I can’t clean, it’s a holiday!

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Weekend carnage litters my home. It looks like a clutter war zone. Upstairs isn’t nearly bad as downstairs so it was easy to leave the house this morning with promises to clean up later. Now it’s later and I find myself in my office with the invisible walls relaxing to the clicking of my fingers on the keys with no names. Who needs a clean house?

It’s been another full day. Is it just me or does every day feel like a week and every week feel like a year? Will life ever slow down? Probably not. I’m on a continual countdown to the end of time. One of the crafts offered at our annual Fantastic Friday Relief Society activity was a countdown chalkboard. Blank days until blank. I thought that would be too depressing.

After Heath took the kids to school for me we went to Men’s Wearhouse to buy him new suits. He got some new work shirts, ties, socks, and a blazer for business trips. My stylin man!

We found an Italian restaurant nearby for lunch. It was so good! Per dating tradition we grocery shopped last. We put away Costco stuff before getting kids from school.

Picking up kids was a fun adventure. We recently found out that the movie Meet the Mormons would be in our theater for an extended period of time. We wanted to go on Friday but didn’t have the time and then I was gone all day Saturday. We wanted to get into an early showing.

I sent Gavin off to school this morning without confirming our plans for the movie after school. We never discussed where we would meet him after school so I figured he would just take the bus as usual.

He gets out ten minutes after Gwen and Parker get out. Heath drove from the elementary school to the middle school with the hopes that we could intercept Gavin before he got on the bus. Unfortunately there are no stopping signs all over that street. We circled the block the school is on over and over trying to figure out how to get to the buses to pull our kid off! The last time we came around the buses had left.

There are two left turn lanes. Gavin’s bus was in the right left lane and we happened to be right next to it in the left left lane. But it was one of those buses with the stupid picture ads that block all the windows. Parker and Gwen were waving wildly hoping Gavin could see us. When we turned Heath worked his way over so he would be right in front of the bus on its route through the neighborhoods. Parker kept his eye on the bus waiting for it to put on a blinker to pull over at a stop.

Heath saw the bus pulling over so he turned around in a cul de sac. Gavin came running towards us. I was impressed. I wasn’t sure if he would ever notice it was us and try to get off. If we had to wait for him to get home we would have been late to the movie. As it was we had 20 minutes before showtime.

We expected a fairly empty theater for a 3:50 pm showing of Meet the Mormons. Three people were sitting in the middle of the theater and started laughing when Heath got around the corner and said, “Wow. Where in the world should we sit?” He walked right up to these people and I feel stupid it took me until we got up to them to recognize them! They used to be in our ward. She was my first visiting teacher here and Heath taught her oldest son in Deacon’s Quorum.

We ended up sitting all together on the same row. As Lisa and I were deep in conversation a couple walked in and we all had to laugh. It was another couple from our ward. He has a PR type calling and we learned about the movie showing in our theater from him! He was the one who sent out an email to the stake informing everyone that the movie had been extended through the week. Originally it was only supposed to be in our theater for the weekend but after selling out all weekend they extended the time. He and his wife (who hadn’t seen it yet) sat in front of us.

It was a great movie. I thought it was well done, interesting and inspiring. Lisa and I started crying at the story of the homeless teenage mother. It was a powerful story. I reached over to pat Lisa’s leg knowing the story brought up some painful emotions because of the divorce she’s going through. She grabbed my hand and squeezed hard until the story was over. Later we all went to dinner together at 5 Guys.

I’m glad we ran into them today. We haven’t seen them in a long time and it was nice to reconnect. It’s always nice to be a silent support to someone who needs it.

The kids worked on homework when we got home and somehow my house didn’t clean itself. *sigh* It was a fun day.

Maybe Columbus Day will help me discover some sanity

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It’s been a wild weekend. The hardest part for me was knowing that at the end of the sprint was a marathon.

Where to begin? Way back in August I flew out to Salt Lake for many reasons. I realized yesterday that the biggest reason was to pick out my father’s final resting place. I assumed this was something my brother and sister would do. I never felt like I had to be there. So in my mind it just happened to work out that while I was already visiting and immersing myself in my dad’s things, that Deanna made an appointment with a funeral director.

Like I said before, I never thought I cared so much about where my dad would be finally laid to rest until we found it. We chose the cemetery because it was a place my dad loved to walk around with his sister Cathy. It was near his home. My dad had a period in his life where he moved around a lot but he always seemed to be in the Salt Lake City area. He was most happy in the city.

With all that in mind we knew that Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park was the place for him. Matt showed us around the expansive space and all our options for niche walls. When we got to the wall in the middle of the cemetery I knew that was it. It was just a beautiful peace that came over me and I knew that was where he should be laid to rest.

At the interment yesterday, Tyson talked about how we wanted to wait to bury our dad so we could pick the perfect place for him. We wanted to honor him the best we could and Tyson was quite pleased with the spot that was chosen for our dad. Interesting side note, Tyson had never seen the spot until yesterday morning when we met there for the interment. He felt the same way we felt. That it was the perfect spot for Dad.

Originally that’s all my weekend trip was supposed to entail. The plan was for me to fly out Friday night and return home Monday morning. About a month before my trip Heath was told he needed to do a SAS training at work. He was grateful to be able to put on his resume that he was formally trained in a computer language. Heath is a brilliant man and has taught himself many computer languages, including SAS. But this training would be official, which always looks better! He even has a gold star sticker on his certificate because he answered so many questions in the classes!

The training ended at 5:00 pm on Friday, October 10. The day I was supposed to be flying out to bury my dad. Luckily we hadn’t booked any flights yet. When we tried to book flights there was nothing on Friday night that would work with Heath’s schedule. Well, there was the one flight that would take twelve hours between three different states before I got to Salt Lake! A direct flight from Oakland to Salt Lake City takes one hour and twenty six minutes. Trust me. The pilot said it last night when I flew home.

The best we could do was have me fly out at 6:00 am Saturday morning and come home Monday morning. The service for my dad was scheduled for 11:00 am. I think it’s worth noting that my mom said, “You land at 9:00? Cutting it a little close huh?” I just have to laugh at that. None of us had any idea the twists and turns this weekend would take on.

Last weekend was General Conference. I was so excited about it. I had my own list of questions that I hoped I would receive answers to. And I couldn’t wait to see what unexpected inspiration I would receive. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined my life would change the way it did.

Between sessions on Saturday Heath got a text from the Stake Executive Secretary saying that a member of the Stake Presidency wanted to meet with Heath and me the next day between sessions. Our minds started racing. Obviously Heath would be offered a new calling (church responsibility). What could it be? I quickly dismissed it thinking that it was probably something low profile like Stake Athletic Director or something like that.

The next morning I saw an email from our Bishop to the ward stating that the following Sunday (the 12th) a new Bishopric would be put in. Whatever Heath was thinking about a prospective position called by the Stake Presidency changed in an instant. Our hearts both stopped. Then resumed as if we were on a exercise wheel being chased by a rabid animal. Neither one of us heard much of Sunday’s morning session of Conference. Time stood still. It felt like 11:20 would never come!

Because time really does march on, despite how we feel in certain moments, 11:00 came and we kissed our babies goodbye. We knew we were leaving way too early to make the appointment but we couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. We got to the church with our hearts in our throats. My mind was racing. Do I cancel my trip? What do I do? What if Heath is called as a counselor to the Bishop?

Finally the Stake Presidency member (also a member of our ward and our financial advisor) came out and asked me if he could borrow Heath for a moment. The two of them went into the Stake office and shut the door. They were out quickly enough and I was asked to join them. President B. told me that he had conducted a worthiness interview with Heath in preparation to offer him the position of Ward Executive Secretary. Then I was asked if I could support Heath in this position. Yes, of course.

Executive Secretary! Possibly the busiest job an individual can hold in a ward short of the Bishop. Heath is the Bishop’s secretary. He does it all. I get to sit with him in Sacrament Meeting unlike the Bishop’s wife and the wives of the counselors. But I will not really see him on Sundays anymore. The rest of the week will be incredibly busy too. I’m so excited for him and this tremendous opportunity but I’m selfish and I don’t know if I’m ready for this sacrifice. We’ll go through with it obviously, but it’s going to be a big sacrifice for our close knit family.

The first phone call we made was to my grandma’s house. My family has a longstanding tradition of meeting at my grandparents house for General Conference. It was perfect because we could talk to everyone all at once to let them know what was going on.

My family’s reaction was mixed. They were excited for Heath but definitely didn’t want me to cancel my trip. Deanna complicated things further by informing us that Grandpa Clarke was not doing well and would pass away soon. My aunts and uncles said that if he died that week they would definitely hold his funeral on Saturday (the same day we were burying my dad). I hope it wasn’t wrong for me to think this but I hoped for everyone’s sake my grandpa would die that week. Especially for my grandpa’s sake I hoped that. I haven’t seen him in well over 20 years but when I saw him at my dad’s memorial service in June he looked like a shell of the man I remember.

He finally gave up the fight hours later at 2:00 am Monday morning. Saturday just got busier. In the meantime we needed to do something about my flights. I had to be home on Sunday. We had no idea what Heath’s schedule would look like on Sunday plus I really wanted to be there when he was set apart. (A special blessing specific to the responsibilities he would be assuming.)

Heath called Delta and worked his magic. All he had to say was that I was flying to Salt Lake to bury my dad on Saturday and he needed me home on Sunday. The lady asked for the name and number of the cemetery and said there would be no charge to change the flights. On the one hand I’m not surprised. People are generally very respectful when it comes to funerals. But I am still so stunned at the wonderful blessing of how easy, not to mention free, it was to change my flights.

New plan: fly out at 6:00 am Saturday and fly home at 8:00 pm the same day. Of course we received word that Grandpa passed away the next day and that only added to an already busy day. In the best way possible. My aunts and uncles were already traveling to support us and be there when their brother was buried. It was perfect that they could have their father’s funeral the same day.

A wrench was thrown into the plans. It was the last straw so to speak and I will freely admit I completely lost it. Maybe some people can beautifully handle large amounts of stress. I am not one of them. The mental anguish of this whole summer has been more than I can bear in some moments. The stress of traveling alone to do somewhat unpleasant things is not my favorite thing in the world. I was already stressed out about my day trip knowing I would come home to say goodbye to my husband. Then one little email threatened to send me to the loony bin.

The email simply stated that due to a scheduling conflict at the mortuary my dad’s service would be switched from 11:00 am to 9:30 am. I could not keep my blood sugar up all day I was so upset. I ate copious amounts of carbs and still could not keep my blood sugar up. It would have been so easy to throw up my hands and say SCREW IT!

I finished my little temper tantrum after stormily crying on the phone to my mom, my sister, and my husband. Then I did the right thing and looked into the future. Then I meekly texted my family to apologize for my outburst and let them know I would be there in the morning.

As luck would have it my flight left a few minutes early which meant I landed early. Ed picked me up from the airport and we went straight to the cemetery where my family was patiently waiting for me, expecting me to be late. We arrived shortly after 9:30. Any nerves I still had about the events of the day melted away when I was greeted with so many hugs. First from my brother. We’re not a hugging sort of family so it meant a lot to me to have him be the first to smile so big at the sight of me and hug me hard saying he was glad I made it. I was glad I made it too.

My dad’s service was beautiful. Tyson talked about why we waited for this final part of the process. He said that Dad conferred on him the Melchizedek priesthood and he was honored to use that priesthood to dedicate Dad’s final resting place. The funeral director had fresh baked cookies for us. Technically it was probably his way of apologizing for the accidental double booking and bumping us up 90 minutes. They were delicious and it was a really nice gesture.

We chatted for a while and everyone signed my dad’s guest book again. We put that in the niche with the gorgeous box he was in. I was grateful to see my dad’s best friend there with his wife. I grew up with Gary in our home often. I remember when he married Elizabeth. He wasn’t able to make it to my dad’s memorial service since his dad passed away and he needed to be with his own family. Elizabeth was there for the both of them. It was interesting to see Gary. I would never have recognized him! Elizabeth looks exactly as I remember her only with gray hair. I must have grown up because Gary was not nearly as tall as I remember! But they were every bit the wonderful couple I remember them to be. I’m so glad they were there and that my dad had them as friends all these years.

Soon we were all going our separate ways. My aunts and uncles were grateful for the change in schedule because it gave them more time to prepare for their father’s funeral in Tooele. I guess it’s not all about me after all! No, it is so obvious the Lord had His hand all over this weekend. He really does know us each by name and He knows what is going on. He knew when Grandpa needed to come home. It’s very humbling and inspiring to see the hand of the Lord blessing a family this way.

It’s actually pretty miraculous to realize that after decades of estrangement, my family could come together in this way. The love is still there. I still see my dad in my uncles eyes and it feels as if years of misunderstandings immediately melt away when I look into their eyes. We are family. I just hope we can stay in touch. These people are a part of me. I am a Clarke. I hail from generations of cowboys and hard workers.

It was really fun to learn more about my grandpa at his funeral. Not only was he the 14th of 14 children but he was thought to be stillborn! He was put to the side so his mother could be attended to. She and her husband quickly came up with a name for the headstone, which is why he doesn’t have a middle name. But Grandpa was meant to live and he revived himself. Then lived a full 89 years of hard work and service. His cowboy hat was put on his chest before the casket was closed. He was buried in a beautiful and simple pine box just as he wanted.

My aunt Cathy gave me a huge binder full of pedigree charts and family trees. She said all the temple work has been done. I don’t care! That book is gold to me. Doing the temple work was always second in my mind to first and foremost finding out who my family is. It looks like there are some stories in there. I look forward to connecting myself to these names online and learning about my family.

The day ended and it would have been great if I could just be done for a minute. But I had to wake up early enough to get my family to church by 9:30 this morning. I freaked out the Primary President by being there. She came over just before Sacrament Meeting started and asked why I was there. Callings in our church are kept confidential until the person is sustained in Sacrament Meeting. All I could say to her was that I changed my flights. She found out soon enough what was happening but I’m sure her mind went wild for the next 20 some odd minutes of anticipation!

After Heath was set apart he suggested I take the kids to Primary. I saw one of my best friends in the hall with her baby. This is the girl who gave me the courage to find help for my anxiety. Can I just point out that I went off medication a year ago. A month later my Grandpa Swain passed away. Eight months later my dad also died followed closely by my Grandpa Clarke. I have been through a lot without the help of medication.

My friend was so sweet to reach out to me last night by asking how my trip was going and hoped to hear about it when I got back. I sent my kids on to Primary and I stayed out there to talk. Slacking on my duties as Primary Secretary for a while was the only part of my weekend I could say no to. I just needed a minute to catch my breath from everything going on.

Eventually Heath came home from church after many meetings with the new Bishopric. We are officially a two car family at church for the foreseeable future. He explained some of his responsibilities to me. He has a lot on his plate but I know he’s going to be awesome.

The Lord knows what we are capable of. If He thinks we can handle this we can. There are so many changes in life. Yesterday I drank my liquid courage on the flight to Salt Lake. Then again at lunch and a final few ounces on the flight home. I told my mom I would deal with my budding Diet Coke addiction later. For now I can only handle one thing at a time. I buried my dad and grandpa in the same day and kissed my husband goodbye the next day. Don’t judge me!

Heath gets Columbus Day off tomorrow. The kids have to go to school. This happened last year too and my Grandpa Swain passed away that afternoon. Wow it’s been a year! Heath told me that I can sleep in and he will take the kids to school. Do I have the best husband or what? I’m looking forward to a date day with him. Maybe the slower pace will help me reclaim my sanity. Christopher Columbus’ only discovery was really a day for me to relax. Because I like to believe it’s all about me.

Morgan Clarke

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OI1322739098_ClarkeMorgan[1]Born in Loa, Ut Jan. 31, 1925. Passed away Oct. 6, 2014 in Tooele, Ut. at age 89. His parents were Alexander A. Clarke and Martha Catherine Rymer. He was 14th of fourteen children. He had to be tough in order to survive in harsh conditions of Southern Utah. Hard work is all he knew. Being a cowboy was his way of life. He served WWII in the U.S. Navy, completing his education when he returned home. He then worked on the open range with cattle. He broke horses as a side job and had a gifted communication with animals. He worked in Dugway, Ut. riding the perimeters on horseback and continued as a Security Guard for 33 yrs. He met the love of his life and married, Bernice Peery Larson April 19, 1952. He adopted her 4 children. She passed away June 2012. They raised 10 children, losing 4 to untimely passings. So loved by all. We wish to thank our friends at Rocky Mountain Care Center for the loving care shown to our Dad. Survived by his children: Delores (Wolf) Vielstich, Cathy (Ron) Carlisle, Saralee (Junior) Larson, Merrill, Max (Brenda) and Dale (Debbie) and many grand and great grand children. A viewing will be held Sat Oct. 11 2014 at 1:00 pm followed by the funeral at 2:00 pm at Tooele 27th Ward 180 So. Coleman Street. Burial at Tooele City Cemetery. And now to make that last inevitable ride where the grass is lush and green and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear and deep. We ask that God will tell you to “ride in” as your entry fees have been paid.

The more we move in …

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the more we grow up.
the less we move out.
and the more okay I am with all of it!

Heath used to get “mad” at me when I would watch HGTV. The shows reminded him that we are not homeowners and that he misses it. I do too.

“I just watch for design ideas,” I would always say. As if I was some sort of HGTV junkie rationalizing my behavior. I can quit anytime! That’s not true which is why I never say that. He’s been watching with me more lately. We dream about the future and make plans as if life is just that easy.

Over the last several months we have started nesting for some reason. I think for all these years we have lived with one foot out the door. I don’t know what changed. Maybe nothing more than our attitudes. The more shelves we put up and the more we did, the more we felt like we were at a crossroads. Either all this “moving in” means we will be moving out soon or we are settling into where we are supposed to be.

The Lord led us here. I feel like He still needs us here. We’re not going anywhere anytime soon. But our house is awesome. Our neighborhood cannot be beat. The ward (church congregation) we live in is filled with angels. After all our nesting, I am quite content to stay as long as the Lord needs us here.

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I love the bench/sofa I got from my dad. We had to change our bedding since the silver we had clashed. Now we have this very rich blue brocade paisley pattern. Between the headboard we made a couple years ago, the bench, and now the bedding, I feel like an adult. This is a grownup’s room! I almost forget that we had a baby gate blocking the doorway for a couple years.

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On the other side of the room is our sitting area. After years and years of searching for the perfect chairs, the sitting area is complete. I’m not kidding when I say we have been searching for chairs for years. I have always been drawn to the wingback chair style. But every time I found a chair I loved at first sight it ended up being uncomfortable to sit in.

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Who would have ever thought that La-Z-Boy would have my chairs! We found a section of wingback chairs that I thought were pretty. We sat down and were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable they were. Then our salesman (the same guy who sold us our family room furniture) told us these chairs also recline. Shut up! It’s true.

The problem was I hated the fabric. There was a card of fabric options attached to one chair. I hated all of those options too. Mr. Tim is my favorite salesman in the whole wide world! He told us that we could custom make our chairs. He took us to a wall of fabric swatches and told us which sections of fabric we could choose to cover our chairs. There were about 100 choices.

Heath actually picked out the fabric. He loved the ghosting effect. Like the designs were lightly stamped on. I really liked the colors. It was all very soothing. We picked the leg color and design along with the fabric. We waited for.ev.er for these chairs to finally arrive. They could not be more perfect in the room. It’s hard to see all the colors in photos but these chairs tie in the whole room. Every color we have in the room is found in these chairs. An HGTV designer would be so proud of us! Comfortable and gorgeous. These chairs are perfect.

We really had to wait quite a while for our custom made chairs. We went back to La-Z-Boy to check on the status. Heath suggested we do a lap to look for another side table. My dad’s table is so beautiful but it needed a friend. I still don’t regret not taking the matching table from my dad’s house. The matching table was the masculine version of the one I got. It was shorter and the legs were heavier while being more ornate. I really didn’t like it.

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This is the table I chose. I really thought I took more pictures of it. I liked the knickknack shelving. The table spins so I can easily switch out which dust collectors are most visible. My dad’s chess set sits on top. The best part about the table was it was sold as is. It was a floor model for a steal of a deal. It was the perfect color with the perfect way to display all the stuff I got from my dad along with all my stuff I have had in storage for so long.

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We have also been shopping for a new kitchen table and chairs for years. It went from being a nice wish to becoming a bit of a necessity. The table is older than dirt and has provided so much service for our family … and Heath’s family. It finally got tired. One of the kids was standing up on a chair and accidentally fell backwards. The table caught the kid but at the price of breaking a little. We’re lucky it didn’t break completely. But it has been sagging in the middle ever since. I have been holding my breath waiting for the table to crush under the weight of my skinny kids eating with us at a standard meal.

For over a year now we have been poking our heads into Bassett to look for tables. At first it was for the fun of it then, like I said, it was a necessity. The last time we went there Heath was serious. He told me to start picking out what I wanted and we were going to pull the trigger on buying a new dining set. The salesman was the nicest guy. I wanted to work with him and give him the commission but I walked out of there ready to throw up.

I knew the prices were high but that wasn’t the only problem. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong but I was literally sick to my stomach at the thought of buying a table and chairs from there. The next weekend we went to other furniture stores where I found tables that were much closer to my style. Still I didn’t love any of them.

Two weekends ago we went to a furniture store that somehow we had missed. It’s closer to our house than any other furniture store. We walked in just for kicks. And I fell in love. When we sat down at the table I knew what was wrong with all the other tables. I was settling. Settling on a dining set for $2000 is one thing. Settling to the point of compromising on a set for nearly twice the price made me sick to my stomach.

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This gorgeous piece of furniture was on sale and delivered today! Nice turn around! If our salesman hadn’t been sick I wonder if it could have been delivered last weekend with our sitting room chairs. The wait was worth it.

I love it. I love how it’s so huge and fills our tiny breakfast nook without looking weird like our other table did. Maybe that’s just my opinion. I think it has a stunning presence.

Heath worked from home so he could be here when it was delivered. I have been driving all over town doing visiting teaching, picking up kids from school, and carpooling to scouts. He staged the table with our Halloween candles and some nice placemats. Gwen came home and made green name tags for everyone!

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We bought extra chairs for when we have guests. It’s nice to not have to rely on folding chairs for company. I’m trying not to brag but it’s coming out that way. We paid $1500 for the table plus eight chairs. The company paid the sales tax after giving a 25% discount on the total purchase. I feel all grown up now.

Who knows what the future holds for our family. All I know is that the Lord wanted us here and He’s not ready for us to leave yet.

A Thirst for Knowledge

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This is the best school year ever! We have had great teachers in the past. Last year all three kids were in school and it was fun. But somehow this year is exceptionally great. I have never seen all three kids love learning so much.

Every time I ask Gavin if he still likes middle school he says, “Of course!” I told a friend that he didn’t really fit in at elementary school. We put him in the laptop program hoping he would find friends with similar interests. He has definitely found his niche. Even PE isn’t so bad.

He’s funny though because he still finds homework tedious. He can’t wait to finish so he can learn about the things he’s interested in, like delving deeper into history and science.

I saw an envelope from the school addressed to Gavin’s parents. It contained test scores from a state test I completely forgot he took last spring. It was the first time kids took this type of test. It measured how well students understood the state standards for science. Gavin scored 100% in four out of six categories. The tests he didn’t ace were scored in the above average range. My kid is smarter than I am!

Parker and Gwen have already brought home book orders from their classes. I told them they could choose any books they wanted but they had to pay for it out of their own money. We counted out the money they already have so they knew how much they could get or how much they needed to earn. Then they sat down with the book orders and circled affordable options. And that’s as far as that went. Neither one of them wanted to earn the money. Part of the problem was the fact that the book orders were due so soon after they were sent home. These two get discouraged quickly.

As a kid I built up my own library from book orders and book fairs at school. I also have a weakness for books, particularly picture books. We have a lot of books in our house. A lot of books plus limited space to store and display them. So I have turned into a mean mom by telling my kids they have to pay for their coveted books on their own.

The book fair is this week and I wanted to tell them they had to earn the money themselves. But I’m a big old softy pushover. Parker has finally developed a love for reading. He followed along while listening to A Wrinkle in Time on CD. When he got to the last chapter he decided to read it to himself. I don’t know if he was having trouble finding the chapter on the disc or if he was ready to fly on his own.

He finished the book and claimed he really liked it. I told him we had plenty of books to choose from at home to read for homework. We looked through the chapter books that would be appropriate for him to read. He was excited about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He has been happily reading it on his own. I know he’s reading it and I know he understands because he tells me about it.

So back to the book fair. With this new love for reading, I really wanted my kids to feel encouraged about the book fair and not discouraged. They assumed I would make them earn the money but then I surprised them. I said I would buy them each one book if it met my approval. It had to be a quality book. Not some Lego Star Wars encyclopedia or a graphic novel. I hate those books. They’re not quality literature. Gwen couldn’t pick some book loosely based around a popular icon like Hello Kitty, Barbie, or a Disney princess.

They were stoked to see me walking into the school yard to take them to the book fair. In fact, Parker raced toward me his face red. The red face was a combination of the 100 degree temps outside and sheer excitement.

“I found the perfect book! I found the perfect book! Let’s go!”

We quickly made our way to the library where Parker immediately picked up the perfect book. It’s called Rules. His teacher read it to the class and Parker loved it. When he saw it on his class’s tour of the book fair today, he had to have it. The only other book he was interested in was a fluffy book that he knew didn’t fit my criteria of a quality book. So he didn’t even ask. He did point it out and said he knew I wouldn’t let him have it. Then we had to find the perfect book for Gwen.

She mentioned a new Fancy Nancy book. That’s what I wanted for her. She picked up every pop icon book, including books that were nothing more than cardboard made to look like a book but really they were selling a toy. Like the Doc McStuffin’s stethoscope “book.” It took a second for her to realize her choices were the Fancy Nancy quality picture book or a chapter book. We were bummed that the only Junie B. Jones books were sold in a large pack for $65. Um no.

There was one Junie B. Jones Thanksgiving book. She didn’t seem too interested. So I talked her into the Fancy Nancy book. There were also Fancy Nancy chapter books but I’m not ready for her to grow up yet. I have seen those chapter books and they are too far above Gwen’s reading level. The Junie B. Jones books are too advanced for Gwen but they are about a little girl who is the same age. It keeps Gwen interested enough to try reading. I think we’ll graduate to Fancy Nancy chapter books when Gwen is in second grade.

I feel good about enabling my children’s love for new things. They picked out some good books that I’m happy to squeeze onto our already stuffed shelves. I love that my kids are getting older. It’s a little sad but they are so much fun to talk to! They understand subjects I don’t know and they love learning. I love that Gavin has to teach me things as part of his science homework. It’s good for both of us. Reading is definitely fun to share with my kids. I hope they always have a thirst for knowledge.

First Name Basis with Police

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There are a few ways one can get on a first name basis with police.

  1. Become a criminal.
  2. Volunteer for the police.
  3. Make two phone calls in one week.

As much as we had no desire to be on a first name basis with police it happened. Anonymity was not in the cards for us. We went with option #3.

A week ago on Saturday we put the kids to bed prior to our weekly date night to the grocery store. As we pulled out onto the street a white truck made a U-turn behind us. The move concerned Heath. He kept looking behind him saying how strange it was. I suggested we turn back into our circle.

As we came around the corner we saw the truck parked on the street across from our house. The driver was still inside. Cell phone glow partially illuminated the inside of the cab. He was a white male in his early 20’s. He kept his head down and turned away from the window while he busied himself on his cell phone.

Heath drove out of the circle and up to the next in an attempt to give the kid enough time to do whatever he was planning on doing. Personally I don’t think we gave him enough time but that being said, I didn’t want him breaking in while my babies slept. When we came back through the circle the same way we went out we saw that the kid was still sitting in his truck.

What in the world was he doing? Our neighbors across the street have children in their early 20’s. Between those kids and their friends that visit from time to time, we recognize the pickup trucks that park across the street from our driveway. I have never seen anyone park in that spot and not immediately get out of the truck to head for the house.

What in the world was this guy doing? Why did he make a U-turn in front of our house to be facing the direction he was? Why was he still sitting in his truck? Was he casing the neighborhood or was he waiting to make a drug deal with someone coming through the trail pass through?

The stakes were too high to wait and see. We pulled back in the garage, shut the door, and called the police. It was a low priority call but I was hoping an officer would show up sooner than they did. I had to go to the grocery store before it closed at midnight and became Sunday. So Heath stayed behind ready to call me with an update. Two police SUV’s were cruising down the road to nowhere so I called Heath to let him know they were on their way.

Keep in mind my agoraphobia. Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite jobs. There are too many choices on the shelves that I become overwhelmed quickly. I congratulate myself on the fact that I can shop now. That was not always the case. I was on high alert and had to keep reminding myself of the benefits of late night grocery shopping.

Shopping late at night is nice because the only other people in the store are young partiers out for an obvious beer run. They wander the store loudly talking as they pick up beer and snacks. They don’t bother us and we don’t bother them. The other nice thing about shopping so late is we have developed a friendship with the store employees. They recognize us and know we will chat with them while they scan our food. I was a little embarrassed to have to shop by myself. I wasn’t sure what to say if our favorite friendliest employee saw me alone. The story was so weird.

I shopped as quickly as possible only buying enough food for Sunday’s dinner. Heath promised we could finish our shopping later. Meanwhile back at the Circle Showdown, the cops came at that truck from both sides lighting the place up like Grand Central Station. By then the kid had left the truck. Heath suggested they look on the trail behind our house. Still nothing.

They did run the kid’s plates. The truck was registered in a nearby city and the kid only had a couple minor traffic stops on his record. There was nothing else to do at that point. The police thanked Heath for calling and said if anything weird happens this kid would be their first suspect. The truck was gone early the next morning and I haven’t seen it since. Case closed.

Heath felt stupid for being so concerned he called the cops. I kept telling him that it was fine. Heath is not a worrywart like me. The fact that he got a bad feeling from this kid and his suspicious behavior concerned me. I thought reporting it to the police was perfectly valid. Other than tattling on drivers who block our driveway during busy sporting event weekends at the park, Heath has never called the police before.

Little did we know a week later he would be on the phone with them again at 3:00 am. A strange sound woke me up. It almost sounded like something had fallen off a desk. I assumed all was well and tried to go back to sleep. But the sound kept coming. The more I listened the more I woke up. The sound was coming from outside but what in the world was it? And why at 3:00 am?

“Heath! What is that?” The words came out in a loud whisper before I could stop them. I don’t know if he had woken to the sound or not but he was certainly awake then. After several seconds of intense listening in the dark he concluded that it was Penny, our neighbor’s dog. “She’s trying to jump the fence. I can hear her panting between the sounds.”

It didn’t make sense. Penny is their baby. They would never leave her outside overnight. Even if they did I can’t imagine why they weren’t aware of the racket she was making in their backyard. Our persimmon tree blocks our view of their yard until the leaves fall off. A light shone in their yard outlining the tree leaves. It didn’t stay on long though. Finally there was one long and loud crashing sound then only panting for a long time.

The dog had successfully jumped the fence. I was impressed. Penny is a tiny little terrier mix. Who knew she could jump so well? Not knowing what else to do, we stared out the windows into our dark backyard. The panting moved from side to side of our yard. I caught a glimpse of the dog as it passed a spot dimly lit by moonlight. It was definitely not Penny.

It was a shaggy sandy colored dog of medium size. I only saw it for a second and I doubt I could pick out the dog from a lineup. But I saw enough to know it was definitely a dog and most certainly not Penny. Ok, so now we have some weird dog in our backyard. Now what?

Given the early time we didn’t think anyone would answer at Animal Control. So Heath called the police. He always repeats the person’s name when he calls someone. The name sounded familiar. It was entirely possible the call was answered by the same woman who took the first call a week ago. I wonder if she recognized us.

“Hi Betsy, we had a dog break into our yard and it is now actively trying to break out on the other side!”

Information was taken down and we were promised an officer would be sent. Sleep wasn’t going to happen. The sound alone was too hard to ignore plus we had to wait for an officer to walk into our backyard at some unknown future time.

Betsy said a labradoodle was reported missing. What little I saw in the moonlight seemed to fit the description of the missing dog. I wonder how many yards this dog had escaped from before getting to ours.

More and more time passed between the crashing sound of desperate claws on wooden slats. We didn’t even notice when it stopped altogether. The panting continued only it was outside our yard. We were shining flashlights into the yard. Which is tricky to do. That dog was pacing behind our apple tree and not in front of it. All the sounds were there but no dog. Then we heard a distinctive splashing sound.

Heath got back on the phone to call off the officer. He reported that the dog had jumped the fence and it sounded like the dog had gone to the bottom of the ditch because we could hear splashing.

We were content in knowing if there was a reward we wouldn’t get it. Houdini Dog had escaped again. Can you imagine what that dog must have been thinking? I want to know where it lived. How far down the street was it jumping fence after fence until it finally found a way out of the maze of backyards? That must have been a relief for Houdini. Free at last!

When I got up for the day I looked out the window at the spot where Houdini had to have escaped. You would never know anything happened. Heath went outside and inspected the fence. No signs of dog struggles. We’re both so tired we have wondered many times if maybe we both had the same strange dream!

The lesson we have all learned is that police get really strange calls and labradoodles can jump. I just want to sleep tonight not worrying about the safety and security of my neighborhood.

Looking Through Windows

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My favorite weekends are when the prophet speaks to us through General Conference. I have been looking forward to this weekend for a very long time.

I had a minor setback when something happened that hurt my feelings. It was a situation very similar to the message in this video. Dirty windows cloud our vision and we jump to the conclusion that others don’t know how to clean laundry properly.

Hopefully I have found enough patience and understanding that I can benefit fully from the messages of General Conference. Because I have been so looking forward to listening by the Spirit for that personal prophetic epistle just for me. God lives. He loves us. And He speaks to us today through living prophets. I can’t wait for a weekend of spiritual renewal and personal revelation.  

Who put the “thou” in “thou shalt?”

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The Ten Commandments were given to Moses centuries ago in the Old Testament. The Old Testament. Doesn’t that make them outdated? What relevance could the ten commandments possibly have for our advanced society today?

In the 1970’s a minister on the radio said that he never talked about the Ten Commandments in his church anymore because they were so out of date. Not only were they outdated but he felt the language was too harsh for the weak sensibilities of our day. Strong words such as command and Thou shalt not. This minister believed the Lord should have used softer words like I recommend or I suggest or I advise.

If a minister is dispensing of the Ten Commandments in the 1970’s, what good are these Commandments now some 40 years later? Even today there are churches that don’t have ten commandments but rather ten suggestions.

Tuning in to the news for even a few minutes brings to mind all the Ten Commandments for anyone who is aware of them and hopes for a more peaceful tomorrow. I don’t want to stand in judgment of the world. I want to take this idea a step further and make it more personal.

My friend brought up an interesting idea in a church lesson. It has really made me think. The 6th commandment states Thou shalt not kill. Well that’s easy enough for me. I don’t hunt. I have no desire to kill another person. I feel no need to own guns for protection. The same was true for Eric. He suggested that maybe the commandment doesn’t apply to similar people. What would be the purpose of a commandment that doesn’t apply to most people? Perhaps it’s outdated or needs to be reworded.

Then he asked how many of us drive a car? He pointed out that a car can be a deadly weapon. How often do we think of that? How often do we climb into our cars, weighing anywhere between 3,000 and 8,000 pounds, and speed to our appointments we are late for? Is that not a violation of the 6th commandment? What about the times we are careless, selfish, or just not paying attention as we drive?

There are so many stories on the news almost daily about fatal car accidents. One story was told of a car speeding down the freeway. It clipped an SUV whose passengers included small children. The driver of the car lost control and the car rolled off the freeway crashing violently into a tree. The impact caused the car to catch fire which ultimately burned the driver and passenger to death.

Thou shalt not kill. In that case they killed themselves. Luckily no one else was hurt. What a tragedy though.

Every time I hear Katy Perry’s Roar I can’t help but think of a music teacher who was killed in a senseless car accident. The news showed a clip of her leading her students in the singing of that song. She was in the car with her husband and mother. They were out celebrating the teacher’s birthday. Their car was stopped at a red light. A truck was speeding down the road. The driver was busy looking at his phone and was oblivious to the upcoming traffic light. He slammed into the car with such force it’s actually impressive the husband survived. His wife and her mother did not.

Thou shalt not kill.

Are the words too harsh for our day? A story is told of the chief engineer of a company. He was fired and asked the president why he had been dismissed. The president said, “You let us make a mistake which cost us a lot of money.” The engineer replied, “But certainly you must remember that I specifically advised you not to do that.” The president replied, “Yes, I remember that you advised us not to do it, but you didn’t pound the table when you advised us.”

Is that what it takes? Soft words delivered with fist poundings for emphasis? Unfortunately I see this mentality in other drivers every day. I drive by a park near my house every day. There are two signs at the exit from the park. Two large, bright yellow signs with thick black letters that say “CROSS TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP.” There are also stop signs. Which the last time I checked were not optional or nice suggestions.

At least once a day, I kid you not, there is a driver who ignores those signs or chooses not to believe them. I don’t know. But they start to go thinking the thick white lines marking the crosswalk are a stop bar for cross traffic. So far no accidents but we have had many close calls.

Thou shalt not kill. And vehicles can be deadly weapons when misused.

Just this morning I was at an intersection trying to turn right. As I started to creep out into the intersection I noticed a pedestrian standing on the corner. It’s hard to look left and see when to attempt to fit into traffic when I’m concerned for the safety of a pedestrian on my right. Just as I was about to go the lights changed. I had the green. I stopped to wait for the pedestrian who should have crossed in front of me. A car behind me came around my left side to make a right hand turn in front of me.

It freaked me out! The pedestrian wasn’t walking. I couldn’t understand why he was just standing there with no indication he would ever step off the corner in either direction. Still, I felt obligated as a driver to wait. The driver behind me felt no such obligation. He drove around me as if we were on a larger arterial street with two right turn lanes, rather than the neighborhood corner we were on with barely a center divide line. What if the pedestrian had started to walk? That could have been ugly.

Another intersection I have to navigate several times a day has two left turn lanes. A woman was in the furthest left lane. I was in the right left lane. When we got the green arrow she inched her way through that turn very slowly, not to mention widely. She was crowding into my lane. I was trying to maintain my position in my lane. Many parents turn right immediately after that left turn. I stay in the middle lane so I can drive to the back of the school. A few parents do what this woman was trying to do. They try to turn right from the furthest left lane.

She cut me off. Still slowly. It was as if she really had no idea where she was. And then slowly drifted into that right turn only lane on the other side of me. I was mad enough I honked at her and loudly yelled that she was an idiot. Because that’s how she was driving. (Not a Christlike attitude on my part, I realize.) She was facing forward with the blankest expression I have ever seen on someone who just crossed several lanes in front of other motorists who were braking hard to avoid hitting her.

Every day I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands when I drive. In a way I am. I am operating large machinery that has been known to kill people. I’m not the only large deadly machine out there either. The streets are congested with many more. How many of us are consciously aware that our cars, convenient as they are, could be so powerful and deadly in certain circumstances?

I don’t think any of the Ten Commandments are outdated or should be reworded. I think people need to be more responsible in recognizing consequences to their choices. Yes, there are atheists out there but even then they should strive to be more responsible citizens. It’s not surprising to me that the commandments have been woven into the laws of the land. If only we regarded the laws of the land with more importance than merely suggestions.

Sometimes Things Just Click

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It feels like for weeks and weeks I have been trying and failing. Every day I carve out 30-60 minutes to devote to the Lord. I read my scriptures, read gospel themed books, and I pray. I cling to this routine. Some days it’s the only time I feel any sense of peace in my tumultuous mind. Sometimes I still feel lonely and lost despite all my best efforts.

I think I got to a point where I needed to go out and do rather than sit and read. Thinking is great. Doing is better.

Like a cartoon character I feel like I have walked around with a cloud over my head. If I’m lucky I can leave the cloud behind when I leave the house. Peter Pan found his shadow and my cloud always finds me. If I knew how to shoo it away I would. Especially when I came home feeling more despondent after visiting teaching. That’s not supposed to happen. Service is like exercise. It should make you feel good, not worse.

Just to be clear, nothing was said during my appointments that would perpetuate my gloom. I think it’s just my cloud that’s always there. In fact, I felt great as I visited in each home. It was when I walked through the door to my house that the heaviness returned. I started to wonder at what point do I seek professional help? Or is this all part of the mourning process?

I realized that I refer to my August trip to Utah as if it happened six months ago. It was just last month. The last several months feel like ten years. I need to be patient and realize it will take time. I will never be the same again but one day I will return to a sense of normalcy. It’s only been a few months, just relax, right? Easier said than done. However today just clicked.

Our school district is offering training on a reading program designed to serve at risk students. This is the year I have planned to actually volunteer at the school. I heard about the reading program from Gwen’s kindergarten teacher last spring. I told her I would volunteer in her classroom when Gwen was in first grade. The paperwork for the program came from Gwen’s teacher so I wasn’t sure who to work for.

I decided to go to the kindergarten training because I liked the timing of the training best. The lady in charge said I could take the first grade training packet as well. She said first grade isn’t much different from kindergarten and I could probably figure it out on my own. She hadn’t scheduled me at my school yet because I didn’t have any time preferences. My schedule is flexible. I learned that first grade has a greater need for tutors than kindergarten so she scheduled me for Monday afternoons in Gwen’s classroom.

The training was at a school just over the hill from the elementary school my kids attend. I was supposed to be there 30 minutes after school started. Since I saw Gavin had gotten on the bus before we left I knew I didn’t need to waste time and gas driving back home. Armed with Ensign magazines I drove to the other school to read in the parking lot.

An article on depression caught my attention. The man talked about his earnest prayers for understanding and relief. He felt like some days the Spirit lifted him out of his hopelessness. He felt confidence to continue – if only until his next prayer. As he humbled himself to seek help through prayer he found himself growing closer to Heavenly Father.

Studying a particular story in the Book of Mormon helped him realize that there was a purpose to the trial. The winds of adversity blow us where we need to be. He realized he had been praying for those winds to be calmed but without them he wouldn’t reach the blessings the Lord had in store. It was a good reminder for me.

I especially loved the last part by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

Never Lose Faith

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“How do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. …

“Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. …

“… Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.”

With that boost to my spiritual confidence I walked into the school for my training. All morning I had joked with my kids that I was going to school too. It all came rushing back. It was as if I was back in college feeling so inspired to change the world.

The more I learned about the reading program the more my heart grew. I will be working with the students that have always held a cherished spot in my heart. The kids who don’t qualify for branches of Special Education but are drowning in a regular classroom. Those kids I pulled aside to work with one on one when I was a regular classroom teacher. The same kids I enjoyed testing for Resource but they didn’t qualify and I hated telling their parents the news. I am so excited for this opportunity.

After my training I felt so light and happy. The feeling continued even after I came home. I am so grateful for this break in the clouds. I’m sure there will still be dark and stormy days ahead but for now I am appreciating the filtered sunlight shining down moments of joy.

Volunteering at the school is new to me but service is not. Sometimes things just click. I’m looking forward to this opportunity.

Woot!

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We have been spoiled with our Amazon Prime membership. The trip between coveting, to purchasing, to delivery is a short two days. So waiting is much more painful when we order our annual shirts from shirt.woot.

This year was agonizing. For some reason our order was split with four shirts arriving one day and the last shirt arriving over a week later. There was no way of knowing which shirts were coming when.

The kids played out every possibility in their minds. Parker was certain his shirt was in the first batch. He checked the mailbox every night. Finally the first round of shirts arrived. With a crazed look in his eye and fingers shaking he ripped the vinyl packaging apart. His shirt was not one of them.

Oh the horror. Oh the unfairness of it all. Oh the howls and tears and slamming doors of disappointment.

Sympathy was immediate for all of us. There were no words, no gestures, no amount of patient understanding that could possibly soothe his pain. We tried. Eventually Mom and Dad had to get a little strict and force his mourning to end early. We had a dinner date with friends to keep. Parker wanted nothing to do with us. If he were a little older it would have been extremely tempting to let him wallow in his own pity party while the rest of us went out. Instead we had to make him come along. In his defense he tamed the wild beast within remarkably well.

Without consulting one another we all decided to save our shirts until Parker received his. Heath did take his shirt with him on his business trip. Parker’s shirt was scheduled to arrive while Heath was away.

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Heath was proud to wear his World’s Greatest Dad shirt on the flight home.

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It was a beautiful day when Parker’s shirt arrived. The shirt was carefully laid aside until that Friday when Heath was coming home. We all agreed to wear our shirts the same day.

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As much as Parker loved his new shirt, he was a little disappointed in the reaction he got from people at school. His teacher is old enough and smart enough to get the joke that the Lego mini figures on the shirt are movie characters both played by Harrison Ford. She laughed right out loud when she saw the shirt.

The rest of the kids looked at the shirt while crickets chirped. Parker explained that Indiana Jones and Hans Solo are both played by Harrison Ford. More crickets. Parker came home and announced that maybe his shirt should be a weekend only shirt. He said the kids not only didn’t get the joke they stared at him all day. He felt uncomfortable. I am happy to report that he got over it and has worn the shirt to school again despite his clueless classmates.

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I love Gavin’s shirt. It’s perfect for him! Especially since he’s in the laptop program at school.

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Gwen was wearing her One Flight per Customer shirt yesterday. I needed to pay for some crafts I had signed up to do at a church craft night. The lady we were visiting looked at Gwen’s shirt and could not stop laughing. It really is a very funny subtle joke.

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I like to wear my shirt when I’m feeling particularly piquant.

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