Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blueberries and Another Cougar in the House

Can't you just about taste them? Yesterday morning, just as the heat of the day was really rising, but before it was unbearable, my friend and I slowly made our way down her stunning rows of berry bushes, picking and talking, and then she gave all that she gathered to me. Together we picked about 6 quarts of this goodness! I cannot wait to eat some with my very own homemade yogurt. Later, I will put some in the freezer, and others will become a summery dessert or muffins or something.

I will smile again as I enjoy the unique almost-sweetness of blueberries and think of this friend. For years, with few easy chances to see each other and about 30 miles between our homes, the warm embers of friendship have quietly glowed, waiting, perhaps, for this very moment. Always there has been joy at our brief, infrequent reunions, always a sincere hug and a few moments spent catching up. As we've put effort into spending time together recently, we've reconnected more deeply and found timely support and company for the kinds of days we are both having. That matters, to have friends who understand.

After berry picking in the sun, I went home to find Evan catching up on the World Cup. He managed to not know who won on Sunday until he had a chance to watch the game. I love that when he wants to, he can shut off the constant stream of information that bombards him. It's hard to be young in this information-saturated world, and I liked that he decided to keep the Sabbath in the way that mattered to him and then enjoy the game on his own terms. In case you're wondering, he was happy for Germany, and proudly wore his German Fußball jersey the rest of the day, but he admires Lionel Messi and wished that talented Argentinian could have had a happier day.

After that, the two of us began our exploration of the BYU website and got him registered for classes and into a dorm room. He wasn't sure he would go out for school this fall, but instead might go straight out on his mission. In the last few days, he decided to change his own stars and go for Provo. To see him moving forward is a big deal, especially under his own power. He feels good about the plan, and has even received what he feels is a strong spiritual confirmation of his decision. As a parent, I would want nothing else for him but feeling certain about his decisions. It makes such a difference when, instead of feeling blind, you feel guided. A life of faith can do that for a kid (or an adult).

So today, I have blueberries to eat, flights and hotel rooms to arrange, and all of that. On top of a full day of work, both professional and personal. It's all good. Moving forward.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Young Adult Fiction
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Kate Rudd
You might like this book if you enjoy quirky romances, stories about teens in uncommon situations, or stories that engage the emotions as well as the intellect. You might also be interested if you liked the movie.

Okay, I have to admit that I really only heard about this book when I started hearing about the movie. There, I said it. But now I'm completely won over.

My favorite part about this book was not the story, though the story is lovely and unexpected yet predictable as soon as you understand what and whom it's about but, in spite of that fact, is completely engaging. It's about kids with cancer, but not in a sticky-sweet, rosy glow kind of way. Its about kids with cancer still living real lives and being mad and funny and brave and cowardly and sad and strong and normal, all at the same time.

It was not the characters, though each one was developed really well and I could imagine them walking and talking in the real world. There was grace and romance and care given to portraying how kids in this situation might truly feel, rather than just pasting teen faces on fake adult characters.

No, my favorite thing was the language and the pacing of the writing. Oh my word was this a wonderful book to listen to. I really want to get the book book so I can see the words and the punctuation and get the flow and word choices into my head in another way. I could see and feel the words telling the story while I listened and that hasn't happened for a while.

Yes, I love the way John Green uses his words. The combination of vocabulary, cadence and structure, well, it moves me. I have been struggling to listen to books lately, and I know it matters which books you listen to, but when I got into this one I realized I just need more words in my life. I need to read more, write more and listen more.  I listened to this almost in one day because I actually didn't want to stop listening.

I have missed words.

Thank you John Green for your beautiful, sad, happy story that reminded me.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Book Review: Wonder

Wonder by RJ Palacio
Grades 3-7
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd.
You might like this book if you enjoy stories about underdogs, people who must overcome challenges, or stories about dealing with disabilities.

My in-person, SSBC (Super Secret Book Club) chose this a couple of months ago and I finally just finished it. It's been a busy time for me.
In spite of how long it took me to listen, I loved it. 100%. Beautiful, touching, comfortingly predictable (it's a good story, I only say predictable because I really do want to believe in the core goodness of people), and well-imagined.

August, known as Augie,  is a boy who, because of a profound facial deformity, has never been to public school. This story tells about what it was like for him to finally go to middle school and have to live through the daily actions and reactions of those around him. The less-understood things we must face in life tend to bring out either the best or the worst in humanity, and this book covers both scenarios.

I think the author does a great job of creating the world of middle school and especially the thoughts and interactions of the young main characters. It's well-worth your time and probably would be a quick, easy read. It's only an 8-hour  audiobook.

Some in my book group were curious about my response because I have a disabled sister. She moves around earth in a wheelchair, and has since she was in her teens. I can't even attempt to say anything from her side of that life, but thinking about things from my side, with memories of watching her all these years, I found the book very touching and I did think of my sis. She is a wonder too. She inspires kindness and inclusion and I admire her greatly, just as you will August and the people closest to him.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

When I Become Unrecognizable

Disclaimer: This post will quite possibly read as self-centered and shallow. I know we all have problems, and I'm not writing about big ones here, but they matter to me. Feel free to skip it, but it's what I'm thinking about.

It's inevitable as we age for our appearance to change.

I am mentally aware of this fact. Seeing it unfold before my eyes and become viscerally real is sometimes a challenge.

This past week, I was at the Young Women Camp my church holds each year. I come most years, just to help out in any way I can. Over the last 20 years or so, I've been there in many capacities, from being totally in charge of the whole thing to being an assistant in the kitchen. It doesn't matter where you serve in God's kingdom, just that you're willing, and camp is a great place to be reminded of that.

It's also a great place to be reminded that one is nearing 50 years old. That amazes me. While I'm still very, very healthy, I can tell things are changing, and at a suddenly accelerated pace. Never before at camp have I had so many aching body parts, wished so earnestly for an air mattress (I usually sleep just fine on the ground), and actually found myself unrecognizable in the photos. As in, "Wait, is that ME? With that, that neck thing going on??" Ah the changes time will make.  I read a book about that once (Nora Ephron's delightful book I Feel Bad About My Neck) but never thought it would be about me. Now my neck is showing my age. Darn.

As if my belly wasn't already on the job. That's the other thing about the photos. I've gained a lot of weight in the last year, thus my body shape and the way I move are so foreign to me when I do become aware of them that it's difficult to take in.

I promise this is not a midlife crisis (though I do have a longboard in my amazon cart, does that count?) or a whine (in spite of the neck comments) but it is a moment of pause. I love being at camp. I always pray and hope that I'll be asked back once again, and even though every year I think the planners really do try to leave me out in order to give me a break, a space always seems to open up for me. I'd miss it terribly if it didn't. I mean, look at this morning light! And these girls! Their radiance helps keep me alive. It fills me with light to get through another year.

Next year though, I need to be more ready. Ready to hike and carry a pack for 24 hours and sleep in the woods and be stronger.

Ready to not make my body carry around too much stress and pain and worry. It's time to let these things go.

It's good to have reminders. I want to see myself in photos. Even an aging, maturing self. I'm not looking for my 20-year old self, just someone not so burdened by life that the aging happens too quickly. I figure I've got at least another 45 years to hang around, so I need to be ready for the long haul.

I know this is cliche. That so many get to "a certain age" and have the Holy Cow! epiphany of wondering who is looking back in the mirror. For me it's not the mirror. It's photos. The mirror is kind, perhaps too kind, with only daily, incremental changes showing up. I feel okay when I look in the mirror. The photos show leaps and lurches from my perception to reality, and they never fail to alarm me.

I also promise that I'm not particularly vain. I'm just me. I still have my twinkly eyes and my nice smile, and that's good. I also have great hair. For which I'm grateful. So all is well.

I'd just like to keep it that way. I want to be doing this for a lot more years.

sneaky photo by my co-leader, Lisa. 

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