ice dams

In the late Fall of 2006 the roof on the addition to our house started to leak a little bit as we were heading out to church on a lovely Sabbath morning. "We'll check it out later when we get home," said the husband (and the wife agreed).

Three hours later we came home to a huge hole in the roof where the soggy drywall had fallen down onto the carpet and spread a mess everywhere. About six months later my hubby and our dear friend Stephen finally got up there and fixed things up (we had temporarily patched it through the Winter). They not only replaced the drywall, but they ripped the whole area out all the way to the sky. It needed to be done over completely.

When the initial damage had been done Geo climbed onto the roof to find the cause of the problem. "Ice dams," he said to me as I waited for him just inside the glass doors. Ice dams? I had no idea what he meant. But then he explained how the roof had been pitched too low years ago when the addition had been done, and because of that low pitch the water moved off too slowly, sometimes refreezing right at the edge of the roof line. This refreezing would cause a back up when more snow and melt and refreezing happened, etc, etc. So, essentially our roof had been pooling up for weeks with the early snow we had been getting. Who knew?

We have mentioned those ice dams here and there whenever we get snow. A few times over this Christmas break Geo has made the familiar climb to the roof to scrape it off so that the dams can't even get started. There is real wisdom to preventative action. We know they might return and we do everything we can to stop them.

There is always some kind of ice dam rearing its cold and nasty head, but my goal is chip it away before the pooling does more damage than it needs to. There's my metaphor. brrrrrr

Musical Monday: And So It Goes

I decided to leave this one unspoiled and simple. It is a favorite of mine from Billy Joel and I thought it would be a good one for the blog.

Just a disclaimer here: I am happily married and an optimistic person (see... I even inserted a picture of me smiling to prove it). It's just that for some reason I find myself drawn to songs that are contemplative and sometimes even sad. Actually, I think there are more songs that fit into this category than the happy, smiley one. It's fine with me, because I think that maybe deep down we all have a place where we bury feelings of loneliness or insecurity.

So, here is the selection for today. Enjoy!

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.

The End

of 2008...

* I rediscovered blogging after attempting it a couple of years ago at a different location.

*I spent the entire year not seeing my handsome oldest son.

*The basement flooded.

*We got new carpet throughout the whole house because the basement flooded and the insurance company gave us a good pay out (because the basement flooded).

*We bought new furniture for the living room because we sent all of the old stuff down to the basement after getting the new carpet installed (because the basement flooded).

*We changed over to natural gas in the kitchen and got a new stove and really space age cool microwave after we took some money out of savings to finish updating the upstairs (after the basement flooded and the above improvements were made).

*Our second son earned his Eagle Scout award.

*He also applied to, and was accepted by, one of his college choices.

*I started working with the cub scouts and really enjoy it.

*Everyone in the family officially is a cell phone carrier.

*Geo's car broke down.

*Kazzy's SUV slid into a curb at 8 mph on some ice on Dec 23rd and is also in the shop getting a snapped off wheel replaced.

*Our insurance company that helped pay for our nifty new decor in the house is now going to pay for a nifty new wheel on the SUV.

*We are somehow managing even though we don't have a car right now.

*I rediscovered my love of singing.

*I actually have enjoyed playing Little Big Planet on the ps3 (and I am NOT a video gamer).

*I love my husband more than ever.

*My kids are even more important to me than they ever were, for some reason.

Just a smattering of events around here during these past twelve months. What is something you will remember about 2008?

the man with the chocolate voice

The call went something like this...

Perry: Hey there! Merry Christmas!

Me: Son, is that you?

Perry: Mom, I can talk to you twice today. Once before we go give service, and once at the end of my day. I have to go study now, but I will call in two hours and you can call me later when it is Christmas morning for you and Christmas night for me, okay?

Me: Okay! That sounds great!

Perry: I love you, Mama.

Me: I love you too, Perry. Talk to you in a couple of hours.

Perry: Okay, talk to you soon.


Of course, we had two wonderful phone calls where he filled us in on all of the terrific experiences he is having in Mombasa, Kenya. We chatted on speakerphone and sometimes more privately before hanging up for the four and a half months until Mothers' Day.

My 5' 10" 120-lb son (he was skinny before leaving for Africa, but is even skinnier now) has what has been referred to in our home as a "chocolate voice". Girls always commented on it, and men and women we attend church with have told him how distinctive his deep voice is.

I might have a few bags of chocolate on my kitchen counter, but I tasted the best kind of chocolate today when I got to speak with my boy. Life is good.

Musical Monday: Halleluiah

For the past twelve or thirteen years we have attended a music party every December where there is delicious food and wonderful company and cool music. This is the way it works: everyone brings a CD or an mp3 player with a song of their choosing which is played while the rest of us sit around and appreciate it. I have been introduced to some pretty incredible stuff that I am sure would have passed me by had I not been to this party. This year I especially enjoyed a track from Grace Potter.

Only the husband of the hosting couple and I usually perform something. Most of the time separate, but this year I called him a couple of days in advance and asked if he could play Leonard Cohen's Halleluiah on guitar for me to sing to. He was excited and it went well. After the party was winding down I asked if my husband could record him with his voice recorder so that I could blog it for Musical Monday. I then brought the recording home and added my own track on top of it. I intentionally kept the background party noise because I thought it added some humaness.

So here is Halleluiah by Mark Fullmer and Kazzy. Merry Christmas to my bloggy friends, and keep a Halleluiah in your heart.

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.

hot and cold

It has been about 25 degrees here all week, and when this weather hits I find myself dreaming about sunny North Carolina beaches that I have visited regularly since I was a kid. I don't mind the snow or the cold too much. I actually love it around Christmas. But I am already starting to predict my January blues. Does anyone else suffer from that? I am not prone to depression or getting into a deep funk, but January feels about 57 days too long most years, and I am doing that daydreaming thing again.

Our last hurrah before my son came home and submitted his mission papers
Nagshead, NC 2007

But instead of spending the big bucks to buy plane tickets to a warm place as therapy, I do things like get a red stripe in my hair to liven things up. Heather of the EO posted about coloring her hair and I wanted to chime in and agree with her. It is fun to have some way to brighten things up! I made sure to ask the hairdresser if I was too old to make this bold move and she just laughed.

How did she know I was doing it no matter what she said?

now and then

The husband stumbled on this photo last night and the first thing I thought when I saw it was, My blog friends have GOT to see that!

As much as older people sometimes dismiss modern technology as an emotionless, cold way to communicate, too many of us younger people dismiss the old ways. Hand-written letters and journals still have their place and purpose. Just get your hands on an old letter from a grandmother and you'll know of what I speak.

I am not sure if this antique computer is functional, but doesn't it make you think? How about an old-fashioned challenge to write (yes, with pen and paper) someone a letter this holiday season? We can do it. I think the pointy part with the ink coming out goes down toward the paper...

Musical Monday: In The Bleak Midwinter

This week I invited Juliana, from True Confessions of Mormon Mother, to record with me. Bleak Midwinter is a great piece of music with moody lyrics that set a great Winter scene, but also deliver a message of hope as we sing about giving our hearts over to the Savior.

It was fun to have Juliana over for the afternoon. We met blogging just a few months ago, and it seemed appropriate to come together for a little project. I am hoping to collaborate here and there. Anybody out there want to do some long-distance recording with me? So, here are the lyrics, and who sang what...

In The Bleak Midwinter

JULIANA (KAZZY on harmony)
In the bleak Midwinter, frosty wind made moan.
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.
Snow had fallen, snow on snow. Snow on snow.
In the bleak Midwinter, long, long ago.

Our God, Heav'n cannot hold him, nor earth sustain.
Heaven and earth
shall flee away, when He comes to reign.
In the bleak Midwinter, a stable place sufficed
The Lord, God Almighty. Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there.
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air.
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the Beloved, with a kiss.

JULIANA (KAZZY on harmony)
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wiseman, I would do my part.
Yet, what I can I give Him.
Give Him my heart.

Click here

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.

Sent at 10:12 PM on Sunday

the sacred elephant

We attended a white elephant party tonight that we have been going to for about twelve years or so now. Usually my husband and I come home with the cheesiest gifts that came to the party, disguised in pretty paper. Our past winners have been a single diaper, a container of gel that made some pretty crude noises when you stuck your finger in it, and an extreme close-up photo of one of the couples that also comes to the party annually (we actually have some devious plans for the photo for next year, like t-shirts, etc., even though the shot shows straight up their noses).

It was interesting to learn about the history of the "white elephant" tradition. Since white elephants were sacred in Asia, disgruntled kings and nobles would strategically give them to lesser nobles, who were obligated to maintain them, often to their bankruptcy. A fascinating way to punish someone, don't you think?

So, as you punish someone this holiday season with a useless, trivial white elephant gift, just remember to try to do it with love and kindness. And make sure the camera is zoomed in and angled right up your nose.

phone phrustration

I got on the phone early this morning to make a car payment and my battery died right after I had already hit about 57 buttons to get me to the correct menu. Growling, I think I may have frightened my youngest son when I said through a clenched jaw how much I dislike those automated phone systems (I know this because as I grabbed my purse to leave for work he jumped up and opened the door for me and gave me a huge hug, sensing that I needed it).

Pulling up to my parking lot, which is only a mile from my house, I quickly tried again to make the call and make the payment. The zip code you just entered is not recognized in our system. What? So I entered my zip code again, only to be told the same nonsense about it being unrecognizable. Just then the bus with our little angels was getting ready to pull up to the school and I hurriedly hung up and decided to try again later. More growling ensued.

My lunch break always flies by as I attempt to get some errands done. So, as I was driving through town I tried again, and found that I had never set up to use my debit card on this system. There was the bus again, coming back with the afternoon kids. I am just not meant to own this car, I thought to myself!

So, just now I walked into the house, ready to bask in the few quiet moments before everyone else piles in, and I tried one more time. Finally my e-check went through and I am officially legal, as far as the car is concerned, but not without herculean effort on my part.

Now I have this insatiable craving to go on a nice long drive. Without my phone.

Musical Monday: A Duet with Myself

I have decided to give Musical Monday another try. I just downloaded a cool recording program tonight and had fun doing a couple of tracks. It's a bit rough, but I had a blast sitting in my bed singing!

The Friendly Beasts
is a Christmas song that many different artists have recorded, and I discovered it a couple of years ago. Last year we had our special ed kids hold up pictures of the animals as a recording played, and it was incredibly sweet. It is a new favorite of mine, and we are using it for our Christmas program again this year.

Sorry, you will need to click on the link below and download it. I am still trying to figure out an easier way to attach it here.


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.

musings on a museum

Here is a photo of me hanging in the Museum of the Blogosphere

I am a bit of a museum nerd. Growing up just outside of Washington DC, I never realized how good I had it as a kid. We would go to the Smithsonian Institute for field trips. We would visit the Museum of Natural History, which was magical, with the gigantic mastodon in the middle of the main level, and with it's larger-than-life exhibits.

The National Archives which houses our country's most precious documents. The Air and Space Museum where I learned about magical flying machines and the development of the space travel program. Not to mention all of the national memorials at my fingertips sitting there proudly along the Potomac River. The Jefferson Memorial, the National Monument (which, when I was young, you could climb to the top of. *sigh*), the Lincoln Memorial, which is set so beautifully amongst trees and a reflecting pool. I still cry every time I read the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation which are carved into the granite walls beside Lincoln's Greek god-like, huge, seated statue.

Mount Vernon right down the highway, where my revolutionary crush, George Washington, lived. I love that man. My husband laughs at the way I almost swoon when I read about him and his part in our nation's history. Only a couple of hours away was Philadelphia. Eight hours, Boston. And the list goes on. Not to mention wonderful things I have been privileged to see in Europe.

We get perspective, not in an overly humbling way, like we might when we hear stories of sacrifices people have had to make, or when we hear about poverty-stricken countries. But we get the kind of perspective that says in our minds, Aren't you happy to be alive?

coincidental milestones

Today makes one year since I last saw my son. No tears here, at least not today. He feels good about his life. I feel good about him.

Forget yourself in serving others. Teach the gospel. Help single mothers garden. Clean hospital walls. Clean chicken coops.
A mother's wish. Leave your family for awhile and return two years later more of a man with a worldwide perspective. Learn to appreciate your blessings.

Today I also celebrate the 18th birthday of my next son. He is a joy. He is happy. He is helpful. He is optimistic.
I feel loved and lucky today. It is chilly and cloudy , but I am warm and sunny.

Miss Kazzy Speaks Her Mind

I found myself waking this morning with a sudden craving for a ride in the country, or a lesson in pruning roses, or even the prospect of attending a ball. Miss Delacourt and her companions have crept into my thoughts and decided to stay for awhile, and you won't find me objecting.

When my husband saw me standing in the middle of the kitchen reading this book, as I simultaneously made lunches for the kids, he knew something had reeled me in and was insistent on finding out what. Being an English professor he loves a good teaser, so I told him I was getting acquainted with a Spencer Tracy/ Katherine Hepburn duo in Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind.

One of the things I appreciate about this genre of British-set romance or parlor writing is the banter between the characters. It seems to be an art form that is lost on current writers, in general. But Heidi, or in keeping with the code of her characters, Mrs. Ashworth, gets it right in her book, without the dialogue ever seeming too stiff or forced. In Chapter Four there is a slight disagreement between the two main characters of Ginny (Miss Delacourt) and Sir Anthony when Ginny finally blurts out her distaste for her traveling companion. Anthony replies, "It does feel good to express one's feelings, does it not, Miss Delacourt?" And I found myself thinking Why yes, it does.

Mrs. Ashworth's sense of humor also shines through as she incorporates moments of hilarity. The one in particular that I found myself reading twice is found in the tenth chapter, when the romantic foil, Lord Avery, accidentally catches his golden locks on fire. I am using real restraint here in not quoting more from this passage. The beauty to Ashworth's humor is that it is not there solely as entertainment, but it is a clever way to develop her characters, which she does so well.

And what woman does not want a little Petruccio in her man? We see it here in Sir Anthony as he secretly begins to appreciate the Kate in Ginny. When he jerks her into his arms and she gasps in protest, only to find herself melting into him, I admit I put the book down to go and get a cold glass of water. And Anthony never feels overbearing, because we are also allowed to see his more tender side when he struggles with feelings of jealousy or regret. The romance is sweet, and each person involved gets to be true to themselves.

The supporting characters in Miss Delacourt were also very enjoyable as they became an important engine to the forward movement of the story. The Barringtons jumped off the page with their high drama and demanding personalities, and I enjoyed seeing the way that they incidentally, through their own character flaws, helped the story get where it needed to be. When Lucinda complains about her fat suitors sweating and creaking in their corsets it says so much more about her than it does about them. This is what supporting characters should do, and Mrs. Ashworth nailed it.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, and, as the dowager duchess says toward the end of the book, I never repeat myself. So let me say that Heidi Ashworth has had her own coming out party in Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind, and it is a coming out that even Miss Lucinda Barrington would be proud of.



maybe musical mondays in december?

in our service

It's not just anyone who has the protection of thirty nutcrackers at her disposal. They were making sure to keep watch in the living room so that no unannounced person could wander in and disturb our peace. They insured our tranquility and quiet for the evening, and they stood guard over our tree and slowly growing population of gifts under it.

My boys gave them their orders and they readily obeyed. Thank you to all of our kings, drummers, swordsmen, and soldiers. Now they stand at attention atop the piano, until we all leave tomorrow to our various destinations and they come down to resume their duties. Ah, the security of it all.

Christmas Glass

Brittle glass made strong in perfect shape.
Breakable. Delicate.
Transparent beauty.
Magnifying surrounding light.

Christmas child born humble in perfect shape.
Destined. Gentle.
Transparent beauty.
Magnifying surrounding light.

on shakespeare, sheep, and thanksgiving

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!

warm focus

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.

hung by neck or reputation

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 by one

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 need a little christmas

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.

Gimme gimme...

everyone looks like ants down there

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.

we see through a glass, darkly

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.

1 Corinthians 13:12

accidental super powers

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.

Blog Stroke

Just a quick post to show my dedication to this part of my life.

Still in Sunday clothes, check

Unfolded laundry, check

Laptop as a body part, check

Hungry kids in the other room, check

Amused husband armed with a camera, double check

melancholy and sugar

You kind of know it's coming, but it still seems to sneak in and take a bite out of your heart. The day when, after years and years of getting all the costumes ready and faces painted, you realize that you only need to work on two. One for you (because you work in an elementary school) and one for the last of your bundles of joy, because the remaining bundles are either on their own, in high school, or more into going to hang out with a friend because trick or treating is not really that cool anymore. I talked my husband, the bishop, into wearing some footie pjs I just got him this month for his birthday, but as much as I felt that need to paint a face or tuck in a shirt here or there, he could handle zipping up his glow-in-the dark (I kid you not) pjs just fine on his own, thank you very much.

So that left me and FG
, my handsome little ten year-old who, luckily, still needs me and appreciates my fussing over him. As G.O., FG and I got into the car and went over to the church for our annual "trunk or treat", after saying good-bye to the big brothers who had other plans, it felt so strange to think that we are down to this on Halloween.

When my first son, Perry, was little and we lived in LA we spent so much time together. He was (still is) incredibly affectionate. We really were inseperable. And now I find that after years of expanding the family, going through all of the crunch years, seeing our first kids graduate from high school, etc., that I am down to one again. I still have others at home, but there is one that cuddles with me after school and that calls on the intercom if I take too long to come downstairs to tuck him in. I am blessed that boy #1 and boy #4 have been similar in that way. The Lord must have known that I would need that kind of loving little boy at the start and at the end.

So as this melancholy night comes to a close I am glad for sugar. Not the kind that comes in cellophane wrappers, but the kind I enjoy when my son gives me a big kiss on the cheek and tells me he loves me.

spirit overhead

On Saturday evening, after a long day of house things and friend things, I took two of my boys and went up to Salt Lake in order to hear the Utah Baroque Ensemble perform in the lovely Cathedral of the Madeline. Every time we have been in that building it has been in silence as we walk around and look in all of the corners and up to the amazing vaulted ceilings.

This time every square inch of the cathedral was filled with Latin, German, and even a southern U.S. dialect as we were treated to ancient music as well as gospel pieces. During the first cycle of centuries-old Latin church music, my almost-eighteen year-old looked up from his sketch book and said, "Mom, did you feel how that music echoed and moved around the space?" I did feel it, but I was especially glad he did. That was important to me to have him experience that. From my ten year-old I got a few, "Cool"s, which were just as terrific.

I got pretty teary-eyed as the second song finished and the spirit flew overhead through the rafters. Before it soared too high it brushed right past me and squoze between me and my boys on our creaky wooden pew. I said a silent "thank you" and continued listening to the breath-taking music, but I kept finding myself looking in all of those dark corners and well-lit painted walls and ceilings to see if I could see it. To see if I could just catch one more glimpse.

I know I don't always pay attention when that same good spirit squeezes around me and my family at home. I know that real-life temporal concerns deaden parts of me. I want to be more sensitive to those times when the spirit is there. I want to be a cathedral.

Kreativity... pass it on

Thanks to my friend, Heidi at for the award today! SO sweet! I will do my darndest to live up to it. And now I will pass it on to a handful of bloggers that I enjoy. Now, if your name and blog are listed below, copy the award to your own blog and choose a few blogs you would like to recognize. It's a great way to get the blogging community circulating! She doesn't post often, but they are laugh-out-loud funny posts about motherhood in NYC. Juliana has a great, confident sense of what she wants to say and she does it well. This guy makes you think, so don't go to his blog if you are in the mood for mindless reading. He is deep (and pretty terrific). Ladyhawker puts up a very thoughtful blog that is usually peppered with her terrific photos. She is a pro! She is just getting started, but she has a great way of capturing the enthusiasm and exhaustion of being a new mom. Hang in there!

Take a sec to test drive these blogs and leave a comment. In this blog business it is good to get a bit of feedback!

sit still, please

Yep, I think in metaphors, and one of them struck me this afternoon.

I work in a special ed. class, and today, as usual in my job, I left work thinking about these kids and how they are just little 5 year-old reminders of our own selves and our own needs. They are unpolluted and inexperienced, so their personalities are generally pure. Let me give you just one little example.

One little boy has a real struggle sitting still on the carpet. He constantly takes off and puts back on his shoes. He goes up on his knees, zips and unzips his jacket, and talks out here and there. Cute as a bug, but as jittery as one too. Today we had our occupational therapist come in to work with the kids, and while she was there she introduced the idea of placing a large beanbag on this little one's lap. The weight of the beanbag would literally ground him and give him a reason to be still, and hopefully that would lead to better concentration and more cognitive involvement. He fought against the idea at first, even scooting over to me to tell me how scary the beanbag was. But after warming up to the idea he settled in and actually ended up enjoying draping it across his lap. As we were loading the kids on the bus a couple of hours later he told me he would miss his beanbag. Very sweet.

How many times have I felt resistant to something that was going to have a grounding effect on me? How often do we define being free as meaning no ties, no expectations, no stillness? What is my beanbag? I know that being responsible for my children, being committed to my marriage, having church responsibilities, and even the things I consider personal indulgences (reading, blogging, etc) all ground me. We can begin to enjoy the things that, maybe at an earlier point, seemed like obligations. I actually WANT to be weighted down with many good things, and I see now, at the stage I am in in my life, that they have helped me reach a good place.

laying up food against the season

Early last week my youngest son, who is still at the age where he loves to do any chores that get him close to Mom and Dad, went to the back of our yard to pick all of the apples he could reach from our apple tree. We are the natural kind of gardeners (meaning, if it happens to grow without any real assistance from us we will surely pick it and eat it), and I must admit that every time we go to harvest from our two apple trees I just hope there will be enough healthy fruit to get my ten year-old excited. We were pretty ecstatic when #4 came in with a big bucket of about 50 apples, and yesterday he and I spent the bulk of the afternoon canning apple pie filling.

I have often wondered about the term laying up food against the season. There aren't any fruits or vegetables, at least here in Utah where I live, that grow year round. There is something very earthy about our natural, internal clocks that let us know when it is time to store something up, so that we can have it when we might need it. When it is not seasonally available. We snatch up the strawberries in late summer when we get a good price and we freeze them or make jam. We make mucho salsa once those tomatoes and peppers are ready. I, at least, always listen to the wise older women in my neighborhood who have this whole thing down to a science. They are like walking almanacs with all of their instincts and predictions about food... storing it, getting good buys on it.

Yesterday, as I pulled the last bottles out of their bath, I sat down to the computer in our kitchen and had the strongest yearning to track down two old friends I knew back in Virginia, before I came out to Utah and stayed west. One of these friends I haven't talked to or seen for eighteen years, and the other maybe ten years. No contact at all since our last meetings., not because of a falling out. Life just kept moving. I felt like I was having a physical prompt. Like the knot in my stomach was a sign that I needed to find these people. Within 15 minutes searching online I was able to track them both down and work that knot right out.

I am not too sappy about things, but when it comes to people I am a sentimentalist. I need people. I need family, and I need old friends who knew me when. I feel like keeping track of important people in my life, knowing where they are living, knowing about their children, is also laying up food against the season. I need to save them up and do whatever is necessary to preserve them. Careful preparation, all the right ingredients, screw the lid on tight. Just in case I need them later, which I will.

all things being equal...

For some reason, in my little mind, I always thought of faith and hope leading to charity. Like when you are feeling really good in your own beliefs and you have an optimistic outlook on your life (and existence in general), that any following charitable act completes the principle. I haven't given charity enough credit on its own.

You know those kind of days I am thinking about? Your faith manifests itself in the way you have gotten an answer to prayer about a question you have had about your life. Maybe you have a good experience reading some old journal entries or even diving into your scriptures. Your soul whispers to your head I believe.

Then hope sneaks in in the form of a mountain right outside your front door. It seems to be standing there just for you, so that you have a gigantic reminder that you are being watched over. Your soul whispers again saying I believe all will be well.

But this is where I have missed an important part of the triptych. I have thought that later in that same day, when I helped the old woman in the grocery store parking lot to unload her cart, that I was acting on my faith and hope. That that act of charity was a sum of the faith+hope equation. That is partly true. Partly. But through recent experiences I have learned a new lesson. I have learned that extending charity is an equal part of the equation. I have learned that all three principles work together to lift me a little bit closer to where I want to be.

inside out

Yesterday, here in Utah County, it was a cold Fall day with cloudy skies and a brisk feeling in the air. I was getting ready for work and really wanted to wear my black casual skirt, newly washed and dried black cotton tights and black clogs. With a white long-sleeve t-shirt I felt pretty comfortable and professional. Things were looking pretty good, because in my job we need to dress nicely but also be able to kneel or sit on the floor, and even be willing to get splattered with...well, about anything. This is special ed.

I love my colleagues, both because we work well together and because I just like them as people. As the students were watching a video yesterday, one of my coworkers and I were chatting about how some people portray themselves as being so confident and put together in public, but they end up actually being insecure and introverted in a smaller setting. That really interesting battle of public self vs. private self. My colleague had been trying to contact a very friendly, outgoing neighbor to help out with a funeral dinner that was being held in their church building. No answer, no returned phone calls. The neighbor's private self felt either uninterested or unworthy.

We never really know what is going on inside someone's home or inside someone's heart. It is a mystery even to those of us who may consider ourselves good readers of people. "Without even realizing it I think we all have two sides" thought my public, well-dressed self, as my private self waddled off to the ladies room to hike up my shrunken, fresh-from-the-dryer black tights.

and so it goes

I feel weird today. My oldest son is twenty today and it's the first time one of my children is having a birthday and I can't give him a hug or tell him how much he means to me... face to face anyway. I wrote him a nice email and used big shiny letters across the top line that screamed Happy Birthday, son! He is in Kenya serving a mission for our church. Ten months out now. But I don't find myself marking down the days. Life is good for him, for us here at home, and we press on.

Back in the day I used to set the egg timer "so that mommy can get a few things done while you take a short break from talking, and look at books instead." But it would be cool to talk to him today. I remember the two of us hanging out in our little L.A. apartment while my husband was in graduate school. P and I became close because he was my first and he allowed me my mistakes as I was learning this whole motherhood thing. He was affectionate (still is) and even would run up to me in jr. high when I was there for PTA business and give me a bear hug. It would be cool to hug him today. "Mommy, can I marry you when I grow up?"

I like the way he always puts his chin on top of my head when he stands behind me. He is tall in more than just the physical way. He is growing on the inside so much that in the next 14 months he may burst. He has taught me things, because he is smarter than me on many levels.

I love him and he loves me back. He is showing my picture around as he talks to people about making changes in their lives. He is proud of me and I reciprocate, gladly. I like him as a person, not because I have to, but because of the adult he is becoming. He is my hope for future happiness as I watch him become a man.

trees, fall, in the woods

Blue Ridge Parkway, near my parents' home

Nieces, nephews, siblings, parents. There are so many things to miss as this eastern girl contemplates what it means to live so far away from these things. It has been almost 25 years since I made the move west from my home state of Virginia. A new convert to the church, I craved, needed, to be at BYU to gain much more than just my academic knowledge. I was ready for a full baptism into this new life I had chosen and I was beyond excited to head this direction. The symbolism of the trek west was not lost on me either.

So for more than half my life now I have eased into being a westerner. I am finally used to the slower pace and the kind and gentle people. Even though the big vistas gave me a bit of anxiety at first, I now can't imagine living without the wide open spaces. They seem critical to being happy and well-adjusted, which I strive for.

But there is one time of year that I become melancholy. I let those sneaky flecks of nostalgia cover me up like that first light snow. Before I know it I am just a tad homesick. October gets me right in the gut and I find myself fantasizing about trees that are bright red and gold and leaf piles that just don't quit. Yes, there are colored trees here, but they are mostly changing up in the mountains and they go so fast. There have been a number of years when the family and I just don't get up there in time to see anything spectacular.

So if my next posts throughout the month come across as introspective, be assured it is a phase. I am happy, just thinking of forests filled with fallen jewels.

My Sincerest Apologies, Kenya

Two months to the day after my oldest son left to serve a two-year mission for our church we were missing him a lot.  We have four boys, and knowing that each of them would eventually follow in these same footsteps we became melancholy and a little misty when we would think of our boy out there on the other side of the planet (literally).  So, one Saturday my husband and I spent the day shopping for the contents of that first all-important package to send.  You know, the one that screams out, "Look!  I have not been forgotten, even though my room has probably already been turned into a storage closet!"

We picked up an SD card for his camera, a little flash drive, a t-shirt, food, a map of Kenya, medicines he had requested, dental floss, and some other personal items.  Many dollars later the package was sent through the USPS because the only other way to get things to Nairobi was by FedEx or DHL which only do overnight $278-dollar deliveries.  Sorry, but that wasn't about to happen.  So, we trusted that all would be well, even if it took three weeks.  He wasn't in a rush and we were fine with the delay.

In our back and forth emails we would ask about the package and sometimes there would be the response, "Not here yet, Mom." Or sometimes even, "Don't worry.  It will come."  To spare my concern Elder B. would sometimes avoid answering so that I couldn't get angry about it not arriving.  Then on Mother's Day, three months after sending it, we were able to talk to him on the phone.  "Sorry, Mom, but this is Africa and you can't count on me ever getting it.  Things just aren't regulated enough and someone may have hijacked it."

OK, now if I could have been sure that a poor man trying to support his family, or a single mother with babies to feed had gotten a hold of it I really think I would have been fine.  But in my mind I kept imagining some corrupt government worker who thought a package from America meant something good was in that box so he took it.  I was pretty mad about it for awhile.  We had spent around two-hundred hard-earned quid on that package and now it was gone.  Ugh.

Yesterday I was home for lunch and right about when I was heading back out to go to work the mail truck pulled up.  Up the sidewalk comes the mailman with a box in his hands.  As I took it I thought that maybe Elder B had mailed us something, but then I noticed it was from the USPS and was pretty banged up.  You guessed it.  After and eight-month vacation, my little package came home, a little banged up and dented in, but unopened and fully intact. We had neglected to put a P.O. Box number on the box.  It was totally my fault.  After laughing about it I felt real remorse.  Remorse for months of nursing negative feelings for this far away place.  For blaming an unknown person for something that was my own doing.  

I offer my sincerest apologies to Kenya, even though I know no one from that part of the world will read this.  I needed to throw it out into the universe, and I hope that will be good enough to clear my soul.  Weird thing though... I have taken everything out of the box, and the only thing I can think of doing is remailing it with a strange secret wish that some poor father or single mother actually will intercept it.  

Curry, Chaiya Chaiya, and Om

India has become an important place to our family.  Only my husband has been there, but his enthusiasm for all things Indian has rubbed off on all of us.  Cooking Indian food has become one of our favorite things to do together.  I have a couple of baskets of spices sitting right on the counter, ready and waiting to be used.  Chicken Kurma, Naan,...  mmmmmm

This is the symbol I painted on our bedroom wall. The inside graphic is  the "Om" symbol; representing the need to meditate, and the outside surrounding circle is the henna tattoo that brides paint around their navels; representing marriage and commitment. 

But beyond the wonderful cuisine (and so-so fun Bollywood movies with their incredibly addicting songs) there are so many other things that we have appreciated about Indian culture.  Living the "middle way" has become a mantra that my husband recites over and over to himself when things seem to be pulling at him from all sides.  I have learned to try and embrace this same philosophy, although it is a hard one to master.  As much as I try to deny it I have had to face the facts: I am quite high-strung.  I am constantly working on pacing myself and not running from one thing to the next, either literally or in my mind.  Looking at this symbol on my wall each day helps to remind me that meditation and marriage go hand in hand when I need to get my priorities straight.  

Relax, Kaz.  Give yourself time to ponder your life.  Give special attention to your husband and special devotion to your marriage.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Breathe.

 Thank you, India.