charmed, i'm sure

I am the granddaughter of wonderful immigrants from the Azores (small, beautiful islands a thousand miles off the coast of Europe). They spoke Portuguese to their neighbors in their tight-knit community and to each other when we were all together at a family gathering. Sadly, my grandparents are all gone now, but naturally their influence remains.

I lead in with this short background to shed some light on my upbringing. See, because of this history my parents themselves grew up as city kids. This isn't a bad thing, at all, it just... is. They had small yards to play in, walked to school and to the market. Tight quarters. When we would go visit the grandparents in Fall River, Massachusetts (where my parents and their first three children-including me-were born), it always seemed so other-worldly. We would play out in the middle of the street, walk to Vallencourts' down the block to buy candy, and sometimes attend Catholic mass, all done in the local Portuguese. To us it was really cool and different.

It wasn't until I was maybe a teenager that I started to understand why we lived where we did and how we did, in our beautiful Virginia. I began to see why my parents needed space. We always had a big yard, with lots of grass and trees. No fences. Dad wouldn't hear of it. Riding lawn mowers, beautiful azalea bushes, space. It was idyllic and, like most kids, I didn't realize it when I was basking in it.

I also started to get how we lived. We had a Tom Sawyer/ Huck Finn kind of lifestyle. Wandering through woods, swimming in ponds, climbing trees, riding bikes along paths through forests, jumping off bridges into the river, rope swings, on and on and on. I tell my suburban-raised husband about my country life and he shakes his head, wondering how I made it.

"I was charmed," I tell him. The five Mello kids were meant to live this way. My parents gave us the gift of trees and wide open spaces as a way for them to vicariously live it themselves. Yup. Charmed, I'm sure.

letters to god, questions from kazzy

Do I share stories with my kids about people that have been important to me that have died?
Do I believe He is the creator?
Am I allowing God to play a big enough part in my marriage everyday?
Is He in my heart often enough?
Do I tell my family members often enough how much they mean to me?
Am I willing to give Him everything; especially a broken heart and contrite spirit?
Am I able to acknowledge His hand in my life?
Am I grateful enough to be alive without needing to have things bright and cheery all of the time?
Do I spend too much time thinking about things (or people) that do not make me happy?
Do I have enough faith to expect Him to be watching over my daily life?

creepy crawlies

Some of you seemed more interested than I would have been in the "African ants" photo, so here are two of them. Yes, I am throwing you a bone! They are moving so fast in this one at the bottom that they are a blur. Nightmarish!

6th folder 6th photo

I was tagged by Charrette this morning in a meme that asks us to post the sixth photo in our sixth folder of photos. The one that came up from my folder was a photo of a line of marching African ants, which may have been of interest to some of you. However, I went with the seventh photo in that folder, which is of my son Perry, who currently lives in Kenya as he is serving a mission for our church. This is a picture of him as he is talking to us on Mothers' Day 2008, five months after leaving. Yes, I bent the rules a teensy bit, but hey, it's my son!

Musical Monday: O Eyes of My Beloved

I am not a good typist. Actually I have never even taken a typing class. This has been the cause of much stress for my dear husband, who types about 157 words per minute and gets traumatized when he looks over my shoulder and notices my finger positioning on the keyboard. I have nothing against good typing skills, I just never learned to do it right.

The reason I never fit typing into my schedule in high school was because I was filling up all my electives with singing, and my absolute fave was Madrigal Singers. I am not talking about the "madrigals" I have seen in other high schools (with top hats and canes). No, we sang everything a capella, and wore renaissance clothing. Yes, I am talking men in tights. It was great fun, and it was great training for finding your part and holding your own against sometimes seven other parts.

Today's musical post is a tribute to this kind of music, which was written around the 16th century. I had a lot of fun recording all three parts. So, here is O Eyes Of My Beloved by Orlando di Lasso.

Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.

black dress

I have been sick with a killer sinus infection all week. The kind where you have to take antibiotics the size of a shoe twice a day. The kind where I keep threatening to cut my head off and start over, until my husband reminds me that he likes my head the way it is, plus I couldn't blog without a head. So I changed my mind. I am in the mood to wear black, but I like wearing black no matter my mood really. Tonight I will wear my new dress to a church meeting, but it could easily double as concert attire, or even funeral attire. Black symbolizes seriousness, but it also acts as a nice backdrop for red, fun lipstick, or bright jewelry. Tonight I will wear it as someone mourning the loss of breathing through her nose. Or maybe someone who mourns those headache-free days. Whatever the reason, the head will stay so that I have something to hang my pearl earrings from. moan...

a welder's arc

After 10 p.m. hot chocolate and french toast last night at IHOP with some good friends, a woman begins to share the story of her blind grandfather and his organ playing. It is told as a folk-like tale of a man stricken with diabetes, who has become blind much too young. In his past life he was a welder, which he still did even with his sight impairment.

In this story he gathers some of his family around as he prepares to play the organ for them. He turns on many lamps which are aimed down at the keyboard, and at the right moment flips down his welder's mask. We laugh as my friend describes this grandfather and his quirks. He reaches up to begin playing and engages the dance beat button that many organs have. After starting the tune with one finger on his right hand, he soon makes a mistake and throws a benign swear word out through the mask. He tries again and again, providing great humor to the family. The blind man sitting under strong lights wearing a welder's mask.

It is humorous and it is tragic altogether in its holding on to his past sense of career and purpose. Interesting how so many emotions are able to coexist in a simple retelling of a story that has meant something to someone you care about.

Musical Monday: Devoted to You

For this week's music post I felt like getting a bit nostalgic, so I rummaged through the piano bench and found the sheet music to Devoted to You, which was written in the 1950's, but made
famous by Carly Simon and James Taylor a couple of decades later.

Geo and I sang this as a duet almost twenty-two years ago at our wedding breakfast at the Lion House in downtown Salt Lake City. It isn't blemish-free, but it is sung with genuine love and affection for each other. Yes, today it is all about the sentiment, folks! Enjoy.

Devoted to You

Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.

we are clear blocks of ice

Every year since 1989, in the most northern reaches of Sweden, 200 km above the arctic circle, artists and architects get together to build a giant hotel made exclusively of ice. Three-thousand tons of ice in the form of huge blocks which are cut out of the local Torne River are stored in a huge warehouse from March, when they are cut out of the river, until November, when construction on the hotel begins and ends, all in three weeks.

The hotel is not only loaded with room after room for guests, but it houses a soaring domed chapel that is supported by 20-foot columns. Each room is mono-chromatically luminous with its ice sculptures and ice furniture, and fiber optics are strung through the thousands of square feet in order to add to the magical feeling. It is an amazing thing to behold, even though I have only seen it on television and in photos.

But the most amazing thing of all is the disappearance of the entire structure within three months, when it finally melts back into the ground from whence it came. From the minute after its completion it starts to change, as the breath of the visitors subtly thaws walls and ceilings and art. It is a living thing, beginning its death immediately, not unlike us. Beautifully made, with detail and care, we shine and display our own art. And as we welcome our own guests we change, through their presence, until our time comes to melt back into our starting place. Gorgeous and flowing, like a clear river.


Push, pull, love, unlove.
Difficulty, ease, famine, feast.

All of these experienced, simultaneously, in these past months. And yet the best things surface and the ones that don't matter in the deep sense seem to fade in their importance.

At lunch, yesterday, my husband sitting across from me. A surprise invitation to share in food and thinking. Hopefulness expressed through misty blue eyes as he recounts real-life realizations. Children, sustenance, practicalities. My rock. My assurance. Not without small fissures, but balanced with my own.

We float, my rock and I.

Musical Monday: Know This, That Every Soul Is Free

The song I am posting today is a favorite of our family. My boys are learning to be pretty good singers, and this was one of the first songs that our family could sing in four parts. So, because of that, it has become a piece with some real meaning for me. I sat in my room reading the words before I recorded it this morning, wanting to be genuine with my feelings as I sang it.

And to drive the message home we had a great lesson in church about this very topic of personal agency. The right to choose for ourselves what we will do with our lives. What we will do with our freedom. And what we will do with our ability to reason.

Thankfully we get second chances when we misuse these freedoms. Even third and fourth chances. He wants us to choose Him, and we do this over and over again each day with small choices we make. Thanks, and enjoy.

Know This, That Every Soul Is Free

how about this book?

Here is a regular conversation I have with a little boy in my class whenever we go to the school library to check out books:

me: Hey X, everyone else has checked a book out and now you need to find one and take it to the librarian, ok?

X: I can't find any books.

me: Well, how about this one? It looks like a good one.

X: Nope. That's not it.

me: Here's one about helicopters. It looks pretty interesting.

X: No. That's not it either.

me: X, you will need to hurry or I am going to have to pick a book for you. Now, there are a lot of good books here to choose from. Please choose. Your friends are all lined up and ready to go back to our classroom.

X: I just can't find it. Here it is!

The thing that is so interesting about the exchange with this bright little boy is the reference to "it". I always wonder if he has some sort of image in his head of what his book is supposed to look like. The "it" changes each week though, because he doesn't check the same book out on a repeated basis.

It makes me ask myself the question about what my "it" is. What do I have preconceived ideas about in my life that inhibit me from being satisfied? Generally I don't over think things. I am actually pretty good at being just spontaneous enough to have fun and to enjoy the little unexpected things in life. But I know there have been "its". There have been times when I think I will just know when something is right. And I have discovered that most of the time my "it" is a fluid kind of concept. What works for me one day might not jump out at me the next.

So one of my aspirations is to look at the library book someone suggests for me, and to say, "Ok. I am going to allow myself to believe THAT might be my "it" today!"

dog biscuits and two little boys

We moved to Utah and bought our first home after my husband finished his PhD in Los Angeles fifteen years ago. At that time my two oldest sons were were only 5 and 3 and they were thrilled to have a real yard of their own. The only problem was that we had moved to an old World War II neighborhood (one of the first planned neighborhoods ever built in the 40s, consisting of about 100 small houses), and the homes each sat on a small lot with most back yards being adjacent to at least a couple of other ones. Coming from city life in L.A., we felt lucky to own any little square of grass. But the black Scottie dog that lived behind us offered a challenge for our little guys. The dog didn't bark, but stared at the boys through the chain link, suspiscious and tentative.

One day we got a phone call from the owner of that dog, our new neighbor who was insightful and kind. She invited my boys, her new little red-headed and brunette neighbors, over to ask them a favor. She needed someone to help her to take care of her dog. She said the dog was lonely and needed friends, and she asked my sons to help her. As we walked out of her home each boy carried a plastic tumbler full of dog biscuits. What they could have never realized was that swimming around in the spaces between those biscuits was a chance to be happy in this new, strange place.

And so this July will mark fifteen years in this same neighborhood. When we needed a bigger place after two more children, we moved ten houses up the street. Who could have guessed that dog biscuits could be such powerful things?

Musical Monday: What a Wonderful World

When my youngest three boys were in kindergarten they had the angel teacher from heaven. She was sweet and thoughtful and saw straight into their souls. She knew their potential and celebrated everything innocent and optimistic about being five. At the Christmas program she had the children line up side-by-side on the stage, each holding a big painting down toward their knees. Then What a Wonderful World would begin. When the cue of the right lyrics came, they each would lift the painting skyward and smile as big as the sun. The art work was their own, and it was pure and happy and beautiful. All three Christmases that I went to that program to watch my boys I couldn't keep it together. I am crying while I sit here typing this entry. These were some of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had, as I watched my little men on that stage showing their clean, hopeful view of the world.
Last night my friend Midge came over (a little reluctantly at first) to join me in this week's recording. We had a great time as we went through it a few times and finally came up with a good take. We laughed and we talked about the vibe of the song. We were happy singing it, and hope you are happy listening to it. Just click on the title below.

What a Wonderful World

Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.


I see trees of green,
Red roses too.
I see them bloom
For me and you.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue,
and clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces
Of the people going by.

I see friends shaking hands,
Saying, "How do you do?".
They're really saying,
"I love you."

I see babies crying.
I watch them grow.
They'll learn much more
Than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Midge (low), Kazzy (high):
Oh, yeah...

Where is my inner Halle?

I always used to laugh at the girls who became too attached to their hair, no pun intended here. You know the ones I mean? The girls who would never cut it. Never. They had long hair because if you had short hair you looked like a boy. They had long hair because it made them prettier. They had long hair because the boys seemed to like it more. And changing it up at all made them feel vulnerable and less powerful.

When I was very newly married (about two weeks into it) I went and got my hair cut quite short. It had been about to my shoulders for the wedding, but I always enjoyed it short because it felt healthier and thicker. So after work one day I went right out and got it chopped, with no consultation with the new better half. My independence has always been a strength and a weakness. I was a fifth-grade teacher at the time and after the haircut I came home and plopped down on my bed, exhausted from a big day. An hour or so later I woke up to my new cute husband staring down at me with a big smile on his face. "You look pretty sassy!" he joked as I groggily rubbed my eyes and sat up. Since that day I have never worried about my husband's opinion about my hair. He really doesn't mind what I do with it. He still thinks I am sassy (which I must admit isn't always used as a compliment).

But here I am in my mid-forties liking my hair a little bit longer. Don't get me wrong, it isn't supermodel long. It just hits below my shirt collar, which is long for me. And even though there is no set age when a woman should give up on flowing hair, I don't want to be holding on to my youth for too long. That gets a little sad. So every time I get out the blow dryer and big round brush I get a little happy, but I wonder what this hair is symbolizing. Am I turning into the high school drill team member who only feels like a girl if she has a mane of shiny hair falling down her back?

Sometimes I think about Halle Berry (when she had super short pixie hair and was so so cute). She pulled it off. She was as girly as girly can be. I feel like I am betraying myself when I give in to the girly side of my identity, like I am turning my back on my instinctive independence. But being the only woman in this house I must say it has been fun to have a monopoly on the fluffy stuff here and there. So I repeat a mantra to myself every now and then as I run my fingers through my hair. I say, "I could cut it if I want to. I just don't want to right now." And then I am convinced that it is true.