My Time with Tyson and Poems about Grandpa

I got to spend most of yesterday with my cousin Tyson. He was in Oklahoma for ten days doing work at some of the oil wells. He sent me a text a few days before letting me know that he was here, and that Saturday was the only time he had some free time before flying home on Sunday. He got to Dot at 11:30 AM, and I think he left around 11:30 PM. It was a wonderful day.

We shared memories, reminisced, talked about plans and life and how spontaneous we used to be, ate at some local restaurants, and ended with an impromptu poetry reading. We read Rainer Maria Rilke, Wendell Berry, Ann Sexton, Carol Lynn Pearson, and a few of my own. I am now expecting him to be on the ball, ready with some of his poems when we make it to New Mexico to see him (and Janie!). I've always wanted to see the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, and he lives pretty close. 

This visit was so good for my soul. I love my family. Perhaps it was because I didn't have any kind of sibling until I was 12, but my cousins were my siblings, all 36 of them. I really have 38 first cousins on my mom's side, but two passed away. Curtis died before I was born (I'm 33rd out of the 39, so I'm toward the end), and Danielle was younger than me, but she lived for less than 24 hours, and I was very young when she was born. One of my cousins, Robyn, passed away one year ago. Tyson and I talked about how that really hasn't sunk in all the way. So, I have 35 living cousins, and I miss being able to see them as often as I did growing up. 

He shared a memory he had of me that made me laugh, and one that I have no recollection of. I was 9 or 10, and was in my grandparents' orchard sitting on the tractor. He said when he walked up to me, I was slumped over the steering wheel sobbing. He asked me what was wrong, and I looked up at him and said, "I'm never going to be sophisticated."

We spoke a lot about our grandpa, and I was glad because I'd been thinking about him a lot. The poems of my own that I shared were about him. I wrote them during a poetry workshop in college, and I'll share them here.



Cowboy boots, Levi jeans
cattle on the open range
harvest in the fall


Reeboks and sweat pants
watching three-wheeled bikes go by
from faded, grey chair

Age Equates a Certain Cruelty (on both the young and old)

Because Grandpa died last night in his sleep, I won't need
to sit with him on Thursday while Grammy attends the
reception. I don't know what I would have done when he
had to use the restroom - to go and get one of the Depends
from his bedroom and bring it to the bathroom. Sometimes
he needed help putting them on. Our eyes would have never met.
I wouldn't have allowed it. There is sorrow in not getting to 
see him. It had been two weeks and he wasn't far away and
then the greatest void of all came between us. Maybe his
very last act saved both of us our dignity. It allowed my 
most vivid image of us to remain: Our consistent meetings 
with me lying on the floor in front of his chair while he
rubbed my feet.

My Grandpa's Heaven

Cowboy boots and
Bolo ties
ranges, grassy green
and new-old white Ford trucks

Old Smokey and
saw mills
irrigation ditches
and five acres of backyard

Apple trees and
chicken coops
giant blue skies
and steady flowing streams

Levi jeans and
plaid shirts
a life with Betty
and a night at the dance hall

Friends, neighbors and
spending time together
and reminiscing between the generations of life

Gold Arches and
Big Macs
Diet Coke
and coffee in the morning

Crisp air and
early mornings
and a day spent working in the sunshine.

*Tyson said the only thing I forgot was Big Red chewing gum.

Jesus and My High School Journal

It's 9:02. I knew that Jake was going to be home later tonight, but I can't remember what time he said. Is it weird that I'm not even phased by it? Let's see, he's been gone for a little over 14 hours so far today.

On Sunday I'm teaching a lesson called "Why is Jesus Christ important in my life." In typing it out just now, I don't know that I love it, but I'll rename it in my mind later.

[9:06 and he's home! It always happens when I think about how he's not home...I hear his key in the door. I think it's magic.]

[And after an 8-minute conversation, he let me know that he's done at 5:30 on Friday. And he said he's literally [he sometimes judges people for saying literally] been playing piano from 7 this morning until he left at 9 tonight with the exception of a few 10-minute breaks, and that his arms are feeling it. I hope you all took note of his six minute commute time. That includes leaving the music school, getting to and on Scoot (which involves putting a helmet on), coming home, pulling Scoot into the garage, and walking into Dot (the garage is detached, mind you).]

Back to the lesson. So I've been thinking about why Christ is important to me, and I've been trying to remember how I felt about Christ when I was 14 and 15. I'm sure there was a lot more tearful sentiment attached, even though what I feel now has a much greater depth. What to do? I went to the trunk in our room (our hope chest) and pulled out my journal from that time in my life.

My first entry is December 25, 1999. I was 14 (and a half). Here are a few entries:
March 24, 2000:
I've come to soooo many beautiful realizations. I've come to a greater understanding of the human soul. [...] I appreciate self-worth more than I ever have, or ever thought that I could. People are sooo beautiful. Everyone. We are all children of God. I am never alone. All of these things I've known for sooo long, but I'm doing more to help others with this knowledge. It feels so good. I am so overflowing with the spirit right now. I want everyone to love their brothers and sisters. I want people to look in the mirror and say that they are beautiful. I want them to look at sunsets and soak up all of the glorious magic. I want them to know how beautiful nature is, how wonderful it is to be a part of it all. I want everyone to think about these things. I think that I've been given something special, the ability to see people. I think that might be my divine quality.

In the following post, I'd been talking about how I was going to be in the fall play, and was trying to figure out how I would balance that and cross-country.
September 10, 2000:
Everything will work out. I just need to always do my school work first and remain in close contact with Heavenly Father! I know that Jesus Christ is the Messiah! I'm so very thankful for the atonement. He endured the worst pain so that I might live again. He set a wonderful example w/ the teachings that he shared with all. He was most humble. I wouldn't be who I am with-out Him. I am sorry that I don't feel more or better realize his importance in my life or the life of everyone. It is my goal from right now on to obtain a better knowledge and greater respect, love, and admiration for Christ and His sacrifice.
March 23, 2002:
I was reading in the Book of Mormon just now,...Jesus was talking to his disciples telling them that they had seen and heard things more beautiful than any had seen or heard before. I was thinkin' about that. Like I'm sure that I can't even comprehend those things...but I wonder if they are the equivalent to a beautiful sunset or a baby being born. It's like there are so many beautiful things that happen everyday  - to people's spirits and just everything, everywhere - all the time. I wonder if they're anywhere close to the things he's speaking of...and if so, maybe we just forget to notice. I wonder if they are examples of perfect love...I look forward to the idea - the knowledge - that I will one day be able to love perfectly. Sometimes I think that I'm very cruel...never to anyone's face, just in my thoughts...And I love those people - but yeah; to love them perfectly...that's something that I want to strive for. It's on, well one of the things on the top of my "To do" list. The wind has been blowing quite a bit here in my "ThiNk SPot"...I wonder if beautiful things are hidden in its sound...if it carries some wonderful message that you have to be on some level to hear...Well I'm going to be off for now.

This is the latter half of an entry. I don't know how related it is, but the stream of consciousness quality caught my eye.
March 30, 2003:
I really hope that I'm doing all right spiritually. I don't feel like I'm learning like I used to, and it's because I'm not questioning as much. I miss that, and honestly - it does make me feel a little dumb. There's no reason why I couldn't have been top of my class. No reason at all. I really love the stars so much. The moon and stars. I was looking at constellations today. I'm going to learn them more. I love space and trying to grasp it all. I really hope I get all of the money I need for college soon!!!  

I just spent two hours reading through my old journal. It's both sentimental and tedious to read through the journal that houses all of my high school years. There are a lot of entries about boys. Not a lot of boys, but a lot of entries about a few boys. One was a boyfriend for way too long in high school years, and three were really good friends who at one time or another made my heart go pitter-patter (the boyfriend was also a friend, but we let the "way too long in high school years" part of our relationship ruin our friendship). And of course, I met Jake towards the end of these entries. I wrote a lot about "Heavenly Father" and Jesus Christ. "Heavenly Father" is emphasized because that was God's title in my mind for so much of my existence. In the last few years, I've been redefining a lot of things. Redefining isn't the right word, but my ideas had come to a point in their evolution that the same terms and titles didn't feel right anymore. Do I still feel God to be a father? Yes, a heavenly one at that, but defining him almost exclusively as "Heavenly Father" didn't feel the same as it had in all those years before. It's like discovering that Bill is really a William, or William is really a Bill. Or maybe it's the difference in calling one's dad, "Papa," or "Father," or "Daddy," or "Don." For a Young Women project somewhere along the way, we were asked to write our testimony of Christ. While I don't have a copy of what I wrote, I remember feeling very connected to what ended up on the page. I wish I had it to compare. (Young Women is the youth group in the Mormon church specifically for girls 12-18.)

Anyway, I think reading through my own experiences at the same age of the girls I teach will be useful. It's fun to be reminded of the way I used to see the world. I don't know that my way of seeing is so different, but the world was still so wide open. I think it's good to remember how wide open the world once was, and how important that is for dreams. On a final note: one thing I noticed a lot of was reference to my future children. Jake has been gone for 12+ hours a lot lately, and it's been my girls and me from the time I wake up until just about the time I'm ready to fall into my bed (tonight is an exception, and I hope I don't super regret it when 6 AM rolls around). While my teenage self had no idea the mental toughness required to make it through some days as a stay-at-home mom, I hope that I can recapture some of the dreamy idealism I had of motherhood then because it's all still floating around, I just forget how to grasp it and pull it down to fill our days with wonder. Kids are great at that, I need to remember to let them be my teacher more often. To just go with it.

This post really started out with one purpose. If you've made it this far, and wouldn't mind sharing, tell me why Jesus Christ is important in your life. You can either write it publicly or send me a personal message or email. It can be as long or short as you'd like. It can be full of certainty or questions. I'd love to know. And I don't have a timeline. If you think of something three months from now, I still want to hear.

PS: I don't think I'm done sharing from my journal. Things like September 11, 2001 and going to war in Iraq are documented.

Magnolia and the Junk Jar

My mother-in-law has glass jars full of trinkets around her house. Some have a theme, like they're all marbles, others are all dice, some have a mix of lots of different things. These jars full of stuff are called junk jars. While staying with Jake's parents for 7 weeks before moving to Chicago, Cora discovered these jars. She loved emptying them, playing with their contents, then reloading them and starting all over again. My mother-in-law gave Cora her very own junk jar. It's an old Peter Pan peanut butter jar. Magnolia now loves playing with it. She can easily spend 30 minutes doing the same thing Cora would do.

Yesterday, I put my hand over the opening of the jar when she was trying to put something in, and she thought it was the funniest things. I went and grabbed the camera and we kept playing for quite a while. Both of my girls get hiccups when they laugh. ;)

[I love her little after-nap-fly-aways]


Come Follow Me and Garbage Land

After the girls went to bed, I started preparing a lesson for Sunday. I teach young women, ages 14-15, every second and fourth Sunday of the month. The LDS church launched not only a new youth curriculum, but also an outline for a new way of preparing and teaching. This will be my first lesson from the new curriculum, and I'm really looking forward to it. When I heard there was a change a comin', I spent several hours reading through the new material and watching helpful videos. I'm so happy for the change. The curriculum is called Come Follow Me, and I think most of it would be a useful study for people of any faith.

Our old curriculum was really dated, so I would spend most of my time finding supplemental materials that I felt brought a better, deeper understanding of the topic. Come Follow Me has lots of supplemental materials for each topic, and there is no real set lesson outline. I spend my preparation time increasing my understanding about a topic, and go to class prepared to teach and answer questions (that's pretty much what I've always done, but the prep work is much more enjoyable now that I don't have weird made up stories from a lesson I just read about how Suzy Q made a good/bad decision [that was really pretty lame compared to the decisions our youth face] that either made her feel good/bad in the end). My favorite part is how this allows for greater collaboration between me and the girls I teach. We're teaching one another. I'm a facilitator more than the one with all of the answers.

We started reading Stuart Little with Cora last night. She loves it. I'm pretty sure we'll finish tomorrow. Tonight, I was reading her a chapter where Stuart ends up in a garbage truck that unloads its contents on a barge that will be taken 20 miles off shore before it is dumped in the Atlantic. A time frame: the book was written in 1945 and is set in NYC. Stuart ends up being saved (you'll have to read it to find out how), but Cora and I were both like, "Say what?!?" She asked why they would dump their garbage in the ocean, and if it hurt the animals. I told her that we keep learning more and more about how to take care of our earth, and back then, people didn't know as much about the things that would hurt the earth and animals, but that they don't do it anymore...[at least not in NYC - I left that part out].

I was interested in seeing the evolution of waste management in NYC, so I did a little digging and found an interesting video. It's part of a series called City of Systems that I'd like to watch more of. Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land narrates, and is basically sharing what she uncovered in researching/writing her book. I haven't read it, but I'd like to. The part that is astounding to me is the amount of trash versus the amount of recycling picked up in NYC, even now. I can't wait for the day when materials that can be recycled outweigh the waste put into landfills. Enjoy the video.

Because this is what happens without screens

(While I was making dinner, I said we were done with the computer and iPad for the day. For as much as they're always asking for these things, they didn't complain. They went off to their room and began playing with each other. Completely content and far more engaged. I love that their toy of choice was a wooden nuts and bolts set.)

I've been obsessed again. With wasting my life away doing one random search after another on nothing that is too important and nothing I'll remember the next day. We lived without the internet in our home for three weeks at the end of summer, and it was heavenly. For our girls and maybe especially for me. When Jake started teaching again, it got a little inconvenient to run back and forth to work to work our minor kinks and respond to his students. It felt safe to reinstate the world wide web in our home because I knew how great life was without it. How quickly we forget. The first thing Goo asks for in the morning is the iPad. 

I actually had a good reason for spending extra time on-line. I was educating myself on some things that may or may not be happening in the near future, but I let all of the searches get away from me, and if I wasn't at the computer, I was thinking about what I should look up next, and how I could better prepare myself. It makes me feel like I'm sleep walking. And my girls are so plugged in. I hate it. Yes, I said hate, and I mean it.  

I've been thinking about ways to overcome my internet addiction. One thought is unplugging our router during the day and reconnecting it after the girls are in bed. If I have any really pressing thought, or something I want to look up, I can write it down. This takes care of two things: it makes me stay away from a screen for most of the day, and makes the time I do allow myself on-line far more productive.

I've been reading more in the last few days. Like from books. I know. Today I picked up Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne with Lisa Ross. I'm almost halfway through it, and it is wonderful. In the first chapter, we're asked to reflect on the hopes and dreams we have for our family. He said, "Our daily lives can become disconnected from the hopes and dreams we hold for our family." He is exactly right. 

I've found myself often saying, "I'll start tomorrow." Tomorrow I will come up with the perfect plan limiting screen time. Tomorrow I will sit down and make a schedule to do supplemental work with Cora on her speech. Tomorrow I will redo this or that in Dot. Tomorrow I will practice drawing shapes with Magnolia. These tomorrows go on and on and on. I think the weight I feel with them compounding in my mind makes me push them off even more. I forget that they don't all have to happen at the same time. I devoured the chapter of the book on simplifying the environment of our home (I'm always drawn to such things), but I'm especially looking forward to the next chapter: Rhythm. We have a predictable rhythm to our days, but I don't really like what we're doing with a big hunk of our time. (I hope that makes sense.) I want to dance to a different beat. I want the overall rhythm of our days and weeks to match the hopes and dreams I have for my family.

This is a little off topic, but it feels relevant. I didn't make any official resolutions this year, but I've been thinking about traditions. We don't really do many in our little family. That is super lame-o. I think they are important. This year, we are going to start and/or borrow traditions to add to the few we do have. Any traditions you love that you are willing to share would be welcome. And for anything: holidays, birthdays, any old day of the week special things you do. 

Cora's Spare

Today marked nine years since Jake and I got married. ;) I'll post more about that later. This year we did a little family celebration: Anniversary Bowling. Cora was so super excited. Here's a little clip of her getting a spare. 


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