day 194: freckle-face

Four weeks from today boy #2 will be giving an address in church before leaving us for the people of Mexico, where he will live for 22 months, following a two-month stint up the road in Provo at the Missionary Training Center. 

I will be sitting out in the congregation with sons 1, 3, and 4 surrounding me.  I will squeeze #1's hand and he will put his arm around me, like he always does.  I will look up at my bishop-husband and he will be teary-eyed,  but I will feel comforted and good about everything.  

My parents will be here from VA to say their goodbyes, and hellos to #1 who returned home in December.  We will have people over for food and pleasantries and we will celebrate our son's decision to forget himself and go forth and serve.  It will be a grand occasion, and I will be exhausted by the end of the day.  

 I can see it so clearly in my memory.  We live in a little apartment in Pasadena, California.  I pull up the blankets to his little freckly chin and ask him Who loves you?  How do you know?  Testing myself as much as I was testing him, to see if I was outward enough with my love toward my little redhead during the day.  He would answer You.  Because you give me food.  Because you tell me.  

That would do.


day 193: reminder on a cardboard sign

Last night, on the way to Draper, Utah to celebrate my FIL's 84th birthday, I saw a man standing on the side of the freeway near the on-ramp.  He was holding a sign saying THE END IS NEAR.  He looked sad and pensive, but not destitute.  And I just wanted to roll my window down and call out,  Everything will be alright.

When I was Relief Society President (women's leader) in my ward (congregation), my friend and counselor said to me, Most times, enduring to the end means enduring to the end of the day.  I have never forgotten that insight, and now, as I watch her struggle valiantly with breast cancer, I see that she knew what she was talking about.

The End can mean different things for different people.  Looking at my kind and gracious FIL last night, I thought about his life and all of the sorrow and joy he has endured.  If the end were to strike for him today, his soul would be content and fly with angel wings to meet his Maker.  He would be ready.

But I want to, need to, believe that since I will not choose my own end, I will make the most of what I have.  I need to remember to treasure up moments with my kids and husband.  I need to tell people more frequently that I love them.  I need to do what I can and let go of things I can't.  And I will say to myself, Everything will be alright.  Because it will.

day 192: regeneration

With white fabric shades drawn I see shadows of tiny branches.  They are pushing and pushing hard enough to bud.  
I sit here in my lounging thinking chair as the last of the man cubs leaves for school, and I second guess days that I have struggled.  Maybe it is just in my memory that they were difficult.  

Nothing could detract from these few minutes right here and now, when I hear the little gold pendulum swinging in my black mantle clock.  When I feel my wet hair against my forehead.  When a handful of dishes from last night's dinner still rest on the counter.  

I am one of those regenerating branches I see through the shades.  Even now, in these middle years, I push.  I bud.  I come back.

ps  I am recording with a sweet young woman tomorrow for my Musical Monday post. 

day 191: hello me. meet me.

Store it up.  Share it.  Plan ahead.

A favorite quote of mine is Adversity introduces us to ourselves.  True, unfortunately. 

I am a rock star when things are going well.  I smile.  I get things done.  I feel pretty darn good about myself and my life.  I am generally an optimist.

But lately it doesn't take much for me to feel the tectonic plates of my life shifting right beneath my feet. 
A concern about my kids.  My husband.  My old house that needs regular TLC.  I get jumpy, restless, and almost obsessive about fixing something.  

I need to get those roots planted deeper during smooth times, when the only movement is the slow turning of the planet.  When I can take a deep breath and dig down into the soil.  
This week I was reading the story of Joseph in Egypt, in the Old Testament.   

Store up my grain.  Store it.  Share it.  Be thankful for planning ahead. 

day 190: in which I feel a little brainy

The other night my husband and I were talking about Castiglione, the Renaissance author whose life wrapped around the end of the 15th century, into the beginning of the 16th century.  Being that Geo did his PhD dissertation on renaissance writing and pedagogy, we sometimes like to talk about world views and trends during those times.  I think it is interesting to realize innovative thinking during various historical periods.

Castiglione was an Italian noble who spent time also as an ambassador for the Catholic church, and later as a writer.  He died young, at the age of 51 years, from the plague, sadly.  In his later years he wrote The Courtier, a book about the ideal renaissance gentleman, referring to his experience and his connections in that realm.  He made people think about their time, shining a mirror up to the current systems and philosophies. 

And, this is tender, he also wrote a series of imagined letters to himself from his wife who had died.  swoon

But the main thing that we talked about, and that spilled into our family time Monday night, was Castiglione's idea that a person living a spiritually-driven life would have a literal change of countenance.  That it made sense that the spirit and body were that united.  I don't believe that every single person, without fail, that is living right and feeling a closeness to spiritual things, will have a magical make-over.  We have flesh and bone that sometimes is disobedient with illness or other maladies; however, I believe it is entirely possible to see a physical change in someone's outer self once the inner self finds peace.  Good discussion from my kids on this, with my 13 yr-old standing his ground against me.  Invigorating stuff.

day 189: just a camera between us

My best friend came over on Sunday to shoot some new profile pictures for me, since I was changing up my design here.  She is a professional photographer, and though I have been on shoots with her before, and even lugged some of her stuff, she has never done a photo session with me (she has us on the calendar for a full family session in March before boy #2 leaves on his mission to Mexico).  

Here are some that worked best for me.  Remember, she is a genius, in spite of the material she had to work with.



Photos taken by Luann Hawker at

Musical Monday: Desperado

Musical Monday: Desperado

I went with the Eagles this week because they really define my generation.  I almost chose a different piece, but then I realized that I have always wanted to try and sing this one.  I hope you like it.

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.

day 187: self-realizing

So, Jamie, would you be interested in working to develop recreational activities for kids with special needs as a possible career?  Remember, this survey is just used to help us figure out some of the things you may be interested in after high school.  What do you think?

I don't really like to be around kids with special needs.  They are different. says the girl I am working with in a high school special ed class.  At this point I expected her to at least give me a little chuckle or something, because she is quite clever.  But nothing.  The irony.

So funny how we sometimes don't realize our own predicaments.  And even if we do, I guess it is possible that we can still talk about things in a removed, clinical way.  Like when we firmly testify about staying out of debt or about having FHE faithfully, without fail, every Monday.  Or how about when we ask our kids to only say positive things about other people, because anything else is just not nice.  Yeah.

More than hypocrisy, I think it is good to work toward, and talk about, a higher way.  We have to start our aspirations with our thoughts, right?  Isn't that where the germination takes place?

So tonight I say to Jamie (not her real name), you decide what you want to do with your life, my cool new  friend. And remember to stay out of debt and to never miss a Family Home Evening.  Ever.

ps Musical Monday tomorrow
pss Notice my new profile pic, taken by my friend Luann Hawker (post about the photo session on Tuesday)

day 186: hidden fees

One of the things to watch out for right now in our economy.  Hidden fees.  It is dishonest and sneaky and everything bad about business.

But do I charge hidden fees?  Do I have expectations that I am not overt about?  Do I hold people responsible for things they never were made aware of?


I come home at the end of the day and expect that my boys will have cleaned the whole kitchen.  That homework will be completed.  That bedrooms will be clean.  And the fees I sometimes charge?  Disappointment.  A short temper.  
I am already earning so much interest on my account.  What an ungrateful CFO I can sometimes be.

day 185: ice whiskers

Himes' hill was our own personal luge track.  The finish line ended up being in the corner of our front yard.  All of the neighbor kids would meet at the top of the hill, bundled in our personal insulation, and we would fly down, past the trees that marked the outsides of the track.  The track would become so incredibly icy that you had to drag your sled back up at the risk of your own life.  The safest bet was to try and make a new little trail up each time, so it wouldn't be slick.

The snow in Virginia is different.  It is heavier than the snow here in Utah.  It is crunchy and sparkly and covers each and every little tiny branch like it has been spray-painted on.  I have memories of walking across the yard on a thick top layer of ice that sat on top of inches of soft white stuff.

More than once I was sledding down Himes' hill, head first, and I would go off track.  Face first into the ice, which meant friction burns and scrapes that left me looking like I had a 5 o'clock shadow for a few days.  It was a good reminder to me, as the healing would get under way and the itching would begin.  Stay on track.  Not too many risks.  And, for crying out loud, wear a ski mask.

day 184: we are

I would sit out on my silver shiny blanket in my swim suit at Kiwanis Park in Provo, with my tanning buddies, and we would crank it up.  Yes, it was only April, but at this altitude you can start cooking nice and early (yeah, I kick myself now for all of the sunbathing, but I so easily turned a nice mocha color and I always felt like I looked better that way).  I was just finishing my junior year at BYU and was embarrassingly naive about the problems in Africa.  We cranked up lots of tunes, but in 1985 it was We Are The World, the old version.

Now I see my boys glued to youtube watching the new one and getting all excited about it, and it makes me feel so good.  When says "they need us.  they need us",  I think to myself, yes, they sure do.  Poor Haiti.  Poor poor Haiti.

I must say Pink's couple of interjections are so incredibly good.

day 183: lucky me

Thought from my husband tonight:

Roadblocks are also important in helping us find direction.  They steer things and help us discover new routes.

Silent thought from me:

True.  We can navigate through a lot more than we realize most times.

Thought from husband:

We are a good team.  And we are good-looking.

Silent thought from me:

Funny and smart.  How did I get so lucky?

day 182: 4 little ducks went out to play, over the hill and far away

As I sit here in my living room I look under my chair and see a little yellow rubber ducky.  It strikes me as strange because my kids are getting older and don't really play with toys anymore, unless you count the PS3 and the mac as toys.  Someone found this little duck somewhere in the house and it made its way here, under this chair, in my nice quiet room.

But the nostalgic bundle of raw nerves that I am can't manage to pick it up.  If I pick it up it means that I won't have that visual reminder of little brunnette (and one redhead) boys running around giggling and playing and leaving a trail.  It means that I might forget that stuff, and I don't want to.  I don't want to get caught up in being 46 with only three months left of an elementary-aged kid in the house.  Even when I thoroughly enjoy my age and my station (which I regularly do), it is hard to come to terms with the upcoming loss of some things.

Some things like legos under foot, plastic army men, stuffed animals all over the family room downstairs.  That has all been traded for iPods, ear buds, and the strong smell of aftershave that seems to live here in the air like another family member recently. 

I reluctantly pick up the ducky.  And I think it winks at me. 

Musical Monday: I Will Remember You

With all of the trials (and errors) I have had here on Musical Monday posts, I have come to the conclusion that Sarah McLachlan and I like the same key.  It is comfortable for me.  Like when I did this one (Your Love is Better Than Ice Cream).

I thought a bit about my own life passing me by as I recording this one.  I was happy then and I am happy now.  Sometimes we need to remember ourselves.  At least I do.

I Will Remember You

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

day 180: huh?

Some rhetorical questions on the Sabbath.

When are we responsible for our own feelings of being comfortable in a new environment?

When do we stop parenting our children?

Why do we constantly have to reevaluate our lives?

Am I the only one on the planet that thinks bread can be good for you?

Does this blouse make me look fat?

day 179: Johannes Sebastian Burton

#1 and his friend stopped by last night.  The other three boys were out, so we had some time to just visit with these two, and we chose to do it around the piano.  Geo started out by playing some Chopin and Elgar and Schumann.  Then #1 sat down to try out his memory on some Bach inventions.  He played right hand while M played left.  Teamwork is a good thing to test out when you are 21 and figuring out your future. It is a life skill that ends up being so incredibly important.   

I love this guy.

day 178: randomize me

All four boys were in and out tonight as Geo and I sat on the couch for our date and talked (tomorrow night we are going to Salt Lake for a fancy-shmancy dinner at The Roof for Valentine's Day).  #4 was hanging out with the neighbors before he left to go to a movie with his good friend, #3 was at a friend's house before he ran home to change before he went laser tagging with some young men and women in Provo, #2 was a little late getting home from work, and then he left to play games at a friend's house, and we were even delighted to get an unexpected visit from #1 son on his way back to his apartment after attending a wedding reception of a friend.

This is our life, both literally and figuratively.  Between school for 5 of the 6 of us, jobs for half of us, church stuff for all of us, and social lives for everyone, we are like drops of water skirting around on a hot pan.  We bounce and wiggle and, every now and then, come together.  Efforts are very deliberate for me and my husband.  We have to plan any moment we want to spend together.  It is calculated and scheduled and counted on.  I don't know that we are that different than most couples/ families, but right now we are stretched to our limit.

In another place and time, far far away, things will slow down and I will be able to breathe again.  I will be able to turn off a morning alarm and roll over.  But today, in this place and time, I sit up fast and get everyone going.  I start making lunches while people pour into the kitchen rubbing their eyes and looking for papers I need to sign.  I run and shower before I have to drop people where they need to be.  I get back home and clean up, sit down with my books and want oh-so-badly to take a mid-morning nap, but do homework instead.

And buried way beneath my notebooks, my IEP files, and my dirty dishes, is a happy mom, wife, student, teacher, that loves life and counts numerous blessings.

day 177: hearts and chairs and pepperoni

Two parties in two weeks.  If you haven't experienced a happy exhaustion any time recently, I highly recommend it.  

We had pizza and pink heart cakes.  We decorated white bags with stickers and stamps.  We passed out our goodies. 

Then we played musical chairs and how MUCH I wish I had a video of my technicians dancing around with the kids while I manned the CD player.  One of the boys laughed so hard at them that I seriously was crying just watching him.  It was so amazingly joyous.  I can't even come close to explaining it.

I love to love.  It feels good to care about people.  I am not afraid of it.  I am not ever going to choke it down or hide from it.  It is God-given and God-expected.  And I get more of it than I have ever given. 

day 176: work with me

Sometimes I wish my eyes were cameras.  

Then I could have a permanent record of things I saw that I thought were beautiful or spontaneous or living free.

I could store up that moment when I was talking to a friend and the light bounced off of her eyes and seemed to really glimmer.  I mean glimmer like there was someone behind them holding a micro flashlight.

Sometimes I wish my eyes were cameras.

Then I could remember that one flashing moment when I looked at boy #4 and thought, man, he really reminds me of my dad.

I could always have the picture of the Duomo in Florence, Italy, to refer to by just closing my eyes and retrieving the image instantly.  With the colors and scaffolding that were wrapped around it while it was being scrubbed and fixed.

But the pictures would lose some power if they were always there.  If I didn't have to do my own recall in my mind.  If I had it too easy.  

So I write and I read and I remember.


day 175: my brilliant beautiful friend

I listened to a wonderful talk by a close soul sister tonight.  I call her my soul sister not because my soul is even close to the depth of hers, but because hers touches mine.  

She thinks in ways that are sweet, but not overly simple.  

She thinks in ways that are plain, but not puerile.

I pulled her aside afterwards and asked her (begged, really, as I held her arm and told her how wonderful she is) if she would please-oh-please consider blogging.

She is a thinker and a reader, and an artist, and an overall peach.

I may be sending her your blog addresses because I told her how many people I have connected with online that have inspired me to be a better person.

Musical Monday: Carolina In My Mind

In the cold, bleak mid-winter I sometimes dream of the warm beaches of Carolina.

Carolina In My Mind

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.

day 173: cool gospel knowledge

Sharing Time today...

Valiant 12 class comes to the podium to explain the experience of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

A:  It was so hot in there that Jesus sweat blood!  That's how hot it was!

Boy #4 (quietly and red-faced, because he is shy):  Actually He sweat drops of blood because He was suffering for all the sins of the world.

Me (subbing for music leader, thinking to myself):  Thank you, thank you.  it's sinking in.

day 172: my son, the head-banger

Recently returned (within the last two years) missionaries that love to jam and bond and have fun.  

It's a joy to see your kids find places where they can express themselves.  For some it is writing essays, for others it is painting or drawing.  For my oldest son (third one from the left) it is slamming on the drums in a rented storage unit with his friends.  

They have plans.  A couple of shows booked.  And they love it.

Bring on the silk-screened t-shirts.

day 171: short cuts take longer

There was major construction on the old state highway this morning. Not being the most patient person, I sat in traffic 3 or 4 minutes and then pulled a U-turn in order to take a back way. Turns out the back way just led me to the same intersection, only from the other angle. I sat there 10 minutes watching as my old traffic buddies passed through right in front of me.

When will I ever learn?

day 170: an anchor to my soul

They come in from the bus with faces that ask "what do you have for me today, miss karen?". Pink, black, blue bags are hung up and left wide open, ready to receive evidence of their efforts. Their energy.

We write names, squeeze clips, and then we dance. Everyday. Their teachers want to start the day with joy and rejoicing, so we swing our hips, we raise our arms, and we celebrate our being there.

Scissors, glue, pencils, paint, books, love. We have plenty of each, and we slop it around because it feels right.

When a little brown-faced girl looks at you and spells her name and you have to hold it together just so that you don't have to spend the rest of the day reassuring your jumpy little guy that you are ok and everything is fine. When you see kindness being dealt out from one little friend to another. When you start praying to know what to do for little x, y, and z. This is when you say thank you in your heart, and you do the best you can to grab onto the hope of a better world.

day 169: in the red

Fasting is a principle we, as Mormons, share with other world religions, even though the definition varies.  But fasting is not commonly observed in Christianity.  I find that interesting, knowing Christ himself fasted while engaged in his ministry. 

We believe we gain humility when we fast for a 24-hour period.  It gives us the opportunity for a renewed recognition of our dependency on God, and even allows us to have prayers answered.  I believe in this principle deeply, as I have felt a strong connection to the Spirit when I have begun a fast with prayer and allowed myself to be led. 

Even though we join together in our church, worldwide, on the first Sunday of each month, every person has a personal experience when she fasts.  This is what I love about my membership in my church (yes, I said "my").  It is somehow very global and very private at the same time, and that combo is hard to find on a soul kind of level.

So, as Sunday approaches I look forward to giving something up short-term so that I can gain something long-term.  Sacrifice?  What sacrifice?  I am so indebted that I can't even comprehend it.

day 168: remade

Make-over shows crack me up.

I like the feeling of a virtual visit to a salon, and a virtual five grand to shop with in NYC.  Yeah, I like that.

Typically the woman starts off defiant and stubborn about cutting her hasn't-been-touched-since-4th-grade mane (like that is something to be proud of), and within the hour she is vogue-ing and hair flipping like a runway model.

Then I look up from my final spit after brushing my teeth before bed and call to my husband, "Hey, Hon, can you call Clinton and Stacey (What Not to Wear) and turn me in?"

ps  Come on over to and see my profile today  :)

Musical Monday: Cold Cold Heart

Norah Jones redid the Hank Williams original, and, sorry to the Williams fans, I like this version.  It was a lot of fun to record.

Cold Cold Heart

ps pink for February

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.