's the car wouldn't start.
Russ didn't answer his phone...
When I went to Les Schwab to get a new battery there was a long line and the tire smell in the store was so strong it made my head hurt more.
Russ didn't answer his phone...
I stayed up too late and am tired today.
The house is a mess and I'm too tired to clean so I'm going to take a nap instead.
Some days are like that, even in Australia. 
[So glad my period waited to start until I was home!!!]

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Scripture power


For years and years I resisted having family scriptures in the morning.  Resisted with all of my might and strength and sleep.  And then the year before last I gave in.  We were consistently NEVER remembering at dinner and I wanted family scriptures more than I wanted that additional sleep.  But it always killed me to get up.

As we've had morning scriptures for the last two years I've been really surprised at how much I've liked the feeling of doing it, regardless of how tired I've been.  I've liked the *feeling* of being together in the morning, studying God's word for us before we start our days.

But this school year is killing me worse than normal.  I'm not sure if it's working two days a week now or what, but I just can't find my balance.  I'm out of both physical and emotional energy long before bedtime many days, always on the verge of depression, always worried about getting sick.

It finally occurred to me that now that everyone has smart phones with all of the stellar reminder features, we could go back to trying at night.

And do you know what?  A part of me resisted.  Because of that great morning feeling.  But something has to change in order for me to survive this school year.  So...

For the last couple of nights we've had family scriptures about 9:30.  And do you know what?  I've *loved* it!  The cozy feeling of our family gathered together at the end of our day reading and/or listening to God's word for us.  What a beautiful thing.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mourning with those that mourn

We were startled to see the news a few days ago that Jon Schmidt's daughter was missing in the Columbia River Gorge.  We've loved Jon and the rest of the Piano Guys for years now and this was so sad for all of us.  For a couple of days there was a big search and rescue operation with planes and drones and dogs, but nothing was found.  Two days ago her mother announced that they thought she must be dead. (She had been missing a week at that point, a week with lots of rain and cold night temperatures.) The official search was called off but now an unofficial search is looking for her body. 

Yesterday I happened to get an email from someone who knew someone who was collecting food donations to take to the search location.  I often wish I could help when there is a tragedy, esp when it touches someone I know or admire.  This seemed like a great opportunity and we had just a few hours available to do something for family night last night. 

First I forwarded the email to the women in my ward to see if anyone else would want to contribute.  Then Russ, Rachel, and I started cooking while Jenna and Jared did homework.  Russ made a batch of homemade wheat bread.  Rachel made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and a batch of my recent favorite, chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  I made a triple recipe of chili to cook overnight in the crock pot.  We worked for several hours while women in our ward also came and dropped things off. 

In the end no one will ever know what we did.  But what matters to me is that we know.  We know that there was a real need--their need to have supplies and our need to show love.  I feel great about having taken time out to do something for them.

[I've had this glass gallon jar sitting around the house for a long time.  I used to use it for sugar but we sized up to bigger containers (so many cookies being made!!) and didn't need it.  I couldn't just get rid of it because my parents used to use this jar to get milk when they got milk from a local dairy.  (Back when my dad used to say that they drank skim milk because they skimmed the cream of the top!) The chili was still really hot when it was time to take it and so my idea for transport wouldn't work.  Then I thought of mom's gallon glass jar and it seemed the perfect use.  💙]

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jenna's sacrament meeting talk

"How can connecting with past generations help me understand my mission in life today?"

So many of my ancestors have been great examples in my life, and I can learn a lot through stories that I’ve heard about them.
Like a lot of members of the church, I have pioneer ancestors. One of my pioneer ancestors is known in my family as handcart Mary. I recently read her short autobiography and felt that I had come to learn so much more about her. Her real name is Mary Ann Powell, and she was born in South Wales in the year 1844. She was a pioneer who joined the church because of her parents. Her father first become interested in the church through a neighbor who had the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. In her autobiography, Mary tells the story of how one Sunday when she was six years old, her father said that he had to go to an appointment in the village, and nobody knew where he was going. When he finally came back his hair was wet, and he said that he had just been baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. She said that this news was very shocking to her mother, who was a devout methodist, and that there was a lot of crying and scolding from relatives that were visiting them. When their relatives left, her mother tried to get him to see the “error” of his ways, and begged her father to relinquish his membership of the church. However, Mary and her brother were impressed by their father and told their mother "Never mind, mother. We´ll tend the baby while you go and get baptized as father did."  At the time her mother was annoyed by this, but later she was taught about the gospel and was baptized within six weeks. Mary stated that she “[and her brother] tended the baby just as [they] said [they] would in the first place.”

Joining the church led her family to want to go to Utah, which led them to sail to America, and eventually cross the plains as part of a pioneer handcart company. Their journey as part of a handcart company was very hard. They would get up at day break each day, have prayer, eat a small breakfast, then start on their way.
At ten they’d have a half hour break, and then would travel again until they reached water. Mary wrote that most nights they wouldn’t eat dinner because they were all too tired, or simply didn’t have enough food to cook. She also wrote that some days they’d travel more than thirty miles to reach water. Through all their trials however, they pushed on and made it to Salt Lake City. In her autobiography, Mary wrote that her and her father would take turns pulling one of their handcarts. She stated “when I was not pulling father’s cart I was helping to pull someone else’s. I walked every step of the way. I was lighthearted and glad and had no self pity.”

In 3rd Nephi, chapter 15, verse 9, it states “Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.” Mary Powell, and all pioneers, are great examples of people who look unto Christ and endure to the end. Because of their desire to reach Zion they pushed through their hardships and trials to get there. What I have learned from Mary’s story is that even if I’m going through a hard time that, like Mary who endured through that hard journey to reach her goal, I can push through my hard times so that I can reach my goals.
Another ancestor of mine is my grandma Cindy, who died before I was born. In her own way, she was a pioneer too. She grew up in South Carolina, and her family was very poor. When she was a teenager her mom died, and because of that she felt that she had to be responsible for her younger siblings. When her younger brother started taking discussions from the missionaries, she worried about what they might be teaching him, and so decided to go to one of the discussions. Well, she ended up listening to them, and she and her brother became the only members of the church in her family.
A couple of years later she was attending BYU and was feeling very homesick. She wanted to go back home for Christmas break, but only had enough money to either pay for a bus ticket home, or to pay tithing. Not sure of what to do, she went to her bishop for help.
He told her that he couldn’t give her any advice, because whether or not she paid tithing was between her and Heavenly Father. So she paid tithing, despite how badly she wanted to go home to her family.
A few days later, she received a letter from her aunt in the mail. In it her aunt said that she had saved some money and had sent it to her with hopes that it would help pay for her to go to South Carolina for Christmas. She had sent fifty dollars, which my grandma was very thankful for, but wasn’t enough for a bus ticket. Eventually she thought to check the BYU ride board to see if there was anyone going to South Carolina. She found that there was someone going from BYU to South Carolina, and that they were offering a ride to anyone for fifty dollars. That person who offered the ride is my grandpa.
Doctrine and Covenants, section 104, verse 42 states: “And inasmuch as he is faithful in keeping my commandments, which I have given unto him, I will multiply blessings upon him and his seed after him, even a multiplicity of blessings.”That decision my grandma made to pay her tithing not only blessed her, but has blessed my mom as her daughter, and even me as her granddaughter. My grandma’s great example of obedience has taught me about the wonderful blessings we can earn from keeping God’s commandments, and helps me to know that I can receive blessings if I follow the commandments that Heavenly Father has given us.

When I think about my ancestors, both my grandma cindy, and my 3rd great grandmother handcart Mary, I can remember their great examples of following the commandments and enduring to the end. They help me keep holding on to my mission in life, to follow God’s commandments and endure through the world's challenges and trials, so that I can be resurrected and live with God again.
I’d like to bear my testimony that I know that we can receive blessing if we keep God’s commandments and if we endure. I know that the gospel is true, and that Heavenly Father wants us all to be able to return to live with him again.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  

 

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Free Cell life

For the last couple of weeks my spare moment game has been Free Cell.  You know, the solitaire game that you played on your computer back in the early days of Windows?  That one.  I used to play a word boggle game and tell myself that I was keeping my brain sharp by playing it.  (Brains that have experienced mild traumatic brain injury might need to be exercised more.) This year, though, I grew tired of that game and started playing this one once or twice a day. 

At first I could always solve the game and send the cards automatically to their decks on top.  But then I hit one that I couldn't solve.  I could have gone on to a new deal, but instead I told the game to replay the deal and I tried it again.  And that time I figured it out.  Every now and then I have to replay a game now, and a couple of times I've had to replay one 5 or 6 times.  Eventually I've gotten it, started on a different side and worked a different way and then it finally works.

It strikes me that this is like life.  Some things don't have to be totally specific, they can go however you want them.  But some things have to be more precise, and so you have to try again and again until you get them right.  Sometimes things don't work out right and you just need the replay button, a step back to examine another way to handle a difficult problem.  When I'm playing Free Cell I don't get upset when I have to hit the replay button, I actually become more interested in the game, curious to see if I can see a new way to do it the next time.

I think I'm going to try to see if I can think of my life a little more as if it were a free cell game--less stress when I don't manage to do something the way I wanted to, more curiosity about the opportunity to try it again.  Who knows--the game could be good for my brain and my life as well.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Jenna's essay about WGI


                                     Jenna Ray
Sophomore Language Arts
Period 2A
Time stops when the show begins
My memoir is about a specific moment in a long and continuing story. The story begins with an invitation to a thing called colorguard, which I had never heard of before.  It grows as the years go by, and as I learn more, and pauses at a memorable event known as the Winter Guard Internationals, which is what my memoir focuses on. More specifically it focuses on a certain feeling of performing a show, where time seems to stop when the show begins.
Colorguard is known as a sport of the arts, and includes dancing, as well as spinning and tossing flags, rifles, sabres, and batons. I first discovered colorguard when I was in sixth grade and joined a guard for children under twelve known as the Hillsboro Minis. At the time I had no idea what color guard was, and had only joined because one of my friends was in it. The first day that I went to try it out I had no idea what I was doing, but as I learned more and more I began to like and enjoy color guard. When I was in seventh grade I joined the high school JV team. The year after that I made it onto the varsity team, which is when I started hearing about a thing called WGI, which stands for Winter Guard Internationals. I learned that the high school varsity team competes at WGI every three years, and that the last year they had gone had been the year I was in minis. This meant that this next year they would go again, and if I made the varsity team again, I would go with them.
I did make the varsity team, and right away we were focused on preparing for WGI. I still didn’t know much about what it was at first, but I learned that this year it was going to take place in Dayton Ohio, and that it was a big competition where guards from all over the united states, and even guards from different countries, would all come together to compete against one another. Having WGI as our ending goal rather than just normal championships really changed how our season played out. Nearly every rehearsal ended with a reminder that we had to hold ourselves to a high standard so that we could be the best guard we could be when we performed in Ohio. Practices were also a lot more intense, and we’d sometimes do run-throughs where we would start our show over again every time a mistake was made. During the first few practices it seemed like the time to leave would never come, but when the moment finally arrived, it felt like everything building up to it had gone by too fast. Our last part of preparation for WGI was packing for the trip, then after that we went to the airport, and onto the plane that would take us to our destination.
The first two days were spent getting ourselves situated and going to the different venues around us to watch other guards perform, as well as get a feel for the space we would have to perform in. The morning of the third day we were up early and off to the venue where we would present our own show. Everything leading up to our performance seemed to go by too quickly, and before long it was our time to take the floor. We hurried to set up all our equipment,  found our ways to our beginning poses, and then the music started. The next four minutes was a whirl of spinning and tossing, and music that seemed to barely compare to the sound of our own pounding hearts. All too soon it was over and we were rushing everything off the floor. I felt immersed in the strange feeling that comes after performing a show. It’s like you suddenly can’t remember much of what you just did, as if time had fast forwarded from going on the floor to getting off it, or instead like time had stopped at the beginning, and started again when you finish.
Every time I perform in colorguard I experience the feeling of time being warped, but my experience at WGI will be one of the most memorable out of many. Getting to perform at WGI represents a huge checkmark in my continuing colorguard journey. I hope to be able to go there again someday, to experience the excitement of being there and performing there, and inevitably the time-stopping feeling that comes with it.




Sunday, September 11, 2016

Strange miracles (or that time I tried to donate a kidney)

In the summer of 2011 Katie found out that she could, after all, have a kidney transplant.  This was a huge exciting deal for their family and I was happy for them.  I'd always said that I wanted to give her one of my kidneys, so I talked to the transplant coordinator in Iowa City to find out what blood tests I'd need to have done.  This was tricky because typically patients interact with a lab *through* their doctor's office.  The doctors office handles the ordering and the billing and the lab just draws the blood.  Since this doctor's office was halfway across the United States it wouldn't have a relationship with any of my local labs.  The coordinator gave me a list of questions that I'd need to ask a lab, and I started my search in the fall.

I first called a lab near my home.  I explained to the person on the phone that I was trying to get some blood work done to see if I could donate a kidney.  She was not happy about answering my questions, and was less happy as the conversation progressed.  Finally, her voice raised and irritated, she asked me WHY WAS I ASKING THESE QUESTIONS???  I was practically in tears and reiterated that I was just trying to find out if I could donate my kidney to a friend, and then the conversation ended.  Strike 1.

I called the coordinator and told her about my experience.  She sighed and said that she would try to find a lab near me that would be able to work with me.  She also said that they would send me the right kit to have the blood work done.  Within a day or two they got me the address of another lab, this one about an hour away in RTP.  The next week I planned a day where I would have enough time available and I drove an hour to the lab.  I sat in line for a while and then it was my turn.  I took myself and my lab kit up to the window, explained the situation and that someone there had spoken with the transplant coordinator, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Their system had changed, they couldn't find the information on different blood test kits.  No one remembered who had spoken with the coordinator.  They just weren't sure.  I stood and waited some more.  And was thankful that at least they were pleasant to me!  In the end after 45 minutes someone came out and said that she was sorry, they weren't able to draw blood using that particular kit.  (The one needed by the transplant center.)  Strike 2.

On the way home I spoke with the coordinator again.  She was incredulous and promised that she'd find me a place that really would take my blood.  A couple of days later she called back and said that she'd found a place, and asked if I had ever heard of a "Dur-HAM" Regional Hospital.  [Of course I had, that's where Josh was born!]  I told her I'd get it done there, but when I looked at my calendar I could see that it would be at least a week before I had time to go.

That next Thursday morning Russ called me from work, told me I needed to sit down, and then said that he had been laid off.  In that moment our world was turned sideways and blood tests were the last thing on my mind.

As the dust settled from the layoff and I started thinking again that it was time to go and finally get this blood work, I had a conversation with Katie.  All along I had assumed that the timeline on the kidney transplant was the next spring or summer.  But she said no, they were trying to do it in early December.  This really shook me up.  I'd been thinking that if I was a match as a donor the (major) surgery would be 6 months away, but it was really 5 or 6 weeks away.  We had moved immediately from the news of the layoff into major "get the house ready to sell" mode, which was physically taxing.  (In fact the week Russ was laid off I had just started painting the kitchen cabinets, and that enormous job wasn't done until after the Christmas holidays.)  We were also facing the loss of our insurance in January, and Russ was deeply depressed after being laid off.  It was all very overwhelming to me anyway, and adding the possibility of almost immediate major surgery into that mix didn't seem feasible.  

While I was in the middle of that muddle, Katie got the news that her friend/neighbor Trisha's husband was a donor match and they made plans to go forward with the transplant in early December.  I was relieved that she was still going to be able to get a transplant even without me and my kidney.

-----

As time passed, however, I started to see things a little differently.  When it had happened I was really traumatized by that first conversation with the lab, the one where I had been yelled at.  I was less traumatized but definitely inconvenienced by having driven an hour each way to stand for almost an hour waiting to find out that another lab couldn't draw my blood.

But--

But, my mind started to ask, what if this was all part of the plan?  What if these experiences kept me from being identified at the beginning of the fall as a potential donor, kept plans from being made for early December that involved my kidney?  What if all along the Lord knew that I actually couldn't donate a kidney that December because I wasn't going to be in any kind of place (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, insurance-lly) to do it?  What if I was protected from a situation that wouldn't have ended up being ok?  What if Sean & Katie were protected from a situation that would have been enormously frustrating and disappointing?

I came to believe that these experiences that had been so frustrating were really important, delaying my efforts until I could see that no, I actually wasn't supposed to donate a kidney.  I had my own difficult thing to go through and experience, but it wasn't going to be learning to live with only one kidney.  

I also felt strongly in the next couple of years as my friendship with Sean & Katie changed in sad and painful ways, that it was a good thing she was walking around with someone else's kidney in her body.  I had enough grief about the friendship and I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if she had ended up with my kidney.  

-------

As I thought about this experience from time to time over the next year or two I had another odd realization.  Katie's friendship with her friend Trisha had always been strange to me.  Katie talked a lot about how Trisha was dependent on her, how she didn't have any other friends in the neighborhood or the ward.  Trisha's husband had lost his job in Logan a few years before and had gotten a job at the University of Utah, which was a HUGE commute so Trisha was depressed because her husband was never home.  They had talked about moving but just loved living in Logan and so didn't move to be closer to his job.  I thought that was crazy--it was bad enough for me when we lived 45 minutes from Russ's job, I couldn't imagine a commute that was twice as bad and in snow for several months every year.  And then it was Trisha's husband who donated a kidney.  Oddly enough, within a year or two of the kidney surgery they moved down to Salt Lake somewhere to be closer to his job.  Now if that isn't a little miraculous, I don't know what is...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The two year check up

Just a couple of weeks after we landed here it was time for my temple recommend to be renewed.  I had my interview with a member of the bishopric and then Russ told me that I could just come to the church on Thursday night and have my stake interview then.

On Thursday afternoon Jenna and I were out picking berries, and I was still new enough to the area that I couldn't figure out how to get from the berry farm to the church.  Which seems funny now--I can't imagine *not* knowing where to go.  But that afternoon as time was running short and I was not managing to find the church I was very frustrated.

I got to the church a little late and one member of the stake presidency, President Page, offered to stay and do my interview.  Now when Russ has a temple recommend interview it takes him about 5 minutes to answer the 10 questions.  With me it's almost never, well actually really never that way.  And it wasn't this time either.  Even though he had never seen or met me before President Page took the time to talk to me, to ask me how I was, and to listen to what I was saying.  I was an emotional mess (and a physical mess too, covered in berry juice!) and that was fine with him.  We talked about trials and how hard they are and it made me feel so reassured when he said that it was so hard for him to have a good attitude while in the middle of one.  That night I got my recommend signed, but perhaps more importantly I felt seen and heard and cared for.  I loved President Page.

----

Two summers later it was time for my recommend interview again.  This time I got to the church without getting lost.  This time I wasn't traumatized about moving anymore.  But this time I had a new concern, a new issue I was working through.  And once again President Page listened and talked with me about what I was going through.  I felt seen and heard and cared for.  I loved President Page.

----

A couple of weeks ago I got an email reminder that it was time to schedule a temple recommend interview again.  In so many ways it seems like the last two years have gone by in the blink of an eye.  The email made me think of that first Oregon interview 4 summers ago, and then of the second one two years ago.   I'm feeling at home here in Oregon now--so very happy to be able to go to North Carolina occasionally to visit, but I feel comfortable and at home here.  The issue that was bothering me two years ago isn't a problem anymore and I feel peace in my heart about it.  It feels sort of like an every two year check up, and I'm happy to say that this year I feel like I'm in a peaceful place.  Who knows--maybe I'll even have a 5 minute interview!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

This is one of those moments.

There are moments you remember all your life,
There are moments you wait for and dream of all your life,
This is one of those moments.

In one part of my brain having babies in the nicu seems like a dream, long ago and far away and fuzzy when I try to remember it. 

Another part of my brain remembers is like yesterday: going from isolette to isolette, holding each tiny baby, marveling over their tiny size.

I remember Jared wearing "real" clothes for the first time, clothes that today look like doll clothes but then were enormous on him.

And today that baby, my baby, blessed the sacrament for the first time.

Spiffy in his new white shirt and favorite turquoise bow tie, voice surprisingly calm, he did a great job and I had tears in my eyes.

Landmark moments always stand out, but there is something about hitting these landmarks with my babies.  A huge whoosh of "I can't believe we're here/how on earth did this happen" wells up inside of me every time. A combination of "how did we get here" and "I can't believe we've survived this long" and "I think this might be going too fast."

Today felt like that as I sat there and watched him and listened to him and wiped away the tears and took a mental picture.

This is one of those moments...

Monday, August 1, 2016

They're 16!!!!

There have been a handful of experiences in my life that have been so difficult that I truly didn't trust that I would survive them.  Having triplets was definitely like that.

It wasn't that the *having* of them was so difficult.  Sure, the bedrest wasn't great (except for watching Walker, Texas Ranger every night!),  eating so much food wasn't nearly as much fun as you'd think it would be, and by the end I was uncomfortable.  After they were born they were in the hospital for 6-8 weeks and while that was inconvenient in real ways, it wasn't something that couldn't be survived.

But having them all at home?  That's when the hard part really started, and there were many moments over the next 3.5 years that I wasn't at all sure I was going to make it.  Sleep deprivation moments, breast pump moments, postpartum depression moments, blowout and throw up moments, chicken pox moments, tantrum moments, etc.  It was overwhelming on a regular basis.  Early on another triplet mom had told me that it would get better when they were 3.5, and I wasn't sure I would make it that long...much less until they were 16.

But I did survive until they were 3.5 and she was right, things got much better.  In fact having triplets turned into a fun thing instead of a terrible thing, and since then it has just gotten better and better.  And now I sit in a darkened bedroom at the beach with Russ sleeping on the bed next to me and think that I can't believe it's actually been 16 years, that those tiny babies are now high-schoolers who are learning to drive and who keep our home filled with happiness.  In the doctor's office the day we found out we were having triplets I wondered why on earth this had happened, but for the last 13 years I've just been so glad that it did.  I've gone from "why me" to "lucky me," and although I worry about how much it will cost to get them all through college, I kind of feel sad for everyone who won't get to experience the cuteness and fun that these kids have brought into our lives.

Happy birthday to my wonderful kids!


PS--if you're curious to know more about their unusual entrance into the world, you can read about it here:  http://crayzdaze.blogspot.com/2009/06/summer-storms.html

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Answered Prayer

I am a praying person, but I have never felt like I am a good pray-er. I pray because I should and because I trust that it probably does make a difference, but usually that is more faith than certainty. From time to time, however, a specific prayer is answered in such an unmistakeable way that there is no doubt in my mind that God does, in fact, hear me.

One of those moments happened yesterday. On the way to Emerald Isle I was so troubled by a situation in my life. As I thought through one possible solution I realized that my heart was racing, leaving me almost breathless. I wasn't sure if this was fear or some kind if ego-driven excitement. Whichever it was, I wasn't sure I could go through with this plan to deal with the difficult situation. In my mind I said a little prayer, "Heavenly Father, if this is supposed to happen, *you* will have to make it happen, because I no longer trust myself to know that this is the right thing to do." And then I tried not to think about it.

Several hours later we arrived at Big Bertha and we unexpectedly greeted by a houseful of smoky air. This situation set in motion changes that forced me to act on my plan. I took a big breath, started praying, and made a request, all the while feeling anxious and a big sick to my stomach.

But the plan (suggested by my wise brother Jeff) dealt with the problematic situation perfectly. I felt calm and loving. I was able to present my issue and feel compassion at the same time. And in the end I felt the resolution was (and this is a strong word, but accurate) perfect and provided a far better start to our beach week than we would have otherwise had.

Jeff laughed at me, at the thought that God provided a smoky house to force me to action. I don't know how to look at that and don't really care. What I know is that I prayed for Him to make it happen if it was important, and that it absolutely and immediately happened that way.

Moments like these keep me praying. They give me confidence that even though I rarely *feel* something amazing when I pray (and I certainly didn't yesterday in that short unspoken prayer) and rarely feel like I see results when I pray, something is happening. And that is enough.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Peering into the future--my own experience

I can't remember how old I was when I received my own patriarchal blessing, probably 15-16.  When I was interested in having it, my dad suggested that I wait until we were going to be in South Carolina so that his great uncle, a patriarch in the Florence stake, could give it to me.

I didn't remember having met Uncle RB before, so the family connection didn't make much difference to me.  But my blessing did, because both in that moment and in the future decade it showed me with perfect clarity that even though Uncle RB didn't know me, my Heavenly Father did.

In many ways I wasn't a particularly happy teenager.  As I prayed throughout my early teenage years, I almost always asked for help in knowing something using specific words that were a line in a song that I loved.  As Uncle RB was giving the blessing, he said something, stopped, and then said something like "Know This: ______" and then proceeded to say the exact words from that song.  That was amazing.

Before my blessing Uncle RB and I had chatted.  I was in the process of applying to colleges and it was exciting.  In the blessing he said several things about this.  He said that I would receive a scholarship to the college of my choice, and that happened within the next year.  But he said something else that eventually proved to be even more interesting, that I would graduate from this college with honors.

In the summer before I started going to BYU when it was time to register I had to make a choice--to enter the honors program or not.  I think my academic record made me a good candidate for the honors program, but I decided (and this is the honest and slightly embarrassing truth) that I didn't want to have to hang out all of the time with nerds, and so I didn't register for honors classes.  At the time I thought to myself, "well I know that my patriarchal blessing said that I will graduate with honors, but how could Heavenly Father know that I would choose not to go into the honors program?"

Then my freshman year I "fell in love" with a guy who was getting ready to go on a mission.  We decided that I would go back to BYU for my sophomore year, and then work for a year to earn money so that we could get married just as soon as he got home.  Again I thought about that line in my patriarchal blessing about graduating with honors and thought, "Well how could Heavenly Father have known that I would fall in love and get married and not graduate from college?"

It's really embarrassing to remember that time period of my life and I'm so so so so very glad that after the guy went into the MTC I started to come to my senses and realize he wasn't what I wanted for my life.  I went back to BYU for my sophomore year and met and started dating Russ in January.  By April or May we had decided we were getting married and after an interminable engagement were married, right after my junior year at BYU.  I graduated from BYU the week before Cindy Lynn was born.

Some time in the month after graduation the diploma arrived in the mail.  I opened it and looked at it, just curious to see what it looked like.  And this is what it said--that Cynthia Watson Ray had been awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree...cum laude.

I looked at that and slowly realized what it meant.  Cum Laude.  With Honors.  And then I thought.  He knew.  All along.  When I was 16 and hadn't even been accepted to any college.  When I was registering for college and decided not to enter the honors program.  When I was in love and deciding to drop out of college to work.  He knew that actually, the thing that was going to happen was that I would graduate from college with honors.

There are some that I don't really understand in my patriarchal blessing.  There's something promised in there that doesn't seem to be working out very well right now.  There's something that I'm told I will do that I just don't seem to have time for in my life so far.  But I trust it, I trust it all.  Because it is (and has been from the moment it was given) very clear to me that Heavenly Father loves me and does in fact know both me and my life.

~~~~~~~~~~

PS--My patriarchal blessing also blesses me that I will have many, many children.  There was a lot of time as I was dealing with secondary infertility that that phrase was a bit painful.  Between the fact that we were playing genetic roulette even trying to have more children and the fact that it took so long for me to get pregnant, I thought that that phrase had probably been a mistake.  Except, you know, it turned out that I had many, many children.  It was actually a pretty accurate description.
;)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Peering into the future

Four weeks ago Jenna received her patriarchal blessing and tonight we took Rachel to receive hers.  Both times it was a striking experience--different than I remember from going with Jason and Josh when they received theirs.  With both girls I felt like I went with my "little girls" to the patriarch's house.  We sat and chatted with the patriarch and his wife for a little while.  (After 3 blessings in 12 months we have gotten to know a bit about them!)  Then we went back into their office where the blessing was given.

In both cases I sat and listened as the blessing began, interested and curious.  And in both cases after a few minutes I listened differently.  I still listened with curiosity, but also with amazement.  And I can say tonight that it is clear that Rachel and Jenna are not "just" my little girls.  They are women of astonishing spirit and potential and I feel a little dazed by the experience.  Wow.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Rainbow Thoughts & Tales

It's been a rainbow year for me.  Everywhere I go I'm seeing them and I love it.  A couple of weeks ago Russ and I went to the grocery store.  It was a dark and gloomy day with a sunbreak in the west,  and on the way home, there it was--an enormous intensely colored rainbow.  In an unusual twist of fate I didn't have *any* camera with me.  Not my purse with the purse cam, and not my phone with it's camera.  So I just looked at it.  Zoomed my eyes out to take in the whole picture, then focused in on the brightest parts.  When we got home I grabbed a camera and drove quickly over to the church where I thought I might still be able to see it, but of course the light had shifted and the brilliance had faded.  I still sat and watched for a few minutes until the sun had set and the rainbow faded away completely.  As I watched though I had a couple of interesting thoughts about rainbows, and once again I thought how true for me the scripture verse is that says that all things bear record of Christ.  


The first thought was about how truly big rainbows are.  I've had a number of cameras, but I've never had one that can take a picture of a whole rainbow.  I always have to take 2 pictures and sometimes even three.  That day in the car with Russ it seemed like the rainbow was over all of Hillsboro.  I thought how appropriate that was--the rainbow signifies God's promise to the world, and it is so large that it is over the world rather than contained in a small place.


[One day a couple of years ago I had to make an emergency trip to the dentist because of a cracked tooth.  The day was so gray--an unusual kind of flat gray.  I stopped at costco, all numbed and disgruntled about having to had to go out on this nasty afternoon, and as I pulled into parking lot I saw the beginning of a rainbow.  As it formed it was so bright that people just got out of their cars and stood and looked at it.  I took 3 pictures and stitched them together to get the picture above. Not sure why my old camera phone made them look more blue than gray though.]









[One evening this spring we went to Jared's lacrosse game.  It was gloomy and rainy and I was so grateful that the bleachers were covered!  The bleachers were facing east and the almost setting sun was behind us.  Off and on throughout the game rainbows formed and dissolved as the sun came out from behind the clouds.  It was truly amazing.]

Another thought I had was the realization that almost always, the rainbows come when it is dark.  Every now and then you see a bit of a sunny rainbow, but it's usually grey and cloudy and gloomy.  

Isn't that just like life?  When things are good and sunny we usually don't need more beauty or help.  We might not even see or notice it.  It takes darkness to be able to see and appreciate the luminescent beauty of the rainbow.  And isn't it that way with God's promises and help?  When things are good we might not notice or need God's help.  But when things are dark, oh how we see then.  Just like the rainbows, God's help and gifts stand out to us and we see their true beauty.




[When we were in Hawaii in February we saw some awesome rainbows.  This one was unusual because we were on the road to Hana, with the ocean down the mountain.  Instead of being like a half circle, this rainbow was closer to a 3/4 circle.  It went from the side of the mountain above us, all the way down to the water down the mountain.]



The last thought I had was that it's rare that a camera can truly capture the splendor of a rainbow.  We see it and grab the camera and later look at the picture and think about how much brighter, more vivid, simply splendid it had been.  Now this makes me think about how amazing our eyes are.  But it also makes me think about how amazing the things of God are, and how we can rarely represent them to someone else in their full glory.  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Oh the Places You Can Rule!

Now that the school year is over there are a couple of school assignments that I loved that I want to save.  This one is Jenna's end of year World Studies assignment to do a brochure about being a dictator based on the things she learned throughout the school year.  I think it's pretty remarkable!






Monday, June 13, 2016

Don't forget to look down, too.

Last week I spent some time talking with a friend.  I knew that she'd just had a long layover in a tropical location after a business trip.  When I asked if she had other travel plans, she said that she and her husband were taking a trip to South America in a couple of weeks, and then a Carribean trip later in the summer.  I love my friend and am totally happy for her happiness, but I must admit that the little green monster reared it's ugly head a little.  (After all, I've never even been out of the United States, other than a little hop across the border at Niagara Falls.)

Later in the week I saw on Facebook that someone I know is spending the summer (the whole summer) in Europe with her family. (Her whole family.) There was the green eyed monster again, a little more insistent this time.  (After all, I've never even been out of the United States, other than a little hop across the border at Niagara Falls.)

I chewed on this occasionally over the next few days, disgruntled at the disparity of my life compared to theirs.

Then I had the little thought.  The reminder of the niggle of guilt I felt when we spent two weeks (not one, but TWO!!) in Hawaii this winter!  Sure, we haven't been for a couple of years, but we have been lucky enough to have a week long beach vacation almost every year.   And then Hawaii!

As I started thinking about all of the ways that I have been blessed more than many people, my list grew.  Lovely children.  Loving husband.  Family support.  Personal time.  Lovely home.  Beautiful yard and ability to buy many flowers.  Regular beach vacation.  Occasional Hawaiian vacation. And on, and on, and on.  And on.

There are two truths at play here.  It is true that I don't have as much money or the same opportunities as some people that I know.  But it is even more true that compared to other people that I know, and compared to most of the people in the world, I have more.  I was comparing "up," but not remembering to compare "down."

So today I'm saying thank you to all of those who haven't yet had the chance to go to Hawaii but who were excited for me when I went.  Thank you for rejoicing with me, for adding to the joy of my trip.  Let me know when you're ready to go and I'll help you plan your trip.  And I'm also saying that I'm going to do a better job at remembering just how blessed I am so that I'm able to celebrate other people's opportunities, even when (especially when?) they're opportunities that I may never have.

[disclaimer: I have used the terms "up" and "down" only to mean having more money and the opportunities money can provide.  These terms are not meant in any other way.]

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Through a glass, darkly

My phone is a hand-me-down, it came from my nephew Jake who's on a mission now.  I've added a few apps to the phone in the year I've had it, but never done anything physically to the phone.  Which means that for a year it's had the case it came in, and the screen protector that came on it.

Lately it's been looking pretty scratched.  Let's be real.  For a long time it's been looking pretty scratched, and lately it's been looking terrible.  I *knew* that, but it was the kind of thing I never noticed in a moment where I could do anything about it and that never stayed in my memory for very long.

Finally there was the perfect conjunction; the stars aligned and I ordered a new screen protector.  I begged Jared (one of my tech guys) to put it on for me and I walked away.  Some time later he told me it was done and I came and got it.

All I can say is

WOW!!!!

I mean

WOW!!!!!!

It was so CLEAR!  It was so BRIGHT!  It was amazing and for the rest of the night and most of the next day I just stared at it in amazement every time I looked at it.



I can see clearly, now, I thought.  And I had no idea how un-clearly I *had* been seeing.

Then I started thinking...

---

For so many years in my life I was confused by part of a verse in the New Testament,

"For now we see through a glass, darkly..."

What on earth did it mean to see through a glass darkly?  It was really annoying to me, especially as the rest of the verse made a lot of sense to me and I really liked it.  The first time I heard an explanation for this idea was such a relief to me--that it might have to do with seeing something, (or through something), but not very well.

As I looked at my phone with it's spiffy and shiny new screen protector I understood on a new level.  Now that I was seeing my phone so well, I could see that for so long I hadn't been seeing it well at all.  I could see that then I saw through a screen protector, scratched up.  Which might be a lot like seeing through a glass darkly.

The most interesting thing to me, though, was the realization that while I knew I probably needed a new screen protector,  I had no idea how bad the situation really was *until* I had the new screen protector.

Which made my brain that loves analogies wonder--where in my life am I seeing through a glass darkly without knowing it?  Where do I think I have a little problem when there's actually a much bigger problem?  Where will be the biggest surprise when I no longer see through a glass darkly??


Monday, May 30, 2016

The tree and me

4 years and 2 days ago, in the evening, the triplets and I drove into Hillsboro.  How it went, how I felt, how I handled it--all that is well recorded history.  Tonight I am celebrating being on this side, having made it through some really difficult times to get to this place.

------

On the main street outside our neighborhood there is a big beautiful tree.  (Not being good at identifying trees I'm not sure what kind it is, maybe some kind of oak.) This tree has had the misfortune in it's life of growing straight up into the power lines, and over the years the tree has been pruned to accommodate the lines.  

The first winter we were here was long, dreary, and difficult.  The summer had not been so bad--there was lovely weather, fruit to pick, a family reunion, and a long trip back to the beach.  There was a house to buy and moving to do, all of which kept us busy.  But the winter, that was hard.

One day I noticed the tree.

And I thought, that tree has had it's heart ripped out, just like I have.

For a long, long time, every time I drove by the tree I silently commiserated with it.  I know how that feels, I thought.  I feel that pain.  

-----

It took a long time; several years, really, before I was able to move beyond those thoughts.  But eventually I was able to celebrate that even with it's middle all chopped out, the tree kept on.  Every spring it leafed out again into a beautiful stately tree.

It kept on living.  Thriving, even.


One day I had the thought that my heart was just like this tree--that if you could see it, there is a chunk out of my heart that is just the shape of the state of North Carolina.  

Thankfully I am leafing out and thriving again.  Thankfully (oh so thankfully!) we're still connected to our dear friends from North Carolina; some that are still there and some now in other places.  Thankfully I feel like I have real friends here in Oregon, now, as well.

But this tree will always speak to a part of me, a reminder of pain and time and healing.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Maybe not for naught

My memorizer is broke.

I suspected this for many years, and in the last 5 am certain. 

I've gone from being a prolific and easy memorizer of anything and everything (music, poetry, scripture) to bring a frustrated never memorizer, not even of one measure of music. 

All I can assume is that the triplets broke me.  😉

(Regardless of the cause, the situation exists.)

Several years ago I decided I wanted to memorize scriptures, and that I wanted to start with Paul's verses on charity.  They are beautiful to me, and since I struggle to have charity in my daily life, I thought it a good place to start.

I printed out a full sheet of paper with these verses on it.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind;
charity envieth not;
charity vaunteth not itself,
is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly,
seeketh not her own,
is not easily provoked,
thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity,
but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things,
believeth all things,
hopeth all things,
endureth all things.
Charity never faileth.

Every day for a year I read and reread these verses as I stood in front if the bathroom mirror.  It sounds pathetic, but at the end of the year I couldn't recite the whole thing--only small bits and pieces, and not in any good order.  I pronounced my experiment a failure.

---

Today's topic in sacrament meeting was charity.  The first adult speaker was going along with her talk, and then she said that she wanted to"read words from Paul."

Immediately (far quicker than my conscious mind could have responded) there was an upwelling of joy from my heart.  She was going to read my beautiful verses!  Verses that my heart loves!!

As she read each line I felt my heart grow warm and warmer until I felt filled with joy.

---

Can you imagine how surprised I felt?

All I can say is--perhaps my failed project

Wasn't.

And perhaps it's time for a new scripture on the mirror.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Old Plate, New Plate

Many years ago Russ and I were at Walmart and saw some darling plates.  It seems like we had been using corelle plates up until this point.  Their big selling point was that they wouldn't break, but of course we learned as everyone does that usually they don't break but occasionally they completely SHATTER.  So we saw these plates that were truly unbreakable and they also spoke to our hearts...of course we were going to buy some.  Now the problem was that there were two great patterns and we couldn't decide.  

So in the end we got some of each.  And since only one had matching salad plates and bowls, we just got those. 


We have oh-so-happily used these plates for many, many years.  I don't even know how long ago, but I'm pretty sure we were using them on Stephens Lane before the triplets were born, so that's at least 15.5 years.  Long enough that (especially because we didn't know they weren't microwave safe until relatively recently) some of them are starting to show their age.  

I've realized for the last several years that we were going to need new plates at some point and I've started watching.  Looking at melamine plates everywhere I went.  They were all TOO EXPENSIVE, and I DIDN'T love any of them.  So I haven't bought anything.

Recently I saw a darling melamine platter in a store, but there weren't any plates that matched it.  It made me curious again and so I came home and googled melamine plates just to see what was out there.  Eventually I saw that online at another store I could order a set of plates/bowls/cups that matched the platter.  They weren't cheap, which I didn't like.  But they were darling, and after a week or two of contemplation I decided to bite the bullet and go for it, before our old plates flaked apart entirely.

They arrived in the mail today and I'm very excited to present our new plates.


The salad plates have waves on them, and the bowls are white on the outside, aqua on the inside, and have a fish on the bottom.


Of course I got the platter that had started my whole hunt.


And now we can drink from plastic glasses with little fish on them too.


When Rachel saw that I was taking the old plates out of the cabinet she was so unhappy.  "Those are the dishes of my childhood," she said.  And it's true--they were.  I don't know if most people become as attached to their plates as we have been to these.  They have continually brought me joy to use, because they have been an expression of what we love.  

But no one likes dishes that start to flake off bits of plastic into their food, and that's where we were headed.  So we will bid a fond farewell to the old ones, grateful to them for their years of service and happiness.  And then, unlike the book "Old Hat, New Hat," we will say:

New plates.  New plates.  New plates.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rebel that I am

Gretchen Rubin, one of my favorite non-fiction authors, came up with a new way to evaluate people.  She divides them into four groups based in how they respond to expectations. One group responds readily to both outer and inner expectations.  One group responds to external expectations but not inner.  One group questions everything, then if they decide in favor of the expectation they meet it.  The last group rebels against all expectations, both outer and inner.

When I first heard her talk about her "framework," as she calls it, I assumed I was a questioner.  After all I ask a lot of questions.  About everything.  But when I talked to someone else who was a questioner I could see that I was really quite different than her.  

And then one day on Gretchen's podcast she had people send in mottos they had made up for their tendency.  She read a bunch, and then read off this one:

I'm a rebel: you can't make me, and neither can I.

I can't tell you what a light bulb moment that was, and how confusing at the same time.  After all, I don't LOOK like a rebel.  I look like a normal middle aged Mormon woman.  But from the moment I heard that motto I started seeing the signs in myself.  Want to shut me down? Tell me I *must* do something.  Want to get me to actually do something?  Tell me it probably can't be done!  And on, and on.

This makes so much sense with the rest of my life, especially when you combine this rebel tendency with the fact that I don't transition from one activity to another very well.  (Something I realized about my kids when they were young and I've known about myself for years now.)  Even things that I want to do are difficult to actually get myself to do.  Remember, "neither can I."  I've found that I have to be strategic to get things done that I want to do--either by sliding into them sideways or by putting myself in the correct place first instead of expecting that I'll be able to transition from one activity to another.  It's still a work in progress, but at least I feel like I have a grasp of what the issue is for the first time ever.

One last funny bit.  I realized after the first couple of days at work that I was feeling very uncomfortable ending phone calls.  As I thought about it I realized that this was the problem--I would end the phone call by saying "Have a great day," but then I felt like I was "bossing" the person around!  Because they might not like to be told what to do!  Not sure how that will end up, but at least I know that it's ridiculous.  Mostly.  ;)