Monday, July 27, 2009

Sleeping here tonight...

Alone. I'm back in Dallas, waiting for the moving truck to pull up in front of our house. Time to pack it all up and haul it to our new spot. I'll be here for a few days-no Internet-so posts will be spotty at best.

For the past 4 weeks my mind has reeled with how to fit the things in this suburban home into our new urban rambler. I have never been a fan of these 12 foot ceilings, but now we are moving to 8 foot ceilings and I have a sense of claustrophobia you cannot believe. I've literally been woken from sleep with thoughts like "will the library cupboard even fit in the new dining room?" and trying to measure the piece in my mind inch by inch. I've scolded myself over being materialistic a thousand times. I've told myself that I am now become a snob-that Graham Manor in Texas has spoiled me, tall ceilings and sweeping staircases and all. My over active need to worry about something has taken to worrying about the height, width, depth and configuration of every piece of furniture we own and how it will be organized and arranged in our new set of walls.

These are just things. Couches, guest beds and bookshelves do not a home create. How I behave in the new walls has a lot more to do with what kind of home it will be than how our furniture fits-or doesn't fit...but it hauts me just the same. And only moving through the moving of our things will settle the emotional unrest that has kept me unsettled for weeks.

wish me luck as I cheerlead professional movers ("can I get you a soda? Your doing great! How 'bout I get y'all pizza for dinner and you can keep right on workin'! thanks for all your help!") and say goodbye to wonderful friends. The emotional act of moving comes to a head for me when I close the door on a home that I've put my heart into and look forward to a new home that "isn't yet me" but soon will be.

See you back here on Wednesday...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

To My Favorite High School Teacher,

Dear Mrs. Hewlett,

As it has now been 20 years since I graduated High School, I wanted to take this opportunity to write you, my favorite high school teacher, and express my gratitude and appreciation.

From the time I entered your music room as a young freshman, I was captivated by the high standard you required of your students. To be truthful I was a tad frightened and certainly intimidated by all that you required of us, but I paid close attention to the expectations you set, and was inspired by the quality of music we produced at your direction. Year after year I came back for more. Freshman girls choir, Sophomore glee and sophomore enssemble, Junior Choir and finally-the priviledge of my high school experience-A'Capella choir and Madrigals. Learning to make many voices sound like one, and learning to give a director my undivided attention were skills that carried in to other aspects of my life. I learned through these exercises how to work with other people, how to use their talents to compliment my own, and how to respect and appreciate a boss, a professor, or a parent whose job it was to lead me. I appreciated and feared you, and deeply desired your approval.

My fondest memories of times in your classroom include one lunch hour, when you had summoned me for an additional rehearsal so I would be prepared for the district solo competition. I felt I was unqualified to sing solo, but you required it of all of us so we would learn how to utilitize our talents more fully. I was weak and afraid to perform for you, and you banged your hand on the piano to demand that I "do it again!" until I was able to reach far down inside and pull out a sound I did not know I could produce. I was afraid of you that day, but when our rehearsal concluded and I left the room I was amazed and surprised at the way I had been able to sing. You brought out the best in what I had vocally.

And there were other ways you brought out the best in me too. Participating in our Senior year Humanities course was the most academically challenging class I took pre-college. I had shyed away from AP courses, seeing myself as unqualified to perform (do you see a pattern of me selling myself short in high school Mrs. Hewlett? It was a theme with me!). But I desperately wanted to learn about the humanities, and so I begged to take the course. To this day I use and remember the many wonderful things I learned in your classroom that year. As I have had opportunity to travel over the course of the last 20 years I have many many times come upon a piece of art we discussed -the original-and have sat in wonder at all I could understand of the work because of the knowledge and clarity you'd provided me in humanities all those years ago. My children know more about gregorian chant, the impressionists, Debussy, Matisse, Monet, Hayden/Handel/Bach, and Renoir (to name just a few) than I ever knew before stepping through the doors of your classroom and soaking in the interweaving of art/religion/history/politics that make up the study of the humanities.

The musical training you blessed me with proved a great beginning to future choral pursuits, as I spent 4 of my 5 college years singing with the University of Utah's A'Capella CHoir. Our director, Dr. Ed Thompson, hardly needed me to sing a note in my audition; he knew that if I'd had your training I could be a contribution to his group. This compliment to your abilities as a musical director was only equaled by the compliment I felt it had been to be taught and trained by you. And one of the highlights of my life was singing in choirs and small groups when we lived in Stockholm Sweden. Even the most amateur vocalist in that wonderful culture understands what you taught us over and over again; that the voices which blend to sound as one can produce music more sublime than any choir where individuals try to shine above the group. Language barriers became nonexistant for me when it came to singing there. To see that all you had taught was true across culture was the supernal testimony to your greatness.

thanks Mrs. Hewlett, for all your teaching has done to make my life more full and happy. Certainly one of the greatest accomplishments of a great educator is knowing that all they strived to impart to their students has stayed and made a difference in their lives many many years later.

All you taught me has made a difference every year since leaving your classroom. I hope you will know of my great appreciation and admiration for all that has remained of you in my life over the last 20 years.

with sincere thanks,
Katie Hadfield Graham

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Love Note long overdue

Dear John,
It's been too too long since I publicly proclaimed my adoration for you. With you gone this week, and having so recently celebrated a wedding, my tender love for you is so "at the surface". Over the last many many months I have longed to have your companionship as you've been here and I've been in Texas-and in the recent weeks we've been around one another I've taken you much for granted.

I'm so sorry for that.

I love you so much, and need you even more, especially in these coming weeks as we face continued lack of closure in Texas and faithfully press forward to lay down roots in Utah. I dread the next two weeks of packing up a life and then unpacking it again in a new set of walls with new challenges in organization and general housekeeping. My nature encourages me to hide in the corner of the guest room where we live, curled up in a ball under the clutter of the belongings we have with us. I am inclined to "run away" from the responsibility to establish a "house of order" once again, in a new place, at this time in our life together.

I wish we could escape it-but with you I will stand and face it.

Thank you for cheerleading me these past few days. Your encouragement is like verbal energy. I crave your approval and long for you to be pleased with me. I am so glad you chose me so many years ago (no, not twenty years ago dear, only nearly 16...) and I am blessed beyond belief that the Lord paired me with you (I begged Him to let me have you, did you know that? )

I eagerly await your return, and anticipate the day when you will return home to OUR home. And we will cuddle in our own bed and chat about the mundane things of the day like weeding in the garden or volunteering in the classroom. Some day soon the stress of home appraisals gone bad and lack of interest in the Texas Manor house will be conversations of the past; soccer games on the weekend and Teacher's quorum acitvities on Tuesdays the boring, beautiful, delicious exchange of words before bed.

I love you so desperately,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An Outing

I've wanted to visit the Lavendar farm for many years now. This was my inspiration to finally make the trip. Unfortunately, I'm not a professional photographer and we were there in the very heat of the day (worst photo lighting you could possibley ask for!) but it was fun to be away from town. It was nice to be with all the cousins, and the intoxicating smell of lavendar was a calming influence. The farm, as an experience, is a bit over rated. We had dreamed of a tour of the pressing factory, where the lavendar oil is extracted from the plants. We had hoped for a visit in the visitor's center; though we quickly learned that visitor's center here means gift shop for purchases overall it wasn't as educational as it was relaxing. But we went! An outing away is always effective in renewing the enjoyment of going home...

Friday, July 17, 2009

An intresting photo essay...

I'm not very good at labeling our photos, usually I am glad if I get to down load them before our children have had enough of me sitting in front of a screen. So most of our pics are labeled by whatever numerical assignment our photo storage program gives them. That being the case, different cameras assign the same numerical label - which means that when I try to post images here I often get to sift through several images with the same label. It has been a great walk through my memories lately as I've come across photos I haven't seen for a very long time. Like these;

This is a photo taken of Lucy last winter, isn't she darling?

And this is a photo taken just a few weeks ago after Alex was sealed to my parents in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. Interesting pair of photos, kind of fun to see my little girl, sealed to our family 3 years ago in the same temple, her happy image matched randomly with the photo of my littlest brother on his happy sealing day.

A photo of Hiep-duc (our Lucy) in the arms of her brother, as we visited her in her orphanage in Vietnam. That memory is tucked away so far in my mind but seeing her here I can remember even the smell of the baby formula and the sounds of the nannies chattering about the Vietnamese Soap Opera they'd watched during nap time.

And here a recent pic of Lucy-duc, as we toured the Mrs. Field's cookie factory during our recent cousin camp. The smell of fresh baked cookies and the memory ofhHer chatter now echos in my ears, words of love and happiness and the busy story line of her every day life.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Revisiting Cecret Lake...

Summer of 2006 found us waiting for a call that would send us across the ocean to bring our Lucy home. Finding activities and interests to occupy us that summer was so incredibley vital in the keeping of my sanity. It was all I could do each morning to pray for strength to be happy when I knew my little one was waiting for me, and I had no control over the circumstances that would bring her to us forever.

One day I loaded the kids into the car and we headed up Little cottonwood Canyon for a hike. With Molly (then 18months old or so) strapped to my back we walked the mile long trail to Cecret lake, enjoying the wildflowers, the crisp fresh air and the wonderful company as we went. For our little crew this was quite an accomplishment, I remember in particular being so proud of Porter-who had just turned 4, that he'd completed the trek without needing me to carry him.

It was the highlight of my summer, aside of course from the moment, 5 weeks later, when I held Lucy in my arms for the very first time.

3 summers later, we revisited the trail. This time with John and Lucy along, our entire family journeyed to the lake. The evening weather was beautiful. The green of the mountains uniquely vivid due to June's incesant rains. The company; unbeatable. And again I found myself feeling so pleased as our small little Lucy-now 3, nearly completed the hike without a tow (her tiny legs were done by the last hundred yards or so, and her daddy quite happily swept her up onto his shoulders for the ride back to the car)

Time goes by so fast. This memory held so dear to me is 3 full years gone by. And yet, the enjoyment of the weekend's adventure to the lake has freshened the former memory and added to my store of "most enjoyable" things we have done as a family.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

photos of the happy wedding...

Between Friday and Saturday our family celebrated the union of Dean and Brynley Graham. This was truly an enjoyable occassion; not only were the bride and groom incredibly laid back and low key (a cultural hall reception with ice cream sundaes for refreshment and a room filled with reminders of the fun these two have together; climbing gear, snow shoes, baseball gloves and camping equipment. They've had more fun courting each other before their nuptuals than my sweetheart and I have had since our own ;) We are taking a lesson though, and will be out on more adventurous dates in the very near future), but their love for one another is so true, so natural and so genuine. It was a great opportunity to teach our children about the value of marriage, and the joy it can bring when two people respect one another and honor God above all else.

The reminder of Dad Graham's absence was honored with an empty seat in the sealing room where the wedding ceremony took place. Truly, we felt dad would be pleased at the coming together of these two great people. I bet he smiled happily through the entire occasion.

Our girls have floated on daisies and green ribbons for days, and have worn their "wedding dresses" at every opportunity. Congratulations Dean and Brynley! We love you both so much!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A little personal essay

We celebrated an absolute banner day last weekend when brother-in-law Dean was married forever to now sister- in- law Brynley. I'm not sure, save my John and I, that two people were ever better matched for each other. Dean is adoring, corageously willing to cherish an absolutley amazing, strong and beautiful bride. Determined to make her life bliss, Dean will honor Brynley and support her in every role she faces; be it wife, mother, professional, runner, relief society goddess or fairy god mother. Brynley, fiercely loyal and full of more love and faith than you can imagine in one being, will support and smile Dean to greater heights than he has thus far known spiritually, physically, intelectually, personally, and professionally. It was a priviledge to witness the union of such fine people.

Brynley's dad made a comment at the wedding lunch that lingers in my mind. He mentioned a moment in the last minute frenzy of the wedding reception's beginning when the planned refreshments were in jeoprody. Brynley and Dean handled the probable disaster with maturity and wisdom. It was said this way:

"They knew that it really mattered. But they also knew that it wouldn't matter for a very long time."

I reflected on my own wedding reception of many years ago. So many things (as I'm sure happened at YOUR wedding reception too) didn't go as I had dreamed. But so many years later, it doesn't really matter. The thing that mattered more, and that ultimately matters most, is that John and I were married-to each other-in the way that was right for us, in the place where we wanted to be, withcovenants that last forever. And because THAT matters for a long long time, those other little dreams can fade away and be lost in the bygone memory of this aging bride.

And as my brain speeds forward those many years from then to now, I see this is not just wisdom for weddings and receptions. It's so valueable in the day to day of my life. How often do I break down, or over emphasize, or over worry myself over things that matter, but that won't matter for a very long time? And, sadly, how often do I lightly consider those things-be they relationships or decisions or personal practices in the daily grind-that matter much and that will matter forever?

The scriptures put it this way:

"Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness."

2Nephi 9:51

Caught in a recent current of concern over homes sold and bought and decisions that matter for now, I wonder if I am missing the opportunity to think and concentrate on those things that ultimately matter most. Perhaps it is high time that I check the emphasis of my emotions and be sure they are placed-with my heart, mind, might, and strength, on those things that eternally matter. And in so doing dismiss the anxiety so characteristically stirred up by me on things that might matter a lot, but that won't matter at all in not so very long a time. And as this process, well, proceeds, I can enjoy the "fatness of my soul" as my heart "comes to the Holy One of Israel" and dwells on those things; HIS things; which matter most of all.

And which will matter , most definately, forever.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Total Upside...

Dainty centerpieces on a sun-drenched patio table.
Grilled pizza dinner, with duties shared among two capable mothers and many more hands to make the work of it light.
Cousins chattering about the day's swimming party at "Grandma April's pool" and plans made for tomorrow with the cousins.

This summer, every day (practically) feels like a family reunion or vacation full of meal plans, activities to keep many children on good behavior, and conversations on parenting, spirituality, exercise, courting spouses, stretching a dollar and making a house into a home with my dear friend and sister.

The sleeping conditions may seem less than perfect, but the company and the circumstances are pretty ideal. While our husbands are stir crazy for their own families in their own "castles" ASAP, my sister and I are learning how to appreciate one another and adore one another's children. This has been the upside of our very non-traditional summer.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The view on summer mornings

Our Shirley family has generously given us full use of their basement for the summer. They have been patient and accomodating, allowing a family twice the size of their own to converge on their newly remodeled home in the greater Salt Lake area. Our gratitude for their kindness is unfailing.

but we do need to giggle about the view each morning...
The dorm room where most of our children sleep (Mason has a posh teenage retreat in a dungeonous back bedroom, which is the family's storage room so he sleeps with hand me down clothes, luggage and fabric/craft supplies...) is the downstairs family room. We have popped at least two air mattressses due to the kids using them as trampolines when they are not being used as beds. Because we believe in natural consequences we have not continued to replace the air mattresses (this natural consequence must end soon, as my motherly compassion and sensitive back can't take much more!) so our children are sleeping wherever and however they find themselves comfortable. Molly's favorite spot? the dog bed. We have found her curled up in the corner and we've found her some mornings laying on top of her sisters. Most nights Lucy joins us in the darling little guest room that is our family's "central command" as John and I lounge in a sprawlling and comfortable queen sized bed. All of the belongings we have brought are tucked in the nicks and crannies of said guest retreat, making it look more like a junk yard than a bedroom.

The weeks tick by, and soon these arrangements will be a thing of the past. Children will sleep in their own beds, in the bedrooms of a new home. John and I will revel in the comfort of our own sheets, and the piles and messes will be moved to our own, owned spaces. For now it is helpful to document these summer morning views-a time we will look back on with fondness in summers to come.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Truth Proven this Summer...

We found this sign pinned to an employee bulletin board at the garden center where we were buying birthday flowers for Grandma. This, along with other sayings and sage advice, made me think the garden center would be a lovely place to work.

Yesterday our Molly was absolutely unbearable! She was climbing on others, tugging at hair, clammoring for feedback and finding it in unkind responses to her truly annoying antics. What should I do? Time Out? Gripe and yell? How to stop the negative engergy and bring a more positive spirit into this little person's heart?

We went out, alone, to run errands. I turned off the radio and listened to her as she sat in the coveted window seat of the car. She rode in the grocery cart where Luy usually rides; a spot right in front of my face where she could gab and giggle at me as we chose fruit and vegatables, chicken and paper plates and all things Costco for the home we are living in (thank you Amanda and John, for giving us a home to live in-with you-during this crazy time!). Molly and I shared a frozen yogurt. She tasted the samples and I tried to smile and listen and interject kindness. By the end of the trip two things happened; she was more mellow, more able to think before inflicting her usual attention seeking harassment. And I liked her a whole lot more for the compliments and comments I had endeavored to make during our outing alone together. Saying nice things to her, and finding nice things about her helped me remember all the nice that is in her. And the nice that is in me too-

try pouring on the nice today. See if doesn't make a little difference in the people around you, and a difference in YOU too.

P.S. pictures of our Utah house coming so so soon. Advice for where our Texas furnishings will fit will be much appreciated!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Stealing pages...

While I've always considered myself moderately intelligent I felt extremely inadequate when it came to literacy and literary conversation. While last living in Utah both my running companions were avid readers, they'd discuss Dickens and Austin over the 6 mile course and I'd listen in awe, dumbfounded and with nothing to contribute. Both mothers, I often wondered when they found time to read...

I'm working lately to change that. I"m sure the fact that I am not currently keeping a fastidious house, being away from the one that's for sale, my time has freed up some. It's summer, and as part of our summer "work" each of the kids has a book list assigned them. I've tried to encourage the classics this summer; Oliver Twist and Strawberry Girl along with Anne of Green Gables and The Whipping Boy. It has been joy to sit down with one of my children and actually discuss literature. It is joy to me that I can contribute right now to such discussions.

I've just finished "Three Cups of Tea" and it was deeply insipring. If you haven't picked it up I highly recommend it. The story is intriguing and very exciting for someone like me who has traveled in foreign lands with a personal mission in mind. And the truth that one man has made a significant difference in the lives of many strangers encourages me to look beyond myself and my own and to reach, somehow, to others.

My current book is "The Hiding Place". A classic I somehow missed in all the required high school literature. Inspiring to say the least, Corrie's story of transcending evil and seeing good is working in my heart and mind as I face my truly insignificant adversities of home buying and selling. Having a place to call home in a land where my culture and religion are not outlawed, well, that seems quite enough at the moment. I'm making plans to make our new home "my own" already, but suffice it to say that I am content to plan-where in past experience the execution of those plans was paramount. I feel more content and again more encouraged-to seek the opportunity to serve others. Corrie's family always had a pot of soup simmering on the stove to offer hot nurishment to those who needed and were wandering. I am eager to be in a place where I can consistantly teach my children to see the needs of others and reach out to meet them. My desire to seek less for me and more for others is growing as I read...

and so I see that while reading, in past mothering years, was a selfish pursuit, perhaps now in the reading i can become less selfish. Losing myself in good literature is helping me to find; more of the self that is selfless, and more of the joy that is reading.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Reunions, Birthdays and Waterskiing, Oh My!

As these photos loaded our real estate agent called saying it is finally time to Sign a contract for our new house! So enjoy these photos of my mother's family reunion at Pineview Resovoir, and the celebration of my baby brother's 6th Birthday. Enjoy and wish us luck on the homefront!