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.

A Post in Several Parts

The Part about Family

Woodworker, Ultimate Frisbee player, jazz band member, campaign manager, and the friend who takes people to the movies to celebrate a victory: Timothy.

Recipient of several full-ride scholarships to colleges, melodica master, member of the robotics team, and someone who gives very detailed and sincere compliments: Daniel.

Science and history wiz, a cook and artist with a ready wit, he says, “I love you” at least twice before he says goodbye each morning: Mark.

Painter of portraits, student, and the woman who finally bought some pizza from the place that is literally three feet from her front door: Paige.

The Part where I Reflect on Writing

I feel a latent energy to write, but when I sit down, the words are elusive and inadequate. I have flashes of ideas as I do the dishes, and I hurry to find a post-it note and write down a few ideas with soapy fingers. Later, when I have a minute to write, the words I jotted down earlier have lost their allure. I seem to have forgotten how to write good sentences and my ideas collapse as I try to express them.

I must be in a planting season, not a harvest.

The Part about the Snow and the Soup

The boys and Richard were finally able to go skiing, and they had a great time.

They spent most of the day Saturday moving snow from one place to another. In the end, we had nearly a foot and a half of snow fall in our yard. After shoveling the front walk a couple of times, the snow plow came and pushed the snow from the street so hard into our curb that it buried our sidewalk. People will need to walk a different way around our cul-de-sac. We can’t face trying to move that mountain of snow.

I made the menu for the week, and it included five days of soups and stews and lots of breads, berries, and brownies.

The Part where I Ask, “Are you still reading?”

Yes, this was a boring one. I know.

The Big Three

I bought a new planner for 2018 which provides space for daily tasks and schedules, but also has a space to list the three most important tasks for the week. Last week the big three were mostly about Relief Society. This week, my big three include quilting and and a focus on housework. I love having an overall vision for the week.

Here is my quilting progress for the week:

I am working on a group exchange for next Christmas. I tried English paper piecing to make this wreath. It is probably too time consuming to do enough of these in time, but I am happy with the result. The green pieces, sewn individually and then together, probably took me 6 or 7 hours over the summer.
I added a bow, and liked it so much better. The bow took probably 2-3 hours.
Everything is hand-sewn on this quilt block and hand-appliqued to a white square.
I really like this orientation for the square, too. As you can see, the pins are still there and I have yet to finish a single block. Lots of work.

I won’t focus on quilting every week, but the time I have spent stitching has felt wonderful.

Hellooooo!

Helloooo regular life. (My niece says it best.)

The house is empty for the first time since December 20th. There is a stray candy cane leftover from Christmas, and one caramel remaining in the kitchen. I wash towels and wipe down counter tops, pull old food from the refrigerator, and mail the thank you notes. I feel the silence. I light my candles and begin a new week. Mondays are the best. And Christmas 2017 was over much too quickly.

But helloooo, it’s going to be a great year.