day forty-three: fox trot, and rising from the ashes

Tonight we went to SLC to be with my nephew as he opened his mission call. It has been a bit of a long haul for this darling guy, and so it seemed appropriate that he would be called to the AZ, Phoenix mission. The Phoenix being a symbol of rising from the ashes. It is a rebirth. And it certainly is for my nephew, who is as close to a son as possible, without actually being one.

His dad, my brother-in-law, is in Michigan for law school (comes home every few months to be with the fam) and he watched from a laptop, through a video chat, which was set up on the counter while the envelope was sliced open and the letter read. It was so great to be there.

There was soon food put out on the table and people hugged and back-slapped the new missionary. Apple cake, ginger cookies, tuna-filled croissants, lemon water.

And then my BYU freshman son announced he has a test in his social dance class tomorrow on the fox trot. In a half-second my niece was jumping off the couch, away from her conservative dentist husband and into the arms of her red-headed, quirky cousin. A cha cha and a fox trot ensued, and the crowd (about 15 of us) clapped and laughed. There was a small snapshot moment of a family that loved each other and wanted the best for each other. There was joy in that room, and I felt it twirling me around on a dance floor.

day forty-two: what doesn't kill you...

Yesterday I got a tetanus shot as part of my annual check-up. No, I didn't step on a rusty nail or get bitten by a wild animal. My doctor told me that a tetanus shot also carries some properties that can fight pertussis, which is a coughing disease.

"This will keep you from coughing all over kids and maybe killing 'em."

"Well, by all means, Doc, let's get that shot."

But today my left arm has a huge red knot which is very hot to the touch, and the pain is also under my arm and a bit down my side.

I'm just glad I won't be spreading any deadly cough germs, mostly because when I cough it now hurts all over. Now I see how the shot works...

Musical Monday: Garote de Ipanema

The Girl From Ipanema was originally done in Portuguese, but found a great audience again and again as it was covered by Frank Sinatra and others. I studied this beautiful language while a student at BYU in the 80s as an homage to my grandparents who all spoke it. But, according to my grandmother, who was from the Portugal Azorean islands, my Brazilian professor wasn't teaching me all of the right words. I hope they would like my attempt here!

I decided to not put up a translation. Just listen and sway to the Bossa Nova beat.

Garote de Ipanema

day forty: put a ring on it

I have slipped a ring on the finger of my commitments.

This door swings open and shut a lot during each day. We each go to school or work, come home, go back out to other engagements. Back again. Go out to check the mail or to talk with neighbors out in the yard. And back.

But each day when I leave to head out to work with my special kiddos I know I am doing good. And the BYU thing? I enjoy it and want to do my best with those commitments too. But family first. Always first. The ring is big enough to encompass all of these.

day thirty-nine: my brain

The retraining. The loosening up. The stretching.

Years ago when we were still trying to recruit people to join our book club there was a woman who asked if she had to read the books in order to come. At the time I thought it was an almost rude question, but now I can look at it differently. She was looking for more of a social experience than a mind-bending one. And that, friends, is why I attended book club the other night.

I have been booked out over the past month, holed up either at class or doing homework. Don't get me wrong, I am really enjoying it all. But I was ready for some sitting around, some heavy-duty snacking, and some girl time. And when I got home at
eleven o'clock I felt so much better. A little balance.

Now I am back at it, today spending three hours studying about behavioral objectives while the family buzzed about my head doing all sorts of other things. But life is good, and the old brain is getting some great workouts, including dusting off my Portuguese tonight as I recorded my Musical Monday post.

Obrigada e boa noite!

day thirty-eight: sleep lines

I talk in my sleep, so I've been told.

I have always just believed my husband when he tells me I mumble and go on and on. I have never questioned him when he has told me that I laugh in my sleep, and sometimes even cry a little bit. I have chosen to believe that maybe I am just a dynamic person that can't squeeze enough living into my waking hours, so they spill into my sleeping ones as well.

And he snores. My husband, that is.

He takes my word for it. A few times he has woken himself up snorting his own little accidental alarm, but for some reason he can never remember that in the morning. He laughs when I imitate his little sounds and gurglings. A couple of times I have grabbed my cell phone from the night stand in an attempt to record the evidence, but he either stops right when I finally find the voice record option, or I am choking down laughing so hard that I can't get any accurate data.

But hours later I wake up and see that there he is. My friend. My confidant. And I know that even with our quirks, we fit together.

Now, if I can only figure out a way to tell him to roll over as I talk in my sleep...

day thirty-seven: parts of the whole

eat, pray, read, kiss, read, write,
watch, dress, eat, teach, drive,
listen, drive, eat, hug, read, write,
eat, pray, sleep

that about covers it.

i am a happy doer.

day thirty-six: explosion

My people come from the Azores, which is a group of small islands one-thousand miles off the European coast. Volcanic islands. Exploding magma from cracks in the ocean floor. Spitting up future farms, mountains, and coastlines. Lush. Green.

I am a volcano. It is where I come from. It is in me. I am creating. I am raw materials.


ps next musical monday in the language of my grandparents

day thirty-five: wife of a preacher man

I hope it doesn't sound blasphemous to say that when I hear my husband being a firm-but-gentle problem-solver on the phone, helping someone who has called in a panic, that I feel anxious to give him a big juicy kiss. After he hangs up, of course.

day thirty-four: passing through zanzibar

Every now and then my son sends an email that sounds a bit like an Indiana Jones movie.

We got a good one today that I thought I would share.

The first thing I remember on Friday morning was Elder Papworth (the
new AP) stumbling into the room talking to himself at how we were
going to be late. I rolled over and looked at the clock. 6:00. Yeah,
we were not going to make that 8:00 plane. So, just as in countless
mornings from the last six months, I got ready for the day in less
than 10 minutes. Threw the rest of my lugauge in my suitcase and ran
out to the van. Elder Paulo was already out warming it up, I along
with Elder Papworth coralled the other two elders who were traveling
with me and off we went. Thanks to Elder Paulo we made it to the
airport in about 10 minutes (which, if you know the city, is
incredibly fast). I quickly ran through all the security checks to the
check in desk to plead our case. Check in time was one hour before the
flight, unfortunatly by the time I got there on my knees it was
already 40 minutes 'til blast off. No sanctuary was granted. So I went
back out to the others who were waiting and told them the news. We
went straight to the ticketing office to see what could be done. They
offered us an alternate flight that left in a few hours' time. The new
flight however was quite longer and went via Zanzibar. Pretty cool, I
don't think many missionaries have seen Zanzibar. So we agreed to it,
Paulo took off and there we were. Waiting time. Eventually our
prop-plane showed up, we filed inside like sixlets in their package.
The whole journey took a little over two hours in the air. We finally
landed (got to walk out to the plane and off the plane on the tarmac
on one of those old-school staircase things) and the first thing we
had to do was fill out a paper about swine flu. Then passport control,
then bags (the usual regimine). Finally we stepped out onto the
Tanzanian soil of Dar Es Salaam. I have been assigned to be a district
leader here (there are two districts in Dar) with an Elder Engida
(from Ethiopia) as my companion. Dar is a costal city, very much like
Mombasa in climate and culture. Tanzania is infamous for it's Swahili,
which is kept in it's pure form and is spoken as the official
language. Sun, heat, and humidity are abundant. So are Muslims. I
happened to arrive the last week of Rahmadan, their 40 day fast (I
think I described it more fully when I was in Mombasa this time last
year and had the same experience). The weekend was filled with
celebrations (outside our house it was sounding like a concert). The
branch and the area (both named Kinondoni 1) are less than perfect, we
have much work to do in helping to revive and rejuvinate what is here.
But I am excited to be out and about doing the Lord's work on the
ground level. It's going to be tough but I think it will be a good way
to spend the last 3 months of my mission.
I'll have more experiences (and hopefully some pictures) next week.
But I'm here and I'm finally at work again. Thanks to all you that
wrote! Love you all,

Musical Monday: Blackbird

Here's a fun little Beatles vibe. Have a great Monday!


day thirty-three: liquor, but not really

My good friend that lives in my neighborhood is up and moving soon to Toronto. She and the family are taking a three-year sabbatical from Happy Valley in order to go and have an adventure in a foreign land (well, Canada). I am excited for them to have this experience, even though we will miss them tremendously. My kids, on the other hand, give me and my husband crusty looks over their cereal bowls in the mornings when we try and convince them that these kinds of things are good for a family.

Last week in church this same friend, who had a bit of a rocky road coming back into the fold, told me that she found liquor bottle boxes to be the sturdiest ones out there to pack their belongings in for the drive east. Something I might not have known without that tip. She also told me that she and her husband decided to spend an evening last week in the temple after a day of cleaning and packing and making big decisions, and as they were getting out of their Suburban to go inside for some worshiping they glanced into the back to see that they had not quite unloaded all of the boxes yet that they had earlier picked up from the local liquor store.

Just a funny little Sunday story there for ya.

day thirty-two: even in the off-season

Today our close friends spent the day building a greenhouse for their botany-minded 13 year-old for his birthday. They are always putting us to shame with their weekend projects and commitment to an industrious life. Anyway, the idea of the greenhouse got me to thinking. Their son has found something that he is tremendously good at (he can grow anything, as witnessed by his 10-ft sunflowers) and has decided he would like to do it for more than the natural growing season. A greenhouse allows him the privilege to keep the dahlias and the veggies coming in the middle of January, when everything else in our climate is taking a nice long Winter's nap.

So what do I want to keep alive? What can I nurture in my proverbial greenhouse when it logically should be done growing, at least temporarily? And I decided that I have become converted to writing. It is a living, breathing, organic experience for me that really should, logically, be dormant in my life with all of the other things I am obligated (happily) to do. But it needs the experience and trial of growing when it isn't supposed to. It needs the sun through the glass and the mist of a good spray bottle. And in the cold months when I am scraping my windshield and driving home after dark, it will feel nice and cozy to come home and tend to my family and then to myself, even just a little, by visiting my greenhouse.

And thanks to Erin at Together for Good for this blog award. What a sweetie. And a great thinker/writer too.

day thirty-one: missing

On the card table in the back room of the house there is the outline of a 500-piece puzzle that is slowly maturing into a scene of Tuscany. Red clay tiled roofs and white columned buildings. After sifting through the pieces three times today with boy #3 we realized there is a piece missing from the bottom right corner.

What's the point of even finishing it? he asked in his frustration.

And I spent another twenty minutes convincing him, while I started to group like pieces together, that sometimes it is while you occupy yourself with other things that the initial problem solves itself.

And that there is also a possibility that this is a 499-piecer.

day thirty: open road

Once, when I was maybe 14, I rode in the back of a little pick up truck all the way from my house outside of Washington DC to the North Carolina coast. Yeah, about 7 hours. Wind-whipped and unrestrained. I went with my friend and her parents down to their beach house for a couple of weeks. I am sure my parents would have objected had they known about the conditions of the drive.

I like the road, though. I like to get in my nice comfy car and just go somewhere, sometimes clueless as to my destination. Recently I drove all the way around Utah Lake, which is a pretty good trek. I would say about 100 miles from my driveway and back again. I listened to a cool mix of music and drove and thought. And thought. It lubes my mind, and I come home feeling like I could use a good oil change.

day twenty-nine: in the air

The cicadas are on something tonight. Maybe they are talking about the upcoming end to Summer or the leaves that are already changing color up in the canyon. But in another month or so I will miss their little chats they have at night while I am lying in bed trying to sleep. It is a comforting sound.

Once Winter comes I love the silence that a soft downy snowstorm brings. The way you can stand on the front porch at midnight when the street lights make everything sparkle and you hear nothing. I'll bet if you could gather up the blanket of snow that warms up the neighborhood and wring it out you could hear all of the sounds that have been absorbed. It is a different kind of comforting.

I need them both. I need to expect something different here and there. I need the sound sometimes and the silence other times. And in my life right now I am finding fulfillment in both extremes.

I am a paradox that smiles as I sit on this branch and thrum, thrum, thrum. Winter will come soon enough.

day twenty-eight: here it comes again

Tonight I read a post from a friend of mine that I have never met in person, although in my mind's eye she is beautiful and has a happy smile and warm demeanor. She has boys. Her boys are blond and blue-eyed and little, and mine are brunette (except for my one redhead) and brown-eyed and getting bigger by the day. But for some reason her reflections on raising her boys and the nostalgia she already feels really hit me- right in the chest, where it kind of stayed for awhile.

Today I had one of those flashbacks where my little boy was sitting near his bed in our one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, about 19 years ago. He had two plastic milk crates that held his toys, which included cars, balls, and a red plastic fireman hat that he would wear all over the place. The wallpaper was striped and he had pictures of scriptural figures on the wall for inspiration. I can see him there looking up at me and babbling away, like he always did. My little chatter box.

That's all. Nothing deep or profound. Just my home movies running in my head. And I use my sleeve to clean my eyes.

Musical Monday: California Dreamin'

So, while we were on our 11-day cross-country-and-back trip this Summer, we had the perfect little rehearsal studio, which looked almost exactly like my 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander (wink). Some of our faves to sing along to were Adam Lambert's Ring of Fire, anything Jackson 5, and The Mamas and The Papas doing California Dreamin'. We swapped who would do harmonies and who would sing which verse. It was so much fun to just laugh and sing until the windshield almost cracked in protest.

In memory of our adventure I submit to you California Dreamin', in which I got to do the second verse because it was my project and I said so! Marsha does the first verse, and Tiffany and Cherranne combine on the third verse. Dance along...

California Dreamin'

day twenty-six: sabbath food

Take a chance on other people.
Reach out.
Put both your talents and your needs on the altar.
Sing out loud.
Rejoice in others' joys.
Never forget the sacrifices of others that went before you.
Eat good food with your family.
Laugh a lot while you sit around the table with friends.
Don't analyze your life so much that you only see the problems.
Dance like James Brown.

These are a few things I either thought about or did today.

I did the James Brown thing. It was fun.

day twenty-five: learning from a triathlon

I got up at 6 this morning and drove south an hour to Yuba Lake in order to watch three friends who were working together as teammates in a triathlon. I stood on the boat ramp waiting for my best friend, Luann, to climb out of the water after swimming her half-mile so that I could quickly hand her her glasses as she ran past. She needed to run up the cement ramp and connect with Lisa, who was waiting for the time chip that was held in a small velcro band. Once Lu peeled it off her ankle Lisa strapped it onto her own and then did a running mount onto her bike for a twelve-mile ride. She returned in good time and passed the band onto Christie who then ran her 5k final section of the race.

Months ago they had assessed their own strenths and divided up the contest. Each woman methodically trained to contribute her best today. Mornings at the pool, on the bike, and at the track preparing to give their best when it mattered. It wasn't that they thought they were going to win some huge cash prize or anything. They were interested in competing against themselves. Turns out they each beat their best training time. Cool, huh?

I like to compete. It feels good to get that surge of adrenaline and to push myself. But here's the thing. I would like to better train myself to be prepared for things that matter. I would like to figure out what my leg of the race is and then do my best for the team.

photo by Christie Poulson

And I would rather not wear a wetsuit, thanks.

day twenty-four: wrap-up

We knocked it out of the park today with deviled eggs. Cooking is so much fun with the kids as I take them through a recipe and explain how to respectfully turn the food down if they do not like it. After just two weeks I am seeing progress with their manners. It feels so good to notice little signs of improvement in every area. I love it. I wonder if God notices little improvements in me. Does he see that I am trying to do my best? Does he recognize my efforts toward my husband and children? Working with special children is a constant reminder of our own needs. It is almost like I am doing a role play everyday so that I can remember my own worth. Wanna come visit?

We heard from our missionary today. He is doing well and getting ready for his final transfer out of the AP position and back out with the people. He mentioned dealing with some weird illness that has been a bit distracting to him, but I feel like the Lord is totally watching over him in his labors. And his mother is being protected too, because 22 months ago I would have told you that I was a bit nervous about conditions he would be in. That I was concerned about his safety. That I was worried he would get very sick. But from the time he arrived in Kenya I have had no concerns in these areas. I have felt content and calm. Boy #4 is on the countdown for his big brother to come home. Today we are at 87 left.

I remember the call from my husband as he was driving in to the office and I was home with my kids getting ready to send the oldest ones off to school. We turned on the TV and watched in horror. I seriously felt like it was a nightmare and not really happening. Horrible, horrible, horrible stuff. Today I am moved by all of the remembrances, but I must admit that the flight 93 story still gets me right through the heart. Unreal heroism.

day twenty-three: gathering

Tonight all of the students studying special education gathered at the old building that used to serve as the university president's home. We ate pizza and played some getting-acquainted games. As the evening progressed the professors mingled and shook hands with each of us. It was a really pleasant setting with the the beautiful backdrop of the mountains and lovely gardens. A few of the profs I had already met outside of BYU because they had been in my kindergarten class when I was a technician supervising a student teacher that had been assigned to our room, so it was nice to feel a little bit of an acquaintance already.

Tomorrow I will attend a funeral for a sweet lady that lived down the street from me. What suffering she has put up with for the past handful of years. These experiences teach me to be thankful for my life and to enjoy the process. I am and I will.

day twenty-two: lactose tolerant

You ever feel like you dig in the bottom of your purse and come up with enough change to order a child-sized cone of ice cream at the drive-thru, and when you pull up they slide the window open and hand you a chocolate shake that is pouring over the sides of the cup?

Excuse me while I get a napkin. :)

day twenty-one: multi-blogging

Tonight in my Instructional Psych and Tech class we got the assignment to create a blog that will stand as our PLE (personal learning environment)for the semester. We talked about RSS feeds, design and purpose. It was great to know that I already have been in that realm so I wasn't too intimidated. Now I just want to make sure I make it a place where I can keep track of new ideas and knowledge that I gain over my licensing experience during this next year. I am excited about it.

I got a new cub scout tonight that struggled all evening with sportsmanship as we played a soccer game. I had zero minutes to change my clothes after work and school, so there I was, in my skirt, barefoot, with my shoes being used to mark one of the goals, running around playing with these ten year-old boys. It was what I needed after a crazy day running around meeting deadlines, doing assignments, etc. And by the end my little poor sport was starting to snap out of it. Phew.

review of my day:
play basketball
shower and run to schools to pull out my boys
come home and watch Pres Obama speech with boys and Geo, four of us cuddled on the couch
get kids back to school
go to work
pick up boy #4 for cello
head to classes
hurry home for 40 minutes
make quesadillas for me and the kids
run to cub scouts
home to do my homework
show up here...

Musical Monday: Leaving On A Jet Plane

I heard this song this week and thought it would be fun to do an older throw-back. I remember hearing my dad sing this one when it would come on while we were in the car going somewhere. Really nostalgic for me. Enjoy.

Leavin' On A Jet Plane

day nineteen: knowing

Today I had cause to think about a man that sacrificed himself 165 years ago.

He and his brother, bound together in life and death, gave their own blood to secure God's plan.

They had a vision of their own purpose and were brave enough to see it through.

I am moved by their story and their knowing.

Their knowing.

Their knowing.

day eighteen: faraway places

Geo and I are planning on taking the family (which means the two kids still at home, and us) out of town for a couple of nights (which means to American Fork, up the street 12 miles). We will watch movies, swim, go out to eat, and then go to a play Monday night. Then we will get up and have the hotel's complimentary breakfast before coming home just in time to drop the kids at school. Sometimes even a little outing can be good for the family and good for the soul. I am looking forward to it.

I remember once when we were in grad school in LA and I surprised Gid by planning a long weekend in Santa Barbara. We didn't have much, but I squeezed it out of the budget, and it is still something that we talk about. Getting away from the rat race that becomes our lives is so necessary to staying sane. G stuffed so much schooling (including three grad degrees) into five years, and there were times when I thought he might break. We had a baby during those years there (who is amazingly now a freshman at BYU), and kind of mark time by his age. There are things about #2's first few years that G doesn't really remember because he was so preoccupied crowding up that handsome brain of his. I know we need to keep building memories with this younger half of our family. Now is not the time to fade out.

So away we will go to faraway places, where we will regenerate, at least a little bit.

day seventeen: fill 'er up

So snack was not a huge hit today with the kiddos. Celery with blue cream cheese (we put some drops of blue food coloring into a ziploc with the cheese and passed it around for communal squishing) topped with goldfish. After a few kids said "Yuck!" when asked if they wanted snack today, I had to remind them that the proper answer is, "No, thank you." The kids who did eat were ravenous, and a few boys were given seconds and thirds.

Before work I went to see boy #4 in his student council assembly at his school. It was so much fun to see him be brave up on stage. He is not really known for enjoying the spotlight. After leaving the school I went to get my hair trimmed and then to get the car washed. Then a quick shower before heading in to the classroom.

Off to a womens' BYU volleyball game tonight with some friends. I have invited a few couples, but I am not sure how many are locked in, so I will need to make some phone calls later. Long weekend ahead, which I will use to get ahead on a few assignments for my classes.

You know those days where you just have a warm feeling about your life? Where nothing big necessarily is going on, but things seemed to be lined up well? This is me. Today.

day sixteen: missive to a couch

Dearest Couch,

Thank you for always being there for me. During this past week your tolerance for me has been tried and tested, and may I just say that you have passed with flying colors. After I get the kids off to school and kiss the husband goodbye as he leaves for work, I have used you as a place of quiet reflection, a place to fold laundry, and a place hold my bag loaded with books and papers and pens. And at the end of the day, after I have been the teacher and then the student, I often visit you again. You know, just so you know I still care. Your brown leathery comfort helps me to relax and stretch out my weary body. You are the best.


ps Sorry for the teensy bit of drool tonight when I passed out.

day fifteen: cash in my attic

After I got everyone out the door this morning I washed some dishes, made the bed, and then curled up on the couch for a little Cash In The Attic. There is something about a half-hour morning nap that really grounds me. It was awesome.

Miss C, our tech who could easily be the teacher, was gone today. The new tech, Miss L, did a great job trying to take care of all the backstage stuff, including leading along the sub. Things went well, except for the last rushed 10 minutes where we painted watercolors of fish to hang out in the hall. It was all good, though. Then after a little collaboration I went home for 10 minutes to see the boys before turning around to go to BYU for class.

Today I was reminded, by the Spirit really, that attitude matters so much. I am determined to get that in line and keep it there. Right after our students come in the room and hang up their backpacks we do the same thing every afternoon. We dance. We put a CD in and crank it up and dance. I grabbed a little guy's hands today and twisted and sang, right in his handsome little face. He smiled at me and I told myself he was soaking some of it in. This is the attitude I choose today. Thank you, Spirit.

day fourteen: from meatloaf to ice cream

I must say that I have been singing bluegrass in my head since my musical monday post yesterday. Man, that was fun.

A little meatloaf and fruit while I sat at my desk right before the kids arrived today. I have learned that between working from 11:30 to 3 and then immediately leaving for BYU until 7 I need to stay fed or I am seriously drifting off right there in my seat by 5. The day went well, and we were really thrilled that one little boy that hadn't communicated with us much decided to verbally participate today. These are big accomplishments in our class, and we try and notice and celebrate every one of them. This is one reason I love special education. We do a lot of noticing and celebrating.

I came home after classes tonight to find my husband had cleaned the fridge. I leaned against him while he was at the sink washing dishes and wrapped my arms around him. Then after feeding the kids and running across the street to visit our sweet neighbors who are considering nursing homes right now, Geo was craving a sundae. On the way home from getting the ice cream I fell asleep between the drive-thru exit and the first four-way stop. G laughed at me as my eyes rolled back in my head.

I feel so blessed in my exhaustion.