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.

Angel’s Landing

Light and shadow, cool and bright, we experienced Angel’s Landing last weekend at Zion National Park. Scrolling through the pictures makes my fingers and toes go numb as I look at the narrow fin of rock on which we hiked. I didn’t watch the kids do this. I stayed ahead or behind, and didn’t make the last few hundred feet of the journey with them. As I walked down the mountain, I thought of our Father in Heaven, who doesn’t shrink from watching over each of us when we are in peril, and felt gratitude for a Parent like that.

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.

 

Memoir Project: The Weber, Paige, and the Bear

The Weber, 2013

The Weber, Paige, and the Bear

Each summer, my mom’s family has a week at the Spencer family cabin called the “Weber,” about 10 miles east of Oakley, UT. The first Weber cabin was built in the early 1900’s, and was part of a ranch shared by several prominent families in the Salt Lake Valley. Along the length of Pines Ranch runs the Smith-Morehouse River, and the Spencer cabin rests on an especially choice location right above the river. The Spencer bridge is the most permanent and strong bridge over the river at the ranch.

In 2002, the original cabin was knocked down and rebuilt with most of the important details still intact. There is a large, windowed porch room with long tables for big family dinners with a porch bed on the west end which can hold 10 people or more as they read books, gaze down at the river below, or take a nap among ample pillows. The central kitchen remains without a dishwasher so there are long dishwashing sessions to build character and relationships among those who wash and those who dry. Dozens of tiny, ancient hot chocolate mugs and stoneware place settings fill the cabinets. Pitchers and creamers are for wildflowers. There is an attic full of springy mattresses, and four rooms off the living room for senior members of the family, or those with the youngest infants.

Outside, people play volleyball, badminton, and basketball. Little children race around on scooters and toy cars while parents watch from the long porch. Tubing, spending time on the great swing in the pine grove, bike rides, and walks fill the days.

These are just the trappings of the Weber experience. The full picture is incomplete without a strong, dynamic grandmother leading the activities, a steady, fun-loving grandfather, aunts and uncles, and cousins of every age all around. I have lived long enough to see the changing-of-the-guard in these roles. Where my great-grandmother stood, my grandmother took her place, and now my mother lives her own version of matriarch at the Spencer cabin. In my mind, the matriarch is the most important role at the Weber. We don’t realize it, but each woman is in training to lead at the Weber.

As the oldest cousin, Paige had a following of little girls at the Spencer family cabin each summer. One afternoon in 2013, as some children began tubing down the river, sixteen-year-old Paige accompanied a line of younger girls and a dog named Sadie on a walk down the hill, across the bridge, and through the pine grove toward the spring. The flagstones of the path led them through the tall grass, buttercups, and monkshood toward the spring at the base of the mountain. The happy sounds of chattering voices and laughter were suddenly overshadowed by feelings of fear from the sound of movement nearby, and some growling from the dog, Sadie. Paige wrote, “Despite the heat of the day, I felt goosebumps rise on my arms. Something was wrong. I heard a rustling sound not far from where we were standing. I looked ahead to the left side of the path, and suddenly I knew. A dark shape emerged from the trees and stood up on its hind legs. I felt myself go tense as I realized it was a bear watching us from a short twenty feet away… I looked at the sweet, scared faces which had all automatically turned to me for instruction and reassurance. Not knowing what else to do, I desperately gestured to the girls to stand close to me. Ruby, still slightly ahead of the group, slowly crept backwards. Kaitlyn and Anna huddled in fear on either side of me, their small hands gripping mine tightly. Charlotte stood still and silent behind us. As I met their wide eyes, I took a deep breath and knew I had to be brave. I had to do something. I prayed silently: Please help us. As I stood, trying to choose a course of action, Sadie started growling even more intensely and began moving slowly back and forth… Even though my mind was full of questions, fear, and disbelief, I suddenly felt surprisingly calm. Sadie barked, and … time started speeding forward again as we watched the bear start climbing up a nearby tree. As I hesitated, wondering if it was okay to move forward, my mind suddenly became clear, and I knew that we were safe to do so. ‘Let’s go!’ I hissed, and we were off, reaching for each other’s hands, rushing along the path. We didn’t look back.” (Paige’s Narrative, 2016)

This could be a story about many things: the protection of our girls, gratitude for Sadie the dog, or the adventures of childhood in the mountains. To me, the story tells what it takes to be a strong woman. Most of all, a strong woman acts in faith. For Paige that day, it was faith to trust God’s help to escape from a bear. My Grandma Stewart’s acts of faith were to reach out to the grandchildren and children who couldn’t come to the Spencer cabin because of divorce or other challenges. She never gave up traditions she knew would draw the family together someday. For my mom, her acts of faith include her hospitality to everyone. The first Spencer grandmother at the cabin, who was known for her hospitality, placed a plaque on the cabin which reads, “Come in the evening or come in the morning. Come when you’re looked for, or come without warning. A thousand welcomes you’ll find here before you, and the oftener you come here, the more we’ll adore you.”

I have seen many faces welcomed at the Weber. The bear was the only exception.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, cherish, and lift

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, 
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all 
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

-Robert Frost

 

I have mentioned this before, but since I was called to be a R.S. president I write down the names of the sisters I visit or interact with each day on my calendar. It is my reminder that the work is about individuals, not activities, lessons, and cookbooks. It reminds me that I didn’t fail *these* sisters today, even if I am concerned about so many. Most of the time, it is incredibly helpful to me to keep this record.

In December, I gave up writing down the names. I was looking at life through a distorted lens, as through ice over water. Despite my efforts, the problems multiplied in my mind. There are a lot of reasons for my discouragement, some obvious, some subtle, some avoidable, and others unavoidable. I am not beating myself up about this. It is OK to be tired sometimes, and I don’t resent or regret anything I did for others.

I played a musical number with Daniel on Christmas Eve for the ward and hurried away from church because with this last service of giving music, I had given my all. Everything. I was dry. I couldn’t even face compliments. When Richard came home ready to tell me all the positive things people had to say about our music, I simply told him, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and made my way out the door for one last visit to a sister before Christmas.

Instead of coming home after the visit, I drove to the temple and sat in my car in the parking lot for a long time. I remembered the impression from the Spirit that I had during the sacrament a few hours before. It was simply, “I love you. Don’t worry about working on anything else for now,” and I drove home with that thought.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n,

Still God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav’n.

-O Little Town of Bethlehem

I have rested, I have rededicated myself to habits that bring me strength, and I am being gentle with myself. I know it IS enough to simply love someone through their problems, for this is the pattern that Heavenly Father showed me on Christmas Eve. I took some needed and worthy time for rest, and this included not keeping a catalog of my efforts. I take comfort that “all things are written by the Father” (3 Nephi 27:26) and no detail of my silent and private service is lost to Him.

On January 2, I started writing down the names again. When I awoke to the news on January 3 that President Monson had passed away, I couldn’t think of a better way to honor President Thomas S. Monson on his last day on earth than to make those visits and keep a record of their precious names, even though I know that angels are doing the same on the other side. This day, writing the names didn’t deplete any energy, it invigorated me.

You are, of course, surrounded by opportunities for service. No doubt at times you recognize so many such opportunities that you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Where do you begin? How can you do it all? How do you choose, from all the needs you observe, where and how to serve? 

Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call.

If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good.

-President Thomas S. Monson

December photo drop

We attended the ward Christmas breakfast without children, much to everyone’s dismay at the party. We left early when we got tired of explaining why our kids couldn’t make it. 😉 photo by Susan
Daniel’s new melodica, photo by Heather
Tim’s candy house
Mark’s candy house
My parents gave us gift certificates for Pioneer Book and we went on a shopping spree together.
We loved our trips to Temple Square.
Timothy turned 15! To celebrate, we went to the premier of The Last Jedi and ate doughnuts.
The holiday feels longer because we have a birthday boy around Christmas time.
One dozen for Timothy, and another dozen for the rest of us.
Our newest nephew was a very accommodating baby Jesus for the Christmas pageant.
Notice the little guy giving a kiss to the baby Jesus.
Playing Angels We Have Heard on High, photo by Richard J
Cantina Band duet, photo by Richard J
For goodness sake, Mark made this rendition of Artist’s Point in Yellowstone for me.

Some Favorites from 2017

Favorite song: Perfect by Ed Sheeran (I cried the first six times I listened to this.)

Favorite album: La La Land Soundtrack

Favorite series: The Crown on Netflix (Not the Matrimonium episode in season two. Skip this one.)

Favorite book (memoir): One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly by Ashley Mae Hoiland

Favorite book (biography): Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell

Favorite book (most inspiring): At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women

Favorite scent: J.R. Watkins Lemon Cream Hand Cream

Favorite gift I gave: my memoir

Kindest thing someone did for me: Someone made our family dinner the week before Christmas.

Favorite Christmas memory: playing Christmas songs (Daniel on the piano and me on the violin) in someone’s home on Christmas day.

Senior Christmas Performances

We have heard a lot of beautiful music at Temple Square and the high school in the past seven days. Here is a sample of Daniel playing piano at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building today.

I love these concerts because they give us time to sit and reflect at Christmas time.

We stopped at the vending machines where you can donate livestock, food, water, and first aid supplies last week. Today my mom came, too. The vending machine had to be restocked as we stood in line. Chickens and goats are very popular items.

 

Memoir Project: Books!

The words I read to our children are part of our collective memory, and helped forge our identity as a family. Can you name the books that inspired the style of writing in this piece?

Austin, TX; Sahuarita, AZ; Sandy, UT 1997-2017

Books!

Four little children went for a walk in a wide, wide world. Through the house they clambered, down the hall, to the bookshelf, and to the couch. When they got to the couch, they counted themselves: one, two, three, four. There were no poky little children when it was time to read aloud at the Ross house.

In the great tan family room there was a television and a red broom. There were picture books about dog parties, kittens with mittens, a toy house, and Chrysanthemum the mouse. There was a brush (often unused) and bowl full of goldfish.

The kids took their places

With giggles, motions, and kicks,

And with hops and big thumps,

The kids chose their picks.

And I thought,

I love how they come near

To hear these old stories

Whispered softly in their ears.

If my mother could see this,

She would give a great cheer.

“Oh, you are not my mother…You are a Snort!” My thoughts are interrupted by laughter. And later, “Fire, fire!” The big trucks scream from the firehouse. Years go by, as we chant, “Oh, Mother dear, see here, see here, our mittens we have found!” and learn about the “no-no fruit.” What does the owl say? “Whooo. Whooo.”

One year, two years, fun years, short years pass. “Do you like my hat?” is replaced with, “Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” and Hobbit riddles in the dark with Gollum.

Then suddenly it was quiet. Slowly, dust settled on the picture books on the shelves. The smoke and steam cleared away, and there were four children all grown. Four children, neat and tall; four sets of legs, long and strong. And Mom and her books were left in the house. Hooray! Shouted the people! Hooray! Just look at the children grown! The time she spent reading to them felt like a very short day. Perhaps her girl and boys will have another good idea, “Why don’t we read just like this to our children someday?” So, it was decided, and everybody was happy. Now when you go to the Ross house, be sure to go down in the basement. There they’ll be, Mom and the books, she, sitting in her chair, with her books right beside her to welcome you back.

That’s the kind of house we lived in. And I hope you remember when you leave it.

 

 

 

(Creative license and/or quotes taken from The Poky Little Puppy, Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss, Are You My Mother?, Fire! Fire!, Three Little Kittens, My Baby and Me Story Bible, My First Book of Sounds, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Go Dog. Go! Treasure Island, The Hobbit, Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel, and There’s a Wocket in my Pocket.)