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.

Lessons from Paradise Lost, or Kazzy eats the apple

When my husband and I were newlyweds, years ago, he was still two years away from graduating from BYU, while I was just finishing.  There were two classes that proved to be fascinating to him at this time: Anatomy (stop your giggling) and Metaphysical Poets.  It was this class on metaphysical poetry that convinced him to throw away his ideas of law school and inheriting the family firm and to turn instead to graduate work in the field of literature.  John Milton's Paradise Lost (an epic poem about the Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve, written in the 1670s) became his constant companion as he prepared his honors' thesis, and it has been important to him ever since.  I thought it would be appropriate to quote a couple of lines for this entry and pay tribute to this great work.

Book VIII, lines 547-559
Adam remembers Eve's creation and his impressions of her

Her loveliness, so absolute she seems
And in her self compleat, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say,
Seems wisest, 
vertuousest, discreetest, best; [ 550 ]
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded, Wisdom in discourse with her 
Looses discount'nanc't, and like folly shewes;
Authority and Reason on her waite,
As one intended first, not after made
 [ 555 ]
Occasionally; and to consummate all,
Greatness of mind and nobleness thir seat
Build in 
her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, ...

Have I allowed myself to get so complacent in my marriage that I sometimes forget those first feelings of love and attraction I felt for G.O.?  It is so sweet to read how Adam adored his wife.  Not only was she beautiful, but she was wise.  He even suggests that she was more worthy of being first-created than he was.  Sweet, tender comments.  *sigh*

Book IX lines 780-784
Eve gives in to temptation and eats the fruit

So saying, her rash hand in evil hour [ 780 ]
Forth reaching to the Fruit, she pluck'd, she eat:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her Works gave signs of 
That all was lost. 

I believe that Eve had much more insight than many scholars give her credit for, but I admit this passage is beautiful.  The fact that the earth felt the wound and that it sighed.  But with that said, Eve had a purpose in eating that fruit.  She knew that at the risk of disobeying she would gain insight, knowledge, and experience needed to be this first woman.  There is even a part in P.L. where Raphael points out Eve's abilities to work and accomplish, and notices Adam's tendencies toward philosophizing.  But we are not here to man-bash, only to recognize the heritage we are lucky enough to claim.  

This part of the story always makes me wonder what I have done that might seem impetuous, but works for the greater good.  I recognize that sometimes I get fortunate and things work out well in my life in spite of my bad choices.  But is there a possibility that we have, as women, inherited the talent of making the tough decisions?  

What am I doing with my Eve-ness that helps me reach my potential?  

Tag, I'm It

I have been tagged by a cyber- friend and am now obligated (It's OK, Lisa) to share 7 interesting/ weird things about myself.  Look for your name at the bottom and see if you too have been tagged.  You might even see the "tagged" button in your latest blog's comment box...

1. I clean my ears with a Q-tip twice every single day.  Without fail.  Did I mention TWICE?

2. When colors are barely off from matching (like similar, but not quite, greens) I get a bit nauseated.

3.  I can juggle.

4.  I am constantly singing, either out loud or in my head.  My mother-in-law pointed this out to me when G.O. and I were first married.  In the shower I really belt it out, whether I am the only one in the house or not.  I know on Spring days when the windows are open I have entertained my elderly neighbors. 

5.  I am not really fond of little people.  I know how unPC that is, but once I even left my pre-schoolers for a few minutes while we were at the circus in LA.  I just needed a little bit of air once the midget clowns came out...gulp.

6.  My hiccups are incredibly loud and my whole family laughs when I get them.

7.  I get very scared driving over bridges.  That sick-in-the pit-of-my-stomach kind of feeling.  ugh.  

So now my deep dark secrets have been revealed.  I hope I am still liked and respected in spite of them.  Will the following people please open up your closets and let it all out?  Thank you and don't worry... these weaknesses will only make us appear more human, right?