Halfway through strawberries

(disclaimer: not an actual image of any strawberries I have grown or will grow)

Today I was pretty crazy until about 1ish, but then I had a new friend come over from the ward. I was going to cancel (cuz of the crazy) but couldn’t manage to do it once I had her on the phone.

I met her a few weeks ago in the mother’s lounge and immediately liked her. She is lovely, motherly, smiley and mellow. Her name is Rose. She grew up on a farm as the 10th of 12 children. She’s married to the son of a polygamist (son–her husband–converted to LDS prior to their marriage). I learned a lot of interesting stuff about modern polygamists that don’t live in creepy compounds. Instead, they live like normal people on your suburban street (they just have two wives in there and other wives that visit). It was interesting hearing her perspective, because she has a good relationship with her in-laws.

She has a 14 mo old and a 3 year old who played with Noah and they became fast friends. After she came, she went back home (2 blocks away) and got a saw and came back and helped me hack away at the overgrown undergrowth of a fat pine, and we succeeded in trimming its skirt nicely.

It was nice to be around her down-to-earth Idahoan calmness. We made plans to hang out on Tuesdays.

After she left I hacked away some more, this time at one of the two strawberry patches (bordered by cinderblocks) because I had to get ALL the grass roots out of there or they would choke my berries, and there was a LOT of grass that had taken over. Mom came to help a bit. It took me all the time I had to just rototill and hoe and grab and rake one of the boxes and put 18 plants in there, all about a foot apart. I’ll work on the other one tomorrow.

David was all proactive and made two HUGE oven pancakes while mom and I finished up. Mom stayed for dinner, and David’s parents showed up and we all hung around and it was pleasant. My mom watched Sleeping Beauty with the kids. It is really nice having family so close.

My Pa-in-law stood with me on the porch tonight as we watched a grey storm blow in and said, “Isn’t this nice? Do you like it here? I thought you did, but I can’t tell from your blog.”

I just explained, “It’s not about where I am, it’s about who I am.”

So, let the record show, yes, I like here a lot. It is beautiful, and my favorite part of the day was finishing up patting in the berry plants while the wind whistled ominously and the trees started swaying and I started to feel little drops on my arms.

I love having real weather!! I’ve had 12 years of 99% sunny and hazy, and I’m really loving the storms.

So, I’m ending the day less crazy. I also pushed on another promising door today (not for me). Please send prayers. Love to all.


God, please send rain to our friends in Sierra Madre

It takes something like this for me to realize I don’t live in California. (I’m enjoying a long denial). I keep thinking I’ll schedule a visit to places in California and it takes me a minute to remember that I can’t just jump over to the Noah’s Ark exhibit, or to Zeke’s BBQ in Montrose, to a Souplantation lunch with Doris, or to the well-traveled Arboretum.

I was worried to hear about the fire in SM because that is a big part of our ward family (here, we just have a ward so far, but there we have our “ward family”). Many families we know and love fell within the fire evacuation area. David and Megan reassured me that the fire would likely take no homes or lives and would be contained by Wednesday. I was practical and decided all was fine.

But then, during our couple prayer last night, I prayed for our friends and ward family in Sierra Madre, and started blubbering like a baby. David teased me for being a baby, and then apologized, and then we thoughtfully chatted about our missed “home.”

David said not often, but sometimes, he just realizes suddenly, “I don’t live in California.” And get’s horribly depressed for a minute. I had one of those minutes last night.

Miss and love you guys. God bless you all–and your homes and lungs.



We’ve alienated our country from the world, we’ve alienated our actions from our national values, we’re alienating our soldiers from their lives, and I’m alienating many of my readers with this post.

My cousin Joel is serving his third tour of duty in Iraq. I now have the privilege of spending regular time with his wife and sister and learning first hand of what he’s going through, and I just feel sick over it.

He’s a changed man. He can’t talk about what he’s had to do there and who he has become because of it, and I really shouldn’t talk publicly about the details I have. But suffice it to say that he had put his life on a good trajectory, had been sealed to his wife, had become activated in the church, and was becoming more of what he already was already, a decent guy. On his second tour, he was asked to do and chose to do things that made him a different man with a different trajectory.

As his wife talked about his life right now–driving convoys that don’t stop for anyone or anything at anytime–hungry, hot, exhausted, pooping in a box in the back of the truck in front of all present, hot, and taking his showers every six days in contaminated, too-hot water–I felt sick, sad and angry. This is not a man who thought killing children would become part of his day job.

It’s because I love and support my cousin and the troops he serves with that I hate this war. I feel “the devil and his angels laugheth”–along with military defense contractors and the ever-expanding Blackwater force, now building yet a new campus in SoCal.

Iraq has become a distraction and an exacerbator of the true threats to our country. Some of the the things we have done in the name of freedom cannot be justified through love of country or love of party (although I only have the former). The leaders changed the story, more and more information comes about how misleading the information and badly handled the tactics have been. Whether one favors the party that put those leaders in office or not, one is not obligated to buy faulty rhetoric from any party, and more and more people are less inclined to do so.

Yes, the media is stupid and doesn’t help and it’s hype oversimplifies and sensationalizes everything, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a horrific problem that impacts real lives in a horrific way–of soldiers and their families, of Iraqi families, and of those of us at home finding the hastening of our crumbling civilization. There is no good way out, and no real progress coming from staying in. The politicians and candidates have no good answers.

On September 20, 2001, President Hinckley said to President Bush, “President Hinckley stated, “I just want you to know, Mr. President, that we are behind you. We pray for you. We love this ‘nation under God.’ ” We all felt that way, didn’t we?

In May, 2003, he gave a very thorough talk on the war, where he said,

One of our Articles of Faith, which represent an expression of our doctrine, states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12).

But modern revelation states that we are to “renounce war and proclaim peace” (D&C 98:16).

In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.

This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do.

He goes on to explain that we may and should fight for our liberty, and said, ” In the course of history tyrants have arisen from time to time who have oppressed their own people and threatened the world. Such is adjudged to be the case presently, and consequently great and terrifying forces with sophisticated and fearsome armaments have been engaged in battle.”

Such was adjudged to be the case, and we have had to assume our leaders saw clearly, and some still feel and hope they do. I’m losing that hope.

In 2006, Hinkley said, “When a man grows old he develops a softer touch, a kindlier manner. I have thought of this much of late. I have wondered why there is so much hatred in the world. We are involved in terrible wars with lives lost and many crippling wounds.” He seemed pensive and sad as the war drew on when he spoke of it. I doubt he had lost his faith in his leaders and I am starting to, and I’m trying to hold on to the hope he had.

But I just wonder too much now. As oil tycoons and hedge fund managers sit on growing piles of cash and give corporations free reign to fill our food, water and air with their refuse, our economy is in the toilet and we have food shortages, poor health care, job losses and a housing crisis. Meanwhile, cash is ever-flowing into Iraq (yet somehow not into my cousin’s food budget). And, although we’ve had no major attacks on American soil, I feel sick when I think of our heartless claim that it’s better we fight them over there, as if the families and children on that soil are more expendable.

With sorrow for Joel in my heart, and anger at the egregious, arrogant smoke blown at us by those who we entrusted to lead us, I received this friendly email from my mom, created on 3trillion.org, which is her shopping spree she did for me using the money we spend on the war. I feel sicker than ever. Take a look at my “presents”—I got all of this for only $3 trillion–she even fit a hybrid car in there!!

End hunger and poverty related diseases
1 purchased for $195,000,000,000.00 each

New Clothing, Shoes, Coats, and School Supplies for Ten Million Children
1 purchased for $10,000,000,000.00 each

Buy a Hybrid
1 purchased for $21,000.00 each

Free, Fair, and Unbiased Media
1 purchased for $2,500,000.00 each

Plant 1,000,000 trees
1 purchased for $10,000,000.00 each

give every teacher a rai$e
1 purchased for $100,000,000.00 each

Increase sustainable Organic Produce in the US
1 purchased for $10,000,000,000.00 each

Sustainable Agriculture Education, Worldwide
1 purchased for $200,000,000.00 each

Healthy Food
1 purchased for $2,000,000,000.00 each

Kyoto Protocol Worldwide Compliance
1 purchased for $400,000,000,000.00 each

World Peace
1 purchased for $70,000,000,000.00 each

New National Power Grid
1 purchased for $100,000,000.00 each

Build 100 New Schools
1 purchased for $2,500,000,000.00 each

Free College for 20 Million Students for 1 year
1 purchased for $400,000,000,000.00 each

Wind Turbines to Power All of the United States
1 purchased for $1,000,000,000,000.00 each

End our Dependence on Foreign Oil
1 purchased for $500,000,000,000.00 each

Achieve Universal Literacy
2 purchased for $5,000,000,000.00 each

Universal Preschool
1 purchased for $35,000,000,000.00 each

Help all orphans
1 purchased for $280,000,000.00 each

Housing for America’s homeless
1 purchased for $74,000,000,000.00 each

The house of your dreams
1 purchased for $2,500,000.00 each

Island in Bahamas
1 purchased for $15,000,000.00 each

Non-Violent Leadership Training (1 yr) for 10 Million Leaders
1 purchased for $300,000.00 each

Clean up Pollution
1 purchased for $160,000,000,000.00 each

Conflicted sorrow just doesn’t say enough about how I feel today. It’s time for some hoeing (and not the Big5 kind, there’s too much of that coming from politicians).

Sorry, this is blog my ranting place, and you sure got it today. Hope you love me anyway.

Emails and gratitude

Hi, if you know me, I’ve lost your email. Send me an email please. The computer is resurrected but the info on it is not yet recovered, and when it is, it will be indecipherable (e.g., File 1, File 2, File 3, etc.). So, I’d like to have your email address. hivalerie at gmail dot com

Today I got in the blackberries, rhubarb and asparagus. I planted it all in the “old garden”–the one that is part of the actual yard of the house, because the slim chance we’ll ever own this house is still much fatter than the chance we’ll own this house and the pasture alongside.

We had a grand old time with an all-grownup outing with the Mitchells and the Oaks tonight. We went to dinner at the Blue Iguana, and then we were so loud laughing in the Nielsen’s Frozen Custard that the teenagers were even looking annoyed. Talk about role reversal. We were making fun of how the young kids of today are recycling all the old stuff, from music to clothes. I complained that silly goth chicks of today look identical to the silly goth chicks of my youth (such as myself).

It is all I can do when I drive by one in my minivan full of screaming children not to roll down the window and yell, “Look at me, heavy-metal girlfriend! This is YOU in 15 years! Ha Ha HA!!”

On a completely unrelated topic, here’s my thought for today, in reference to lilacs:

“Gratitude is a Spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love. This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord. Gratitude inspires happiness and carries divine influence.”

(Bonnie D. Parkin, “Gratitude: A Path to Happiness,” Ensign, May 2007, 35)

Today was a pretty happy day.

PS, All y’alls comments really cheer me up and make me laugh. Thanks!

What the lilacs mean

Today I got very muddy. This morning, mom and I went to J&L Garden and bought strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, asparagus and rhubarb. With the exception of the strawberries, this is clearly a long-term investment. I’m showing the Lord I’m serious about making this place my own.

At 4 p.m. I had the ridiculously unrealistic idea (as is my trademark) that I could get these all in the ground today. What really happened is I got in the raspberries and we had a late dinner.
Getting in the raspberries sounds so simple, but it required mowing a patch by the sunny fence, raking it out, rototilling 3-4x over, deciding I really meant to put it on the opposite (pasture) side of the fence), repeating these first steps, digging 10 holes, putting 2T of root stimulant in each and separating a large mass of roots in one pot into 10 canes. Then came the actual putting them in the ground part, and watering them in. Then cleaning up.

This is getting to the time of year where many hours of yard work every day are going to be required to live the dream we came here to live. Despite the already-present aches from my yanking on a stubborn Craigslist lawnmower starter WAY too many times today, I really, really love it.

My spouse, who is far more private with his mental demons than I am, also finds great solace in the lugging of wood and the bagging of leaves. For both of us, it is our own little white house on the hill, our personal funny farm.
Today I found particular enjoyment hearing myself utter the phrase, “Sophie, go up and get me the hoe out of the front shed, please.” There would be something I haven’t said before, and not just because I now have two sheds. Back in LA that would have been more like, “Soph, don’t go outside of the gates because you’ll be run over or fall within eyesight of the pervs in front of the porn store.” We’re movin’ on up.

However, there were some conversations, some assessments, let’s vaguely say, which led to greater, discouraging understanding of the state of those unimportant, worldly things today that, however eternally irrelevant, threaten our earthly peace to destroy (that awkward sentence will be even more awkward for people not familiar with LDS hymns).
Anyway, David became somewhat glowery, as he is wont to do under such news, and I threw myself into yard work.

Several weeks ago I decided that the only thing missing in this idyllic scenario we’ve just been handed is a lilac tree. I almost bought one, but it seemed frivolous and would take years to be what I really wanted it to be. Lilacs hold enormous significance for me, they just drip with bittersweet Bountiful childhood nostalgia, along with that amazing scent and comforting color.

In the back corner of our yard, back behind the shed, is a very large, tall bush. I’ve been watching the bush carefully as little green things have begun popping up all over. I was waiting to find out if it really was–if it could be–what I really hoped it would be.

Because all around the house and in the yard are little tokens of things that show me that God knows me, that he is working in my life. They give evidence to the fact He is directing my life as I’ve prayed for him to take over and do. They are little things that would probably seem silly to you, but as they have piled up, I have really seen them as nothing less than tokens of affection from a loving God, a reassurance that everything really will be okay and He’s in charge.

So, in short, I spent some time scrutinizing the bush today. Then went in and told David, “It’s a lilac. Everything is going to be okay.”
He actually nodded.

Grapes, heaters and irrigation

As you may be able to tell, I’ve been a bit of a mope of late, even though I have my dream life here and everything. There are some rather stressful things going on, but mostly it boils down to the true principle that wherever you go, there you are. You can take the Valerie out of the depressing place, but you can’t take the depressed place out of the Valerie.

I got a blessing recently and it was short and simple. It said: 1) pray a lot–several times a day, every time you are frustrated, sad, tired, ready to scream, ready to binge, etc., and 2) get enough rest. I spent quite a bit of time today on my knees while Noah and Lucy took turns climbing up my backside (using my legs as stairs) and walking across my back to leap gleefully onto the bed.

Prayer and sleep. Good advice for anyone, yet so hard to do sometimes, when the brownies are between me and the bedroom where I mean to go and pray. I fall prey to clinging to the false god of chocolate and sugar. I can see Elijah mocking me in the day of judgment as he did the priests of Baal–“How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Chocolate, then follow him. . . call ye on the name of your chocolate god, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.” (And the god that answers with stomachache, let him be accursed.) (Ref: 1 King 18:21, with presumptuous changes)

Time outside does much to help my ailing mental health. Two days ago I spent hours pulling wild grapevines out of two large pine trees and redirecting them over our rameumptom, which apparently was a wooden thing designed to have a slide attached, but the slide never got attached, so now it is just a perilously wiggly contraption the baby likes to climb up (and fall off of). Now it is covered in wires and grape vines, hopefully she’ll be deterred. Three of us (David, me and Elaine) named it that independently of one another, so it must truly be one. I’ll take pics for Sunday.

Our chicks arrived on Tuesday and are peeping in Elaine’s garage under a heat lamp. We went over today and harrassed them with petting and grabbing. Helping Noah, I had flashbacks of murdering a hamster when I was the same age (it died after I left, so I didn’t know of my crime until years later). I told Elaine to watch the chicks after we left, and spent the whole visit pleading, “Not tight, Noah, not tight!” They were cute and dumb, like chicks are. Soon they’ll be ugly and dumb, and then kind of homey and dumb. Then some of them will be dinner.

It’s been raining so we haven’t done a ton outside. The irrigation water was to have been turned on last week and it never really came in, just a trickle, and I’ve been purposefully wandering the property testing spigots and popping in Rainbirds to see where was getting what by way of water, then making some changes, then repeating the process. Turns out there was a leak up the street and they’d had it turned off again to fix it. When I went to turn it on today we now have the opposite problem with some outlets we can’t totally shut off. With all the rain, it’s been a wet day.

The Lord has given me my dream situation even though we can’t buy right now, and that really is a sign that He hears my prayers and helps things come together for my good even when everything isn’t ready to fall into place. That doesn’t keep me from moping about how I want to own this house, which is completely ungrateful and dumb. But I was cured of that on Wednesday when the heater broke, and the landlords had to spend all day on the phone with various people (it happened after they switched out our electrical meter). Then they had to shell out $600 (It’s a pretty fancy heater) to fix it, then they had to spend the next day scrambling to solve our irrigation problems.

All of a sudden I realized that in some situations, a renter is the customer, and the landlord becomes the servant (and the checkbook). If that kind of surprise expenditure is what homeownership is about, and I hear that it is, we have no business owning a home right now, and I’m content (today).

I’ve done a lot more research into voice teaching and the short explanation is there are a lot of gimmicky teachers out there (with recording keepsakes, SLS “certification” – total garbage), and I didn’t want to compete on that territory. I decided I will run my voice studio as straight classical training, the way I think one ought to be run, and market it the best I can (explaining why one would prefer “old school”), but I need to have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward getting students, and over the years, maybe build up to a decent-sized studio.

I do believe that old cliche that if you are classically trained, you can sing anything, and that trying to start with pop, country, rock, and even musical theater is like sticking a branch in the ground and calling it a tree rather than having real vocal roots that grow into that branch. Even the lead singer from Iron Maiden was classically trained, among many, many non-classical others.

I am impressed with folks on American Idol the few times I’ve seen it, but I also see that some things are vocally very difficult for them that would be no problem if they had a little Bel Canto under their belts. And I really believe it is not so much about talent, it’s about training and work. If everyone studied singing like everyone studied math, we’d have a world of fabulous singers, all talent aside. Also, now that I’m practicing much more myself (piano and singing), I am remembering how to sing and play am enjoying music much more than I did as an occassional, rusty performer.

I also don’t know how much fun it would be to teach a bunch of teens that want to be the next American Idol. But, the one student I have now, who is a classically trained ballet dancer and wants to be a classical singer, and is serious about her study, has a lovely tone, and I’m willing to wait if I can get a studio full of those.

Which leads me back to having to try more immediate ways to help out financially. I’m continuing to push on doors, but this time, mainly ones that allow me to stay home if I can.

I left off posting daily because I wanted to write in my journal. Guess what, big surprise, I haven’t. So, I’m going to try to post here more often. It’s better than sulking with a pan of brownies.

Door number three . . . ?

It looks like my job hunt has led me to the job of professional door pusher. I’ve explained to the Lord that this doesn’t pay well, I assume He’s looking into that for me.

My landlords nixed the daycare plan, as they would be liable for any harm which may befall a child on their property, and they’re savvy enough to know that waivers are useless in court.

Although I’ve been asked by a couple of people to teach voice (I have one student here already), I’ve declined on the basis that I don’t have my masters yet. I think my training and experience would at least equate to a second bachelor’s degree, but realistically, I’ve just been having kids for the past several years and have been out of play and, by LA standards, I believe I am unqualified to teach.

But, having the daycare door closed and the clock ticking, I got a list of area vocal teachers and started calling to get the scoop. What I learned from this effort is that many of them don’t know what they are doing and I can match or beat experience with most of them. For those who do know what they are doing, they have no marketing abilities. On the experience side, this was a surprise to me.

(Also in this effort, I found a couple of advanced teachers who I am looking at for my own teacher, both professors at the U, which would help if I did go for the masters soon.)

So, I decided I’d test the market a bit for students. At the same time, I’ll be working on the Davis County teaching thing for the fall. If I can resurrect the old marketing person in me and get enough students, I won’t have to leave the kids in the fall. But if not, I’ll have a backup plan.

We have some other doors we’re pushing on. I won’t (can’t) bore you with them because they involve my paranoidly secretive husband. Some would be very helpful, please pray for his success.

Everybody is well and happy, much less mopey and cynical than in weeks past. We are loving the constant parade of family and friends. David’s brother Danny and his wife Jessica brought their Guitar Hero game guitar over last night and we discovered the joys of the two-person guitar battle. Very fun. I’ll post pics this week.

Tonight we invited ourselves over to Cousin Kim and husband Mark’s house (2 blocks away) and we had a fun chat. Mark is a Church historian and it’s enlightening to talk with him. Basically, most of those cultural assumptions and warm fuzzy church history stories you’ve heard are mainly not true, but the church still is.

I’m sorry I’m so lame with my Thursday food entries on my Mamamelodrama. It feels good not to have a computer-centered life, but it means I forget about the deadlines I’ve set for myself. I’ll try to keep up this week.

Love to all,


Are you expecting?

I’ve had computer trouble, I apologize for disappearing. Plus, my propensity for amusement is in a lull right now. But hey, it’s my house, so it’s my rules. I hereby allow myself to be unamusing.

Let’s talk about expectations. Here are some of mine:

  • I expect that I’ll have five minutes of peace on the computer to do bills while my children are in the same room.
  • I expect that I’ll complete a ridiculously-long to-do list each day.
  • I expect that my (rather young) children will not act so immature.
  • I expect that my worldly success is imminent.
  • I expect that my diet success is imminent.
  • I expect my husband will read my thoughts.
  • I expect that I am simply on the bottom steps of a fabulous financial escalator (and not on one of the flat ones they have at the airport).
  • I expect a day where nothing and no one will get in my way or make a mess or slow me down or undo my efforts.

What are you expecting?

A friend of mine recently explained her experience at a Buddhist temple, where the monk taught against any kind of hope, as it would always lead to disappointment.

In the zen spirit of being non-judgmental, may I say this is simply ridiculous.

Hope is essential to life. What I think she may have meant, in spirit, is to warn parishioners against the self-torture of expectation. Hope can motivate action, it keeps us moving forward, gives us the idea that unknown, maybe not understood, but valuable rewards in life can and will be found as we move along. We can trust that positive things will take place here and, for the lucky ones who have faith to go along with that hope, in the hereafter.

However, when I expect something, my expectations will be met, or not met. It is not my expectations that increase the likelihood of any specific outcome. Expecting things is just like placing bets. The cards will fall where they will, the marble will settle somewhere on the wheel, regardless of where I placed my bet. But, my fixation on one outcome determines whether I will jump in triumph or, the other 99.9% of the time, be disappointed with my experience.

We expect things of our day, of events, of plans, of our kids and husbands, of everyone around us, of ourselves. We also spend far more time lamenting the falling short from our expectations than we ever spend rejoicing in them being met.

At the same time, we are to hold high expectations for our kids. But I think this is a semantic issue, because setting a high standard of behavior for our kids is not the same as emotionally investing our pleasure or displeasure in their behavior because our expectations have been met or not. I would argue the first is appropriate, but not the latter.

I would also argue that aside from true grief and sorrow, almost all our negative feelings in life come from our expectations. I know this is true for me.

As a person of faith, I also wonder if constantly creating expectations isn’t also a sign of weak faith and my weak trust in a Creator with a Plan. Instead of moving forward, working and having hope that the road ahead will give me something beneficial regardless of what it is and whether I understand it, I constantly interrogate my Maker, “Is this your plan? No? What about this? No, not that either?! Oh, NO! Is there a plan? Where is the plan? SHOW ME THE PLAN!”

Truly Zen folks argue against the analysis, via discussion, debate or even scripture, of this life experience. And I take issue with that, because all that has its place. But I wonder sometimes if my life has come to be completely circumscribed by rhetoric and analysis (and blogging), at the risk of not living a life at all, but instead, watching the highlights as a spectator via daily blogging or cell-phone recaps.

The Zen thing is about actively accepting and living in the present moment, putting aside the ego and self-consciousness and the constant judgment (“Is this person/experience living up to my expectations or not?). So, without being all orthodox zen and tossing out age-old wisdom, scripture and divine and earthly conversation/analysis, I see a need to add the actual act of living my own real life.

I feel like this actual living life part, and not just thinking, writing, wondering, worrying about living, has been a missing leg in the table of my life (which, to continue that metaphor, may account for my instability).

It’s like I live my entire life approaching each day like a new, unopened box. First I decide what could be in the box, what should be in the box, and wonder what I want to have in the box, and, after all that, I look into the box and see what’s in it. But, by that time, it’s been spoiled anyway by all that expecting. It could have been a perfectly fabulous thing, but if it wasn’t what it could, should, or I wanted it to have been, I won’t see that.

What about going up to the box and seriously observing and appreciating what is in it before doing the “What’s-in-the-box?” song and dance? Especially when that box is my life, my experiences, my time, my husband, and, most relevant here, my child?

I do want to teach and train my kids in the best path, but I also want to know them, to discover and observe them, to appreciate them. Not only them, but their stages and struggles and approaches to life. I want to respect them enough to listen to them and observe them rather than just direct and shape them. It is frankly a very big change from my current approach.

And I won’t expect, but I will hope, that I will make this change.

A life of corrections

The financial plan for our family of late has been to “push on doors” so to speak, and see what opens. Over the past several years, I have learned to quit getting emotional about door pushing. I visualize myself walking down a long hallway, and calmly pushing on door after door. Not, as I once did, jumping up and down in excited fear or anxiety, screaming, “Will it open?! Is it this one!? If it doesn’t open, we might DIE!” What I’ve also learned is that most doors do not open, but it’s a numbers game.

So, this teaching thing came up as an idea where, even though it would be sad to leave the kids, especially when I still have little ones, I figured it was necessary. I’ve been trying to be positive about it and see the benefits, although going to work and leaving my family is not something I honestly want to do. I can’t say I went in feeling enthusiastic on Monday, but I had my game face on, and I have a good game face.

So, Monday the director met with me first and said that the Jr. High English teaching position that I’d interviewed for wasn’t opening up after all, and that she’d filled the 6th grade teaching job before she learned the English job wasn’t really there, although there may be one for the following year. (Oh, how I didn’t want to teach 6th grade, but that was me keeping options open). So, she said that next year was full after all, and since I was doing the instructor thing for the next 7 weeks just to get familiar with the school, she’d leave it up to me if I still wanted to do it.

Well, it was in Elementary Ed, which is not my interest (please don’t bring up here that I homeschool elementary children). It pays $10/hr, which at 4 hours a day, doesn’t do much for us financially. And I’d left a tearfully screaming baby to come in that morning, so after verifying with the elementary coordinator that she wasn’t desperate for help or anything, I said I’d rather not.

I drove home feeling mildly relieved but resolved to the fact that the rest of the day would be spent finding new doors to push on. It looks like David may be preparing for the Utah bar, and since that takes time and money, I needed to come up with a way I can help in the interim.

I could start subbing Secondary Ed here in just days, but they pay $67/day for B.A.s to sub! (Yep, that’s $8/hr–how we value education). I could be a cashier at Kohls and get benefits with that pay just working PT. The value to teaching in the fall was to be the benefits, but even that pays $36K/yr for a first year teacher. And that $17/hr, after taxes and day care expenses for multiple children, comes out to well under $10 also.

Don’t think me a snob for saying the 30s are low, but I was interviewing to almost triple that in CA and would hope to at least double that in UT if I went back to corporate life, which is a door I’ve decided not to even push on. I’d have to say farewell to any glimpse of family life to go there, and frankly, unless you work for some kind of do-good organization, it can be a meaningless farce of an existence to revolve your whole life around hoping people waste their money to buy more of your brand of widget.

Also, all these plans relied at least a bit on the fact that David works from home, but for him to maximize his time and future prospects, he really shouldn’t be watching kids during office hours.

Sunday my cousin told me that several women in the ward make $3000 or more a month with family day cares. She had a lot of details on it because one of these women told her all about it and thought she should do it. This same lady has a long waiting list and has filled 3 other daycares with her waiting list. Plus, that $3000 is virtually tax-free, because she writes off everything in her house that she uses for her daycare (and she stores daycare items in every room of her house for that purpose).

I can’t tell you how swiftly I dismissed this idea mentally, even as I’ve gone through the steps of “pushing on the door.” Although I liked doing music class and field trips and planning curriculum, I am not a kid person, and not doing so great with my own kids, let alone adding more.

I’ll spare you all the details of all of the rules and laws and paperwork and phone calls I’ve made in the process of pushing this door, but in the end, it does look like the best way to make the most money and have the best result for my family. I can only have 6 other kids, since I have two of my own under 5 and 8 kids is the max for one person, including them. Still, it will be about $2600 a month, just under $15 an hour, with the potential of no additional tax liability, and possibly even cutting into David’s taxes. And, I get to stay with Lucy and Noah. And, I will be compelled to do all the fun activities and curriculum with them that I have piles of in my house but no structure or self-discipline to do.

And when I think of it, my kids are easier when they have friends over to play with. I am also nicer when other children are here, because you can’t yell when other kids are present, they might discover that you are a mean mommy and tell their mommies. The other moms around here who do daycare say their kids love it, and they hate weekends because they miss their friends.

I can offer a fun farm experience, with chickens and planting (and later, eating), and bread baking and music classes and sign language and some great preschool programs, and these are things I’d like to do more actively for my own kids but have not been motivated enough to get my act together. Plus, I don’t have to answer to any employer demanding this report before I go home, living in a cubicle, etc.

But I’m sure it will be exhausting and take time to get into the routine. I will be watching 10 children until school starts (counting my own). I also have had to face my very unflattering prejudice that I have always assumed daycare moms to not necessarily be educated, ambitious people. But, where has all my education and ambition got me? I’ve been sleeping in like a drunk for weeks, for heaven’s sake! And who is to say that children don’t deserve all the benefits of my education and ambition?

If I just put my old, outgoing MEPAF game on (a persona that somehow fell out of the van and died along the highway in route to Utah) I am sure it will be super fun and we all will be better for it.

So, this door appears to be opening and seems viable, but that’s all I can say at this point.

I’m starting to really understand the Zen concept of expectations being the root of all unhappiness. To not expect means always to be able to accept things as they happen and people as they are. Call me the Buddhist Mormon Mama.

Overdue update

I didn’t die, but my computer did, which made any emailing/blogging hard, as the one usable computer is housed in David’s office/Lucy’s bedroom, which gives me between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to use it, which is just about the time I am doing a thousand other things at once to feed people and get them in bed.

Yesterday, after a wonderfully long, hard day (more on that below), I told David I was tired. He said, “Well, tomorrow you only have two things to do: get up with everybody and do everything.” What a sweet guy.

Ben is loving his life, he is so free and running around all the time, it has helped his behavior. He is happier, and I see him a lot less, and I don’t know if that is a coincidence or not.

Sophie is great, looked so grown-up in her brand-new “Easter” dress (ie., week-after-Easter-is-cheaper dress). I’ll have to get a picture for you. Her hair and legs are just growing longer and longer. Ma-in-law tested her and we have officially determined to have her stay in the Utah age range and do 1st grade over again next year. We applied to have her in Ma-in-law’s class, and so far are approved to get her in that school, but waiting to hear if she’ll go in the class. The school is way on the other side of town and probably not a long-term place for us, so if she’s not in grandma’s class, I don’t know that it would make sense.

Noah is also just thrilled with his new life. He and Lucy are just out there with the rest of them, playing with the neighbors in back (we share a backyard fence, and they run around together all day) or the neighbors on the other side of the pasture, where Ben plays quite a bit, and their 3 YO Colton comes over often to play with Noah. He says he asked his mom, but I’m guessing it doesn’t really matter since they are just outside in the pasture right between our houses. It really is a dream, I actually can just say, “I’ll call you in for dinner.” I was going to sign everyone up for various sports and music lessons, but I’m waiting. I’m enjoying my empty schedule and not spending that money.

Lucy’s main word is “Shu!” Shu!” Which is her demand after being dressed each morning, because she wants to go outside and knows she needs shoes to do it. I assume she’ll start talking more eventually.

I start a new job tomorrow as an instructor at a local charter school: Legacy Preparatory Academy. I’ll be working PT in the mornings, mainly with the elementary kids doing 1-on-1 testing for end-of-year. Then it looks hopeful that I’d have a job teaching Jr. High English there in the fall FT. It pays about half of what I’d ask for if I went back into dumb corporate life, which is lame, but we think it will be more family friendly hours-wise. If I have to work, it seems like a better long-term solution.

It was a great confidence booster to be offered the immediate position in my interview! The interview had between 2-3 interviewers and was 90 minutes and rather rigorous (“Please summarize for us the last book you read,” and “How would you incorporate the Logic phase of the Classical Trivium when teaching Call of the Wild or Lord of the Flies to Jr. High students,” Thank heaven I’m well-versed in the trivium–thanks, homeschooling!). I stood up after having the short-term offer and said, “Well, I’ve had worse interviews,” to which one of the interviewers, the only man, responded exasperatedly, “So have we!” Maybe I shouldn’t be flattered, good teachers are maybe just hard to come by.

The school has a reputation of being a little bit snooty. However, the school is based on the classical education home schooling philosophy I’ve always held as my standard of education for my kids (outlined in The Well-Trained Mind). So, that’s exciting. I’ll be working on my credential as I go, with a provisional license from the state until I’m done.

Yesterday was the best day. It was finally warm enough to work outside, and we did, all day. I worked mainly on the front yard, although we did end up planting lettuce, peas and spinach in the west garden just as the sun went down. When we finished, I stood up and walked around the yard and pasture in the almost-dark, just amazed at how it’s such a glorious dream come true, and realizing that I couldn’t remember a day where I was sad to see the sun set on it, because I so loved what I was doing. Beats out Prozac any day (although today proves it only has short-term efficacy.)

On a sad note, I learned today that the owners of our home are in the process of buying the house and land just north of us, which means they will have access to their land-locked space in the middle of the block, so they’ll now be free to build house to house and develop all these lots to death once our lease is up in 2 years. I’ve been holding out the unrealistic idea that I’d be in a position to buy this place at that time, so I’ll be crying myself to sleep over that tonight. I secretly hoped we’d never have to move again, and can’t bear the thought of making the kids leave here.

Well, back to brighter things, I have some pictures for you. This is a gigantic, old grape vine that is crawling up one of our gigantic, old pines. I’m going to try to get it down and retrain it to something more accessible than a 50-ft tree.

Just last week or so, it snowed, and my kids (unlike all the other kids here, who are DONE with snow) enjoyed it thoroughly. Here’s Noah and Sophie.

This was our yard before, covered with about 2 year’s worth of maple leaves:

We started the long process of putting them in pilesDavid trimmed the hedge (thanks for the hedger, Mosses!)
Lucy and Sophie bagged leaves (well, about a half a bag between them)
From the front yard alone, there were 10 huge leaf bags. We put them in the “forest” on the right of our driveway.
Here is our glorious new front yard!
Leaf free path!
Still has this random, ivy-covered monster on the left. I’m waiting for some buds on it to bloom and try to impress me before I hack it down and replace it with something else.
We decided to use most of the existing henhouse structure, so the pictures won’t be as dramatic. Here is before (covered in even more grapevines!).
And here is after, roof-free.
Inside view
That night, I started all my tomatoes, 72 plants. Although I should have done this weeks ago . . .
Here is the project for next Saturday, and you can’t even see really how huge this pile of old random wood and logs is. We have to clear the area around the henhouse, as this back, third space is better for chickens, we decided. What is in that old drum? I don’t want to know. My guess is the henhouse has to be at least 50 years old, but I can’t be sure. We are basically going to nail another exterior to the outside of it.

So, life is bittersweet. But what is new?

And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet
Doctrine and Covenants 29:39

Well, tomorrow my Prozac will be trimming the skirts of the huge pine trees in back, we’re going to take the branches off about 4′ up to clean them up a bit.