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!

I know you can guess who this is

This is an assignment for our sixth grader.

This is NOT an assignment that can be completed by a sixth grader without a lot of help.

I don’t know a sixth grader who can construct clothing that looks like it would fit a human but conform to the dimensions of a two liter bottle. It is taking all my will not to just make this thing myself.

I don’t know a sixth grader with the money and skills to shop all over town for doll size wire rim glasses and a tiny cowboy hat.

This is NOT a project appropriate for a sixth grader, but thank you for the doll project. I actually love making dolls.

Did you guess right about who this historical character is?

Yep. It’s Theodore Roosevelt. Mark nailed the teeth and mustache.

Writing in circles

Organizing chapters

One day, I think what I have written for my book is just right. The next day, I read the same words with a pucker and squinty eyes. What was I thinking?

I am losing objectivity. Maybe I am ready to get some feedback on the mood I am conveying and the format. Does it work to have little anecdotes mixed in with reflective chapters? Should I include the entries about our marriage, or should I just focus on the motherhood stuff? I really want the marriage chapters to work. It’s a story about our family. Sometimes I feel myself repeating ideas, or trying to tie things up neatly, when I don’t want to shy away from being real. But I am not betraying anyone, either. The kids are protected and I don’t choose to write about petty things. Surely fiction would be easier.

If you think you would like to read some pages and give some feedback, let me know. Some of it I published on the blog when I decided to give up the book dream. I really wish I hadn’t done that. You may have read some of this book on the blog, so you have an idea what to expect. Mark picked up the manuscript one night and shocked me by reading most of it and laughing at the right parts. That was encouraging.