Welcome to my digital writing journal, or mydigitalclutter. What started as a family blog almost two years ago has morphed into my writing therapy. This is where I do a lot of free writing, mostly about my life with my family and the things that catch my interest. While nowhere even close to perfect, in each post I like to see how my writing is changing with time and practice. Most posts are left unedited for this reason, so if you don't mind, take the journey with me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

In which I've been a horrible blogger...

Merry Christmas!  I haven't been much of a blogger of late.  I wish it were due to the fact I'm scribbling away at an amazing manuscript, but I can't say that in the slightest.  It has truly been a lack of motivation on my part, and for that I must apologize.  Perhaps a new resolution in the coming weeks will help?  I doubt it, but one can hope!

We had an amazing and quiet Holiday this year.  Abbie was sick all of Christmas Eve, and with that, we didn't do all of our traditional Christmas observances.  Yes, we did get out our little "Christmas" dishes, but where she wasn't able to keep anything down, only Daniel and Nigel participated.  We did read the Christmas story from Luke 2, as always, but Abbie was in bed by 6:30, so it was a little earlier and quieter than normal.

Luckily the sickness passed and Christmas morning brought smiles, and joy to our household.  Here are some pictures of our day, along with a few from earlier in the week with a family party and Christmas recital.  I post more to Facebook, but this is just a sampling.

As the year winds to a quick close, I am sure we will start pondering New Year's resolutions, (something I hate!) and I vow to write more.  I have a quandary that I have been mulling over, and putting words down may make it the decision for me.  May you and yours have a marvelous continuation of the Holiday season!  All our love to our family and friends!

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's Snowing

It is snowing today, although it did start out as rain.  I think that fall is turning into winter quickly, and I'm not sure I'm ready.  We did get Nige a new coat over the weekend, as he is growing by leaps and bounds.  Just in the nick of time, I'd say.  I've been watching the flakes fall outside my office window, with my space heater cranked up to dry my tootsies.

While we are embarking on the Holiday season of Thanks and Giving, I thought I would share our Halloween memories from this year. Another wet day, but it was fun nonetheless.  My Indy and mad scientist had a blast, until they were too wet to keep going.

Nigel as Indiana Jones

They are getting too big!

All the ratting and spraying of her hair was a chore.  It was awesome for about 20 minutes though.

Abbie and her science experiment and Nige freaking out about a possible explosion.
As we continue in our crazy, out of control life, my days flow into one another, and before I know it, Christmas will have come and gone.  Oh to slow the hands of the clock and enjoy the moments before they are gone forever.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's Unlawful to Feed Alligators


The best sign of the trip!

There are days when something will spur a memory.  It could be a smell, a sight, an address, a song.  The list goes on and on.  Perhaps it is the sight of a burnished autumn leaf, gently falling to the ground against the brilliant blue of the sky that takes you back to time when piles of leaves beckoned to be jumped in.

It hit me today as I opened a fax at work.  It came from Fort Benning in Georgia and I was suddenly transported back to a trip my family took in September of 2007.  It was the first plane ride for my youngest, and probably the first my daughter will remember.  The air was humid, hot, and we were tired from the red eye.  Something as small as the address on a fax cover sheet had the power to bring back delightful memories and twinges of sadness for me, of a trip we took years ago.
This is Nigel's reaction when the plane started to take off!


Abbie is old hat at this!
There is a certain smell, chemical in nature that hits me occasionally reminding me of time spent in cold concrete houses, space heaters, and thick wool sweaters. The smell comes from propane tanks, and though here, more than a decade later, I rarely smell it in my everyday existence, I will find my memories taking me to a mildewed heaven where I learned more about myself than at any other time in my life.  I will taste ravioli and white sauce, a milenesa breaded to perfection and my soul years for those dear friends I have lost touch with over the years, all because of a smell.
A song from the late ‘80s, early 90’s will strike discord in my heart.  It reminds me of times when choices and associations weren’t always the best and I wonder how I made it through largely unscathed.  Other songs bring with them nights of giggles, shopping cart races, band trips, and newspaper parties.
When Daniel and I married, the reception center was interested in a sensory experience.  Fresh flowers adorned the tables, with lavender and tiny orchids to evoke a scent that would remind those in attendance of our nuptials when those scents wafted to their noses in the months that followed.  I don’t know how well it worked for those well wishers, but for me, I see lavender and I smile.  I want to grow bushes of lavender in my yard because it reminds me of love, or at least the day when I felt as though I could burst with it.
We are a sensory people.  We like to touch, smell, taste, hear.  The sight of freshly fallen snow and the aching quiet that seems to echo along the street are sensations I look forward to ever winter.  The twinkle of Christmas lights against the black night, or orange gourds and autumnal leaves are sure signs of an impending holiday.  Add to that, the scent of freshly baked pumpkin pie, or the steam rising off a batch of rolls, and my stomach starts to grumble at the thought of a Thanksgiving feast to match all my wildest fantasies.
My children take after their father.  They are touchy people, snuggling, kissing, hugging, touching.  They aren’t quite as happy as they could be unless they are touching someone.  Last night, my little guy came into my room, crawled in bed with me and stuck his cold feet on my legs.  When I asked why he wasn’t ensconced in his own bed, I could hear the smile in his voice as he replied, “You’re warmer!”  I became a mommy sandwich for a bit, touched on both sides and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Where would we be without our sensory memories?  I am sure I would forget a few of those friends, or moments in my life if there weren’t something there to job me to a certain place and time.  Perhaps tomorrow, I will see the address of someone who will transport me back to Uruguay, or a candle that will indeed spark the holiday season in my heart.  I can’t wait!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Change and the Bathroom Stall


We are creatures of habit and comfort.  It all began so long ago when your favorite blanket was in the wash and your mother handed you a substitute.  It didnĂ­t go over very well.  It wasn't the same, and so you weren't satisfied.  Thus began the path of abhorrence to change.

When I was in college, I had an English instructor that had us do an exercise to purposely change up something in our lives.  She talked about how we would always go to the same bathroom stall in a building, because it was comfortable.  She challenged us to go into a different one to see how we felt.  At the time, it seemed like an exercise in futility, as I had never noticed if I frequented one stall over another in the ancient building.

I don't remember the writing assignment that followed, but for some very odd reason, I remember always using the second stall to the left when I was in that building.  Every. Single. Time.  It was as if, by sheer mention of it, I suddenly became aware of a habit that I didn't know I had.  It was comical, as I tried to use a different stall.  It seemed wrong, almost as if I were cheating on the one that I had used up to that point.

Why all this talk of public restrooms?  Last week at work we had a speaker come for a customer service seminar.  In our discussion, she talked about change and how change can throw us all for a loop, but it is essential to change our perspective of how things really are.  She drove to work once, and didn't remember the drive.  At. All.  Scary to think of it that way!  She was terrified to think of relying on muscle memory to get her to her destination.  She drove home a different way, to change things up, and make herself be aware of her surroundings.  She looked at things with a different perspective.  It brought to mind the public restroom experiment I had participated in while attending college.  Did she feel as though she cheated on her normal route?  Probably at first, but the sheer essence of change of habit caused her to view things around her in a new way.

I thought of this again today, as I walked to the restroom in my building.  I seem to always favor the first stall, though the second one will do if the first one is occupied.  How did I become so complacent?  I think it's time to change things up.  After all, I don't think I've cheated on my bathroom stall for a while.

*Thanks to Google for the image*

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Bit of Spewage (Yes, I do know that really isn't a word!)


spew/spyo͞o/Verb

1. Expel large quantities of (something) rapidly and forcibly.
2. Be poured or forced out in large quantities: "oil spewed out of the damaged tanker". 
(Courtesy of Dictionary.com)

Tonight I am going to spew.  Oh, I'm not sure how large the quantity of words will be, but I'm furiously and rapidly typing on my keyboard.  My poor keys are suffering from the force, and I take a quite moment to apologize.  There is so much going through my head right now, that I want to get it all down, but inevitably, I will have to go to bed, so I will be forced to settle for the ramblings I can put down.

Image from Google
1. Yesterday as I was walking across the parking lot, a kid (there is no other way to describe him) had some pretty harsh music pumping, enough to deaden the eardrums of the next county.  Of course, he has the right to play whatever music he wants, even laden with vulgar and disturbing imagery, not to mention the crude and morally questionable lyrics.  I say, hurray for the right to listen to this trash.  On the other hand, I hold umbrage with having my ears assaulted with such filth.  When did it become okay for the rights of others to infringe of my rights of silence and solace?

2.  Speaking of music, I have a new musical crush.  Daniel and I watched "Dan in Real Life" last weekend.  I was completely enthralled with the movie, but especially the music.  I took a quick trip to Amazon and purchased the soundtrack.  It has been lovely balm to my ears listening to Sondre Lerche.  Give him a try, and while your at it, if you haven't seen the movie, it was a good one.  (That is saying a lot, because I'm not a movie person!)

3. Work has been absolutely chaotic this past week.  Communication nightmares with employees and putting out fires that seem to crop up at every turn.  I've made myself sick with worry and my poor immune system defeated me and I ended up with a cold that won't go away.  Why is it when you can't take time off, you seem to need it the most?

4.  My dear daughter is starting to suffer the effects of pre-teen hormonal tendencies.  Tonight she screamed at me when I asked her to practice.  In fact, her words were, "I'm sorry I'm not perfect!"  Um, isn't that the whole reason we practice?  Because we aren't?  It's a lesson that I hope she is learning, and that I'm teaching in a way she will understand.  We are clashing and at odds as to what is acceptable at school, home, and everywhere in between.  I'm told this stage can come and go quickly, but then again, it can last until she is thirty.  I'm sure I never caused my own mother this much anguish! (Said very sarcastically, because she is thrilled I have a daughter.  Just. Like. Me.)

5.  My house is a total and utter disaster.  I'm not saying this in a, "oops, you caught me with the dishes in the sink!" way, but "Holy cow, what category was that tornado that hit your house?!" kind of way.  We have been on the go for days now, with only scant time for household chores.  Everything has fallen behind.  I am now going to be the mean mom and suck all the fun out of a Saturday to see if we can even come close to making some sense to all the clutter and debris.  It's gross.  I promise.  Don't come by.

Image from Shoe.com
6.  I had a lot of compliments on my shoes today.  I know, that is completely vain and self-absorbed.  To be honest, today I needed it.  When things seem to spiral out of control in my life, I do like to do it in a nice pair of heels.  I found a steal a couple of weeks ago at DSW, a burgundy pair of heels, patent leather.  They are adorable.  Of course, Daniel thinks I'm a bit much, wearing them with a yellow sweater, but hey, it's all about the attitude.

7. I went almost two weeks without talking to my mom.  Yes, horrifying, I know.  With as busy as we all are, it seems as though time slips away before we know it.  She called yesterday and we caught up on everyone's illnesses and gave updates on school for the kids, and so forth.  I realized that I haven't had a play date with my own mom for some time. I think that is next on the agenda after cleaning the house, some quality mom time.  I think I'll bring Ab along for the ride.  I can use some time playing with her as well.  Perhaps we'll go crazy and paint our nails.  Black.  Cool.

Image from Google
8. Last night I spent time basking in the sweet stanzas of a poet in my neighborhood.  She read us a few poems, talked about them, and read some of her own creations.  It was a pleasure and so uplifting.  Even Ab and Nige got into it.  I'm not a poet, but I may have to dabble in it and feel a creative muse take flight.  What is so interesting is that while at work today, I read a couple of poems for a class.  An amazing coincidence?  No, but perhaps a nudge from above to explore a new writing medium and stretch myself a little?  

9.  I truly believe that the Lord puts people in our lives to better us.  Do you have a teacher or a friend that has said something that just touched you in a way that changed you for the better, from that moment on?  Or perhaps a confidante that pulled out your sadness from the depths of your soul and left you feeling lighter, more liberated and ready to face the world?  It is something I've been pondering on.  As I look back on the people who have said or done something that influenced me, I wonder who I would be without them in my life.

10.  Ab is drying her hair in my bathroom right now.  She is singing Taylor Swift songs at the top of her lungs.  It seems like our encounter of an hour ago never took place.  To me she is perfect.  She is one of those who have made me into who I am today.  She made me a mother.  Ah, Love Story.  For some reason, this is one of her favorites.  She is a romantic like me.  I wonder what her dreams and visions will be and where they will take her.  Wow.  What a ride.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finding the Right Size

Last year I bought a very cute pair of running/walking shoes so I could be better shod in my attempts at physical fitness.  The gray and pink complimented each other and I felt like I was ready for my successful endeavors.  Sad to say, my good intentions did not translate into actual walking and running.  You see, every time I wore the darn shoes, my right foot would go numb.  I tried loosening the laces, but it still happened every single time.

This past Wednesday was the final straw.  Along with the youth group in my church, we walked/ran a 5K for one of our weeknight activities.  The weather was superb.  It was nice and cool, the sun just starting its decent, illuminating the mountains in golden hues.  Everyone was laughing, having a superb time.  I on the other hand, was at the tail end of the pack, hobbling along, in my shoes, with a numb right foot.  I finally gave up at mile 1.5, and headed back to the church to finish up the day.  It was rather upsetting that so many of the ‘kids’ were able to leave me in the dust, even my very own children with shorter legs than I have.

On Saturday, Dan and I went to a running store and I was fit with new shoes.  I had to walk barefoot, so the salesperson could observe my natural gait, and then shoe after shoe was tried, until I have a pair that met my needs.  Apparently, I need a lot of support.  The thing that really shocked me from my experience was the fact I had been wearing the wrong size of running shoes all my life, really, 1 ½ sizes too small.  No wonder my right foot was going numb.

According to the shoe expert, our feet swell and spread when we walk and run.  That really shouldn’t surprise me.  As my feet were expanding whilst on the treadmill, the nerves in my feet didn’t have anywhere to expand, hence the numb feeling.  After being fitted with the appropriate shoe, it was like walking on air.
I went to the gym this morning and walked a quick two miles on the treadmill.  What a difference my equipment made!  It was a drastic difference than my workouts in the past.  It was actually enjoyable as I felt the stability of good support, and it made the ‘chore’ all that more bearable.

Of course I have to draw some sort of analogy to my writing!  I have an amazing husband who supports a wild dream I have to write.  I have people who constantly check in on my progress, and don’t seem to mind when I tell them I am no where closer to a completed story than I was the last time they asked.  I have a lot of support.  Much like my new shoes, I am one who needs a lot of support here.

Now for a stretch, but I am going to try to get it to come together, I hope.  For a long time, I’ve been wearing shoes that were too small for my feet.  Am I doing the same thing to myself in writing?  Is the story I want to tell something that is making me numb because it isn’t coming together the way I’d like?  Or is it that I need to find the right ‘fit’ of my characters in order for writing to be an enjoyable experience?  I’m not sure yet, but I’ll let you know when I find out.  Of course, if my cute husband reads this, I can say I just need better equipment, you know, a new computer….Um, not sure he’d buy that one. :)

Thanks to Google for the image of the Saucony shoe!

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Journey to 20/20

I finally made it!!!  I have been wishing, hoping, and dreaming of the day when I could have LASIK done and would come out with perfect vision.  That day was last Thursday, and as of today, I am still thrilled beyond measure at how things have turned out.  Here is a brief pictorial of my day...Caution, I'm throwing one of the gross eye pics.  Avert your eyes now if you have a queasy stomach!
A terrible picture, but it is the last one with glasses!!  Can you tell I'm nervous?
The nurse washing my eyes with Beta-dyne. She also started the numbing drops then.
All ready for surgery!!!

CAUTION!!  GROSS EYE PICTURE BELOW!

Freaky eye picture!

Right after surgery.  I was 'photo-phobic' and couldn't handle the light at all.  I would have liked to nestle myself in a dark cocoon of blankets and shut all the blinds.
My Stevie Wonder glasses and the nurse that put the plastic eye shields on.  She was super nice even though I was starting to get cranky due to the light sensitivity.
This could have been so much better, if I hadn't been so ornery!  Here I am donating my Vera Wang, bling-ed out glasses. Oh well, I now have the vision, and don't need the posh specs anymore!
My dear sweet Daniel put up with the eye drops every half hour and my crankiness over the light.  One that wore off, I have been in blissful heaven with my vision at almost 20/15!!!  Thanks to the Moran Eye Center and all they did for me!  Dr. Mifflin rocked it and did a fantastic job.  There is a reason he is world renowned!  I can see!  I can see!  I can see!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Country Roots and Urban Dreams

Below you will find my essay, entered into Segullah's essay contest last December.  While I haven't pulled it out to work on since my rejection letter (something I'm still quite proud of by the way), I can see where improvements should have been made.  I left it as is though, because in just a few short weeks, we will begin our pilgrimage again and I wanted to share.  It seemed like the perfect time to post my thoughts about my urban dreams that never seem to quite mesh with those country roots.



About an hour north of my own idyllic neighborhood lies a town time has forgotten. Main street still sports the same facades as were popular in 1950, the street signs faded to a burnished patina of long forgotten maintenance. Here, the clerk at the grocery store knows everyone's name, as well as their parents, siblings and any offspring they may have. She chats about local gossip while ringing up the food and sundries; she is the hub of all things social there. Every year, at the end of August, my small family makes the pilgrimage to our own Mecca, to visit this town and it's attractions for the night. Without fail, we all flock to the place where we all began, cousins and grandparents, sisters and brothers.

Cousins at the County Fair
My children have become accustomed to our yearly tradition, retracing small town roots. As we round a bend in the road, and the cow smell seeps it's way into the air vents of our vehicle, they chorus complaints of the stench, all the while giggling with anticipation, for our destination is just a few miles away. Once there, cousins will converge upon each other and the intricately choreographed dance of the County Fair will begin.

We're not considered locals...although perhaps we could claim it by a grandfather clause, but we act as if we are, wether from expectation or experience. Pulling into the fairgrounds, the dust thick in the air, wafting around us, we find a spot to make a quick exit, knowing how difficult the end of the night will be. Stepping from the car, the dust still lingering in the air, I take a deep breath, and know I have come to a place where my roots began.

My mother grew up in this small town. Her own father, one of the local school teachers in a time where children were bussed from small farming communities to town for school. She and her sisters couldn't wait to leave what could be considered a stifling atmosphere, to see the world from a different perspective. Now, so many years later, she too returns, along with her own children and grandchildren, basking in the joy of small town roots.

Nigel touching the calves
Although early afternoon is the best time to arrive, we know we must reserve a spot as soon as possible for the rodeo. The old blankets, used every year, for this one activity are pulled from the trunks and back seats. Worn denim on the back, with polyester blocks on front, ties with bright red yarn, it is our rodeo quilt, the one to save our spot on the aluminum bleachers. The grandstand hums with activity as we spread out the blankets, adding an extra few feet, because another family member is bound to show up and need a seat. The routine has been played out by many generations now, and we follow blindly, doing the same, year after year, but it never grows old.

I didn't grow up in a small town. I was more urban than rural. I didn't thin the beets for my summer job, nor did I walk to the five and dime store as my mother did. My youth consisted of trips to the mall for school clothes, close neighbor friends with whom I spent lazy summer days. I could walk to the library, a few blocks away, and never had to milk a cow for chores. My upbringing didn't consist of 4-H meetings, yet I still feel as though I belong in this small town. It is where many of my ancestors chose to settle, farm, raise families.
The Rodeo Burger

We continue our choreography of dance across the fairway. Each step I take, puffs of dust surround my shoes, coating them a light brown. In and out of aisles, between carnival rides, holding the hand of own daughter, we make our way to the spot I yearn for throughout the year. Fresh hamburgers, garden tomatoes, onions, pickles, the works. A rodeo burger. Wrapped in white paper, I handle the hamburgers with reverence as we walk to the galvanized steel tables where fresh-from-the-field tomatoes are sliced thick and juicy. A bucket of pickles and fresh onions, laid out in old Tupperware, hold spoons and forks for anyone to use. The sneeze guard is splattered with mustard and ketchup, and flies spin around our heads. It is heaven, as we observe the standard rituals of those that came before me.

I remember being a small child and loading my own hamburger with pickles, my grandfather watching me. Now my father watches my own children, helping them as their arms aren't quite long enough to reach their condiments. The cycle of roots is perpetuated again, as I will do the same in years to come.

Weston and his ribbon
The tempo increases as we breeze through the exhibit halls. Vendors, tout their wares, some homemade; the local funeral parlor offering a drawing for a free casket, the fire department and it's taffy. We make our way with the hordes of others, to get a glimpse of a blue ribbon painting, the rows and rows of bottled fruit and preserves, each with a paper placard noting the flavor, town, and name of the entrant. Best in show, a huge white ribbon sits pinned to a crocheted afghan, multicolored and perfect in every way. 4-H displays are scrutinized and fingered, cousins show off ribbons. I breath a sigh of contentment and feel at home here, wishing I had something to enter, a ribbon of my own. Then I remind myself of my own dreams, and realize a ribbon is a small price to pay for seeing both worlds.

Poking the goat
My own little ones lament their own lack of ribbons on pigs, bunnies, and little lambs. I try to explain that our dreams are different than what life here would bring us. It does little to console them, but they scamper off to poke the goat with straw and listen to the clucking sounds of the chickens. I watch from a short distance and grow nostalgic, my children are growing up away from the innocence of this place.

As evening approaches, and all the stalls have been visited, each child is given a ticket or two for the coveted carnival ride. Around and around on the merry-go-round, the joints creaking as it makes the turns. For some reason it is the best in the world, with it's chipped paint and tacky horses. Each child races along on their very own steed, swearing to beat the others to the finish line.

We hear the announcer in the distance, starting to warm up for the rodeo. Sticky hands, rosy cheeks, cotton candy rimmed mouths walk towards the voice, kicking up dust behind. I hold the hand of my husband, who fell into this tradition by nature of marriage, just like my own father did, and we smile, knowing we are making memories to last a lifetime.

The calves are roped, wrestled. The little ones have ridden their way to fame and fortune on the back of a wooly sheep. We have screamed until we have no voice as we watched the cowboy, with only a gloved hand, keep himself atop of a bucking bull. Noses are cold, from the cool summer night air, as we make our way, sleeping children on our shoulders, to our car. Making our getaway until next summer, we wait in the long line of cars, leaving behind the dusty fields. The taillights seem to leave a trail, away from my country roots, toward my urban dreams.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Umm, Where's Mom?

Me hanging onto Abbie and Nigel-Valley of Fire 2008
The other day I saw a post on Facebook, with a link to a blog, that got me thinking, and almost has put me into a stupor. It has been on my mind, and I’m almost obsessed with the idea, so much so, that it has caused sleepless nights, and worry. Do I have any proof that I was here?

I’ve been obsessed with writing, or the idea of writing for a very long time. Someday, I want a book with my name stated clearly as the author, proof that I was here, but I’m writing about something entirely different today. I want to leave proof in other ways; ways that my children will cherish in the years to come.

I have a couple of things that sit in my chest of treasures, items that are valuable to me, but have little worth in the eyes of the world. I have a letter, written by my grandfather, in his own spidery handwriting, giving me love and advice when I was far from home. Written before the days of quick e-mail or the ease of texting, it is a letter on lined paper, black ink marching across the page. It is treasured for the fact it was something he wrote, his hand touched the page, his thoughts strung together in words for me to read half way across the world. He could have typed it, which would have been easier for him, and his arthritic fingers, but he wrote it out and so I treasure it even more. I also have a picture of him, in his early days of teaching in the 1940’s. He is young, smooth skinned, and I adore it. The picture has fused to the glass of the frame, where it has been housed for more years than I can remember and regardless of the condition, it is a prized possession. This is physical evidence that he was here. He was part of my life. He has been gone for 15 years now, and I am so glad I have these few mementos to hang on to. Not all my cousins or siblings have these types of treasures, and that makes me sad. What have they missed?

This takes me back to the proof I want to leave. Are there pictures of me? Do I have notes left to my children and husband, which will stand the test of time, written in my own hand? I’m sure that when I am gone, they will not care if my penmanship is gorgeous and elegant. They won’t care if my hair is a mess, or I am having body image issues. They will want a picture of me, smiling when I’m happy, crying when I’m sad, so they can remember me. They will treasure a letter or a note that has my own writing on it, something personal and far from the clinical sterility of typing it out as I'm want to do.

My Mom-June 2008
I grew up with my mother hiding when the camera came out. She was either behind the camera, or running into the other room. I have very few where she is smiling naturally, because she grew up where smiles in photos were forced. It’s a behavior that I’m sure she learned from her mother, and it has caused me quite a bit of frustration when I think of missed opportunities. One of my favorite pictures I have is one that I caught the day she returned home from her mission and I saw her for the first time in almost two years. She is goofy and laughing, hamming it up for the camera. She isn’t stiff and formal, and this is an actual representation of how I view her. In this digital age, where there is so little cost or effort in taking a picture, why do we all shy away from showing who we really are? Are we so afraid of what we will see of ourselves we would rather not be present?

Looking at my own experience, I am the one, always behind the camera, shooting hundreds of shots of our surroundings, they various expressions of my children, and the important events of our lives. I’ve filled external hard drives with the number of photos I’ve taken in the past couple of years. The problem? I’m in so few of them, I’m not sure that my family could even say I attended any of the events I’ve documented. There is no picture of me with my daughter, laughing at the funny antics at the rodeo, or that I was at the zoo that one time we went with friends. Where am I? Behind the lens, catching it all, but never pausing to say, “Take a picture of me!” How sad to think that I put such a low value of my influence on my children’s lives. Won’t they want to see a picture of me, smiling broadly the day they were born? Even though my eyes are exhausted, my hair a mess, and tears are streaming down my cheeks? It shouldn’t bother me, because I know it won’t bother them.

Does this aversion come from a time when a photograph was an expensive item? Something one dressed up for, and never smiled? Is it because we were frugal in ways to “save money” on the cost of film and developing, where we could have saved somewhere else, and had a payout, something ever so priceless?
 
Mommy and Nigel
Abbie and Me at Temple Square
To help myself remember, I’ve created a blog, just for me, although you are more than welcome to participate if you so desire, to prove to myself and those that I love, that I was HERE! I want to post pictures of me, with my children, friends, and family. (Still under serious construction!) I want it to be more than the rare Facebook profile shot, taken with my computer camera. I want it to showcase who I really am. I will survive the embarrassment of bed head for the sake of leaving a physical legacy. Proof I was here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Viewing Old Glory

I’ve had a number of blog posts running through my head, and just haven’t taken the time to put them down on paper.  Because of our observance of Independence Day, I thought I would share some thought I have regarding this almost spiritual holiday.

While serving a mission for my church back in the mid ‘90s, I spent a time in an area where a number of foreign embassies had offices.  During one of the hot humid days of summer (probably sometime in February or early March), while riding one of the modes of public transportation, we skirted the edge of the grounds of the U.S Embassy.  Peeking through the trees I was able to catch a glimpse of Old Glory, waving in the slight breeze.  Without a moment’s hesitation, tears welled up in my eyes and I was filled with a burning of patriotic pride.  Suddenly, it was the 4th of July for me and my companion.  Home was just a few steps away before the bus turned the corner and continued on through the streets of Uruguay.  Never before in my life had the flag incited such a feeling of warmth and desire.  It took me spending time on what I considered foreign soil to appreciate the symbolism of our flag.  I still love and adore my time in Uruguay, and will consider it my second home for the rest of my life, but there is something that changed inside me that day, where I felt as though I was far from home, but I was proud to be an American.

The past few years we have celebrated the 4th with a cannon firing and time with family and friends.  A parade of children waving flags, a prayer, and much food is to be enjoyed.  It has become a favorite holiday for many, me included.  The laughter, the games, and the sparklers to be handed out at dusk have become as traditional as the holiday itself.

Growing up, I did enjoy the fiery festivities that came about with each 4th of July.  While I was taught from an early age to respect the flag, honor and support those who fought for our freedom, it never touched as close to home as it did last year.  This month marks the anniversary of a fallen soldier in our family.  I saw sheer, raw emotion last year as I watched men, surrounding the hearse, standing watch, each with a flag, protecting the fallen soldier while those inside the building paid their respects.  I was acutely aware of the sacrifice given, and the respect of those who stood, lined along our route to the cemetery, holding flags, heads bowed in deference to the one who was gone.  I will never again here the song Taps played when I will not think of my freedom and its great cost.

This year, our observance was reverent, and we spent the day at church, worshipping, exercising the right to worship the God we chose, in the place we chose, and how we intended.  We avoided the flashy displays of fireworks, and brass bands.  It was a most spiritual time of reflection and solitude.  I am humbled to live where I can worship, celebrate, and honor those I wish.  Oh, we will still have the flashy display of patriotism later in the month as we visit with family and friends on the holiday our state has set aside to remember those who founded it.  The cannon will still be fired by Grandpa, who will deliver a discourse on the history of those who have served and lost lives, and flags will be waved by little ones, eager to participate.  We will gorge ourselves on beef brisket and at dusk, the sparklers will be handed out.

As the years pass, I’m sure we will be lulled back into the festive nature of our Independence Day observances.  For now, I’m glad to have the quiet time to really reflect on my freedom and the sacrifice paid by so many.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yeah, like that is going to work!

So, the picture says it all.  After visiting with my doctor last week, I have been instructed to cut almost all carbohydrates out of my diet.  She wants me focusing on lean meats and veggies.  Of course this is a great way to eat, if I weren't so darn addicted to bread and potatoes.  I've talked to friends and family, had wonderful advice, and it just comes down to will power.  Something I don't have an over abundance of apparently.  Otherwise I wouldn't be in this state.

Over this past week, I've wondered and pondered on my will power and those things that take me from being firmly on the path of whatever I have a desire to do, whether it is to loose pounds, write a novel, paint my living room or just clear out the dishwasher once a day.  It is so simple to just tell myself to "do it", but it doesn't always happen.  The soft couch gets in the way of heading out to the gym, the computer brings distractions, always in the way of my writing, and complacency for the status quo.  What will it take to make me change myself and go in the direction I need to move?

Here is the catalyst I've looked for in my quest to loose weight, my doctor telling me to do this.  All of sudden, I'm not longer complacent and change must be endured for me to be comfortable again.  Being a creature of habit, and not a lover of huge change, this in itself is a difficulty.  I'm not great at making these types of changes that cause discomfort and pain.  Let's be honest.  It's hard work, and I'm all for the simple say of doing things.  Isn't there just a pill I can take or magic wand in the back closet? No?  Crap.

So, carbs.  They are my comfort foods.  Those that I turn to when I'm moody, sad, happy, and just need a little pick me up.  According to the doctor, they are doing more harm than good when it comes to my body.  So for a moment of peace and enjoyment, the lasting effects on my thighs and heart aren't worth it.  It is a change that I'm not sure about quite yet.  I'm leaving a zone of extreme comfort.  I cook with carbs, I eat carbs, and enjoy it emensely.  I was taught the importance of the food pyramid where carbs played a large role.  I have to change my entire outlook on eating and living.

Of course, I can also relate this to my writing, or lack there of.  I've spent months talking about writing, dreaming about writing, writing about writing, but haven't felt the change I desire when it comes to the actual act of writing.  What am I scared of.  I use time as my deterrent, but if I really wanted to make the change to create something I dream of, I would just do it, right?  Again, self-discipline and my lack there of.  I get sucked into everything else, all the while my mind whirling with dialogue that doesn't make it to paper, or scenes that are forgotten like last night's dream, fading into wisps of unconsciousness.

The only thoughts I can come up with are: one moment at a time.  While I wean myself off chocolate cake, and homemade bread, and learn to love vegetables that weren't always my favorite, I will count each moment a victory.  Now if I could only do the same with the paint in my living room.

Thanks to Google for the image.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Patience, My Lacking Virtue

So, I thought I would do a quick post to update on my mom.  Her surgery is almost four weeks out and she is still struggling quite a bit.  She went to the doctor today and they did all sorts of tests, and we hope they will have some answers soon.  She was doing remarkably well as she left the hospital, but she has progressively trodden the path to ill health again.  They think she may have an infection, so they are testing her for that.  The good news is, at least for now, no pace-maker.

I have to give an enormous shout out to all the health professionals that took care of her while she was in ICU and the recovery unit.  After a week in ICU, she was fed up with the whole hospital stay, but there were those who made it more tolerable.  She did have one or two caregivers that had much to be desired, (i.e. not letting her get out of bed).  Luckily for us, the angels far outshone.  One who tenderly gave my mom a sponge bath, washed her hair and made her more comfortable in her less than luxurious bed.  Others communicated with us about the smallest detail and really made it a positive experience.

Because of all the time spent walking the hospital halls, we spent a few meals at the cafeteria.  The food was WONDERFUL! They had the grill going 24/7, and even when we were there far into the night, there was always someone to ring up a piece of fruit, water bottle, or if times were really rough, a hamburger and fries.

During these past few weeks, I've had a myriad of emotions.  It's been hard to talk to my mom because she isn't upbeat and happy.  She doesn't feel well, and when she doesn't, she gets a little ornery.  I've taken most of it in stride, with a grain of salt, but it has been hard to sit by, and not be able to do anything for her.  Unfortunately, there isn't much I can do, but call, stop by, and let her know how much I love her.

We are hoping and praying that all will soon be well, and she will regain her former strength and personality.  She lamented to me today that she feels guilty for not rejoicing about not needing a pacemaker.  She just wants to feel better, and I can understand that more than I can say.  I'm sure we both would give anything for her to be able to walk a mile, play with the kids, make a card, garden, and all the other things she loves to do.  It will come in time, we just need to learn patience.

Patience is one of my most lacking traits.  I want things, and I want them now.  As a child I would have to try and "trick" myself into waiting for an activity that held my excitement.  "It will come when it comes" was a mantra my 8 -year old self would say.  One would think after so many years, that type of thinking would have caught on.  Nope.  If anything, I'm more impatient than I ever was.  I get frustrated that I'm not writing as fast or as much as I would like.  I look at al those around my and compare.  I must get it from my mom, because right now she sure isn't feeling like being patient.

Oh the joys of trials in our lives.  Really, my trials, and those of my mom are so insignificant when we think of what the Savior did for us.  The pains and anguish He suffered.  My trials are so small in comparison.  Perhaps with the eternal, and spiritual perspective, both mom and I can learn to be a bit more patient in this earthly existence and learn a little of what this experience holds for us.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Feeling the Funk

Sometimes I remind myself I have the most wonderful husband on earth.  Don't ask me why, but I get a little clouded by life, as I'm sure many of us do.  Last night as we were lying in bed, waiting for the sweet bliss of slumber, he asked me what he could do for me.  Now, this is a question he asks multiple times a day, because he sees my funk and wants to help me.  I thought about it, and really pondered the question.  There really isn't anything he can do for me.  It is all up to me, but luckily, I have him along for the journey.

I saw a sign on the side of the road once, an ad for depression awareness.  It said, "You don't tell someone with diabetes to snap out of it."  I can't tell you the number of times over my life I've heard this particular analogy, and sorry in advance to anyone it may offend, I hate it!  Don't ask me why, but I do.  It seems to equate my moodiness to a serious health condition.  I've known people with diabetes, and it is a daily struggle to keep their bodies in sync.  For some reason, I never saw depression as something similar.  It has taken me years to get into a state of mind to accept that there may be some similarities, even if it isn't the impression the sign meant to evoke.

Let's be honest....we all deal with the blues, or a bout of depression once in a while.  Some of us, me included, struggle on a daily basis with demons that others can't comprehend.  I hit a breaking point a couple of years ago, scaring myself, my family, and most of all, my husband.  I think for the first time in my life, I realized that what I was dealing with wasn't normal, and it was something that I needed help to "snap out of".  I had my own journey of discovery, and many key players both medically, emotionally, helped me along the way.  Here are some of my observations, though I don't credit to following my own advice very often:

1. You can prevent problems with your diabetes and depression with diet and exercise.  It seems to be the standard answer these days, and I struggle with motivation to get up and go to the gym along with just about the entire human population, but I have to admit my days are better when I have taken the time to work on my body and mind.  Of course, this realization isn't so clear at 5:30 am when my alarm goes off.  If I eat better, I feel better.  That said, I still don't eat lunch on a busy day and then, I'm out of synch with life.

2. It's embarrassing to feel as though I'm drowning.  My normal isn't your normal, and it certainly isn't the normal for my neighbor.  The fact is that there is a stigma attached to depression, and to some extent diabetes.  I feel as though I have to hide all my emotions behind my front door and not ever let them out into the world.  I have to keep up a brave front in order to disguise my weakness.  Truth is, every time I've needed help, it's been there when I've been either brave enough to ask for it, or too far gone to see that my feelings are leaking into everyday life.  What makes us so scared to ask for help?  I know that I'm ready to be there for someone at the drop of a hat if they are emotionally or physically in need.  Goodness, I spent a week at the hospital with my Mom, to offer what little emotional support I could.  What makes me think she wouldn't do the same for me were the situation reversed?

3. Live a grateful life.  I always feel better when I have a spirit of gratitude about me.  Truth is, when the sky is dark, it is hard to be grateful for the sun.  I'm never good at keeping a gratitude journal, and if I were, perhaps looking back on it during tough times, I would be keener at realizing what I have to be grateful for.  Right now, the thing that makes me realize how much I have to be thankful for is when I listen to my children pray.  That Nigel is thankful for his plastic army men pulls me back to home and I know that there is always something to be grateful for.

I have a plethora of other observations about myself.  It's taken a long time to see them.  Much like the time in college where a friend observed I always ordered lemonade to drink, and I suddenly realized that it was my favorite drink at the time,  it took someone to point out to me that my blues weren't normal, and that was okay.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Heart Health and Me

It's been quite a while since I last posted, and to be honest, I haven't missed it.  My life has been a deluge of sorts, with heart health issues.  Luckily, there are doctors and nurses with amazing healing skills for those in my family who have been struck by different heart issues.

First off, on May 11, 2010, my father-in-law went in for bypass surgery, and ended up with a quadruple bypass.  We consider this an amazing miracle, because he could have had a massive heart attack at anytime.  He followed promptings to see his doctor, and now he is on the road to better heart health.

As we are all trying to do better, this is a quick layout I did of our after dinner walk, a healthy tradition we will all endeavor to adopt.  Grandpa Clawson is out in his bathrobe, and his hat of course, but he is slowly making his recovery.  While he made it just a couple of houses down before turning back home, the rest of us took a longer stroll and had a delightful time.  Of course, the kiddos and their crazy energy took off and ran most of the way.

While Dan's dad has been recovering and relapsing, and recovering again, we have had more drama in our life.  My dad called last week to inform me that my mother was in the hospital with chest pain.  After taking a couple of days of tests, we found out that two of her heart valves are damaged and open heart surgery was her only option.  First it was thought she would be able to wait until the end of June for repair, but truth be told, it was worse than anyone thought.  Today I'm blogging from the waiting room while my mother is in surgery at this moment.  They hope to repair the valves, but if not, they will be replaced.  Either scenario would be acceptable, as long as she begins to heal, we will be happy.  I'm thrilled that both my brothers are here with me as we keep my dad company.  All together.  It made my mom cry, and all of us became misty eyed as we realized the enormity of the situation.  It has been wonderful to be together during this difficult time.
While we tried to keep the mood light, and I did need a few pictures to document the process, because one never knows when they will be valuable, it was a tense time.  We joked and laughed, reminisced and loved.  I don't know if Mom will remember any of it when it is all said and done, but it was nice.

The sun is out today, so I know that things will turn out fine.  We have a fantastic doctor, great nurses, and a great hospital.  More things to come!!
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