Sometimes

Sometimes when there is a special sunrise or sunset, eclipse or meteor shower, I figure it is Heavenly Father reminding us he is there.

Sometimes the word, “remember” is important, because when we are in the moment, we can’t see where we are. Only as we look back can we make sense of things.

Sometimes I see how much I have changed since the children were young. I speak a lot less, but really think about my words when I do.

Sometimes I walk through the toy aisles because one of my violin students wants to talk about Shopkins each week, so I do my research.

Sometimes when Paige is home, I forget that she ever left us, until she leaves again, and I wish we had gone out to lunch together or spent more time talking while she was home.

Sometimes I am surprised when I am practicing the violin and Daniel walks in to accompany me on the piano. I will miss our impromptu concerts.

Sometimes I watch Timothy during the funny parts of movies, because he gives himself to delight so easily.

Sometimes Mark is all I need in the world to be happy. He asks me about my day, offers empathetic encouragement, and makes me laugh. I look at his profile and can’t find the little boy he used to be.

Sometimes Richard and I feel old together, whether it is complaining about aches after working, stumbling around in the middle of the night looking for the Excedrin, or choosing to watch documentaries.

Sometimes I remember that this is the last day, holiday, or season with Daniel home, but I put those thoughts away quickly. I learned with Paige that the parade of lasts can be painful, but this just means the parade of firsts will begin soon.

Sometimes I see so many needs in my circle of influence that I spend a day writing letters to people, since there is no way I can visit everyone.

Sometimes when I run into someone I know out in public, I remind myself that just like the sunrise and sunset, they are a reminder that Heavenly Father is there, and he thinks we should talk. Today at the store I saw a young mother in my ward and another Relief Society president in my stake. Thank you, Heavenly Father. It was important to talk to each of these women today.

Impart

Thanksgiving guests

The line from scripture that stays in my head lately is, “learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.” (D&C 88:123)

To impart is to “make known or communicate.”

I don’t think I have much to impart lately. Perhaps the lessons I need in order to be effective are still making their way into my heart. I hope that it is enough to post a scripture on social media or to reach out gently to someone.


I hope the extra hours pouring my heart and energy into our home and celebrations instead of my usual hours of study and writing will impart love, or whatever God wants someone to understand.

I am only beginning to trust that there are many ways to impart gospel principles. Many don’t require the knowledge I am continually chasing, but they always require a healthy portion of self.

An adoption, a wedding, and a dance

From my parents’ patio today, the smell of leaves decaying on the ground and a wood burning stove was enough to make me stop and breathe deeply. The garden was covered in leaves, ready for a covering of snow and a tiller in the spring. Something about autumn forces us to look forward, in preparation for winter and holidays. I feel the tug of holiday expectations early this year, and grateful for the smells of autumn that initiated some minutes to reflect.

On Thursday, I drove to the now-familiar courthouse in Ogden to see my sister and her husband adopt their third baby. Grace was sleepy as I held her during my sister’s sweet, tearful testimony to the judge. To keep the children safe, I don’t post photos of their faces, just their feet. Can you spot the tiniest feet? Those are Grace’s.

In St George this weekend, Richard’s parents’ house seemed more empty during our visit, as Rebecca’s family didn’t stop by. Cancer shows us the gap one person leaves when she is unable to attend. The family rallied for a big wedding celebration for Andrea, twinkle lights and green boughs everywhere. All hands were needed, and this brought out the best in many who sometimes stay in the corners.

When I look at my own wedding photos, it is the faces of grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles that I study, not friends nor countless pictures of the couple. I wish wedding photographers realized this, and took a few more pictures of the extended family.

Speaking of memories of grandparents, Daniel wore his great-grandfather’s cowboy boots to a dance this weekend. I think that would make Grandpa smile.

Last roses of the season

I cut the last roses from the bushes this morning. They were a little frost-bitten, and I wonder if the warm house will encourage the buds to open. Sometimes a little shock is all we need in order to bloom.

I continue to feel the shock of new experiences in motherhood. This weekend I watched a son get injured at an athletic tournament, and saw his hopes of playing taken in his first minutes on the field. I haven’t felt that disappointment and sadness before. One night last week, I tried to wait up for a son, only to awaken at 4:00 am on the couch, stiff and incredibly sad. I had missed his homecoming. Fatigue is happening, but I hope the accompanying display of my heart is like these roses, showing their struggle in blooming, vibrant array. I may not be beautiful, curled up on a sofa or sitting bundled on the sidelines, but they are exercises in blooming, and they mean, “I love you.”

My current tool kit

My current tool kit for life includes:

Tissues: I sense over time that there is a correlation between trust and the number of tears I witness as a Relief Society president. When I hand a sister a tissue, I know her tears are precious, and I am honored to share the moment with her.

Chartreuse, Olive, Purple, Tan, and Silver Thread: These are the colors needed to sew on Scout patches. Recently, I transferred Mark’s patches to Daniel’s old shirt and moved Daniel’s old patches to a larger shirt. Timothy needed me to sew on about 15 merit badges. I do this sewing so they are prepared for big evenings like we had this week. Daniel completed his board of review for Eagle Scout rank, and I was asked to give a few words about his scouting experience. I shared a little of what it is like to send my 11 or 12-year-old to Scout camp for the first time, and to hear later from a leader that he did well. I shared what it feels like to let go, and see a son grow in leadership and ability because I allowed him some danger and adventure.  I didn’t earn Daniel’s Eagle for him. What I did was watch, wait, and encourage. This was the longer and more difficult path, but better. Later, I noticed this was the shirt I was wearing beneath my sweater for the Eagle board of review. Perfect.

One, Three-ring Binder for Each Child: When a child comes home with a certificate, report card, recital program, or blue card for a Scout merit badge, it goes in a sheet protector in this binder. When college and scholarship applications are due, this is a great reference for what they have done during high school. To keep merit badge blue cards organized, I use plastic sheets made for baseball trading cards. I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for me to keep track of these, through a move and changes in leaders.

Small notebooks: I carry these around with me so I can keep track of ideas, which swirl around me and are fickle about staying in my head very long.

Sugar free Ice Breakers Wintergreen Mints: because I talk to many people.

Small fabric bags with zippers in my purse: I have one for keys, and one for pens. They keep me organized.

A great phone plan for texting: for teens and church work

Laser printer: I am learning that writing a book means endless drafts.

Paper scriptures: Lately, I gravitate toward paper over electronic, because I have 20 years worth of notes in the margins of these scriptures. They have been steady friends during times of change.

Yearly tasks written on a calendar: In January, when I put up a new calendar, I took some time to write in the margins some hints about what needed to happen each month. For November, I wrote that during the first week I needed to go to a certain store for the best selection of Christmas cards. Another week we needed to do the Christmas picture. This has been so helpful! (And I realize probably everyone does this already.)

Less: Our family doesn’t need as much as it used to. Toys, art supplies, curriculum, and smaller clothing need to make steady exits from our house… as I have the courage to part with them.

If I think of you, I will make some effort to contact you: This isn’t a tangible thing in my tool kit, just an idea that I have recommitted to this month. Basically, I trust there are reasons I think of random people in a day, and make efforts to find out why.

Happy yellow

Our neighbor’s yellow leaves reflect on the kitchen floor in the afternoon, and I delay raking the leaves in the front yard because like to walk through them. This week we had a band concert, a choir concert, and tomorrow Tim performs his concerto again. Daniel rocked a gospel accompaniment for choir and played a Mack Wilberg arrangement for another choir. It is fun to hear so many styles of music. I hear him tapping his electric keyboard after he finishes homework in the early hours of the morning. He wears headphones so we don’t hear the notes, but I hear the rhythms.

Joy this week was having a neighbor confirm that Mark will be coming by to trick-or-treat because she has something special to give him. It was looking for just the right things to give. It was an invitation to visit a friend for a celebration, and someone trusting me with her questions. It was being welcomed into people’s homes and seeing endurance and humor in suffering and old age. It was hugs at a concert, and the line of tiny animals on my piano bench brought by a student. Joy was sensing Timothy moving into action behind me to help carry something up the stairs without being asked.

This week has revealed some troubling things, too, but the light on the kitchen floor reminds me to focus on the joy.

Odds and Ends

October is coming to an end, and I found a few photos on my camera from this month that I want to remember. First, we have Daniel at the school district meeting being honored as a National Merit Semifinalist.

Our tree in the corner of the backyard gains its color quickly and loses its leaves even more quickly. I captured it one day as the sun hit it just right.

Mark’s school project to make a Teddy Roosevelt doll was a success. I only had one burn from the glue gun.

We both liked the little guy a lot.

 

I went to the Israelite Tabernacle exhibit at BYU with a friend and her daughters. Paige met me on campus after church to walk through it with me. There were no tour guides on Sunday, but we lucked out because there was a professor of ancient scripture there with his family, leading them through the exhibit. I snickered when this reverent grandfather had to ask the guard for something to fish out one of his grandson’s shoes from the brazen altar.

And no way was I touching this replica of the Ark of the Covenant, but the fingerprints don’t lie. Somebody did.

91 years

I called my grandmother last night to wish her a happy 91st birthday. She talked to me about weather and politics and her grandchildren, all the usual. I asked her what she thought her secret was for living so long.

I guess she gets that question a lot, and she said has no answer. No one in her family history has lived as long. She just said she loved to be surrounded by pictures of family, to watch them grow and achieve, and to receive letters in the mail.

Without saying it directly, I saw that the secret to living, no matter how many years we have, is to be positive. She has chronic pain in her knees; she has another scan this week, as the doctors may be worried that her cancer has returned; she is alone a lot of the time. But she brushes these things off, and focuses on the people in her life, and delights in kindness shown to her.

We are watching and and waiting as another relative receives more bad news each day about her health. How do I reconcile these two stories in my family, of longevity and illness? How do I live without fear, and with gratitude, no matter what? Most important, how can I support these women in the paths they have ahead?

These are my Monday thoughts.

Lessons

Paige’s oil painting assignment

This exercise for Paige in oil painting was interesting to watch. She painted little squares for days over a long weekend at home. If I understand this correctly, each paper represents the effects of a single color mixed in to the same paints. There are some surprises, and there are some panels that I like more than others. The seventies-looking panel comes from yellow being mixed in everything.

One thing I have learned from having a daughter in art is the power of color to convey a mood. I saw an interesting MFA project on display at BYU earlier this year which used color to track the moods of different people throughout a day. I took pictures of a few of the representations to show the contrasts. Each person tracked his or her mood for 24 hours. Each hour was represented by a color, with each color representing a mood.

Moods that colors convey
The moods of an 18-month old, as documented by her mother. See the patterns and abrupt changes?
Moods of a student with depression and anxiety: see the dullness and little cheer, with black anxiety making appearances?
And here is 24 hours in the life of a yogi. Almost this persuadeth me to be a yogi.

What would the color palette look like for you today? I think we have some power over how we look at our days. I have seen how writing has been a good exercise in framing how I see my life. When I write, I tend to focus on the more rather than the less. It’s helped me frame my experiences with greater perspective. I see how petty I sound when I complain, and I see that I can often find a use for the difficult lessons. When I read my history on this blog, I see a plan emerge for our family, the friends in our path, unexpected opportunities, and experiences that have molded us.

We are almost halfway through October, which is normally a low month for me (think lots of purples), with mostly yellow and orange feelings. I think it’s because I am slowing down and writing. I am not letting myself get over-extended. I am saying no to things. I think it’s healthy to have a mixture of moods in life. I’m also allowing myself to feel what I feel and think what I think. This is a healthy change for me.

 

Next day addition: I don’t know the name of the person whose work I posted. I thought I took a picture of the name, but can’t find it. I wish I knew!