We spent the summers of 2001 and 2002 in England leading groups of BYU London Study Abroad theater students. Twenty-some plays in seven weeks, all over the city in historical districts, up-and coming areas, above pubs. It was a magical time for our family, as we had never been abroad all together. Our youngest boys were 4 and 3 the first time we went and they still talk about it, more in impressions than in a lot of real specific fact.
We took trips to castles and Shakespearean landmarks, where our third son, who is named after a Shakespearean character, found a new sense of identity, which he is still very proud of. We took the train to Wales where we saw miles and miles of carpeted hills covered with woolly sheep that seemed so low to the ground, as if God, who has a special place in His heart for these animals, had given them a small advantage in eating by making it easier for them. We saw moss-covered rock walls and foggy coast lines where the horizon was impossible to discern.
We discovered a love for Indian food and untamed English gardens. And we got hooked on the ease and convenience of public transportation. Pastries stuffed with beef strips and gravy, and yogurt that was so heavenly we swore we saw the containers lift off the table once or twice.
Today I went with a couple of friends to sing at a nearby nursing home. I was leading some Christmas hymns when one of the older gentlemen asked if we could sing something patriotic for Thanksgiving. Of course! Great suggestion! As I flipped to the page for My Country 'Tis of Thee I noticed God Save the King, which is sung to the same tune,on a neighboring page, and I found myself having warm feelings for England. It doesn't take much to be reminded of a place when you have created real memories there. So on this Thanksgiving holiday I send a salute across the pond to those early Englanders who settled my home state of Virginia in 1607. We are connected. Thank you for your independence and vision. Cheers!
*Feel free to email me your guess about my son's Shakespearean name.
I slept in this morning, until 9 (which is like noon to most people), and then got to my morning ritual, which includes checking my blog roll before anything else. Some go to coffee, but I go to my blog.
Thanks to LisAway for the award this morning. Wow! I am honored to be recognized. And isn't it great to find something you love to do, and to meet new friends while doing it?
This award is to be given to someone who seems to make the world feel smaller. It is to be given to someone who demonstrates friendship, and who doesn't seek out or care about winning awards.
But I am bending the rules a tad and giving one to a single post and one to a complete blog. Hope that's okay.
For the single post, I chose someone who is humble and thoughtful, and who really floored me with a recently honest post, found here. Ladyhawker is one of those bloggers that uses her artistic talents to literally give you a picture of what she is thinking about. Last summer when her grandfather was missing for a month she posted photos, maps, pleas for help. She is amazing. And the comments she leaves are very well-developed and sincere.
For the complete blog, I chose DUNHAVEN PLACE. Every time I read Heidi's blog I feel like she is someone I know. She has been a good example of someone who has taken some difficult situations and grown from them. She is funny, but not to a point where she hides behind her humor. It is genuine and enjoyable. And when she takes a more serious angle she is terrific too. I always laugh at her responses to her comments! She is making connections over and over again with people that read her blog. That is a great thing!
Thanks again, Lisa, and thanks to everyone who has become a friend to me here blogging. You women are amazing, and you have added real texture to my life. And yes, Lisa, we will meet here in Utah someday!
When you blow air with your mouth wide open as big as you can it spreads out and loses its power before it can reach your hand at the end of your outstretched arm. But blow air with puckered lips and it keeps its focus all the way out to that same hand.
I have learned from my photographer BFF, ladyhawker, that the same is true when setting the aperture on your camera. A large aperture might give a wider shot but the depth of field is more shallow. And, in contrast, a smaller aperture will give a deep depth of field.
I have had to learn this truth over and over in my personal life. Keep my eye on the prize. Keep my focus. I want that hand to feel my warm breath.
I cried at my community theater's production of The Crucible last night. It was well-acted and powerful, not just in it's literal story of the Salem witch trials in 1692, but in its implications to other times and places.
One of themes running through the play is that you could be convicted of being a witch by the authorities finding sins of omission in your life. And convictions in this play meant being hanged. The commandments are not memorized. You only attended church 17 times in the last two years.
Another theme was the supposed innocence of accusers. Young girls going into believable frenzies and saying that certain people were "sending their spirits to hurt them". Only a few questions asked of the accusers in contrast with the many asked of the accused. Dangerous territory, as you might imagine. Innocence needed proving, guilt was implied.
The only way out of a death sentence was a confession. Those were your options and that was it. As the male lead was being falsely accused of being a warlock by a scorned lover, he decided to confess, falsely, in order to stay alive and be with his pregnant wife and his children. At the last minute, once he realizes his confession is to be nailed to the church door, he tears it up and is led to the gallows. His wife never asks him to lie. She continually tells him to do what he feels he must. And so this man, along with an elderly saintly woman, is the final victim of the trials.
I looked over at my husband and asked what he would have done. Would he have given a false confession in order to live with me and the children until we were old and until he died a natural death? I would hang. I couldn't live with myself knowing I had lied like that. And then he added, as if to soften the blow, Sorry, baby. Powerful, powerful stuff. And little did my husband know that he gave the answer I wanted.
One of our favorite Christmas traditions is crepes on Christmas eve. We have done this since our first child was born, so this will make the twentieth year. Geez, where has all the time gone?
Besides the fact that they are scrumptious, there is another, even more important, reason that I love crepes. They have to be made one by one. You don't make them like pancakes, with little piles of batter on one big griddle. I pour a quarter cup of the batter into my crepe pan and then I stand there and watch until the edges start to look done. Then I carefully flip it over for a few seconds before sliding it onto the big serving dish.
Making them one by one means that it takes about an hour to make 50 crepes. And I can't leave the stove for one minute. They are delicate and need my attention, and they need it one crepe at a time. Standing for all of that time gives me a good excuse to think about my family for whom I am cooking.
I think about my husband who loves me to the end of the numbers and back. I think about how lucky I am to have a man that I love and respect love me back. He listens to me. He looks at me when I am talking to him and blushes.
I think about my sons, each one unique and crucial to my happiness. My older two boys are old enough now to have earned real grown-up respect from me. They are great men. Men. Not little boys anymore. That is hard to say.
My little boys who call me as I am leaving work to tell me they need me to come home right away because it was a hard day. Or that they need a hug. Young enough to still admit that they need help.
We stuff our crepes with fuit and cream and powdered sugar. But I stuff mine with love.
NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) is killing me. Someone send help. It is 8:23 p.m. and I should be writing because I have 2200 words to still write today. But I turn to blogging like it is some sort of medicine. Like it will take my pain away. I am counting down the days until November 30 midnight. Only 315 and a half hours left. I love a good challenge. I am made for stuff like this. But I am dying here. I get interrupted with wifely and motherly duties. I work. I go to church. I lead cub scouts. I exercise. I have book club. I have a midnight showing of Twilight I have been invited to. I. Can't. Breathe. But each time I have entertained the thought of quitting not only does guilt set in, but the characters I am writing about call out to me. Really, they do. OK, Liliana, I won't give up on you. Just toss me some chocolate or something, will ya?
I am ready to put up my Christmas tree. I want my house to smell and feel like Christmas right now, not because I am actually ready for the tangible part of Christmas, but because I am ready for the intangible part.
I grew up back east, where nobody had an artificial tree. It was considered blasphemy. It was considered treason. It was a crime worse than you can imagine. But I am a westerner now, and green things are scarce here, so give me the fake tree! Give me the tree I don't have to water twenty times a day because it sucks it up like a big straw. Give me a tree that can stay up for two months and make me happy.
My plan is to come home from Thanksgiving dinner in Salt Lake at my sister-in-law's house, and sit beside my tree. Sure, the kids and my husband can join me if they want, but nothing will sway me from my plan. I will lie on my back and close my eyes and look at the colored lights through my eye lids. I will put on The Messiah and dream of world peace and good will. I will not concern myself with presents and money needing to be spent. I will do my best to get in the right spirit. The spirit of unconditional love.
It's so cliche, but so true. Being up on a mountain gives you real perspective. Mountains are referred to in the bible as places where prophets received direction for their people. Even where they received commandments. Mountains are places where temples are to be built.
When our family climbed up to the Y on the side of the mountain in Provo last month, my husband and I stood and looked down and felt our smallness. We looked south and pointed out our itty bitty town of Springville, which is peopled by 25,000 but looked a lot smaller than that from a couple thousand feet above it.
My husband has been struggling here and there at work, wondering if he is doing what he wants to be doing for the next twenty good working years we have left. He admits that sometimes he is jealous of my enthusiasm for my job and my love for the kids and for my coworkers. He feels a bit hung out to dry because he felt a real calling to his profession years back but has lost some of his zeal. There are parts of his career that he is nuts for and has excelled at, but there are parts that he would like to have surgically removed. Unfortunately, that is not going to be a real possibility. He can unintentionally get caught in the whirlpool of feeling down and close to desperate.Can you say "mid-life crisis"?
But when we were up on the mountain for that afternoon everything was different. The adrenaline helped, but I believe that the height of the climb and the view from our final destination was medicinal. All of his concerns are not solved, but for that day they were put in perspective and all seemed right with the world.
It makes sense to me that these mountains were formed by masses of land being smashed against each other. Maybe we need a little smashing and a little climbing before we start to get perspective on our own itty bitty lives.
I often think I know what is best for me and for my family. I think I know myself quite well. Many times I do a decent job mapping my course. I can lead. I can follow.
But I become, at the same time, excited and terrified when I think that some day I will really know myself. There will be a time when I will stop learning things in part and start learning things in whole. I will have a mirror turned around and find myself staring into it.
This life is a time to taste but not fully devour real understanding. I bite. I swallow. Sometimes I choke.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Today at my yoga class I laughed my head off about something, and it wasn't when I was watching my husband and co-yoga pal try to balance while doing the "tree" (although that was pretty funny). I was laughing at a story that one of the other guys who attends the class told us.
He owns his own lawn care business, but he moonlights by taking people out on hunting tours and even helps train hunting dogs, and yesterday he was telling us about a pheasant that used to follow him around in a field that they hunted in. He had penned up all of the pheasants he had caught so that he could let them go a few at a time for the hunters to track and shoot, and in this pen he had also put his little pheasant so that it wouldn't get accidentally shot.
Over the course of a week or so all of the birds, except the little pheasant, had methodically been taken from the pen and had met their fate out in the field. With no intention of killing his little shadow, my friend went into the pen to release him, when the pheasant looked at him, figured out he was the only one left, promptly had a heart attack and died.
Now, I am not laughing at the death of the bird. I like birds. I am laughing at my friend's fear that he has now accidentally acquired the power of the evil eye. He warned everyone in the room to not look at him for too long because he couldn't be responsible for what might happen. We all laughed pretty hard while trying to hold our lotus position, and then we scooped up our mats and, without making eye contact, said goodbye until Tuesday.