Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Life is Hard, You Know?

Yesterday, my sister broke her leg. Again. The same leg as she broke just a little while ago. The femur this time. She uses a wheelchair, which means her legs never bear weight, thus her bones are brittle. No amount of calcium supplements will solve that particular problem. She finds out later today if she needs surgery. She's in a lot of pain and she and her family are facing the possibility of having to cancel a long-planned and very special vacation. It makes me cry to think about it. 

In recent days, I've spoken to friends who are suffering hard things as well. Really hard things. People have lost family members. Children are sick. Jobs have been lost. There have been injuries and accidents. More tears. 

Life is hard and it's easy to get discouraged and be sad. Actually, we're supposed to be sad. In the body, pain is natural response to injury. When our hearts are injured, there's just going to be pain. I'm feeling it in small fractions on behalf of my loved ones, I tell you. 

But here's the thing. All these people I'm thinking of are coping with their pain with amazing grace. Truly amazing. Like this: 

My sister determinedly looks at the bright side every single time. When I spoke to her yesterday, she took time to tell me the whole story of what happened, meanwhile she was doing her thing, monitoring her kids, directing traffic, etc. She was resting and was definitely sad for some losses, but she's already in Plan B mode. She's determined that things will be okay. I love that. 

Others I'm mourning with are doing great things like asking for help in big ways and small, sharing their pain, honoring those they love, and just moving forward. They might still be crying and yelling and and asking "Why?" while they are moving forward, but they haven't stopped moving. I love that, too. 

I've been slowed down and burdened by some hard things for a while now. A long while. I've kept moving forward, but not always with that elusive quality of grace I'd like. It's how we all feel. It's such a different view from the inside of our heads to the eyes of observers. Even though I'm hard on myself,  I am smart enough to be grateful the sun still shines on this road, and usually I remember that gratitude and feel the touch of grace I seek. Sometimes I do forget, and it's good to be reminded to look up again. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Photo Roundup

It's been a great, intense, interesting, joyful, slightly crazy week. I have lots of words spilling out of my brain, but no time to edit them right now. Thus, I'm going to let the photos do the talking. 

Sunrise over the Wasatch Front as seen from Lake Shore, Ut. 

One of my favorite views. 

Knitting puns are always fun. Found this at a local yarn shop.
The graphic is an industry symbol for a very thin yarn. 

Maryland Baltimore Mission Meet-up #1. I've been serving as a local missionary
for about a year and a half and have worked closely with some of the full-time
missionaries who come to my area. Meeting up with them after their missions
and cementing friendships in the real world means a lot to me. 

Maryland Baltimore Mission Meetup #2 Same caption as above. 

The view from well, pretty much everywhere in Provo.
(Except there are no words in the sky.
I did that.)
What a storm looks like when you live at 4900 feet of elevation,
the sun is setting, you can see for 50 miles and there are mountains in the distance. 

A group of the older cousins, plus the very newest cousin.
My kids, granddarling, and my nephew and his wife. We were at the nephew's
wedding open house all together. It was lovely. 

The bride and groom. 

The late evening was spent, all as a family, helping my son
and his wife move to a new house. I like this goofy pic because
my son is hopping down the stairs to bring in another load, while
my daughter-in-law, visible in the upstairs window, gives her sis
a first tour of the new place. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Once-a-Month Groove

And now it's September. 

I'm in Provo, Utah, enjoying views of mountains and the sights and sounds of a 9-month old that I love. I'm watching smart, capable men take care of their loved ones and earn money and start another year of school. I'm marveling that those men are my children. My little ones, all grown up. 

My Four Cougars

Let's start on August 6. First,  I went to Chicago, then to North Carolina, then on to Utah. 

Chicago found me pleasantly consumed by the bustle of teaching at Stitches Midwest for 4 days, then by Sunday evening, reunited with family to celebrate the birthdays of my mother in law and her sister. My kids (except Sara in Brazil) all came to Chicago for the party, so I was with all the boys, Ashlyn and the baby Granddarling. That is called Bliss, in case you are wondering. 

My mother-in-law broke her foot the day of the party so she was casted up and a bit off her game for the festivities, but I think it was good for her to see everyone. She stayed with us at my sister-in-law's house for her initial recovery so we actually got more time with her than we might have otherwise, so in the end, it was a good twist. 

Now, keep up for this part. We drove home from Chicago on a Wednesday (the 13th). On Friday, Eric and Ev drove to North Carolina to a lovely lake called Norman and a perfect Arts and Crafts style home to visit some friends. On Sunday, I loaded up two more friends and drove down to meet my people and these new friends and stay in this glorious house by a lake. On Monday morning, Eric drove back to Maryland so he could get on a plane that afternoon to fly to EUROPE for work in The Netherlands and a quick visit with my brother in Germany. On Wednesday, Evan, Measu and Carolyn and I drove back to Maryland. 

Are you with me? It's now the 20th. But here are some photos of the lovely lake called Norman. In NorCar. 
This is not Lake Norman. It's actually a town square in The Netherlands.
The tiny people you see in the middle are Eric, my brother and his family.
Eric texted me from a restaurant there knowing that I keep a link to a webcam
to this town and sure enough, we could see them!

THIS is Lake Norman. Tranquility, thy name is Norman. 

This is not Lake Norman. These are Giraffes at a local safari park. They were

Evan thought so too. 

We loved Lake Norman. 

Then on that Friday, Gwen came from California to grace our home with her humor, friendship and wonderful personality. I love it when she stays with us. She's pretty much been adopted. You can read all about that week here. 

We're up to the 27th. Time flies when you're having fun, right? 

On the 28th I got up at 0-dark-30 and went (by the generosity of Eric) to an airport in Virginia to fly to Utah. Later that morning, Evan got in a plane in Maryland and got to SLC about 2 hours after me. We loaded up our stuff in a tiny rental car with a great sound system and the logical name of Sonic. 

That same day, since we flew backwards in time and had the whole day still before us, we saw Ashlyn and baby A for lunch at Stan's Drive In. We checked Ev into his dorm, did some unpacking and made the list for the BIG Target run. Along the way we met up with Johnathan and Kristen, and they came to Target and helped us get the big shopping done. Yay for double-teaming a big list of dorm essentials. Sam came when he was done with his day helping at new student orientation and in a stunning hour of decisions,  many texts, frantic driving and good luck, we got pizza for dinner AND Evan got a job for the semester. I know. I live a magical life. 

It's not quite the end of August yet, but the days have been packed, so I'll let you rest before I catch you up to now. Plus, the darling A is up from her nap and it's time for me to play. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Review: Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Fiction, adult
You might like this book if you're a fan of Kingsolver's work, you are interested in stories involving climate change, or stories where women seek to change their lives.

I listened to the audiobook read by the author. Her voice was slow and soothing and her pronunciation was lovely. I saw her at the National Cathedral when she was touring to support this book, and the woman Kingsolver enchanted me. I was moved by her presentation. I appreciated what she said about the creative process and how to make beautiful things.

I give this book 3 stars on goodreads on the strength of Kingsolver's beautiful language and ability to transport me to where the story takes place, but in the end, this story frustrated me.

Unfortunately for me, this book felt a bit like JK Rowling's A Casual Vacancy. The author used her considerable skill and influence to basically just chew us all out about a pet cause. Now, as a writer, she gets to do that, but I don't really enjoy an entire book of being chided about the state of climate change. Especially when it is couched inside kind of a tired old story: the restless homemaker (Dellarobia), smarter and more interesting than everyone around her, but underappreciated and living a life far from her dreams, gets turned on to the larger world by an exotic guy with an accent, then leaves everything behind for bigger and better things.

It's a tempting storyline, because most of us live regular lives and wonder if we are missing out, big time. I've wondered myself. And I love the idea of bigger and better things. I also like the idea of being good stewards over the earth we've been given to care for. But there are better ways to get this message across to me. There are ways to spin a story, even one with moral imperative, that don't involve self-pity, guilt-tripping and regret for the relentless, sometimes boring work of simple family life.

In the course of the story, the author seems to seek to portray the working and farming folks of America as wholly dull, uninformed and unenlightened, and I didn't like that. There was one moment where she was maybe going to acknowledge that Cub's practical knowledge of how to live the life in which he was settled was admirable and allow him to show some quiet intelligence about the problems he would daily encounter,  but sigh, no, in the end, Cub was still a lumbering dullard. I wish Cub would have been given just a little more heroic shading for being the guy who shows up and gets the job done. I know, I know. He wasn't Dellarobia's match and could never satisfy her mind, but there are other storylines that could have ended up edifying the entire family instead of tearing it apart.

And so, I've proved that I have my own pet cause. We all do. It's okay. This is my second Kingsolver disappointment but I still adored Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, so I'll keep on working through her catalogue to find the gems that sparkle for me. I know that AVM has some of the same themes and the same moral imperative, so what's the diff? Maybe it's because that book was just Ms. Kingsolver's own experience. It felt authentic to me.

This one felt like an old Harlequin Romance wrapped up in a science textbook and it just didn't work for me.
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