Monday, October 24, 2011


In the summer of 2005, when I was aching with both pregnancy and my husband's absence, I met Flora.

We had just purchased a little point-and-shoot digital camera. I enjoyed pointing it at Reed, my burgeoning belly, and anything else that struck my fancy.

One day while Reed and I were on a walk, across the street from our apartment, we stopped to admire Flora's front yard. Rose bushes bordered the emerald-green grass, and tiger lilies lined the driveway. I noticed a particular rose bush that had lavender roses, and felt a much-missed sense of curiosity rise in my chest. I felt so heavy with the weight of having to experience this period of my life without Phill at home with us, and for some reason, those lavender roses gave me the lightness I desperately needed.

Flora came outside, standing by her door. I explained from the sidewalk that we were admiring her roses; that I'd never seen lavender ones before. She was flattered and pleased, and said I was welcome to enjoy them any time. She even encouraged me to take some home. Then I felt to ask her if maybe I could take some photos of them, and she agreed happily. However, she lamented that she should not venture further from her yard, as her immune system was weakened, and she ought not surround herself with children or a wide variety of people.

So I came back at a later date, having left Reed with my dear neighbor, and took photos of her roses. I did this several times in the course of the next few months. I needed to do it. It resolved something for me.

On one occasion, Flora explained to me that the rose bushes had been her husband's great talent. It was he who cared for them so expertly, and she was worried that after his death she hadn't properly maintained them. Not so, I countered. They were still so beautiful. She looked at one of the bushes closely and said, "Well, I shouldn't leave that there...." and bent to remove a bud that had grown brown and dry. Then she showed me where to remove the dead parts, the brown, the thin and crackly stems. She warned me that the beautiful blooms and green stems would be overcome by the dead parts if you didn't remove them.

I have since given plenty of thought to the symbolism in these mini-lessons from Flora. She herself was an example of overcoming obstacles and striving towards a more Christ-like life. When she was young, she had rheumatic fever, and it had weakened her heart. Still, she recovered and was married, and she and her husband, despite advice against it, wanted desperately to have a child. They tried for a while, but to no avail, and then adopted a baby. Shortly thereafter, she conceived. Towards the end of the pregnancy, her compromised heart was working so hard that she found herself at death's door. She said to me about this experience, "I was dying, and I didn't want to, and I told Heavenly Father that if he would just let me live a little longer, I would dedicate my life to serving Him." She lived, and she kept her promise, raising her children faithfully, loving her husband loyally, and working for countless hours in the Church's family history center after her husband's death. She is someone I think of every time I see a rose.

For the first few weeks after we got here in Texas, I was blundering through the daily routine with blinders on. I hardly noticed a thing, much less the outdoors. Everything felt a little blurry, a little less colorful, as if I were viewing things through cloudy glass. And then I think I grew sick of myself, and then desperate, and prayed for clear sight.

My prayer was answered with breathless speed. I woke up the next morning and actually saw what was around me. Specifically, a rose bush--in the front yard and the back yard. I felt ashamed for having missed something so beautiful. Then it wasn't enough to just stare at them, I had to experience them, too. So, starting with the back yard rose bush, I conducted a close inspection. Only one blossom, struggling for the light at the very top of the bush, and on its way out. I silently wished for the best and went to work with my bare hands, unable to resist clearing some of the brown from the branches. I wept openly, thinking, Let me help you, let me just clear away this dead stuff. Thinking to myself, Help me. Help me clear away the dead stuff. Thinking of Flora, of her dedication to things of lasting importance. Her careful pruning and attention to the choking chaff, both spiritual and botanical. I thought about my weaknesses, the things that had come to light during our relocation, the surprise useless branches amongst the more colorful blooms, and I prayed for help in clearing away those parts of my soul.

After pruning the rose bush, I felt lighter, like I did when I first saw the lavender roses in Flora's front yard. I wondered if my pruning had helped, and held a secret prayer in mind that it would. That night a thunderstorm rolled above us. Loud and relentless, it thrashed the foliage outside, and I wondered how my rose bush was doing. I worried about that lone blossom, hanging on for dear life in the furious winds outside.

The next morning I was anxious to see its fate. It was still there! Bent, battered, bruised. But still there. Still able to grow, still holding on. Again I felt an absurd, inexplicable joy in its resisting the storm. I directed my thoughts towards it, thinking, Oh, see how strong you are? And then I felt a whisper to my heart: Oh, see how strong you are? We are clearing away the dead stuff, and you are surviving the storm.

The more I pick on that bush, pulling at the crispy stuff and giving more room for the fresh green stuff, the more it blooms. And it's not just blooming now, it's exploding. I prune, it storms, and then it pulls out a showstopper, revealing not just two, three, or four new blossoms, but eight, sometimes more. It isn't just surviving the storms, the repeated reductions. It is thriving.

Oh, see how strong you are? We clear away the dead stuff, and you will thrive in the storm.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Friend Series: Camilla Davies

[My additions in brackets and italics.]

How do you know Rae?
Rachel and I met at church.  I invited her over for a bbq, she said that her husband was deployed, so maybe she'd come another time.  I remember on her husband's first time in church, I was sick.  My husband told me that he was home.  I asked my husband what he looked like and he said, "red hair and freckles".  And I said, "ugh, but Rachel's so pretty!" [This cracks me up!!]

What do you do for a living?

I raise and grow children.  I put my life to a halt to throw up for 20 weeks to grow one.  And then I love and nurture them and tell them to stop growing every day. [It's true, guys. For such a long time, all she could eat was Cheerios.]

What do you want to be when you grow up? (Translation: What is your dream?)
My husband and I want to own a bed and breakfast.  Where I can decorate every room with hand made items.  And I can bake and bake and bake until my heart is content, and fill the bellies of the passer-byers and friends we make who stay with us.  [I'll come and stay. You don't have to make me.]

Tell us about the people you love.
I love people who help me to grow, and love and support me through hard times.  My husband is the #1 person who I love, I have told him that with my issues, most men would have left me by now.  Sometimes, he agrees (and that's okay).  I only have a few close friends.  My closest friends who I have ever made in this world are Rachel and Robyn.  They are the best part of my family, because they are my CHOSEN family.  Flesh and blood family, you get stuck with, so you love them.  Friends who turn into family are the best kind, because you have chosen them to be your family.  [I love you so much. You are definitely family.]

What interests you?
This seems like a hard one, with 3 kids, do I really have TIME for interests?  I love to paint.  Not the artistic, paint pictures of people and scenes painting, but painting furniture and things to decorate my house.  I LOVE IT.  I never do anymore, because there is no more furniture in my house left to paint.  But I love it.  Lately I have become interested in reading.  My husband works full time and goes to school.  I have developed reading as my evening hobby when he's doing homework.  I am growing to love it! [I'm glowing with pride.]
What five things make life sweet for you? What really makes you happy?
1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear my kids playing sweetly and laughing.  It is the best sound in the world.
2.  Nice weather.  Right now, Flagstaff is starting to come alive with the colors of fall, and it is so beautiful.  I love to be in a quiet nature setting where I can fell at peace and out of the world.
3. I am not in shape right now, but when I am, nothing makes me feel better than a nice long run.  The kind of run where you can go and go and sweat and sweat and never even have to stop running until your time is up.  It's such a fabulous feeling.
3. Ice Cream or popcorn with candy corns, husband, and a really good movie.  Need I say more?
4. Spending time with old friends, and realizing that we are still as close as we were before we parted.  Even though time has passed, and life has changed, seeing that we still love each other just as much as we always have is a good feeling.
5. Making other people happy.  Doing something for someone that they didn't expect and that makes them so happy just makes you feel good inside. 
*bonus*  Making my husband laugh.  He has the BEST laugh, and when I can do something that makes him laugh, it's so good.  It feels like love. [LOVE this.]

Do you have a phobia?
I am SO SCARED of spiders.  It's horrible.  I can't look at pictures of them, don't talk about them, don't tell me one is around unless it dead.  I have no idea where this came from, but it's bad.  I am also scared of heights.  The Farris wheel SCARES me.  I go on it with my kids and pretend it doesn't.  But I'm terrified the whole time. [Are you also scared of Halloween decorations that involve spiders?]
Do you have a favorite book?
Jane Eyre.  I know it's a popular book, so it's not original of me, but at least it's not Twilight, right?  I read it last week and I LOVE IT.  (spoiler alert)  When Jane left MR. Rochester, after he was begging her to stay, a part of me died inside.  I finished that chapter, and went to bed.  I couldn't read on.  It was to dramatic, and romantically sad, it crushed me.  When Jane said something about how she has to much respect for herself to stay and be a mistress, i was just like WOW.  For the first day, I was certain that I would have stayed.  But then in an instant, I remembered a relationship that I could have married into, but felt like I deserved, needed better.  So I didn't stay.  I guess there is a little Jane inside of me after all. [I HATE that you don't live one street away anymore, because upon reading this, I would grab my copy of Jane Eyre, run over to your house, and proceed to engage you in the most nerdy book-loving conversation ever. I love, love, love Jane Eyre. Also--just would like to mention--the movie? The movie recently made? It's good. Really good. They did an incredible job.]

What is one technological advance you wish hadn't taken place?
Their might be others, but off the top of my head I'm going to say cell phones w/texting and internet.  EVERYONE is always on their phones, and it makes me crazy.  And people text like crazy.  It's just not necessary.  I feel like it makes people lazy.  For the record, I hardly text at all. [I agree. As much as I'm no one to talk, I'm really striving to be more present and less hooked to my phone. A person can go days without looking someone in the eyes, lost in a phone. Ridiculous.]

Hypothetical question: You've been imprisoned in a 10x10 cement cell, a political prison for dissenters of the dystopian, futuristic culture where this hypothetical situation takes place. You are allowed exactly three things. What three things have you chosen to bring with you? Feel free to elaborate, or to just leave your answers as-is.
I'm going to assume that this is a last minute gathering of objects.  If I were to look around my house have have to collect 3 objects, I would choose, the most recent photo album, to pine over photos of my children and my husband, a notebook and pencil to journal my life, and Lily's stuffed puppy.  Lily loves her puppy so much, that it would bring me a lot of comfort and love.  :) [I love Lily's puppy.]

If you ever imagine a utopian society, what is that society like? What kind of government (if any)? What sorts of houses, countries, etc?
I think that a utopian society would be less modern, and more old school.  People eat more naturally, there are community farms and everyone trades their produce, and everyone has an abundance of everything.  If someone is found guilty of a crime, than an eye for an eye will be payment.  There would be lots of land, and no cell phones.  If you needed to talk to someone, you would walk to their house and sit and talk, one on one, with eye contact and everything! [Camilla....can you build your bed and breakfast on the farm that I'll live on one day?]

What do you think is the most important thing a human being can contribute to this life?
As a mother, I'm going to say children.  But not just any children.  I don't think that people should just push children out and do minimum.  Have children, teach them right from wrong, teach them to look both ways when crossing the street, to say 'excuse me' to be kind and have common sense.  These things are lacking in society today.  To contribute in a positive way to society by giving it another functional, smart human being is a good contribution. [LOVE. And for the record, you're doing an incredible job at this.]

Camilla, please expound on the Cotton Ball Incident.
**Phill HATES cotton balls, he can't bare the touch of them.**
Once upon a time, Rachel asked my husband and I if we could come over and babysit Reed and Jaxon while she picked Phill up after he'd been away with the Army for an extended period.  So we happily agreed.  Happily, because we also brought with us, a large, un-opened bag of cotton balls.  As soon as Rachel left, we sprung into action.  We used a movie or something to distract the boys, and then went into Phill's bedroom.  We put cotton balls under the sheets, in his drawers, in his socks, and everywhere we could think of to hide them to leave him with an unpleasant surprise.  It was fabulous, and we laughed the WHOLE WAY HOME. [I must elaborate. When Phill discovered the cotton balls, he picked them up like a cat would touch something that weirded them out--quick, and just with the tips of his fingers. Shuddering and jumping back as it would fall to the floor. And Camilla didn't mention that each cotton ball had an evilly-smiling Sharpie face drawn on it! The best detail by far.]

What is your favorite memory with Rae? 
As I was thinking of this, trying to figure it out, it hit me: CHRISTMAS!  The time Rachel came and stayed for Christmas with Reed and Jaxon.  We had so much fun!  Reed napped on the ground on a pile of blankets with our dog, we cooked, ate, went and took pictures of the Christmas lights.  While opening Christmas Eve presents, we burnt the cookies we wanted to take to the OB unit.  We really did nothing big in particular, but it was the best Christmas of my life.  *tears* [Phill was deployed, and I was horrified at the thought of spending Christmas anywhere but John and Camilla's. They fed my soul continuously through the visit, and cuddled my boys, and made me laugh and let me cry. It is one of my sweetest, most favorite, memories.]

What is your weirdest memory with Rae? (Man, I am really taking a leap here....)
Going to Bisque it!  In Cedar City.  And EVERY TIME we went, the lady who owned it was watching the SAME HARRY POTTER.  And we'd sit there and talk bad about her behind our breath... [It's true. It's pretty weird that we kept going there.]

Why did you agree to do this interview? (Really, why? My questions are not terribly genius. They read a lot like a drivel-filled forwarded they?)
Cause I'm friggin' bored and today is the longest day of my LIFE.
 I chose this picture of Camilla, because it's one I took that Christmas that I was visiting, and I love that I can see the real goodness of her spirit in her face. Camilla blogs at honesty, sarcasm, and humor; but it's only my opinion!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Friend Series

I had an idea for blog posts that would be fun to read, introduce some of you to teach other (some of you readers to other readers, that is), and that would help you get to know me even better--through a sampling of interviews of my friends! I posted a status on Facebook, asking for anyone who wanted to give an interview to answer some questions for me, ones I could post here. I had a great response! So here goes.

The story beginnings

On the sweet advice of my sister Abby, I'm removing my story-beginnings from the net, just for the sake of protecting them! I actually wondered about that yesterday when I posted them--even though I've disabled right-click and copy-and-paste, anyone who wanted to could just retype what I've written, expound on it, and pass it off as their own. I highly doubt it would happen, but even the slight chance is enough to make me nervous. So! If you didn't read them and wanted to, or if you did and wanted to weigh in, shoot me an email!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I didn't re-read this post before publishing.....on purpose.

You probably already know this about me, but I suppose I must be lacking in the self-awareness department lately, because I just realized it:

I don't like to post on my blog when I'm not feeling positive.

It's not that I don't want to admit that I don't feel happy/joyful/positive/peaceful all the time. Not at all. It's that I hate the feeling that all I have to share is griping and complaining, and I really do want to put good things out there.....

And yes, a little part of me--okay, a big part of me--hates the fact that I have times like this, whatever you want to call it. Human-ness (yes, I have a hard time being human; I can't help but want to be perfect), depression, adjusting, whatever. I'm not uncomfortable with sharing my faults. But I AM uncomfortable admitting that I sometimes lose hope, I sometimes really want to give up, and sometimes, well....sometimes I do give up, in certain ways. And what I'm saying is, I don't think it really serves anyone well for me to hold back about that aspect of myself. I don't see any of you as less when you're feeling these why do I judge myself so harshly?

So I'm making an effort to talk about my life, to post about it, and to write--be it fiction or autobiographical things--no matter how my days go. Because I want to prove to myself that I am not giving up. Not anymore. I'm growing tired of my self-pity, and I know I'll feel much better if I can uplift anyone, especially those who read this. Furthermore, if I have to complain or cry or anything of that nature, I'm going to take it one step further and end on a good note. As further evidence of believing in hope, and believing that hope can lead to faith, I will always try to end my less-positive posts with something a little less saddening.

Because that's what we're supposed to do, right?

Things are difficult, maybe we don't handle it well, but then we dust ourselves off and move forward. Because backwards is no place to go.

So here goes!

I still feel like a fish out of water. I'm still not feeling like I have any sort of regular routine going, though I often do the same things each day--they're just not the most productive or necessary things that my soul really hungers for.

I'm struggling to allow myself to love it here, mostly because Phill and I are thinking about possibly incorporating a huge lifestyle change into our summer next year. And I am fighting giving over any more attachment until we know more. (Which hopefully we will by the end of November; I'll make sure to apprise everyone of the change if it comes, and I'll still explain if it doesn't.) I know it's not helping me, or anyone else, to hold back like this. I know that. I know I should accept the wonderful things that are being given me. I know that. And still, I'm stuck. But working laboriously to get un-stuck, and forcing myself through the motions in the meantime.

I'm feeling ashamed for being ungrateful for the good things we have.

I'm feeling stressed about all I have yet to get done--unpacking the nitty-gritty stuff, finding a place for everything, editing, and so on.

I feel selfish, using the letter "I" this much.

I am emotionally eating, and frustrated at my lack of self-control, and embarrassed by the fact that it shows in my very un-toned, heavier-than-ever frame. I'm annoyed that I care so much, and annoyed that I haven't done anything about it.

(That last revelation was really hard. I want to erase it so badly that my hands are shaking.)

*sigh* Those are the uglinesses that have kept me from posting, for fear they will flow from my fingertips, unchecked, and that my detested human-ness will be laid bare for all.

But in writing them, I realize this: I am so normal. So, so normal. I am feeling nothing that no one else hasn't felt.

I am not alone.

You are not alone.

After all of that, after the heaviness of the last several weeks, I finally feel a glimmer of hope, a glimpse of what I might become if I just allow God to do His work, and let go. In sharing with you, I feel allowed, now, to move forward. Rocky as my terrain may be, wobbly as my legs might be, I have hope. More hope than I've had for a while. Enough that the tears are flowing now, and I'm ready to list all the good that I was keeping quiet.

Our house has dark wooden floors downstairs. I always dreamed of floors like these.

Our backyard is big and fenced in, and has a patio and a gazebo. It does my soul good every time I look out the back doors.

We've had a few thunderstorms since we moved here, and for the first time, I understand what is meant by the phrase "rolling thunder".....I guess that in Utah, there are so many mountains and rock formations that the thunder sort of stays contained in one place, making one big bombastic boom....but here, it truly rolls across the sky, free of obstacles and running itself out completely. I need these storms; I love them so much, but Reed hates them, and it gives me repeated chances to teach him how to replace his fear with fascination.

The boys have adjusted so well to school. Jaxon actually loves kindergarten now, which is nothing short of a miraculous answer to prayer. Reed is getting stronger, I see it every day, both academically and emotionally. I am so proud of my boys.

I get hours of alone time with Savanna every weekday, and I'm so glad I do, because she's growing up so much faster than I'd prefer. I don't want to miss it. She's taller. Her sentences are more complex. Her face is longer. Her hair is longer. She's a little mysterious, which I both love and grieve.

We have several neighborhood kids who come in and out of our house with comfort. I always wanted to be the house where everyone played....I took notes from my Sarah in Saint George. Savanna plays with little twin girls, whom she simply calls, "The grils", as in, "Mom, do you think the grils are home?" Reed plays with a boy who's here for weekends; this boy loves Legos as much as Reed does. All three of the kids play out in the front or in the back for a long time after homework is done, long enough that we have to call them in for dinner and bedtime.

Our neighbors are genuine, kind, and happy. We've been invited (and have attended) BBQ's and birthday parties. They drop everything to help when they see a need (like, oh, say, Phill's motorcycle comes off the ramp while he's trying to get it down from the truck-bed, and neighbor-guy dashes over to help until the job is done....or the 14-year-old neighbor boy who watched our cats for us while we were out of town last weekend, then emphatically refused payment).

There are trees everywhere, just big open sky and trees, and I've missed seeing so many in one place.

The library is within walking distance.

Our master bedroom and master closet are huge.

The ward is an example of the finest fellowship. The moment we walked in, we were acknowledged. We've been invited to and reminded of various functions, and we learned that the ward has been praying for families to come. (We're a very, very tiny ward.)

Overall, we could drown in blessings. I can tell you firsthand that God is merciful, and does give appropriately-proportioned blessings to balance the weight of trials.

I know I am not alone, and I know that none of us are. He's always standing ready to help.

*end-note: I am seriously considering deleting this post. I feel like a whiner. Swoop in and reassure my needy self, would you, by letting me know if you didn't feel it was too negative? After such a long effort to be quiet about my difficulties, it's hard for me to gauge anymore whether I'm being a Debbie Downer or not.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

21 questions to ask your kids

I have a "real" post cooking, and I'll write it soon-ish. In the interim, enjoy my interview with the kids! (Thanks for the idea, Christy!)

1. What is something Mommy always says to you?
Reed: I love you. 
Jaxon: I love you.
Savvy: Um...go potty.

2. What makes Mommy happy?
Reed: Be nice and not fight with Jaxon.
Jaxon: Being nice to you. And listening.
Savvy: Behave at stores!

3. What makes Mommy sad?
Reed: Saying I hate you.
Jaxon: Being mean to you and yelling at you.
Savvy: Not being nice.

4. How does Mommy make you laugh?
Reed: Tickling me.
Jaxon: Tickle me in the armpits....that was too easy.
Savvy: And saying funny things, too!

5. What was Mommy like as a child?
Jaxon: Uh....kind.
Reed: Funny, nice and kind. And a little sassy.
Savvy: Being modest. With a shirt on and pants to cover up their legs and their belly. But not their FACE! 'Cause they can't see with their eyes.

6. How old is Mommy?
Jaxon: 28!
Reed: What?! 28?
Savvy: 5 and firt-teen and 16.

7. How tall is Mommy?
Reed: Uh....about five feet?
Jaxon: Uh...that's too long.
Savvy: Three-oh minutes to go to a date to marry Daddy.

8. What is Mommy's favorite thing to do?
Reed: Um....have fun with us.
Jaxon: Play teddy bears with me.
Savvy: Makeovers!

9. What does Mommy do when you're not around?
Jaxon: Go on dates.
Reed: Same thing. Go on dates.
Savvy: Go on dates!

10. If Mommy becomes famous, what will it be for?
Jaxon:'ll be famous for rat stew. Wait! A--a concert! No, cooking!
Savvy: Uh.....for....girls and boys.
Reed: Famous for taking the best photos in the world.

11. What is Mommy really good at?
Savvy: Um, cooking....
Jaxon: Sewing?
Reed: Uh, photos!

12. What is Mommy not very good at?
Savvy: Uhhhhh......uhhhhh....not cooking sometimes? But you do cook sometimes, but it feels good to you, but it doesn't sometimes.
Reed: Being mean!
Jaxon: Farting.

13. What does Mommy do for her job?
Reed: Photos! Or--I mean--a birth, and weddings. Mostly anything that you can take photos of.
Savvy: Take a bath and get a drink and put cartoons on with Daddy and put the sticks outside and be a neighbor.
Jaxon: Photography.

14. What is Mommy's favorite food?
Reed: Uh....I don't know.
Savvy: Macaroni and cheese and chicken and enchilada and tomatoes and bread and peanut butter sandwiches and Nutella sandwiches and I don't know.
Jaxon: Ravioli.

15. What makes you proud of Mommy?
Reed: When you go to weddings and take pictures. No wait--you're really nice and awesome.
Savvy: Being cool and beautiful.
Jaxon: Everyfing you do.

16. If Mommy were a cartoon character, who would she be? 
Reed: Princess Bubblegum.

Savvy: Marceline.

Jaxon: Tom.

17. What do you and Mommy do together?
Reed: Go to the mall. Have Mommy-and-Reed play-dates.
Savvy: Go at stores with each other to buy food. Go at every place that has ice cream and pizza and macaroni and cheese and that we can buy earrings and necklaces.
Jaxon: Play and be nice. And go to the mall.

18. How are you and Mommy the same?
Reed: Uh....uh....we both like photos.
Savvy: Wiff brown hair.
Jaxon: Mmm....'cause we're in the same family.

19. How are you and Mommy different?
Reed: You have long hair. Also it's a little red.
Savvy: With new long hair that has a color that is different. I don't have blue hair. Only brown hair. 'Cause my hair is brown. (That's what my hair color is).
Jaxon: 'Cause you have long hair and I don't.

20. How do you know Mommy loves you?
Reed: 'Cause she shows it every day.
Savvy: Uh....being nice and....that's all that I was going to say.
Jaxon: 'Cause you love me.

21. Where is Mommy's favorite place to go?
Reed: Mall.
Savvy: And store!
Reed: Mostly anywhere beautiful.
Jaxon: Wal-mart. Wait! The mall.