Couch conductor

10:30 pm Sunday night. I am recovering well from a hand laceration. Richard still has no energy after the flu. The boys play trumpet and piano while I rest.

Last Sunday Timothy gave a talk in church with 30 minutes to prepare. He did so well!

Timothy and Mark played in a piano recital on Tuesday night.

It was a good week to be a parent.

Daniel advanced to a regional level in the Sterling scholar competition.

Daniel was named a National Merit Finalist.

Paige began work towards a summer internship in New York.

I finished hand-quilting my international doll quilt. I will finish the binding some other day.

Richard and I watched the John Adams miniseries, except when my eyes were closed during the violence and 18th century surgeries.

We watched Wonder. Tears streamed freely for me.

I can’t type this week as my hand heals, so this is it for a while.

Memoir project: One About Richard

Austin, TX, 2001

A Kiss for Each Page

I had three major abdominal surgeries, one year apart, beginning in 1999. We learned during my first hospital stays that I did so much better when Richard was in the room with me. So, in 2001, he spent extra time with me before and after the surgery, spending long hours through the days in a dimly lit, lavender-papered room. He was needed at work, the kids needed him at home, and I needed him at the hospital. He balanced these demands without complaint.

His calming influence was so helpful. I felt less pain when I was with him. I didn’t feel anxious, which is what happens to me when I take pain medications and I am separated from the kids. My mom stayed with our kids so Richard could be with me during the days.

One day he sat down on the bed and read Tuesdays with Morrie aloud to me. Although this was a book about dying, it was a good choice because it also reminded us to celebrate life. He read for a long time, eventually resting against the pillow with me, bringing his legs up on the bed. At each page turn, he kissed me on the cheek. I felt so much love and fulfillment through his kindness to me that day. I felt loved, absolutely. As a mother, I have struggled to make room in my life to receive. One lesson from my illness was how important it is to allow myself to be loved.

When we were married, there was no thought of potential illnesses and hospital stays. These experiences showed me how much I need Richard on an emotional level. He has always been a good provider, but it’s not just in temporal things. He is also a provider of peace.

A Few Things about Daniel

He serves.
He is a Sterling Scholar.

 

He knows how to figure things out, whether it’s a robotics, physics, or calculus problem, or the daunting task of finding a good wrist corsage for a date.

This is the robot in progress.

He has a job as a clerk for a company related to construction. He has saved almost enough money for his mission.

He plays the piano in a stream of consciousness, blending melodies from different pieces, without music, late at night.

These are just a few of the things I admire about Daniel.

Signals

A line of light from the kitchen streams beneath our bedroom door: someone is up early.

The pantry door squeaks: the boys are hungry.

No sounds from the basement bedroom: someone has slept in.

The rumble of the garage door: someone is returning or leaving.

The squeal of pipes through the wall: someone is in the shower.

The floor shakes with muted explosive sounds: someone is watching a Star Wars movie with surround sound in the basement.

Ding! A message from Richard or Paige

Bing! A message from Timothy

Chime! A message from Daniel

Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap: the dog needs to come back inside.

“Here’s to the Fools who Dream…”: I am doing dishes or mopping.

Sniff, sniff beneath the door: the dog is looking for Richard.

Bwa ha ha ha: Mark is watching YouTube videos.

Scratchety scratch scratch: the dog is cold and needs to come inside.

Clickety clickety clickety clickety: Daniel is typing.

Long, sullen pauses and no eye contact: oh, boy, am I in trouble.

Crinkle, crinkle: I turn the pages of my scriptures.

Beeeeeeep, beeeeeeep: the chicken is cooked.

Blat blat blat: trombone practice

Toot toot toot: trumpet practice

Brrrrrruuum, diddly dum: a son practices piano.

Ping, pingy ping: Paige is playing the piano.

Lawrence Welk is on: it’s haircut time.

The hallway floor creaks: someone is looking for me.

Light streams beneath our bedroom door: someone is up late.

Longer stretches of silence each day: the kids are growing up and leaving.

 

Last Week

Last week was a wrestle. I wrestled with church dilemmas, the clock, illnesses, and expectations. But there was a three-tiered cake one night, and clean surfaces everywhere, evidence that when I am doing mental work, physical work goes right along with it.

Last week,  there was so much calling me to stay home with the family. They needed my skills, my advice, my health, my early mornings, late nights, afternoon errands, and my touch.

Last week’s lessons:

  • Don’t bury concerns. Express them.
  • BYU application essay editing is a good way to spend a LOT of time with your senior. BYU requires six, people. Six!
  • You can’t wash your hands too often during flu season.
  • The boost in morale will come.
  • It’s ok to choose the less time-consuming option.
  • Conversations happen away from screens.
  • I experienced a miracle.
  • Everyone’s faith is a little different, even within the same church, and that is ok.
  • God knows ahead of time when I will fail to act, whether from laziness or pulls from different directions. He prepared a contingency plan or two last week so people were still cared for.
  • Life is long. I don’t have to do it all at once.
  • To write is to be vulnerable.
  • The sacrament is so precious to me.

Bubbles and Words

Feelings of achievement are like bubbles. They rise above everything else and give an ethereal feeling of ascent. For months, my growing book was my secret delight, something that made me smile as I straightened a room or drove around town. The night in December when I compiled all of the essays and learned that I had more than 64,000 words felt like one of the biggest triumphs of my life. I’m talking about big bubble triumphant feelings. Foolishly, I mentioned my achievement on social media, inviting others to celebrate with me. Friends and acquaintances took my cue and offered unreserved praise, never mind they hadn’t read the words. After a few hours, I felt ashamed for advertising my feat. “Look at me!” was never a common phrase in my vernacular. I deleted the post, and along with it, the kind, encouraging comments. I knew then that I only want to hear from the people who actually read my words. Still, there were now 65,000 words to celebrate, and I celebrated alone as I printed copies for our children for Christmas.

After a few weeks, my bubbly feelings of achievement have melted back into the tepid water of the everyday. I wish the feelings had lasted a little longer. All well. I have learned that is the way it goes with bubbles and feelings. That’s why words matter to me. They are still here, even when the euphoria of achievement and popularity goes away. The words will be here for generations.

I have been reading a conversation about blogging making a comeback as people grow tired of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I would love to read more blogs like mine.  I think Instagram is perfect for visual artists and photographers. What I am missing are the writers. Many of the bloggers I enjoyed reading gave up writing and decided to use Instagram as their platform for expression. The contrast in content made me sad because now they had to limit their experience to a few pictures and characters. Was it a time saver? A move for popularity? I respect their choices, but I miss the writers. I wonder if they miss writing. I would.

Memoir Project: Summer of the Toads

Sahuarita, AZ, 2008

Summer of the Toads

During July and August, Arizona enjoys a monsoon season, with thunderstorms almost every day. With the storms came puddles, thunder so loud it would set off our smoke alarms, and flooding on the road. After a storm, the cactus blossoms would erupt in brilliant colors, and the Colorado River toads would make their annual appearance.

Pea soup green, bloated, ground-hugging, with rufous lumps, these toads would emerge from hibernation in the rains. We found them in the roads at night during the rains and sometimes they were flattened like pancakes in front of our house, run over by a passing car. The largest ones were the size of a large man’s fist, and when flattened, were a spectacular 8-10 inches in diameter. We also found them on our front porch at night, attracted by the porch light, hunkered down in corners, waiting for bugs. They have poison glands, so we kept the dog away and didn’t handle them.

The summer of 2008 was an especially good year for toads. We noticed the same toads came out each evening. The kids learned their sizes and markings and named some of them. Camouflage, Jumping Jack, Mongo, Toady, Spot, Camouflage Jr., and Teeny were some of their names. Sometimes the kids would catch insects and place them right in front of the toads. Zap! The ponderous toads’ tongues were quick to capture them.

There was a perpetual puddle on the west side of our house in July which teemed with baby toads, smaller than the size of dimes. We let the kids scoop them up and put them in Timothy’s screened insect carrier. Climbing and hopping with tiny legs, these toads were a delight to all of the neighbor children. One neighbor, however, was not thrilled to have so many poisonous toads near his house, and watched our kids and his daughter collect baby toads one night and convinced the boys to walk up the street with him to release them at the park.

We never saw a summer with toads quite like this one again. We traveled and had other adventures that season, but the simple memories of the little boys with their flashlights playing with their toads are clearer in my mind. It fits the familiar pattern of family memory; the tiny memories rise up over the bigger occasions to mean the most.

Navigating

The report card for Mark’s first semester came in the mail the other day, a reminder that I have had around 100 days on my own. (Mark is thriving in public school.)

How is it going at home?

I still hate the goodbyes every morning with my high school kids and Mark. I don’t think this will change. I love the quiet, and rarely listen to music or turn on the TV. But music and movies help when I get lonely.

I have so much to do, but enjoy not being so pressed for time. I could spend all day working on house projects if I chose to. There are always Relief Society dilemmas and demands. I have a stack of books I am reading, music I should play, fabric I am stitching, and goals I am working on. Some days I wonder how I home schooled, then I remember that I could do it because we needed to do it. It’s like anyone’s life. You do what you feel you need to do.

House work and even service in Relief Society weren’t enough during my transition to being alone. Writing was what got me through the first semester. After some time off from writing, I think I need to get back to it. The old restlessness is back.

Sometimes our pathway is blocked

This is how the snow pile looks about a week after the plow pushed snow from the street across our sidewalk. What do you see in this picture?

Do you see a dead end?

I see an insurmountable task.

Or is there more here?

Sun and shadow!

A hill to sled upon!

Something to chuckle about!

Evidence of prayers answered for snow.

We have control over how we view a situation. Today I choose to see only beautiful snow.

 

Screentime

We had ten fun minutes playing with this app as a family. Richard’s fine art doppleganger was very handsome. This was my most complimentary. We are not talking about the gentleman with a powdered wig which was also my match.

I enjoyed watching all of the hearts that floated on the side of my phone screen as the new First Presidency did their press conference.

I watched a PBS series about the Bronte sisters. It was probably the most depressing thing I have seen in a long time. And for a film supposedly about the sisters, there was an awful lot about the brother who spiraled into despair and ruin. I still call Jane Eyre my favorite book.

When I mentioned that I was disappointed that there wasn’t more in the series about their writing process, someone told me that it’s common for people to focus on the lives of women artists, not their art. I am still thinking about that statement.

I streamed a movie called Dr. Thorne on Amazon. It was really good. And the actor who plays Dr. Thorne is one of my favorites.

The 2002 version of Nicholas Nickleby was another good one I watched.

I am disappointed by Masterpiece’s season two of Victoria so far. We turned it off last week, mid-episode.

Most of my screentime is when the family is skiing or when I am doing laundry or other housework. The boys scatter quickly when I turn on the television.