Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Avram and I have determined that while we're here in Virginia, we'll attend the temple once a month (the Washington D.C. Temple, which oddly enough is not in Washington D.C., but rather in Kensington, Maryland). For July, instead of doing an endowment session together, we went to the temple on Tuesday and instead helped clean it while it's closed. Next month we're going with the ward youth temple trip as chaperones, so we won't be doing a session then, either. Both are a result of living in a “real” ward, I suppose.

First Avram and I helped wipe out the lockers in the Women's locker room. The main highlight of this experience came in the form of an 81 year old bespectacled woman who spoke with me while I wiped on my knees (being that most of the help was composed of little old ladies who can't bend down, I spent most of my time wiping the bottom half of lockers, tables, etc on my knees, while they wiped the top half.). She kept on looking at me on my knees going back and forth, and then would chuckle while remarking to the general air, “wonderful!” Maybe it was my sprightliness that impressed here, or perhaps my youth. I tried asking her a couple of questions, like where she was from. Upon my inquiry she would look at me once again, chuckle and, “wonderful!” I decided then and there, that if I ever go mostly deaf, saying wonderful and laughing at everything isn't such a bad way to go, because then I'll at least still be happy and cheerful, even if the comment doesn't relate.

Eventually the Sister asked me some questions, like if I was married, to which she responded “wonderful!” She thought I was very young looking, something most do. Did I have any children? Yes, one, a daughter who was a year and a half old. “Wonderful! Children are wonderful!” So this went on a while until I finished my wiping very close to her, but still as I progressed and anytime I passed by, out it came; a chuckle, and then, “wonderful!”

The second half of the cleaning shift we spent blowing dust out of air vents on three levels of the temple. We did the assembly room floor, the endowment rooms and celestial rooms floor, and all of the locker rooms. Turning a vacuum on in the solemn assembly room felt weird at first, not to mention places like the celestial room, but after a while it seemed almost normal to be padding through the temple wearing a white baptismal unisex jumpsuit and my white slippers, quietly cleaning the rooms with the humming of the vacuum. A different aspect of temple worship, yet I felt worship nonetheless. I've often attended the temple, and doing a name for any proxy work is very helpful, but it was nice to be helpful on a even more basic level of cleanliness. Besides, Avram's now been inside a brides' room!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mennonites and the Baptists, or How I Learned to Stop Feeling Weird About Witnessing and the Divine Saving Grace

Lately I've been reading fictional Christian books about the Amish by Beverly Lewis. Although I would not say these books would count as literature, they have made me think a lot outside of reading them, which is one the standards I use for considering literature. After all, if a book doesn't make me think at all, then it's most likely fluff.

When I was a child, I used to say that if I weren't Mormon, I would either be Jewish or Amish. At the time I knew absolutely nothing about Amish doctrine, but only that I wanted to be a pioneer, and here they were being all pioneer-like in this century. I've always wanted to be a pioneer, as I stated in my earlier list of books entry, and they would be my chance to live out my desires even though I was born 150 years too late.

Now I realize that although they still wear dresses and traditional male clothing, drive buggies, and have massive gardens that they can fruit and vegetables out of, they're really not at all like the pioneers. Behind all that they do, their religion drives and defines them, gives them the motivation to do things in the traditional ways, even though they don't have to. Although I enjoy doing old-fashioned things like baking my own bread, I also don't mind having a Kitchen-Aid mix up the dough for me.

In the end I don't share their same religious devotion that gives their way of life meaning, and I really do like modern conveniences like hot, running water, and cooking in an oven with temperatures (instead of a wooden stove). Frankly, I enjoy my college education, and the Amish only attend school up through the eighth grade, believing that too much education is worldly and leads one to pride and forgetting God.

All this makes me feel better about never having been Amish. That and I do have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which doctrines are very incompatible with the Amish.

Which brings me to the second half of my entry; witnessing and the Divine Grace. Beverly Lewis, although writing mainly about Amish people in their Amish faith, clearly does not agree with that said faith. She's continuously having people in her books convert to the Mennonite faith, which in her writing sounds the same as the Baptists; they're always talking about witnessing to people, and other very Baptist terms like once people accept Jesus into their hearts then they're saved. These kind of phrases have always made me very uncomfortable. I've always had a weakness for reading Christian romances from the Protestant publishing company Bethany House, and many of them are all full of such distinctly non-Mormon phraseology.

Also when I was a young teenager the Baptists held a large evangelizing conference in Salt Lake City, as I understand for the direct purpose of helping bring the Mormons to Christ. As a Mormon, understandably this made me, along with many people from Salt Lake uncomfortable. President Hinckley told us to make them feel welcome and to not be adversarial, which in my one experience with them I tried to follow this injunction.

One Monday night my family headed down to Liberty Park for FHE, to walk down its paths and to play in its Children's playground. While there we ran into a bunch of faithful, witnessing, evangelical Baptist Youth, who asked us if they could talk to us about Jesus. In an effort to be compliant and non-offensive, we told them they could, although it made me feel a little odd, because I already knew about Jesus. I don't remember all they talked to us about, although I do remember it followed the line of letting Jesus into our lives to save us. Unfortunately at that time I hadn't heard the talk by the General Authority about considering ourselves saved if anyone asked, and so when they asked us if we were saved I felt woefully under-prepared to answer, because although I knew that Jesus Christ had died for our sins and resurrected on the third day as part of the process of Atonement of all mankind, including myself, I didn't know if that meant I was already saved (which we are, according to their definition of saved).

Then these exuberant youth asked if they could pray with me and my siblings, and instructed us to repeat the prayer after them out loud. Thus followed the most awkward prayer I think I've ever been a part of, mainly because of at that point I had never followed anyone else in prayer out loud, and even more specifically the prayer was very different than how I was accustomed to pray. No, on writing neither of these two things were what made me feel so weird. Maybe it was feeling proselyted to, and on something as basic as praying and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, when I felt that I already had a handle on both the practice and the doctrine.

In Beverly Lewis' books the "enlightened" saved characters - who are always Mennonite (an Anabaptist religion), or Amish who have secretly become saved, but have stayed with the Amish to be a light on a hill to them. The Amish believe (according to her) that to say you are saved is a mark of pride, which pride is the greatest sin, because you won't know until the judgment day whether you are or not. So these saved Mennonites are constantly finding ways to witness to their Amish friends and relatives, whereupon Jesus becomes their best friend and constant companion.

As usual, I was feeling pretty weird about all of this. Then I experienced an epiphany; to us, when we are bearing our testimonies, we are witnessing like the Baptists do. So if I just mentally replace "bearing testimony" every time I read "witnessing" I feel ever so much better. I just must have a negative reaction to the word, not the concept. As well, although they express their relationships with the Savior differently than we do, ultimately, we also believe in a close and intimate relationship with Him, and not just learning about Him.

One thing I did like was how often they would talk about religion; I think sometimes in my life, although I'm surrounded by members of the church, religion (our religious beliefs, our testimonies, versus what the mutual's doing this week) rarely comes up, and I would like to bring it up more.

And thus I've learned to stop worrying, and love the Baptists.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Summertime...when the Living is Easy

I finished my third day of working today. After everything else I've worked at/done, working as a cashier in a pizza restaurant, especially with my husband isn't bad at all. The second day I worked I even got a four dollar tip (we don't have waitresses, so usually people don't leave tips), two of which the woman said were for my smile. I'm a sucker for a compliment.

In order to develop my non-existent muscles, I bike to work. Work is only a couple miles away, but it has a lot of hills. This last week I biked with Avram, who not only has been biking to work all Summer, but also went on a biking mission, and so spent six months of his two years biking. I, meanwhile, have done...nothing. Well, at least nothing that would count as exercise. My first bike ride I kept on stopping, and Avram told me that I had to keep on going, and not walk at all. So I would stop halfway up a hill, and stand there on my bike, paused, until my fainting heart decided it could keep on beating, and then I started up again. I've decided that over labor and bike riding, labor does have its positive side effect. While in labor, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't just pause or get off. Whereas in biking I want to, and do, pause all the time on hills.

Avram taught me to adjust the gears to get the greatest momentum, and so now I'm doing much better. Today on the way home, I didn't even stop my bike at all.

Days later:
I really should have finished and published this post by now, but I've been busy...working, as it turns out.
I'll post about my garden. After the escapade with the deer, my garden actually recovered quite well. Papa Juju helped me put fertilizer on the plants, and I've been learning to water my garden more. I've been quite under-watering it, because as "dry" as it's been all summer, and as drought like as the conditions are here, there is still a manifold more amount of rain than Utah gets, and so mentally I've been feeling like my garden must be getting plenty of moisture (what a Utah word; Avram always laughs when people in church in Utah pray for/thank God for the moisture. As he points out, dew is moisture, sweat is moisture. Pray for rain, if that's what they really want.) from the sky. It turns out my garden is a spoiled Virginia garden and did not feel the way I did about it, and so although wasn't dying, definitely wasn't thriving. Now I've seen the error of my ways, and have been diligently watering it every other day or so. So far we've been blessed with the harvesting of five cherry tomatoes, all eaten by Lydia as she loves them so, and one other vegetable.

We bough two cucumber plants, and planted them, at the beginning of the garden. Way back in the second week or so, while enthusiastically hoeing my new garden I hoed one of the cucumber plants right in half, which only left me with one remaining plant. I love cucumbers, and fresh, home-grown ones all the better. When I lived with my grandparents in Duchesne, Utah, I could and would eat an entire, fat, home-grown cucumber in one sitting by myself. Several cucumbers had begun growing, but then started to rot while still growing, which was really frustrating. Finally, however, there was a cucumber that stuck to it, and grew into a nice sized vegetable, although a little crooked necked. I picked it one night after dark, when Avram and I went to check on its size, and set it in the fridge until the next day, so that I could eat it not after my bedtime. The next night at dinner, we had cucumbers at the table, but they weren't my nice, home-grown unwaxed beauty, and so I enquired as to why not. Mom Shannon told me that she had opened my cucumber to use with dinner, and lo and behold, it was a zucchini!

My heart broke. When I first planted my garden, I had planted the zucchini plant next to the cucumber plant, but then when my Mom told me that they could cross pollinate, I moved the zucchini plant to the kitty corner far end of the garden, all before either plant had shown any flowers. Either my efforts weren't enough, or the store mistakenly sold me a zucchini plant instead of a cucumber one. Although I do like zucchini, compared to my love for unwaxed cucumbers it is a pale flame, and so I spitefully didn't eat my zucchini for several days until I'd regained my plant-directed composure.

Today I hope to harvest some full sized tomatoes, and soon there will be bell peppers as well.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


This last week Papa Juju, Mim (Avram's grandparents), Glenn & Yvonne (His Uncle and Aunt), and Amy their daughter came to visit for the Fourth of July. Like all large extended family visits, this last week passed with much noise, conversation, large dinners with a plethora of food, and of course the obligatory grillings and fireworks. Although Lydia was unnerved by all of the new people at first, she really warmed up by the end, and on the last night they were here even let Papa Juju kiss her on the forehead, an action previously cried at (I figure it was his beard that did her in).

Luke borrowed a Wii for the week, and so we all spent way too much time playing small party games on it, like Bowling or Golf. Now, I am the queen of two left feet, and even in video games have always shown no athletic talent, but I golfed par every time I played, including the hole that included crossing a river twice with 30 miles per hour winds (who would golf in real life in conditions like that?), or a hole where the fairway followed a narrow peninsula/cliff onto a small island/peninsula, again with comparative mph winds. I've decided that in honor of this achievement, I need to buy and wear a pair of plaid pants, to show I've joined the legions of rich, tacky middle-aged business men. (note; I wonder if real golf courses have holes like these, and if so if they let people drive golf carts on them, because it would be enough of an off-roading experience alone, and no golf would actually be necessary to complete the workout or rush of near death from peering over the sides of cliffs. )

I digress. This post is actually about ice-cream.

When we were kids, Don would usually make ice-cream for the Fourth of July, and we'd hand turn it with the crank in the old, orange, plastic ice cream maker only used once a year, for this very occasion. When I think of the Fourth, these memories of Ice Cream are what sticks out the most; that and Neal's pyro-technic love of the fireworks. So I suggested making homemade ice-cream, and Juju and Mim brought an electric ice-cream maker, which took all the work out of it. I would like to say that I'm a traditionalist, and this upset me, but really it was nice to have something else turning the crank that didn't complain, or tire quickly, or want to trade it off to you after only a few minutes. (I of course, was probably the one who would complain). There are many, many wild blackberry bushes that grow all over the place here, truly as weeds, so I chose blackberry ice-cream.

The afternoon of the fourth found Avram, Uncle Glenn, Luke (Avram's brother) and I roaming through the woods, blackberry picking. Keeping in mind my recent escapade with poison ivy, I tried very carefully to only touch the blackberry plants, which plants I believe made up the briers that surrounded Sleeping Beauty's castle, because they have so many small, biting thorns. I decided that blackberrying was worth poison ivy, at least in theory, and since I'm still covered with over 70 small red dots from my last experience, a few more wouldn't hurt. I liked blackberrying; besides the fact this practice is mentioned in the Canterbury tales by the Pardoner ( I believe) making me feel that this is a traditional activity, it also makes me feel like Mary and Laura, gathering wild fruit to dry and save for winter.

Last summer I actually tried to gather wild fruit and save it for winter; wild plums, just like what Laura gathered on the banks of plum creek. BYU has many wild plum trees along its canal by Botany Pond, and so I gathered friends together, namely Michele and RoseE, and we picked many plums on another sunny, Summer day. Wild plums are very small; about the size of a cherry, but they cling to their pits in a way cherries don't. So my next task was to pry the stones out of all of the plums. I gave up after a bowlful as more of the flesh of the plums had become smeared all over my hands and knife than remained with the stoneless plums themselves. I took these small bits of fruit flesh, and next thought of ways to dry them. In the book, Ma sets the plums on sheets in the sun, covered by another sheet to keep the birds out. This seems to be the ideal, natural way of doing things, but as I was living in Wymount, I was sadly lacking any sort of private place to put my plums, without both my neighbors and the grounds crew at Wymount either wondering what was wrong with their neighbor/tenant, or just laughing at me. Maybe they would think they were an eyesore.

Next I considered the car; the recreation cookbook for the Little House books that I owned said that a car can be a great place to dry fruit, because the interior temperatures rise so high. I actually tried that option, but then Avram nixed it because the car began to stink of warm plums, and he hates plums. Finally I ended up putting my poor, beleaguered plums in our oven at 200 degrees. Upon inspection after a long period of time (overnight, if I remember correctly), they were mostly dry, like prunes, I suppose, except the already small clumps of plummyness were now positively minuscule. Also, one of the dishes I dried them in had oxidized with the plums, and so now had permanent circular discolorations on its bright, shiny metal.

I put the very small bag of prunes in the fridge, where they sat for the next nine months. I was pretty sure they were edible and good, but not sure enough to actually eat them, and so finally in preparing to move, I threw the whole bag of my wasted efforts away. Thus we have Thora's history of attempting to be like Laura Ingalls.

Luckily I wasn't planning to dry the blackberries, as I'm sure some sad fate would occur to them as well. Instead we picked and picked, and took our small offerings back to the kitchen to become ice cream. It hasn't rained very much this year here in Virginia, and so the blackberry bushes were pretty sparse compared to normal. We didn't need too many blackberries for our dessert, though. We mixed up the custard, composed of fat (light cream), fat and protein (egg yolks) mixed with sugar (sugar), and then cooled, and mixed with more fat (heavy cream). Then we beat up the custard in the maker, and finally added more sugar (blackberries). The ice cream turned out wonderfully, everyone loved it, and since it was so rich nobody could eat very much, which was a good thing, considering that we had only made about six cups worth.

The next day we made the same, once more with feeling, except this time with cherries, milk instead of light cream, and xylitol instead of sugar, for the diabetics of the family. This ice-cream also turned out excellently. Lydia this time showed a great interest in the ice-cream machine, and stood there by it on the front porch almost the whole time it mixed up. She helped her Grandpa put more ice in it, and when we weren't putting ice in it, she would walk over to the cooler holding the ice and grunt and point to the chest until we pulled off the lid, and she could get more ice to carry over and drop in the bucket. All in all, an ice-cream success.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

My so-called Life

I'm going to write a longer blogger soon, but I just wanted to write a short one as an update and all that. First off; Lydia is still as cute as ever; this morning we went to the church to be custodians for a day, and I was vacuuming the nursery. Upon seeing this, Lydia picked up a toy vacuum, and vacuumed for as long as I did. She even made the noise!

Otherwise, Avram's dad finished the pantry he was building in the Kitchen, so yesterday we filled it full of all of the food. As a result of living out of boxes and bags for the last long while, there were some surprising accumulations, because we never knew what was in the house when we went shopping. Like the Shannons have 19 cans of Evaporated milk. That shouldn't be a problem to use, because we also have 12 cans of pumpkin. Additionally, fully a sixth of the pantry is taken up by cereal boxes (most of them newly rediscovered). As Avram's mom put it; "It makes planning meals really easy; we'll just eat cereal for the next six weeks." I really enjoyed helping to organize the pantry; it made me remember seven years ago, when I began as a receiver at the Cannon Center (a food center at BYU); I received all of the food shipments, and put them away and kept track of the stock.

Tomorrow I'm giving a talk in Sacrament Meeting, my topic being the 11th article of faith as it applies to us living in America. Also, I've been called as the beehive advisor, which means that I teach the lesson every Sunday to the beehive class. I'm really enjoying this calling; I always loved my young women's leaders, and wanted to be called to the young women's someday.

On Monday I'm starting work at M&P pizza. The owner, Jimmy Karrelis, is in Greece for the month of July, and so needed extra help, which is me. I'm truthfully not looking forward to working in fast food again, but I'm also glad to help defray a small amount of the cost of going to Oxford. And Lydia will be in good hands with her Grandmother. I'm only working part time.

That's all, Folks.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hazards of Gardening

Yesterday I began to notice that I was itching at several mosquito bites on my side. I scratched (although I know I shouldn't, sometimes I indulge when I'm not paying attention anyway). I noticed by last night that I had been bit a lot, and wondered how this had happened, as I spend most of my time indoors, due to a fear of ticks (they've had an infestation here in the last couple of years, and so they're really bad here, to the point that if you go out on a walk through the woods, within five minutes you will have a tick on you. This has been proven, mainly on me.)

Of course, I did weed my garden on Friday morning, and I figured I must have had a secret attack of mosquitoes while I was weeding, because that was the last time I was outside, aside from walking from the house to the car. Not a big deal; I've had mosquito bites before, and if I actually don't itch/scratch, they will go away. By night, many bites had developed.

Then this morning I was scratching them again, and Avram saw me, and made me stop, and then I started again, and so he looked at them, and then told me, "These aren't mosquito bites. There are too many of them (to not have noticed being bit that many times) and also they don't look right." So Avram went and asked his Mom, and then she looked at them, and by this time we noticed that there were bites all up my sides and in my armpits (isn't that an ugly word? I almost didn't include it because it was so ugly) and back and some on my stomach. She agreed that these couldn't be mosquitoes, and so then chiggers were suggested, or perhaps poison ivy. They decided it was chiggers.

"What are Chiggers?" (I'm pretty ignorant) Well, it turns out they're these little creatures that are in water, that bite you and lay their eggs in you , and then if you don't take care of it the eggs will hatch on you. Of course, Humans never let it go that far, and you're supposed to put nail polish on all of the bites to cut off the oxygen to the babies so they'll die. By this time I was dying at the thought of myself being the laying ground for hundreds of baby Chiggers, and ready to just die right then and there. Although I hate cities, and especially I hate suburbs, sometimes I feel like I come from a different planet than nature.

I've lived in the country before; in Washington State for a year when I was ten, and I have no memory of all of these bugs. I roamed the wilds and ran into nary a tick or other creepy crawler grossy thingy. I did get stinging nettle, but not too badly. And I remember that we weren't supposed to go barefoot because of ticks, but that's about it. And since I was blissfully unaware of what ticks really are, it was all well.

Thankfully for my sanity, it came up that usually you only get chiggers when you go in the water, an then they're not all over your body, but rather along your sock line, or something. So maybe it wasn't chiggers after all. By this time Avram's dad had come into this, and had also looked at the bites on my side and back (I would have felt awkward about this, but by this time I just wanted someone else but me diagnosing and dealing with it). Between Avram and his parents, I was finally and ultimately diagnosed with poison ivy.

After contemplating chiggers, I was ecstatic at only have poison ivy, of only having harsh plant oils on my skin instead of living things. I love plants, they're great. And as a bonus, they're not going to turn my precious body into their birth host. EWWW! So comparatively I was grateful to have poison ivy. I think they should follow this approach with all diagnoses. For Example; "Mrs. Smith, you have the black death, where you will have black boils rise up all over your body, and then you'll stink and die. Did we mention all of your limbs will turn black and fall off first? (I'm making up the black death; so I don't know my history). After Mrs. Smith has awoken from her faint, then they'll say, "Just Kidding! You only have cancer that you'll most likely recover from, and only your hair will fall out, not all of your limbs!) Mrs. Smith will probably donate to the hospital she'll be so grateful.

Like a murder mystery, although we knew the diagnosis, we still had to figure out why I had poison ivy all over my torso, since I most definitively did not roll around in a poison ivy patch naked, as pleasant as that sounds. We finally deduced that the deer that came to the garden several days ago and ate pieces of most of the plants. This is a separate sadness; the deer ate all the leaves and blossoms of the two cantaloupe plants, and half of the cucumber and zucchini plants, and sampled from all of the tomato plants. Luckily the cantaloupe plants have in the days of their destitute poverty put forth new, tender leaves and so look to survive. If anyone has any advice on how to get rid of the deer, I would love some. Anyway, the deer must have brushed against poison ivy, then brushed against the tomato plants that I weeded extensively around on Friday, and then I took my infected hands, and immediately went and took a shower, where I washed myself all over with soap...and my hands. Thus my torso became covered with the transient poison ivy, which I appear to be very susceptible to, and thus the howdunit was solved.

After I applied the special poison ivy soap and then showered and applied anti itch stuff, I'm doing much, much better. And I've been very good about not scratching all day long. I never guessed that poison ivy was a hazard of gardening, but now I know.

PS (I still have no actual fruit out of this garden; there is one tomato turning red now, and all I know is that it had better taste good.)