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September 2012
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November 2012

Currently: October 29

  • Humming my October 29 theme song, Susan Vega's "Left of Center."
  • Drinking hot chocolate and wishing I hadn't scalded my tongue.
  • Worrying over my Write Now! class, which starts on Thursday—will anyone sign up? If they do will they be happy with the class?
  • Working on a long to-do list: schedule dentist appointments, go to the fabric store, get a copy of my birth certificate, go to the bank, finish a layout, swing by the scrapbook store, go to Target, and probably 123 other things I am forgetting.
  • Wondering what else I am forgetting—my brain fuzz feels especially bad right now.
  • Reading the fantasy novel Tigana, which I started as an audio book that I listened to while driving last week, and deciding that while I like audio books, I still love true books better.
  • Hobbling around. My legs are sore from the race, my back is sore from carrying the back pack in Disneyland, and my shoulder is sore from being crunched by Jake when we were riding Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.(tee hee.)
  • Wishing Kendell had brought the camera to Saturday's finish line.
  • Remembering myself 22 years ago today. (It's a long story.)
  • Beginning the process of doing something that has both thrilled and terrified me for nearly 22 years, and hoping I am making the right choice. (Forgive my crypticness!)
  • Getting off the computer so I can get stuff done!

What's current in your world?

Whirlwind Week

You know that feeling you have when you walk on the rolling walkways in an airport, when you're going faster than you could on your own and the windows beside you continue to hold still, so if the walkway is long enough you almost get dizzy from the contrast of speed and stillness, of moving and not moving?

Yes, that. That feeling is exactly how my last eight days have felt. Nearly too fast for me to fully grasp. Like this:

  • Saturday I was up by seven because I wanted to get the house clean before we left on our trip. You know how you think, ah, it'll only take a few hours, and then all of a sudden it's 11:00 p.m. and you still didn't finish everything? Yep. I did get quite a few pockets of clutter cleaned, though. Got everything packed and organized and into the car, ready for the next day.
  • On Sunday we got up early and were on the road to California by 7:15. By "we" I mean Jake, Nathan, Kaleb, and me; Haley and Kendell both had classes they couldn't miss. Four of us meant we could take the car instead of the van (a blessing, really, with gas at $4.70 in some places). It's a little bit gutless, the Corolla, so along the long hills I felt like I was pushing the car up the incline. It was a strange drive; along the way I dodged an actual, real, enormous tumbleweed; a black, bulging garbage bag which I hope held garbage and not body parts; a truck topper (you know, the thing you put on top of the bed of your truck to turn it into a camper? just lying there at an angle on the freeway); an entire tire; a garbage can; and, just by the Scipio exit, cows. We made it though!
  • Monday: Disneyland. It opened at 10:00 so we could sleep in a little bit, but my inability to sleep well in a hotel coupled with Kaleb's sturdy internal clock meant I was up at 6:30 anyway. We do amusement parks as thoroughly as we can, meaning we're there when it opens and we stay until it closes, trying to get in as many rides as possible.
  • Tuesday: Disneyland. The hotel we stayed at is about one mile from the Disneyland gate, but we walked past the Monorail station. Since we didn't quite make it out of our rooms in time to be at the gate when it opened, we rode the Monorail into Disney instead. Then we ran to Space Mountain (my favorite Disney ride) and rode it three times, the line was so short.
  • Wednesday: Disneyland. We used our Magic Morning pass to get into the park at 7:00. Which meant we were up EARLY.
  • Thursday: we didn't really have to be anywhere, but we wanted to go to the beach. So we didn't sleep in, but got up, ate, packed, made a side trip to Target, and then found Newport beach. You might be from Utah if you spread out your beach towel just right, sit down, and then start thinking....hmmm, I don't remember the beach being this stinky and then realize that you've set yourself up twenty feet from an enormous and very dead seagull. Moving towel...
  • Thursday afternoon: We left the beach at 3:15, stopped for a quick bite, and headed to Vegas. Oh. My. Goodness. This was the worst drive I think I've ever managed. The second we got on the freeway we were in traffic and the traffic lasted all the way to the other side of the San Bernardino mountains. Past Victorville. Then when we got to Nevada, there was construction and an accident in Primm and construction by Jean and another accident outside of Vegas. It took us SEVEN HOURS to drive 271 miles. I was a mess by the time we made it to Circus Circus!
  • Friday: I did sleep in a little bit on Friday. The Circus Circus rooms were surprisingly nice—remodeled and clean and spacious, which helped me not feel hotel anxiety. Plus Jake very kindly entertained Kaleb by watching a movie with him—they used the laptop and headphones so I didn't hear a thing. Once I woke up (at the oh-so-late hour of 8:30), everyone showered and we left. We went to NY Pizza & Pasta, a little restaurant we discovered when we were in Vegas in June and the kids have been talking about ever since, then hit the road. The drive was both traffic- and weird-things-to-dodge free!
  • Back in Utah at about 6:45, I got some laundry started, called my health insurance to sort out a prescription problem, cleaned out the car, and then drove to Lehi with Kendell so I could pick up my race packet. Ate dinner at Thai Village, came home and got ready for my race in the morning.
  • On Saturday I was up at 5:15, stressing about what to run in. Becky picked me up so we could run the Halloween Half marathon together. As I had only run a total of THREE TIMES this month, and as I was pretty much running on empty by that point, I had fairly low expectations of my race: run the damn thing and finish under two hours. My final time: 1:59:24.
  • Kendell had to be somewhere at 11:30, so I grabbed my finish-line water and fairly lame bag of chips and we rushed off from the finish line. I showered and we ran to Costco and then he dropped me off at work. After work we hung out with the plumber! because our toilet was leaking, and then we went to dinner with a friend. And then I could relax, at last.

Last night when I tucked Kaleb in to bed, I asked him to not wake me up this morning. He obliged, I slept until 9:15, and even though I'm sore almost everywhere, I feel better for a good night's sleep. I feel, in fact, like I have stepped off the rolling walkway. Normal speed ahead.

(Except for: Halloween. and the quilting projects I need to do. and then Thanksgiving. and then Christmas shopping and decorating and...)

happiest place

I remember a stressed-out friend once telling me that she was taking her kids one a spontaneous Disneyland trip. Since I'd only been to Disney once in my life, and that when I was in seventh grade, I didn't really get her reaction.

I understand it more now.

Right now I am standing in line to get fast pass tickets to the new Cars ride.

My boys are riding Screamin for the 7the time this magic morning.

And I feel a little less heartsore.

I only could enjoy it more if haley and Kendell were here, too.

They had classes they couldn't miss. But the trip was planned, so we came.

And it has been good.

Ahh! The line is finally moving! One last day at disneyland begins!

on my desk (A Sneak Peek)

The night we got the call that Beth was having medical problems, it was nearly 10:00. Kendell was watching TV, Kaleb and Nathan were both asleep, Jake was making his way to bed, Haley was working on homework, and I was in the computer room working on a scrapbook layout.

With everything that happened after that phone call, it was awhile before I got back to my desk to finish the layout. In fact, scrapbooking almost felt wrong somehow. Like I was moving forward too soon. But, you know? One of the most comforting things in the days after she went was looking at the scrapbooks she'd made. It matters, this craft that we do. It makes it so a little piece of you stays around after you're gone.

Still, I'm entering back into the process slowly. I'm thinking more about the best way to use my scrapbooking time. I'm trying to make things count. And I haven't found the old joy in it, yet. At least not at first—but as I let the process work, I find a still space of calm.

In a few weeks, we'll be revealing the new Write. Click. Scrapbook. gallery. (November 1 to be exact.) I haven't gotten very far yet on my layout, but I have found a bit of inspiration:

Sneak oct 2012
on my scrapping desk

I'll make sure to include an explanation of these items when I share the finished layout! Can you guess what the theme might be?

Check back on November 1 to see the brand new gallery.

Right Now

favorite t.v. shows: Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, CSI New York
other shows I watch: Grey's Anatomy, CSI Las Vegas, Person of Interest, Law & Order: SVU, Castle, America's Next Top Model (my guilty pleasure!)
anticipating: the start of The Walking Dead, the release of The Hobbit in December, teaching a class on journal keeping in a Relief Society meeting, my last half marathon, our trip to Disneyland, finally getting to the top of the hold list for the books Gone Girl, The End of Your Life Book Club, The Round House and The Light Between Oceans
reading: The Cove by Ron Rash, The Sisters by Nancy Jensen
things that make me happy: the mountains this fall are the prettiest I have ever seen, and the leaves in the valley are just starting to change; seeing (and helping) Haley prepare for her future, which is about three seconds away; the fact that Kaleb still calls me "mommy" and wants me to pray with him; seeing Nathan sitting on his bed drawing in his sketchbook; Jake, who seems happier now than he was in the summer
eating: sugar for the first time in two months, although I am not sure I want to go back and think I am eating cookies out of psychological habit rather than true desire; coconut chicken curry, which I can finally make without buying the Vermont Curry mix from Many Lands (anyone want the recipe?); pumpkin anything (except, of course, pumpkin pie, which I don't love; I recently tried a pumpkin empanada and discovered it is like a piece of fried pie; the inside-out styling didn't change my response)
seasonal stuff: I love having the Halloween decorations out, especially the two Catrinas I bought in Mexico and last year's quilt; there has been very little discussion of Halloween costumes so far, perhaps because Kaleb decided months ago he'd be the werewolf; love running in the fall weather, whether it's cool or warm; October makes me remember Jeramy in a sharper and different way than any other month, because it has so many days that remind me of the last day; not looking forward to Thanksgiving yet, perhaps because it hasn't been chilly enough for me to feel like it's on its way
working on: an essay about library books, Kaleb's dinosaur quilt and a zig zag quilt for Jake's new bed (inherited from Grandma Beth), some layouts and videos (gulp!) for my Write Now! class, last bit of training for my half marathon
new songs I love: "Too Close" by Alex Clare, "Oh Love" by Green Day, "Colours" by Grouplove, "Headlights" by Morning Parade, "New York" by Snow Patrol, and "Kill your Heroes" by AWOLNATION
stressing about: college scholarships, being better at family home evenings, whether or not I've trained enough for the half (between the funeral and the cleaning out of Beth's house and then a week in California, I'm thinking not) the next few weeks of Primary, Christmas, should I buy life insurance or not?, politics, including both national (the future of our country seems dismal to me) and local (one of our city council members seems determined to ruin our town) (as one of my co-workers said: I'm ready for the political season to be over so that I am not angry all the time)
What about you? What's happening in your Right Now???

Grief is a Conglomerate Stone

I’m not sure where I saw the photo—a scrapbook layout somewhere, maybe, or on Pinterest, or maybe in a magazine ad. A three-generation photo, nothing unusual, but it sparked something in me, a memory that I once took a four-generation picture of Kendell and his daughter with his mom and his grandma, a realization that it would be nice to have a three-generation picture, a whole series of them in fact, Kendell and his mom and each of his kids.

When she's recuperated from her surgery, I told myself. Then I'll take them. When she's feeling pretty and confident again, despite the missing body parts, but before she starts the chemo.

And that is how death tricked me, by letting me think I’d have more time, a future that included (among so many other moments I didn’t even imagine yet) a photo shoot that would have been unbearably frustrating (one husband who hates having his picture taken, one teenaged son who does, too) but rewarding, too, in the end. Processing the photos, having them printed, giving some to my mother-in-law Beth, who would’ve hung some on her fridge and scrapbooked the rest.

But I didn’t take those pictures yet

was, ridiculously, one of the first thoughts I had when Kendell called to choke out the words "she’s gone."

But tomorrow is her birthday and we were going to take her to Red Lobster for lunch to celebrate

She can’t be dead because I just took her some library books on Saturday

I also thought.

And someone made a mistake and they just need to fix it and then she’ll be OK.

Of course, none of those thoughts hold back death. My mind’s inability to accept it: here/not here—despite its unbearable inescapability, here it is, another grandparent gone.

And I could tell the story about her death, how she’d done so well with her mastectomy a month ago, sailed through with no complications, and how she was trying to decide if she’d have chemo or not. How the heart attack seemed to come out of the blue, how her daughter was with her and gave her CPR and called 911 and did everything she could and how it wasn’t enough and Beth just did not make it.

But the other story is what I am in now. That inability to know it is true, because when we walked into her house it still smelled like her and so it seemed like she was just in the other room. Having to share that inability with each of my kids, who loved her in different ways, and how my grief grew because of their grief, a breccia lodged in my rib cage. How they don’t know it yet, the hundred thousand moments they won’t get to have with her: no Grandma Beth at weddings or baby showers or random Sunday afternoons hanging out on her couch. No three-generation photograph, but this isn’t about pictures. It’s not even about death. It’s about sorrow, right now. It’s about grief and how we are in it and how it is the only thing left that binds each of us to each. And how there is that whisper, which my kids can barely hear but which is loud in my ears: it is Margaret you're grieving.

(For my mother-in-law Beth, who passed away at 10:30 on Tuesday night.)

September 2012 in Review

September was supposed to be my Black Month. The month I only wore black clothes and I took a photo of myself every day to prove it. didn’t work out very well. I learned three things: 1. I really do have a lot of black clothes. 2. While I do have a ton of black clothes, and wearing them makes me happy, they are mostly things I wear to work. My favorite thing to wear when I’m having a day at home are my grey sweats and my Pepsi t-shirt; it’s all about being comfortable, not color, on hanging-at-home days. 3. I am not good at self portraits or at asking a kid to take my picture every day. All of which is to say: I want a new black sweater.

I posted a Facebook status one day in late August about a guy I saw at Costco wearing a shirt that said "If I stop running, how will I get home?" which I thought was awesome. A few weeks later my friend Chris stopped by bearing a gift:

How will I get home
(I went running it it the very next day. Nathan says I have Man Shoulders in this photo.)

Her husband is a sign maker but he also does shirts, so she had him make me this. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? Because A—I love it! And B—she is so thoughtful! And C—I got to see her for a little while. And D—the shirt itself is perfect (some running shirts fit weird, or they are too short in the torso, or they smell weird or rub in inconvenient places). And E—it is pink. Awwwww.

Kendell started his biology class. Much complaining ensued about the teacher, until he took the first test and realized it would all be OK. I confess that when he’s complaining about school I have a hard time being sympathetic because I loved going to school. If someone would just pay me to go to school, I would make it my career, earning PhD after PhD.  I know...I am a weirdo!

Haley was asked to Homecoming. With goldfish! (It was cute.) We went shopping that very same day and found a dress she loved that wasn’t super expensive. I had to add sleeves to it, but they turned out better than I could’ve hoped for. (I am not the world’s best seamstress.)

Haley homecoming 2012
I didn't get any awesome & amazing photos of The Dress this time.

She’s also settling in to her Pharm Tech program, which she goes to after school. I was SO anxious about this because I didn’t want it to be too much, but it’s perfect. The teacher is helpful and not too demanding, and she found someone to carpool with.

Jake and Nathan looked forward all month to their scout camp out. They went last weekend to Mia Shalom, which is the camp where the young women go in the summer for girls camp. They went to do some winter maintence to prepare the camp for snow. Sleeping in cabins instead of tents was a big deal, but more than that they were excited for the dinner. One of their leaders brought up a turkey fryer, and then they were planning on frying up some delicious desserts, like fried twinkies. (Which sounds completely disgusting to me, but I guess it’s a teenage boy thing.) Jake was bummed because the turkey was fried in peanut oil so he couldn’t eat any (he’s allergic to peanuts) but the desserts were done in canola oil. He ate seven fried twinkies. That kid! I would share a photo of him but I have NONE this month. He hates having his picture taken. It’s big drama around here.

Nathan got a weird rash on his hand. I was certain he had either flesh-eating bacteria or a parasite—my kids are known for weird rashes but this was something I’d never seen before anywhere. Turns out he must’ve touched some poisonous plant on a hike, and then he had a dermal allergic reaction (I can’t remember the exact name of it). He had to take Prednizone for a week, which I wasn’t happy about, but he didn’t do too badly on it. (I took it when I was 14 or 15 for pleurisy and I swear to you: I bawled for two weeks straight. It was awful.) It didn't stop him from doing a lot of this:

Nathan sept 2012

Kaleb had a good, normal month. We went to his parent-teacher conference where I learned that he has a hard time staying quiet and being focused in reading. (I am so not surprised by this.) But everyone at school loves him and he is doing great in math. Plus his teacher told me that he likes to help the other kids with their work, so that is good. Mostly he played a lot with his friends. This photo captures what he loves most right now:

Legos kaleb
There are also Legos in, well, every room of my home

I made nine scrapbook layouts and sewed three baby blankets. However, I did not achieve my sewing goal, which was to finish Kaleb’s dinosaur quilt. I did get all of the 16-patch squares squared up though, which is a HUGE step. I hate squaring up. I had a new cut & color for my hair, but I don't love my cut and my color is starting to fade. In general, in fact, I hate my hair right now.

I read some books: Pure by Julianna Baggot, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and The End of Everything by Megan Abbott. I also started The Dive from Clausen's Pier but I haven't finished it yet. I also went to a writer's conference at UVU, which shall merit its very own post.

Haley did a fund raiser at UVU for her choir tour. She and her friend Megan went to UVU and were servers at the scholarship ball.

Despite big plans, no real hikes were hiked this month. Sadness, as it has been one of the most beautiful Septembers I can remember.

I had a horrible cold that started on the day I ran the Mt. Nebo half marathon. It took two weeks to get over.

I ran 80.88 miles. It would’ve been more except I took off one week because of that cold.

To celebrate the autumn equinox, I ran Squaw Peak road and then I wore the new orange shirt I've been saving. (It was one of the first non-black shirts I wore in public!) Then I dribbled olive oil on it when we went to dinner that night. Sigh.

Tell me: did you read anything in September that you loved?

Impossible Feats

"One person's 'just do it' is another person's Everest." I read that in a novel this weekend (The Dive from Clausen's Pier, if you were curious) and the idea has been sitting with me ever since. Partly this is because of a writer's conference I went to last week (more on that in another post) and how it made me think not so much about my writing as it did about my writing habits. My processes, and how I need to radically change them if I am ever to find any success, and it does sort of feel like an Everest. Except, look at all those successful writers who presented at the conference. How did they do it? They just did it. 

I think we all probably have our "just do it" things that look enormous to other people. I get that a lot with running. "I wish I were a runner, too" or "I don't know how you run for so long" or "how do you fit it in?" sort of comments come up quite often. I don't really know how to respond with a short answer. The only way you become a runner is by running, by starting slow and short and building up. I've been running consistently (aside from the dismally chubby days during my teaching career, when I could only find running energy during the summer) since 2000, but I still remember vividly my first race, a 5k I ran with Becky, back when my running clothes were biking shorts because running shorts were too short and made me chafe. (I still can't wear real running shorts. Because they make me chafe.) I had never run three miles, and I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to finish, or that I would come in last, or that I would make some spectacularly obvious newbie mistake and embarrass myself. That first 5k was an Everest of sorts.

But if you keep pushing, different things become new Everests. I tried the summit (a marathon) once in 2001, which is like...well, it's exactly like a new runner trying to run a marathon. Maybe other new runners would be successful, but I wasn't. I didn't run a marathon until 2011. But I did run a whole bunch of half marathons, and challenge myself in other ways, and even now that the marathon is behind me I still have running Everests. How do I do it? (Or any other runner, for that matter, as I'm hardly an extreme or noteworthy example.) Just by running. By doing it one day at a time, by preparing for and reading about and experimenting upon running. Just like a person who is (literally) hiking Mt. Everest. She gets to the top by taking each step.

Sometimes my own "just do it"s are simultaneously my own Everests. Like this morning, when I decidedly did not want to go running. Not at all. I was completely uninspired at the thought. I wanted to stay home, eat a big bowl of oatmeal in my pajamas, and then maybe take a bath. Getting dressed, putting on my shoes & headband & sunscreen, propelling myself down the street: had I ever even done those things before? But if I didn't run this morning, I wouldn't be able to run again until Wednesday, and as I didn't run last Friday that would be an entire week without any running. And that's another way Everest turns into "just do it." You sometimes slip back a little bit, but you don't want to slide all the way back down to base camp. Even when you're uninspired you put in the miles.

And you know: I'm not even writing about running there. I'm writing about writing. I'm trying to teach myself that the only way to fulfill this dream is by writing. By getting my butt out of base camp. By figuring out a way to make it work. To change my entrenched habits so that writing, too, becomes the thing I just do. Even though right now it feels like 29,029 feet of impossibility.