Quilt retreat is over and I am lonely.

Melancholy is setting in.

I think this makes David crazy.  (Add it to the list.)  But I can't help myself.  It will be another year before I am surrounded by women who are so kind they will leave their own projects to gather around me, pick up a needle and thread, and help me sew a hundred leaves onto a tree, just because I bit off more than I can chew.  Three hundred and sixty-one days before I will be in a room with women who understand my delusions of grandeur (because they have their own) and empathize with my over-full plate.  Their love humbles and quiets me.

My cousin, Sarah, is burying her baby today.

The tiny casket will be draped with a beautiful and simple quilt that we made together.  Nine patches and snowball blocks in soft blue and white.  Stitching out our thoughts and prayers, to comfort her in her grief, to add our tears to hers, to let her know that she is not alone.

My cousin, Amy, will play her harp, and my aunts and their daughters will wrap their arms around Sarah, and as far around her grief as they can get. 

They are angels.  Doing what they can to ease the staggering pains of earth life.

There are no words for the love I have for these women.  These who share my burdens and listen to my sorrows and regrets, and help me create a better, sweeter life for my family.  My burdens do not compare with Sarah's, and yet I felt just as comforted and cared for in my own simpler struggles, as she will surely feel today. 

On Thursday, we stood in a room full of quiet sewing machines and still scissors and wet cheeks, and listened as my Aunt Jill described the short and perfect life of her grandbaby, and Sarah's amazing courage and testimony. 

In a roomful of this many women there is not a life experience that someone else cannot understand. 

We have lost houses, and children, and husbands.  We have been sick and afflicted and close to death.  We have had babies who won't sleep, or nurse, or keep anything down.  We have had children with disabilities, and cancer, and addictions.  We have miscarried, and birthed, and adopted.  We have shared experiences, and prayers, and kidneys.  We have husbands who have lost their hair, and their jobs, and their faith.  We have built houses, and remodeled, and made do.  We have sent children to kindergarten, to college, and on missions.  We have been robbed, and raped, and defrauded.  We've held each other's babies, each other's secrets, and each other's hair as we've thrown up through the first weeks of pregnancy and well into the thirty-seventh week for some.  We have waited for the telephone, for test results, and for miracles.  We have buried our grievances, our dreams, and our loved ones.  We have built, and feathered, and emptied our nests.  Our children have broken their bones, and their curfews, and our hearts.  We have cried at weddings, and graduations, and reunions.  We have ironed, and scrubbed, and washed, and woken up to do it all over again.  Our wombs have felt kicks and contractions and more than one heartbeat.  We have been acquainted with death, and infertility, and the first moments of life.  In this one room there is a world of grief, and joy, and understanding. 

There is not a safer, sweeter, more sacred place to be.

And whether you are overwhelmed by your to-do list or your aching grief, these women come to your aid.  It is no wonder to me that it was the women in the Savior's life that were the last ones at the cross and the first ones at the tomb.  They understand.  And they reach out to help.

David always wonders why I cut up all my fabric into a million little pieces only to sew it back together again.  To make something beautiful, I say.  When it really comes down to it, my life is just scraps.  Nothing of worth to anyone outside of it looking in.  And yet, through my careful work, it may turn into something beautiful.  And all of these women--my sisters, my mother, my cousins, my aunts, my grandmother--will have contributed to that creation, just like my quilts.  They encourage me, they stitch with me, and perhaps most importantly, they even unpick and sew-it-back-together-again with me.  My life, and my quilts.

Quilt retreat is over, but I feel its magic around me.  I feel dressed and bandaged.  Healed and lifted.  I am hoping that Sarah feels the same today.   

Ring in the New Year

We are working our way backwards.

Passing the quiet snow-covered barns of Michigan and Indiana, the quiet fields and bare trees of Illinois, and the arch on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Louis.  The air is warming with every mile.

The gloaming is just coming on now, turning the Missouri sky purple and blushing.

There is something reverent about watching the sky all the way from the slow black-to-blue of early morning to the rosy embers of the coming night.  The beginning, middle, and end from my seat in the car.

It makes me wistful and pensive.  Full of the regrets of last year and the yearnings for this coming one.

I don’t do well with starting lines.

I get too nervous and tense waiting for the gun.  Which always results in a bad start, and too often I grind to a halt, knowing inside that the race is already lost. CIM is too often “all or nothing.” Poor RIM.

Clean calendars and new days are full of pressure and anxiety for my inevitable failure.

I do better in the middle:  the middle of conversations (just ask David…answering his first questions of “How was your day?” completely stymies me and turns me to stone), the middle of the day (so much more cheerful and productive once the morning chores are done again and the real work can begin), the middle of the week, the middle of dinner (after my blood sugar has risen a bit).

That said, I have only one resolution for 2009.  I am in the middle of something.  A seed planted last year, that I hope will continue to grow into a life of less regret.  I only want to continue to nurture this one seed.  And that is enough resolution for me.  More than enough.  The rest of the "new year's list" always dissolves and disappears amidst spelling lists and laundry piles and emptying the dishwasher and science projects.  I know this now.  I have had enough fresh starts to know this for sure.  But my resolution to change my heart can be (and in fact must be) accomplished amid the sprawl and chaos of regular life.

Last week in church we sang the song: Ring Out, Wild Bells, which we only sing on one Sunday a year.

Which is right, I suppose.  But which I still think is a shame.

It touched me to tears, and seemed to capture the essence of my resolution, particularly verse 3.  And so my word of the year is RING.

Here are Tennyson's words:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

The larger heart.  The kindlier hand.  The vast landscape of my own heart in need of more light.  


I hope I am positively vibrating this year.

Questions of the Day

No way around it, this is an odd post.  (RIM is having fits in the background.)

And I ought to be digging out.  (RIM is insisting that I get my work done first.)  But, apparently RIM is not in charge today.

Here's a picture of me and my completed early ballot.

The number one question on your mind is:

Are you really wearing an orange shirt?

Yes, indeed.  And not just for October.  So there.

Here's a video about voting made by Catholic Vote.

And the number one question on your mind is:

Are you catholic?

No, I'm not.  I'm one of the "countless others" who believe in life, faith, and family.  And I like the thought that everything I hold sacred needs my vote.

A Quiet Lull

We are at a lull between conference sessions.  Priesthood session starts in an hour, and David's gone running.  After wearing their jackets (it was cloudy today, never mind that it was 90 degrees or so) and playing outside, the girls are bathed and playing in their room.  Caleb went to a friends' house, and Ethan has crashed in a late nap.  I have half a mind to join him. 

But first just a few thoughts I want to remember from conference today.  (Doesn't it always come just in the nick of time?)

1.  I liked (very much) the idea of a simplified life.  (Could I recreate Walden pond here at home, minus the water?)

2.  Have more hope.  Have more faith.  Be believing.  (Why can't I remember this?)

3.  Expect help from heaven and Be more angelic.  (If I could only change one thing, it would be this.)

4.  Becoming like Christ is different than anything else we try to accomplish because He is the one making it possible.  (Turns out I don't have to pick just one...I could change everything.)

5.  He always grants forgiveness.  (Ask already.)

6.  While my challenges are real, my faith and trust can be stronger.  (And I need to laugh more.)

This afternoon David pointed out that next year at this time, Caleb will be going with him to priesthood session.  This came as such a surprise, that I realized that I never had any real expectation that my boy would actually grow up.  Well.  There you go.  It is past time to start putting some of these ideas into real practice, my time is short.  Anytime now would be a good time to start being angelic.

The Opposite of Disconcerting is Concerting

All's well that ends well.

After a disconcerting beginning, the week ended well.  Here are a few of the highlights, in no particular order.  This is going to be quick and dirty because my house is, well...dirty.

1.  David took the girls to our ward's daddy-daughter camp-out on Friday night.    This is one of those things that only adds to my love affair with him.  He takes them every year, without fail and really spends time with them.  My girls love it.  They didn't get back until about 2 on Saturday afternoon and only then because Olivia was so excited to open her birthday presents.  I wish I had a picture of them, but I can easily imagine them in my mind, beaming all the way to the mountains.

They got a late start this year because David had a late budget meeting at the hospital, so they pumped up the air mattress and laid it in the back of the car instead of setting up the tent.  On Saturday morning the men in charge of the whole thing had brought BB guns and cups for the girls to shoot.  I know...I wouldn't have thought of that either.  But David just grinned when he was telling me about it and said that we really need to get some BB guns...apparently all of our kids are great shots.  He said we could hang cups and bottles from the trees in our backyard and let the kids shoot to their hearts content.  Of all the "wholesome recreational activities" out there, this is honestly one I have never considered.  Color me surprised.

2.  On Saturday night I met my mom at her stake center to watch the Relief Society General Broadcast from Salt Lake.  I just loved Elder Uchtdorf's talk.  It was exactly what I need to hear and, I thought, absolutely inspired in the way he talked about finding happiness through creation and compassion.  It seemed to raise most of the "ordinary" activities of my life into something much more exalted, and gave me a vision of what I'm really doing.  And I keep repeating the line, "Happiness is your heritage" to myself over and over.  It was a beautiful talk and I'm so happy to have heard it.

3.  A picture from my Saturday morning:

In addition to these three, I also made two lemon pies for Olivia.  Of all the pies, lemon is the most labor and time intensive.  But Olivia's effusive gratitude, makes the effort worth it every time.  There are two slices of the lemon left, and she and Caleb have plans to enjoy them as soon as they get home from school today.

4.  David and I had a long and lachrymose discussion with Caleb on Sunday afternoon.  The last month has been a bit emotional and difficult for him, and this has made living with him a bit more difficult as well.  We had a good talk on Sunday and he confessed that he has much more than he can handle on his plate right now and his stress level is very high.  David reminded all of us that Caleb is only in 5th grade, which made it easier to eliminate some of his heavy burdens in exchange for more play time.  This means that he is probably going to give up the aerospace project for this year (a hard one for him to let go of).  I went to bed feeling better about our relationship, but again wondering if I really have the skills to be a mother. 

5.  David brilliantly bought Olivia the first season of the Little House of the Prairie television show for her birthday and it has been running here ever since.  Can I say how fabulous it is?  I never saw this show growing up and was unfamiliar with it, but have been amazed at the wholesomeness and goodness of it, and absolutely astounded that it once played on national television.  So far we have seen the Ingalls family kneel in family prayer, go to church two times, learn lessons about keeping your word and the golden rule and charity.  When I compare this to what was offered from the networks on television this week, I am shocked, flummoxed, and disgusted by the changes that have occurred in my lifetime, and deeply saddened by the world my children face.  (see the last sentence of #4)  Give me strength.

Okay...admittedly those last two were a bit disconcerting, but for the most part we are determinedly moving on to "fealty."  Onward, ever onward...

*Boy Howdy* Revisted

As a follow up to yesterday's are a few more things I don't know:

This morning at scripture study we were reading 3rd Nephi, chapter 11...when Jesus visits the Nephites.

Savannah asked (about resurrection), "But how does that work?  I mean, I don't get it.  How exactly does our body actually come back to life?"

And then Olivia, "And how old are we going to be?  I hope I'm nine.  I want to be nine forever.  Can I be nine when I'm resurrected?"

And among these imponderables, there was also this.  Do you remember this quote by Sister Hinckley?

"...the only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it.  You either have to laugh or cry.  I prefer to laugh.  Crying gives me a headache."

This morning my head and cheekbones and swollen eyelids wonder why (especially given my lifetime of experience) I still haven't learned this.


David told me that he keeps checking my blog only to find that we are still driving west.  He wants to make sure you all know that we are not stuck somewhere outside of Albuquerque and that he had us home in just two days, all the way from New York.  (I pointed out that that may not be something to be proud of, but he disagrees.)

And while we made it home, I have felt a bit lost for the past couple of weeks.  Lost somewhere inside my head.  And this post does not indicate that I have finally "arrived," but is more an attempt to somehow "find my way" again.  A garmin for my mind, perhaps:  Make a u-turn as soon as possible.

Re-entry has been difficult.  For me.  And the looming school year has me despondent and slightly panicked.  Not to mention that CIM, who after having a month off, has made up for her absence by dogging me morning til night.

Plus there are all these old posts I still need to write:  Niagara Falls, Palmyra, Kids Quilt Retreat, the Fashion World's Attack on my Girls, Prepping for School, old SPT's, not to mention the backlog of Word of the Week and 52 Blessings posts.  But all of these would require me to find my camera and my SD cards and load them onto my computer.  And that seems like a monumental feat.  And I just don't have the heart for feats of strength these days.  I'm using all my energy to steel myself for next week...we're at day 74 after all.

Olivia just asked me, "What are you writing about?"  I said, "I don't know."  And it's true.  I have no idea what I'm even saying.  For those of you who just packed up your entire house and moved across the country, my complaints will seem pathetic and self-indulgent.  (Perhaps to the rest of you as well.  Let's be honest.)  But this is where I am.  Lost.  With very little will to follow my bread crumbs backwards, I'm just going to plow forward.  Maybe tomorrow I will write "about" something.

Feats of Strength and Airing of Grievances

(I found this "unpublished" this was written last Thursday.  Just getting around to proofing and publishing.  That sounds about right.)

From Seinfeld episode #166, airing December 18, 1997...

JERRY: And weren't there feats of strength that always ended up with you crying?

I was trying to figure out this morning how to laugh rather than cry...I don't need another headache.

I couldn't think of anything until I glanced at my to do list.  It is its usual crazy length...not a laughing matter.  But then I glanced at the top where I had scribbled a thought I had about our upcoming youth conference.  It said:

hope, perseverance, strength

I had to grin that this was randomly written at the top of a very long list.  Hope, perseverance, and strength are indeed the order of the day.

We've made it to Thursday.  No small accomplishment.  I've been performing feats of strength all week.

Give Me a Minute

I set the alarm and got in bed. 

All bound and determined to get some sleep and then get up early to blog.

RIM thought this was a very wise and reasonable plan.

But after almost a week of listening to myself think, I could hardly sleep over the noise in my brain.  I am hoping this will quiet a few things in there.


This may take a minute...I keep telling myself to just take it slowly and pull out one thought at a time, but I am quite paralyzed by the mess in my head.  A spring break recap, Easter, the 12th blessing, adventures in driving, my nonplussed moments, mothering, and all the rest.  CIM is nearly drooling at the bounty.  I will do my best.

Secret Private Thoughts

Last night Caleb asked, "Does SPT stand for 'Secret Private Thoughts?'"

No.  It does not.  But here are some secret private thoughts (in a very random order) that have been plaguing me for a while: 

1.  I've always been secretly bored by Mark Twain.  Dare I admit this?

2.  I am astounded by all that Joan of Arc came to do and accomplish.  I secretly wish I had a destiny so clear and laid out...even if that means a tortuous burning at the stake in the end.  At least then I would know my life was worth something.

3.  Two days this week I got up early and walked around a track with my sister.  Don't tell anyone but even this minimal exercise has made me sore.  My friend said, "You must have been 'power walking.'"  No, I'm pretty sure we were just strolling.

4.  I secretly think I could like cake.  I've had it twice this week and both times I thought it was so incredibly delicious that I asked for the recipes

5.  I never think that what I am doing in any given moment is what I actually should be doing in any given moment.  I am crazy with guilt.

6.  I secretly think I may be too tired to keep doing my church calling well enough to really serve the girls.

7.  I am about as forgetful lately as I was when I had my fourth baby.  I secretly think I may have had a baby recently and forgotten about it.

8.  I secretly wonder how everybody else remembers to do the things they said they'd do.  Do I need a day planner of some kind?

9.  I secretly think the virus I fought last week, lodged itself somewhere in my brain and is muddling everything up in there. 

10.  I secretly think that my recent desires for cake and day planners are clear signs that something is seriously wrong.  Last night I dreamed I had cancer.  (In my dream I was very excited about this because, while it did mean rounds of chemotherapy, it also meant I was getting released.)

11.  I secretly think I'm losing my mind.  RIM knew it was only a matter of time.  CIM couldn't be happier.

12.  I secretly think I will regret (yet again) posting any of this.