Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Apple of My Eye

I wanna be that easy going persona that sold me this AppleMac (SA speak) computer. I wanna have that laid back presence, the one that says, “its all gonna be o.k. cause I know how to make cool videos and tinker with my photos. No worries…”

I wanna be that. But I’m not.

This blessed huge screen is so pretty. The sleek built in hard drive/processor so clean. My lack of cords brings me to zen, practically. Then I turn on the machine…

How do I open Word? Where is the command to copy/paste? How do I download my photos? Once I get the pics into the program how do I crop them? When was this user friendly computer going to feel user friendly?

I’m sure part of it all is the fact that the internet is pretty much a non-entity. I have to post my blogs via John (thanks so much love). I email them to him, pictureless, and then he posts for me because the ‘net times out every time I try to post for myself. If we had our blessed DSL then I could cruise through the tutorials Apple has set up so smartly on its website. If, If, If…

Instead I stare at my beautiful, huge, utterly too expensive computer with very uptight feelings of angst that I will never love it like Cathy Zeilske my utter scrapbooking goddess does, nor will I be able to use its functions like my amazingly talented Brother in law John the architectural genius can. I’m a wanna be cool person. An uptight pc in mac’s clothing. How do I break free of my windows based life to the freedom of drag and drop?

Only time will tell I guess. For now it is trial and error. If you get to read this on the blog at least that means I’m getting the hang of saving word documents and suffering through the punishing process of emailing an attachment to John. Wish me a little luck, and a little laid-backness, as I fuddle my way through the process of learning the ways of the slim keyboard and the welcome to the future presentation that is an Apple/mac.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


As you can clearly see, we are currently photoless on the blog; I have great pics of amazing things to share and absolutely no bandwidth with which to share them. Telling you about our efforts to get our technology in order here is a great way to illustrate the way most things are done in good old SA.

So, when we arrived here we found that we had no internet connection. Not to worry, we thought, as John had this really clever, very small, very mobile modem that could be plugged into his computer with a usb port and then it acts by receiving a signal, much like a cel phone, and gives you access to the internet via that route. So bright and early Tuesday morning, only 30 hours after touchdown in Joburg, I’m standing in line (with our driver Jean Claude and all our kids and Jess too) at the “VodaCom” shop; where we should be able to purchase one of these nifty modems and plug away at the internet. After standing in the queue (this is the word for line in every other country I’ve heard of but ours) I speak to the gentleman at the desk who tries to help me figure out which “plan” as far as pre-paid air time or monthly all you can use time or what is best for us, then he proceeds to go to the back room to actually pull the hardware we need to buy and install. Nope, no hardware. So sorry, we don’t have any more of these in our shop, but just go downstairs to the Voda CARE shop and pick one up down there. We go downstairs. All of us. And we stand in another queue. After standing in this queue for a long time we come in front of Johnathon (John-o, no kidding that is what he wanted us to call him). Johnathon listens to the “we came from upstairs to pick up the modem” story and after some time he gets the hardware for us and proceeds to explain entirely different things to us (stuff about gigs and megs and how many would we like and all that mumbo jumbo). I tell him I’m not so techy, but the guy upstairs was going to set me up on plan x. He listens to me and then tells me the guy upstairs was trying to rip me off. So, after hearing that nice man at Voda com shop was a swindler, I’m much inclined to listen to Johno. He spends lots of time with me and the driver, who is trying to look out for my best interest but clearly did not know that vodashop guy was ripping us off and so can’t know if vodacare guy Johno is not ripping us off, and in the end just helps me by holding Lucy and keeping Porter from jumping overboard into the fountain on the lower level of the shopping center. Johno sets up the modem and assures me we are well underway.

O.k., or not. We get home, we follow the directions, and we see that clearly the modem cannot get a good signal here at Summerfield Close (our little spot of earth in SA). We get dropped offline like anyone driving down Holladay blvd. gets dropped from their cel phone on any given day at any given time (I couldn’t wait for Holladay to get just one more cel tower so I could check on the kids while coming home from the Store too until I saw that tower would be on our elementary school property, and then I figured it was fine to be without cel coverage for 5 minutes of my life every day…). So. Unlike any public utility in the States where you can call customer service and wait on hold but hopefully get somewhere with how to solve your problem, we have to go back to Johno at the Vodacare store. Since we worked with him before, we’ve got to wait to work with him again and appearantly Johno is very good at what he does because there are others, several others, who have come to stand before Johno and have all their vodacares made right. Johno, after lots of waiting, gives us audience and tells us we need to haul the huge mac/apple computer with the mega screen into the vodacare shop so “his girls’ can have a go with it (remember, SA speak) and get things in order for us. When I explain I’m a little worried about hauling the heavy computer through the parking lot and then through the shopping center (think Shaumburg Mall Chicagoans, or larger than life Fashion Place mall, complete with furniture stores, clothing, dentist offices, restaurants and Smith’s Market Place all packed into one place; giant city center type stuff). He tells me to send “my friend” with it. This means I should send our driver, Jean Claude, with our expensive computer and make that poor man responsible if someone steals it from him or bumps him as he hauls it miles from the car to vodacar Johno. No thanks. What are the other alternatives? We call a number and get into another queue where someone will call us and let us know that they can somehow meet us at the house to help us with our modem. Amen, customer service at last.

Soo, that phone call came today. They were very persistent with us as we had major home phone issues this morning (you pre-pay your land line here just like you would buy a long distance phone card or a pre-paid cel phone card, and unbeknownst to us our time had run out; go figure!). After many tries they reached us to see if we would be available tomorrow at 11. Actually, we are not available then; but I did explain we were completely open any day this week but Tuesday and we’d be happy to make any necessary arrangement so they could come a different day. “I’ll have to phone you back ma’am, when another time slot becomes available”. CLICK; she didn’t even give me the chance to back track and make 11 tomorrow work out; just “call you later”. Wow. What a country.

So, you see, this is why we are pictureless. Every country has its own way of doing things and even every state and every city. We’ve lived in enough places to know that it takes time to figure out each system and then learn how to peacefully coexist with it. But I have to say, it is becoming more clear to me all the time why people have live-in help here; it takes so much time to run around and stand in all the queues that you really don’t have the time you need to wash the clothes and make the beds. I haven’t even begun to explain how many queues we’ve been in to get a dsl line installed; that will take at least a month and who knows how many man hours worth of waiting on hold or in queues so that somehow, someday before I leave this lovely place I’ll be able to share a few pictures of it (and of our kids enjoying it) with you!

Recent wanderings

Our weekend was so enjoyable, filled with a good taste of African culture and a comforting taste of our church here in South Africa. On Saturday we ventured out to LESEDI, a living cultural experiment where 5 different S.African tribes have come together to build their traditional villages, practice cultural traditions and work to have a peaceful existence. Part of the experiment is of course a tourist experience where outsiders are brought in to witness each village, the differences in traditions and languages, and the best of what each culture has to offer. It was an extremely positive experience for me; to see groups of people who had for centuries fought one another (and in some parts of JoBerg are still fighting, only now with guns and in street clothes instead of with spears in traditional dress) come together in an effort to educate others. We were all enamored of the friendliness of those who were our guides and teachers. Lucy was the absolute hit of the experience. Everyone from the tour guides to the Spanish tourists were so in love with her, they watched her every move and were sad to see us go because they enjoyed her presence so much. I found it interesting to learn that even when we, the tourists, aren’t around, each group treats the other with due respect, entering one another’s villages with the traditional greetings and traditions, and speaking one another’s languages when in one another’s villages (there are 11 official languages, and most South Africans of color speak at least 8, amazing huh?). We got to hear each language and shout greetings as best we could when prompted by our tour guide. Each village, while showing similarities, was surprisingly unique. I especially enjoyed the quiet peaceful tribe called the Basotho. They live in the high mountains of South Africa, and even now have their own country; if you visit the Basotho you must take a passport with you. This tribe wears a conical hat (think Vietnam) to represent the mountains where they come from. They also wear colorful blankets to show the type of climate they endure during winter (cold). At one point in this tribe’s history they were defending themselves against the mighty Zulu (also represented in this same Lesedi experience). The zulu were very powerful and deadly, and the Besotho king worked hard to care for his people and also to allow other refugees from other tribes to find safety with his people. Each morning the king would come out of the village and thank the god’s for the light of a new day as his people were protected from harm during the night. I thought this such a humble sentiment, to show gratitude for each day where enemies (both real and figurative) are kept at bay for another day of light to fill our lives.

Of course as part of the evening we got to watch the tribes dance. This was an especially fantastic display with all the color of their traditional dress, the loud rhythm of the drums and the joy displayed by all who participated. At first I thought it would be a “performance”. But truly by the end of their demonstration it was very clear that they were having such fun; like a huge family gathering to tell their stories (think mountain lions and brave dogs Hadfield’s) and be so caught up in the fun of being together that they almost forget other people were hanging around their campfire listening in. It really touched me to see all the different tribes interact with friendship and warmth. This to me is such a sign of hope, that civility and kindness are possible among those who for centuries had chosen division and hostility. And it was great fun to see Molly dancing along, really keeping the beat and having so much fun kicking her feet and shaking her hips as she tried to pattern the movements.

Our visit was made complete with traditional foods served buffet style for dinner. We tried venison, ostrich and maize mixed with beans. We had salad and squash, and much to Brynley’s relief (not adventuresome when it comes to foods) we had bread and butter. A great meal actually, I liked the ostrich a lot, and so did Lucy! The ride was quiet as we all thought about our day. Kids down to bed and a nice sleep in for Sunday was ours as the ward we thought we belonged to didn’t start until 12.

Sunday brought a lovely day of worship and rest. Sleeping in was so pleasant, especially considering the fact that I think it was the first full 12 hour stint without jet-lagged kids in a week! Baths and showers for all, along with lovely home made pancakes by chef John made the morning clip right by. Church was of course so nice to participate in. Many friendly welcomes and lots of kind hello’s spoken as we moved from meeting to meeting. This is the congregation our friends Lee and Trisha Wright were a part of when they lived in Joburg (Hi guys!). So many families asked if we were the friends the Wrights had emailed about, which made us feel so looked after. We soon discovered that our rented home is not exactly in the boundaries for this congregation of our church (the LDS church has congregations by geography. This makes it possible for us to look after one another and help each other based on proximity. To learn more just visit After a sad deliberation on our part, John and I came to the conclusion that we probably ought to attend the congregation in our area, which actually meets at the same building but at a different time (8 a.m. ouch!). With friends met and a welcome spirit felt we left church and headed home on foot; our building is only a block away from the house, cool huh?

To Sophie From Madi

From one dear second grader to another; this is a note from our Madi to her best buddy Sophie. I’m posting it here just in case the email we sent doesn’t reach Sophie super quick. Madi is really thinking with concern for her dear friend as school begins bright and early on Monday morning and Madi is very keenly aware that she will not be seeing Sophie in class this year;

Dear Sophie,
How ya doing? I'm great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Africa's awsome! I wsh you
were here with me. On saturday we went to Lesedi.
It is 5 villages together in 1 piece of land. the 1st villige was named Zulu.
The 2nt villige was named Pedi.The 3rd villige was Xhosa.The 4th
villige's name was Basotho. The last villige was ndebele.
It was probably the best day here. On friday we went to the lion park
It was also realy fun but not as fun as Lesedi.Oh and I almost forgot to tell you about this .Right before dinner they had this singing and dancing thing.I twas so cool. I can't wait to wright to you somemore but right now I have to eat dinner.
Wright to you soon
madi graham

Monday, August 27, 2007

Will work for food

I had no idea how much I would miss my favorite cook books here in JoBurg! Thinking of creative menu items seems far beyond my jetlagged mind. I’m shouting a call for recipes here, and I really do mean SHouTING! I’d love meal suggestions and recipes if you can spare the time to send them. There are a few guidelines to keep in mind, and there are a few requests also.
The guidelines:
1. There is no cream of mushroom soup in the country of South Africa. Nor have I found canned chicken broth (but plenty of cubed boullion). Bear this in mind as you chose which recipes to send…
2. Cooking here is a bit more of a task. Smaller stove, rented house (meaning fewer pots and pans and dollar store quality stuff. Simple but healthy meals would be great).
And now the Requests:
Dean/Mom Graham; I beg of you my favorite tomato soup recipe from the New Basics Cookbook. This is the same recipe I shared with you Dean, sometime last spring. Would you mind shouting it back to me?
I’d like a cookie recipe; thought snickerdoodles would be best as I have not seen chocolate chips. Though if you can spare a choc. Chip recipe that calls for butter and not Crisco I could probably break up a chocolate bar instead of using choc. Chips. Cookies are quite a novelty here, I’d like to use them to meet our neighbors J
MANDY; please may we have your taco soup recipe? We love it and I think we’d be able to make it here.
We need APPLESAUCE. Can’t buy it here and it is a staple for Ms. Lucy. I am trying my darndest to find other food fare for her enjoyment, but life just isn’t the same for her without the ol’ sauce.
I need Aunt Susan Read’s zuccini bread recipe. Think we can make it here as zuccini squash seems to be a universally abundant food source. Love to spring that one on the kids some Saturday morning.
So that is the call. I know so many of you are gourmet quality cooks so I’m sure I’ll see some amazing recipes come down the line. As they are put in my in box or in the comment lines I’ll be sure to share them back; I’ll post your recipes unless you request them to remain secret (I fully respect the whole secret recipe thing)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alive and Kicking

We've arrived safely here in JoBerg, with kids still working out sleep schedules (can you say 12 a.m. requests for dinner?) and Katie trying to figure out internet connections (EXTREMELY finicky) grocery shopping and how to gingerly explain to our wonderful friend Evie that I don't mind doing a dish or two (Evie is the kind and lovely woman who "comes" with the house. She lives in the apartment attached and is "ours" from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Never had so many clean clothes so speedily cleaned in my life. I can't decide if I love it or hate it...more on that later). We've taken two days to stand in line at the computer store, buy groceries and more groceries, outfit the rest of the crew with tennis rackets (literally the only toys we have here, yikes) and set up this amazing Mac computer. Between trips out with our friend and driver JonClaude to get a lay of the city and get the house set up and cooking dinner with Ms.Evie eagerly eye-ing the dirty dishes she will swiftly clean as I set down I've had a tiny bit of culture shock. Just this second I'm kind of missing my nightly yell at the kids to get the dishes into the dishwasher and help me sort the laundry. Like I said, I must be in shock...

The plane ride went as smoothly as 25 hours of flight time with 6 kids can go. Everyone slept at least 4 hours of that 25, and probably 2 of those hours were simultaneous. We never had to use the "back up clothes" which means that no one threw up or blew out; a formidable accomplishment for a group this size with constitutions this weak. How thankful we were for the two kind men who escorted us from the airplane through the passport queue to the luggage carousel and onto customs. Too bad I had no SA $ (called RAND) with me, and John very little, so those angels from heaven were poorly compensated for all their hard labor. 16 pieces of luggage, 6 of them over the weight limit; those guys deserved medals of valor along with their measly tip! Seeing John's clean cut smile as we came through customs brought true tears of love and joy to my eyes; absence from the one you love doesn't just make the heart grow fonder; it also causes one to block out feelings of longing and connection. Then when reunited those feelings flood back to the heart and an overwhelming sense of appreciation, love, and longing overflow to tears.

Now that connection and love will learn to survive late nights at the office and early mornings after jet lagged kids keep one or the other of us awake to the wee hours. Just last night John was forced to stay late at the office. It was Stake priesthood meeting, so I walked Mason to the church (just down the road from us about 2 blocks) and sat in the foyer while he attended his meeting. What a blessing that hour was for me. I met a wonderful woman from Zambia who had come to support her husband as he participated in the meeting as well. Our conversation was sweet and I felt God's love for her and me as we spoke. A needed gift as I walked home in the dark with Mason wondering when John would arrive. Speaking with her as she explained the sun-up-to-sundown life she and her husband live to provide a life for their family it put all things in perspective. John came home safely to explain he'd stayed to help his client through a difficult problem. My admiration and appreciation for his integrity grew, and I felt I could handle longer nights as long as I could remember and respect his role as our provider and one who desires to do his best in all things.

A note about Jess, our traveling companion and true friend/sister. She has been stellar. Just two nights ago she took the late shift; managing a South African microwave to conjure up hot chocolate to sleepless children in the late of the night. Stuck here at the house today while I explored the world of Internet connection possibilities at the shopping center, Jess had kids napped, lunched and well entertained. Not every HR professional would travel across the world and then humbly take a morning to baby-sit instead of sight see. I so hope this experience is defining for her in some way. That it isn't just a chance to help a big sis and brother in law, but that in the end she feels seeing this country and its people has made life richer for her. It was awesome to see her at the botanical garden yesterday, working to recall names of plants and studying the sounds and looks of the birds around us. We sat on a park bench as an ancient and huge turtle made its way around us, and walked a trail to a lovely waterfall. Then it was off to the garden's book store so Jess could find a plant identification book and a bird watching book; what a great perspective she brings as she shares her incredible talents with me and our children. I feel so deeply blessed to have her along. It is a gift I've wished for, time with J., and I feel so lucky to have been given such a gift. To those of you who know Jess you understand what I mean; she is priceless and lovely, unique and fresh, faithful and joyful; and she is with us for this time!

To family and friends in Utah; we long for you and truly miss you. Heartaches are regular occurrences around here right now. "Ella would love this" or "I wish I could show this to Jenny" are comments we here daily. Please know that your love and friendship means the world to us (as well as the love of those we know in Boise, Dallas, and even Sweden). Truly moving around has taught us that home is where we are together; but life is made up of those in our midst. You've been the best part of our life these past two years; we thank you for making our time in Utah rich and wonderful. Thank you for the last few weeks of support and help as we've packed up and shipped out. Angels in my midst I tell you; that's what you've been!

So off to shower/bathe the kids and hope for a good night's rest. While all 6 were up on Sunday night, only 2 were up last night (Wednesday). Maybe that means the jet lag will ebb come tonight and the whole house will sleep.

Look for regular posts, as long as the Internet connection will hold. This little blog is the window I have to show you the world we are part of. As we passed a "township" or Shantytown yesterday I turned the kids attention to it. There is so much of need in this world, and we must remember it is there. So that when we enjoy the comforts we have we can think of one small way to improve the condition of others who live with nothing; literally nothing to their names. I hope to show you some of them so you and I can remember to do those small things that lift others out of their hopeless conditions; a smile, a kind word, a forgiving heart. All these can bring others and us to a higher way of living. Something lofty to strive for as we go about our daily lives.

Love from JoBerg for now; see you all soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Signing Off from Northwood

This will be my last post from our address on Northwood Road. I signed the papers just an hour ago leaving our beautiful home in the eager care of another family. There is no doubt at all that this move was meant to be, but it doesn't make the feelings of longing for this spot of earth go all the way away. I've loved these walls, this garden, those windows. I've enjoyed the sound of my kids splashing in the scary swimming pool and the happy view of snow capped Mount Olympus from my own front door. I can hardly believe I got to live in this terrific house; so lucky to have had time to call this my home.
When John first announced impressions that coming to Utah was a good move for our family, I went on a drive with my sister to "stake out neighborhoods". Mandy is very neighborhood savvy, and she drove me through the quaint streets of Salt Lake with running commentary on each area. It was a terrific drive, and at the end of it we pulled in front of this house. "oh Mandy, I know I could live in that house for the rest of my life." Those were my words. I loved the location, the way the property sits, the way the house is set back from the street. The ancient trees in the front yard and the squished mortar of the brick. Yep, this was our spot and I knew it.
But sometimes God knows better, and i am slowly learning that if I'll trust Him and let Him lead me (sometimes away from things and people who matter so much to me) He opens my eyes to His view of what our life can be; and His view is always better than my own.
So I guess I'll say goodbye for now. Goodbye Mt. Olympus and ancient trees. Goodbye rickety swimming pool and goodbye beautiful windows. Goodbye granite counter tops and just the right sized bathtub. Good bye to all of that...
Hello to the heat of South Africa. Hello to new faces and accents. Hello to adventure and education. Hello, most importantly, to my John. Hello to all of this that, and to whatever else awaits us.
"Lead kindly light, amidst encircling gloom
Lead thou me on
the night has come and I am far from home
Lead thou me on
Keep not my feet
I do not ask to see...the distant scene
One step enough, for me."


As we've prepared to leave our home and pack our belongings to Africa I've come to reflect on the things I have in plural; in other words, what to I buy LOTS of and why? It has been good therapy to see that I, one who has never determined to collect anything, have several collections of many things; and I'm coming to terms with that truth and am in fact embracing it. As I thought on these realities I tried to come up with something small i could leave with friends here in Holladay as a reminder of my love for them and for the many ways they've touched my life. I came up with the gift of an Apron. As i sat at the computer to write some explanation as to why an apron, these are the words that flowed from my brain. I thought I'd share them with you now.

Ever so practical, aprons are so often considered an outdated piece of nostalgia. Used by our grandmothers, they are a perception of the traditions of the past, when moms baked bread and served lunch to their neighbors in heels and pearls. Today we are too busy and too realistic for aprons. With so many places to go and so many people to care for, who has time for those things which aprons are used for anyway?

But therein lies the rub, for me. We do more now as women and mothers than our grandmothers ever did. Difference is, we have to do in less time and with more perfect execution. So, aprons for me have become a badge of honor; a “this is what I do and I’m o.k. with that” kind of badge. The practicality of staying clean while doing messy things with little messy people has been a saving grace when flying out the door to meet with someone who is not in the mode of apron-ness, and who could not be fully attentive while viewing the sticky fingerprints around the thigh of my skirt, or while seeing grape jelly stains on the belly of my blouse. Aprons are a signature of mine, something people know me for, and that, to me, is a good thing.

So, As I leave those I love and care for and admire, those I see who are “in the trenches” of apron-ness with me, I leave you with this, an apron. Please wear it in remembrance of me, the girl who didn’t mind aprons. And when it saves you from a stain or a spill, offer a little smile up to the heavens and think of Katie Graham and know she loves you dearly for being a friend to her, a sister and a fellow apron wearer

All My Love in spills and fingerprints,


I hope I will ever be good with my role as one who wears an apron. Though they cannot save me from everything messy in my life, they sure have come in handy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

counting down

So, we are 5 days and counting until our family is whole again (plus one; so happy to have you J!). In the last two and a half weeks we have: listed our house for sale, celebrated a birthday, sold our home, packed for Africa, taken tennis lessons, taken art lessons (lots of them!), arranged for movers to pack our home, placed Cooper the Cocker in a foster home, and now we will vacate our corner of Holladay Utah and take off for JoBerg South Africa. So much in so little time has left me tired, wired and overwhelmed with so many emotions. Gratitude, nostalgia, a longing for a settled life, the feelings of eagerness for an adventure, the feelings of incomplete-ness that come when John and I are apart, and the deep desire to see the end from these beginnings. Whenever I think I cannot do it another day I remember the feeling I had when John first said "South Africa" and I hold on knowing that this is the right place for our family at this time. Why? Who knows. I'd love it to be something grand; some fortuitous miracle about to unfold through our sojourning in S.Africa. But I believe it is grand enough to know that the God of this earth is mindful of little tiny insignificant me, that He has gifts He desires to give me through experiences like seeing the support of friends and family in challenging circumstances, new places and people to experience and enjoy, children who are pliable and wonder-filled, and a knowledge that my life is made more whole, more complete and more wonderful because John Graham is my partner in it. Those lessons are gifts in themselves, and I feel deeply thankful for them. My mind is too tired to express properly the gratitude I've felt for friends and family these last two weeks. My heart is bursting with both love for my husband and a longing to be "home" and settled somewhere, with him. My mood is quickly shifting from excitement for the adventure and a longing to stay and be still. But over it all I feel ever humbled at a sure knowledge that we are all watched over and carefully allowed experiences which help us see the wonder of this life and all it is meant to teach and offer us.

Friday, August 10, 2007

And the winner is...

Yep, got the mac-24" screen with some kind of kickin' processor so it is lightening fast. It can almost pay my bills for me and John and I will be ever so in sync with our family's calendar posted on our personal family web site. You know I want the vespa, but I ain't 40 yet, and I can't drive a vespa in JoBerg. But my kids and I will learn about the world beyond our front door surfing through mac Safari...and whatever they surf will be absolute public knowledge with that huge screen. Mason's head doesn't even cover up that baby-no web site in the virtual universe can hide from an every vigilant mama protecting her young'uns from the filth that lerks behind every mispelling of
Keep checking in here to see what fun and amazing things my new birthday present can produce in the coming months; our adventure will be more true to life than ever since I have a brand new MAC (I AM that cool laid back persona that sells this product in the tv and computer adds. I AM that cool and laid back, now that I have a mac)
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I am truly lamenting the fact that in this moment of time I am supposed to be packing my things in suitcases so that they may be transported to JoBerg, SA. Instead of musing at this computer screen I should be chosing 6 pair of pants and 6 shirts, some skirts, a few pair of shoes (hardest part by far) and a few summer-ish things to put in the giant REI duffle that has served us many times on over seas adventures. I should be picking out the very best of my work out wear with the solid determination that I will work out over the next 3-6 months (single motherhood and house selling/packing has not been good for my exercise routine). I ought to be scrutinizing which toiletry items I can do without, which books our kids really don't need to read in the near future, and which digital and computerized items can stay tucked away in a storage unit while we drive around in the outbacks of Africa spotting "the big 4". That is what I should be doing in this moment.
But I'm not. I have such a mind cramp when it is time to pack. Unfortunately, I like my stuff. I was just telling some family members last evening how unimportant things really are, and that when you walk away from them and see the world your perspective is more clear and you can brightly see the very small value things really have, and the very great value that experiences and people posess instead. But, when it is time for me to choose what stuff to take and what stuff to leave it seems I can't really live without any of it, and I've surely got to take most of it; just in case.
I'm such a "just in case" kind of person. Perhaps we'll be cold (wool socks and slippers for all!). Perhaps we'll be hot (short sleeved t-shirts and double swim suits a must). Maybe we won't be able to con the kids into eating their veggies (packets of ranch dressing; check). What about possible rain outbursts (wellie boots are so very handy). What if I run out of printer cartridges, and what if the kids need to really get dressed up for church...what if what if what if. What if I had a dollar for every contingency I can fathom; wow would I be rich.
I so admire my sweetheart who gleefully walked onto the airplane with like two small bags for a 3-6 month experience. He has no trouble at all leaving stuff behind. He gets it for real; it is only stuff, and we can do without it. I love that truth about him, and the truth he reminds me of when I go to my closet to make my choices.
So I guess I'll think of him and I'll try not to think of all the "what ifs" and in the next moments of my time I'll make some choices, leave some stuff behind and think on the people and experiences that matter; those that we will encounter and embrace over the next part of our life. And try to remember that while I am with those people and having those experiences I truly won't be thinking about all of my stuff. And when we return and the stuff comes back to us I'll remember it, and I'll put it all away and my days will be filled with taking care of it. Or maybe not, maybe i'll finally learn that I really can do without a lot of it, and I'll share it with others, and I'll try not to consume too much more of it, and instead I'll try to think on doing more without and maybe, just maybe, instead of lamenting my need for stuff, I'll lament over friendships far away, and experiences which were wonderful. And those thoughts won't be lamentations after all, just an appreciation that people and experiences are the STUFF our lives should be made of and the stuff our lives can feel full of.
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Saturday, August 04, 2007

In True Tradition

We've sold Three homes, and with the sale of each comes emotions of fondness for all that has taken place within the walls that we can no longer call ours. With each move from each of these spots of earth we've somehow managed a photo op in front of the house number, just John and I alone. This photo was taken by Mason, or perhaps Madi as we piled in the car to send John off to Johannesberg ahead of our family. i don't know to be honest how many more times I'll have to pose with him for this traditional shot. One thing I've learned for sure, home is where John is, so living at this address any more is just living, it isn't being at home. I feel thankful that all the moving has taught me this truth; family is home. And although parents and brothers and sisters are in the truest sense family; it is the family we create with a partner we love and work with that gives us a place to come home to. So, though my heart is truly breaking that our lovely cottage/rambler is no longer our house, I am starting to feel an anxiousness to get us all back home.
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Let's see what's waiting behind door #1!

John planned the greatest birthday date I've ever spent with him. Thanks to kids throwing up at home and carpets freshly cleaned which prevented said kids from being baby sat indoors I can't say it was the perfect date i've ever had; but as far as creativity and a mind for the things that make me happy John absolutely was outstanding.
In true Price is right style, John blindfolded me and took me to four different "doors", behind which each held a potential birthday gift which I would "test" and consider. After viewing what was behind each door I would then select one gift to take home. Brilliant eh? each door held behind it a gift I would LOVE to receive, and John had to remind me that only one gift could be mine, not all. But just knowing he would give me any of those gifts was such a treat for me...So wanna know what was behind those awesome doors?

Door #1; a new scooter! I've longed for a vespa scooter ever since we walked the streets of Saigon last year. I had secretly decided that before I turned 40 I would own one, and that by that time in my life I'd actually be in a place where using one would be, well, possible! With Lucy in school I would scoot around to appointments, volunteer at the school and take a class at the local university all with the economic advantage of amazing gas mileage and the ease of small parking spots! So, when John took off my blind fold in front of the Salt Lake Vespa store it was a happy thrill. Test driving the scooter was so much fun, I smiled from the moment we walked into the store until the moment we walked out. Doesn't this shiny black number look good on me? My favorite scooter in the place was a bi-colored number, red and white (what can I say, I'm a Ute Fan at heart). So much fun to scoot!

Door #2; New Bedding! John pulled up in front of Restoration Hardware so we could tool around and look at luxurious sheets and fluffy pillows. I've liked our current bedding for some time, we've had it for over 5 years and it still looks great, accept for marker stains and an obvious worn out corner or two it is doing just fine. But John sees me thumbing through the catalogs when they come, and he knows how much I like things to look clean and fresh. Wasn't that thoughtful of him to invite me to indulge in something so unnecessary?

Door #3; an Apple Computer! I am such a sucker for the apple adds. They have totally got me hooked on the thought that if I have one I will suddenly be a cool layed back person who takes life at a relaxed pace but still has it all together. The scrapbooking blog I follow is powerd by a mac user, and I think she is about the coolest graphic artist on the planet. I love owning an ipod, and that apple symbol has always meant intelligence and creativity; at least since I was in the New Horizons gifted pull out program in my elementary school and they used the apple computers then...yep-I wanna be a mac user. So we went in to the Apple store a fiddled with the machines and got the 10 minute schpeel from a mac loving employee of the store who totally wants to be the guy in Night at the Museum. It was fun to see all the features we would use if we brought a mac home for my birthday...

Door #4; a "let all the sale racks pass you by" shopping spree, just for me to clothe my body in the season's latest and greatest. John's last door was revealed to be Anthropology, a killer clothing and coture shop here in town. It is a chain, there are probably some by you; and to be honest their latest and greatest hasn't left me their greatest fan. But John knows that when i find something there I like, I REALLY REALLY like it. They don't have tons for me, but what they do have that is for me was made especially for me...and it is fun of John to remember that I always enjoy walking through to find that specially made something. So we wanderd through the racks of totally overpriced trend setting duds and I fondly thought that my husband was the most thoughtful man on the planet to be willing to throw caution to the wind and allow for a shopping night extraordinare...

Then, it was off to dinner. Sushi for one last time before John took the trip across the pond. He has now left and I am here tying up loose ends and still deciding which of the doors to open again and which "prize" to bring home for good.Truth be told, I need none of it. I am well clothed, my bed is well clothed, I have reliable transportation and we own the very pc that is facilitating this blog; but it was fun to dream, and even more fun to dream at the planning and kind thought of my best friend and soulmate. A happy birthday date to remember!

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Friday, August 03, 2007

What I'll Miss

This is what I'll miss when living away from the valleys of Utah.
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Three and Counting...

They say we need to have the demeanor of a child in order to be ready to live in the presense of our maker; such a meek and unconditional love as Molly's is proof positive that this is true. Our Molly has celebrated birthday number 3. Kinda feel bad for the little darlin'. Dad was gone for the second year in a row. Last year's happy day found him across the ocean bringing home a new baby sister. This year we find him across the ocean again, bringing home the bacon that paid for her birthday presents. Thank goodness it is bliss being small. Thank goodness for forgiving and love-filled toddlers whose generosity makes it so that they feel loved and doted on even when dad can't be present.
Our poor dear had to put up with a lot of excitement, as we sold our house amidst competing offers and long distance phone calls with dad concerning final adendums to our counter offers. She even endured a bit of a bout with the stomach flu on her big day. But that didn't seem to stop us from celebrating. We had cousins and cake at the indoor swimming pool; Grandma Noodle supplied the cake and my siblings supplied the cousins! Molly's birthmom "momElizabeth" was also there to celebrate, which made the event extra special. Molly's day ended with a dinner of her chosing, tacos made at home with crunchy shells. Such a simple request from such a sweet little girl.
You know, i was not present for Molly's earthly debut. I, her future mother, was miles away from her birth. But from the day she was placed in my care I've loved this little spirit and all she is and can become. I feel it such a priviledge to parent her; even at times when I feel I do it inadequately. I've promised myself again and again that come birthday #4 we will throw a proper party and that dad won't miss it for the world; but I wonder what will happen if I can't make good on that personal promise? Dads travel, and life happens-and somehow I think this little Molly, with her resiliant beginning and her quiet entry into our lives, will understand. She goes with the flow, and she does it with a smile and a forgiving "I love you". Somehow this little one knows her place is secure with us, and no perfect birthday celebration will change the value she has in our lives nor dminish the vast love we posess for her in our hearts. Happy Birthday to my unsinkable Molly Brown-eyes. I love you so big my Molly girl!
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I was Tagged!!! Can’t believe I am that popular. Here goes:

Jobs I’ve had: seriously this is just a sampling since I carried an income earning job from the time I was 10 until the time I was 25.
1-newspaper carrier. Very proud of this as it taught me hard work and how to rise early…
2-bakery sales clerk. Summer before my junior year of pep club. Had to have the pep club skirt made one size LARGER. Bad job
3-personal shopper/sales associate, ZCMI department store. This helped me have some fashion sense back in 1990. Too bad I haven’t updated that fashion since to reflect today’s cool urban chique…
4-Pre school teacher to Autistic children. Once in a lifetime chance to see little souls try to brake free of broken bodies
5-Event Planner for the United Nation’s International Year of the Family conference of Family friendly Cities. This is my only true “career” stint, and it lasted about 18 months if you count the follow up work I did in Winnipeg Canada. Only real claim to have had a “real job”.
6-event planner for University of Chicago Hospital’s transplant department. This has caused me to have a strong underlying desire to be a wedding planner/event planner. Loved spending other people’s money and learning how to save a buck or two by arranging my own flowers (never looked as awesome as Jess and Jody’s work, that’s for sure!)
7-my current and most meaningful profession; mom to 6 fantastic kids.

Movies I can watch over and over again; this is hard because I don’t have time to watch movies once, let alone more than once, but here goes;
1-Princess Bride
2-Chariots of Fire
Lets mix it up and go with this; movies I can not bear to see ever again;

Guilty pleasures;
1-shopping for anyone, myself, my kids or my husband. Even got a kick out of shopping for dog toys and fluffy puppy beds. I have an issue and I’ve been working on it for years
2-jelly belly brand bridge mix. My mom’s fault entirely-it is comfort food when I need to feel like I’ve been a good girl (think JC Penny candy counter siblings…)
3-sleeping au natural (never do this by the way. The guilt in the pleasure is just too, well, guilty)

Places I have lived:
1-Salt Lake City/Holladay Utah
2-Chicago Ill
3-Dallas TX
4-Stockholm Sweden
5-Boise ID
Soon to add Johannesburg South Africa (wow)

Shows I enjoy:
1-used to like the office until the tables turned and Pam had the hots for Jim. I love it when a guy is unabashedly head over heels for a girl…
2-Arrested Development (this should be listed in the guilty pleasures, because it is not a show I could watch in the presence of any of my clergy)

Those are literally all the shows I have seen save Disney’s Hannah Montana/that’s so Raven in the last 12 months

What were the things I thought of when I first saw my husband?
1-first time I saw him;
Holy cow he is beautiful but he must be too young for me. Dang I don’t want to write to another missionary…
2-Second time I saw him;
Why does this cute boy not leave me alone, can’t he see I’m old enough to be his grandmother?
3-Third time I saw him;
WHAT!!! He is a year OLDER than I? Let me at him (in a discreet, come hither sort of way)
4-Fourth time I saw him;
Can’t believe he is so suavely dancing with another girl. How on earth am I going to get a shot with that guy…

Places I have been on Vacation (love this one, I could go on for pages)
1-Kuai Hawaii
2-Park City Utah (a favorite vacation spot from my youth)
3-Rome Italy
4-Paris France
5-Seattle Washington
6-the Fjords, Norway
7-Munich Germany
8-Saltzberg Austria
9-San Jose, Costa Rica
10-the Oregon Coast

Favorite foods:
1-John’s blueberry pie
2- John’s creamy tomato soup
3-John’s amazing crab cakes
4-Chewy baked items like the perfect chocolate chip cookie or an amazing brownie. Preferably made by John
And delivered with a guilt releasing kiss to my mouth

Websites I visit daily;
1-my email (go Vietnam adoptions)
5-try to catch up with my sisters, but like me they are a little less diligent about daily posts

Body parts I have injured:
1-the old elbow injury (pushing dead cars, ice skating, log rolling…bad injury)
2-My right big toe
3-severely sprained right ankle doing really amazing things like stepping off the curb with my newborn baby and walking on a flat surface in the middle of a hike on Kuai…I’m so full of grace and agility aren’t I dear?

Nicknames I have had;
Kind of a hard one

TAG, You are it:
Julia wright
Bonnie Wright (you can skip the part about meeting your husband, and you can also list chores you do instead of jobs you’ve had)
John Graham (yes, you better get your blog going now that you are globe trotting again.)
Susan, if you ever read my blog to see you’ve been tagged!
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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Year Ago

It was a year ago today that we touched down in Saigon to bring Lucy home. I found it such an amazing thing that I realized this annivesary while speaking with John "live" for the first time from Johannesberg. Seems our lives haven't exactly "settled" since our last trip across the sea. So much can happen in 12 short months...
That first night in our hotel room was filled with such anxiety. We had arrived late in the afternoon, and the person who was to pick us up from the airport didn't show. We were 3 tired travelers alone in the mose foreign environment I'd ever experienced. Very wary of being "taken", we reluctantly accepted a cab ride into the city and found our way to the hotel. After a lot of effort to reach our adoption agency in the states, we were able to finally connect with our Vietnamese guide/facilitator, who seemed less than apologetic to have left us hanging. That evening was the beginning of a 5 week roller coaster ride; complete with all the thrills and butterfiles of giant cliff like drops and lots of loop-d-loops. At least it all ended withamazing stories to tell and our Lucy home for good.
I wonder what adventures we'll encounter over the next 12 months. It is great to know that Lucy will be securely with us no matter where life takes us on this next roller coaster. As they say, keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times until it comes to a complete stop. The butterflies are rising, time to say "Wheee..."
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