Friday, October 31, 2008

My New and Improved Halloween

I love celebrating holidays. I love the demarcation of moments and events throughout the year. I notice the passing of the seasons more, I mark the religious symbols more, and I feel I am more alive, more thankful, more anticipatory with traditions and holidays to look forward to, prepare and celebrate.

Since our Marriage, I often tell Avram that we should celebrate holidays better, brighter, and with more planned notice, and we've done so with some patchy success, but have never attempted to do so large scale on any other holiday than Christmas (which is both our favorite holiday).

Being the list-lover that I am, I recently wrote out every holiday from Epiphany on January 6 (Festival of the Kings; when the Wise Men traditionally reached Jesus, and a holiday I've celebrated French style since my childhood because my Mom served her mission in France) to New Year's Eve. Then I listed all the food if any that we associate with each holiday, and after that any activities we like to do. My goal as this next year plays out is to plan and execute fun-filled wholesome family recreational food, and activities, that most importantly of all lead to memories.

Normally Halloween has slipped by as a mostly unnoticed evening with the occasional Halloween party that a friend or group puts on so I can just go and be a passive celebrator there. This year we did attend our Ward Halloween party last week, but today we also had our own celebration. (Sans decorations. I'm waiting to buy my first Halloween decorations tomorrow, because I'm cheap like that.)

I have lived my life scared of the dark. When I was a child every time I went from our basement (where my bedroom was) to the main floor I ran up the stars screaming like a banshee. I knew, KNEW, that the woman from the short scary story whose had a ribbon around her neck and then when she finally took it off her head floated off was following. Just her head was following me. Up the stairs. Every time. And no matter how many times I whipped my head around, I knew she was more cunning than I and anticipated my turnings, so I never caught her. Who wouldn't scream under these circumstances?

After Avram and I married we watched Hellboy, which is actually a good movie. Except there is an assassin who is run by clockwork and filled with sand, and he can't die, because he technically already has. And he was after me. Every night when I got up to use the toilet (which was often, as I was pregnant with Lydia) he was waiting for me. In the dark. I could tell. He would come and stand over our bed and wait for me to wake up. I knew, KNEW he was there. Every night I woke Avram up and made him turn on the lights ahead of me, like Israel of old with Jehovah leading the way as a pillar of fire. It wasn't until the birth of Lydia, when my motherhood instincts kicked in and I decided that if the Assassin came for me I would stand up to him so he couldn't hurt her that I finally could walk in the dark alone in my home.

I've believed in Ghosts my whole life - although I don't want to, because I also believe that only those who believe in them could probably see them. I've had countless dreams about ghosts, where I know they're there.

The scariest movie I've ever seen was the Sixth Sense, and it scared me so badly that once when Avram and I spent the night at his brother's house in Salt Lake, and they were watching it in their one bedroom little apartment, we spent the entire duration of the movie sitting in their hallway together, because neither of us could stand watching it a second time (Avram also doesn't do scary things). Of course, we could have asked them to turn it off, but that would have made sense.

This is why Halloween and I have been so long coming in making friends. Much of what the holiday is centered around leave me scared spitless when contemplated on very long. I've never in my life dressed as scary, but rather have had a long string as a fairie, Pippy Longstocking, a Celt, Medieval, A Romano Celt, a princess, and anything that may be fanciful, but could never be spooky.

With all this behind me, I wanted to find a way to celebrate Halloween while still enjoying it. So this year I've focuse on celebrating the Autumnal aspects. For Halloween this year Avram and dressed as Romano-Celts celebrating Autumn. We wore White Robes, and Avram wore a Periwinkle Wool Toga (wrapped in the true historical manner), a Torque and a rope circlet entwined with Autumn leaves. Over my white robe I wore a green (real) silk historical swag thingy held up with a brooch, and another Autumnal green and gold rope circlet in my loose hair with real Mum flowers in it.

Then today for Dinner we had a Butternut Squash with Roasted Red Pepper Soup that my lovely Sister in Law Aleatha gave me the recipe for. Along with our soup we had sliced pear, but nothing more, to save room for dessert. Although when we used the broiler in our brand new oven to roast the red pepper the entire house stunk up of plastic and gave Avram and I (and I assume the girls) huge headaches with the smell of burning plastic. We have no idea how the smell was produced, since when we actually opened the oven it didn't smell weird at all, and there was clearly no plastic in ther, but all over the rest of the house hung the heavy, toxic burning plastic smell. We soldiered on through, and completely the pleasantly orange soup though.

Before dinner we made (with the ever "helpful" but appreciated help of Lydia) the dough for Pumpkin spice cake donuts, and after dinner we rolled out, cut out, fried and then covered half with a glaze and half with powdered sugar. Unlike my last donut fiasco, this recipe worked perfectly. The donuts even looked right, with the uneven tops where the glazed pooled and hardened - my favorite part because they are little hidden treasures of sweetness among the spiciness of the cake. The glaze even hardened appropriately.

We had planned to go trick or treating a little bit with Lydia, but decided to nix that in favor of watching the Vincent Price episode in the first season of The Muppet Show. We still had our "candy" to hand out, at least. I bought little packets of animal crackers and goldfish to hand out, because I am that house that everyone hates to go to, because instead of the desired candy you only get health food or little toothbrushes at. The kids must have been able to smell the lack of candy, because no one came to our house. No one. I mean, I know we live in an apartment complex, and I know that the vast majority of the inhabitants here are foreign, but there are kids who live here, and we neighbor on a street, and I peered down that street several times tonight and around the complex, and No One. Not a single soul was out. In fact, our apartment and one other were the only houses with their front porch lights on.

Good thing I didn't get candy, because Lydia now has her afternoon snack dealt with for over a month to come. Did we miss something? Do they not trick or treat in Columbus? In our neighborhood? Is it not October 31? Do they know not to visit apartment complexes because no one here seems to celebrate Halloween? I'm mystified, but we did not let the lack of trick-or-treating, the actual modern day point of Halloween stop of from having fun. Lydia loved the homemade donuts (so did I!) and she didn't even get scared when one muppet swallowed another one on the show.

Now if I can ever wrap this up, Avram and I are going to watch the 1931 Frankenstein and then my new and improved Holiday celebrating of Halloween will be complete.

P.S. We even listened to Michael Jackson's Thriller and the Monster Mash today.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'm having an affair.

With another blog name and title.

I know right know you're all thinking to yourselves that this couldn't be happening, that Poisson Puissant always seemed like such a strong name, a cohesive unit with its light green background and most perfect picture of nature (from the Oxford Botanical Gardens) that Thora's ever managed to catch with her point and shoot. Just shows you can never know what goes on in the hearts of blogs around you.

Sure, Thora has been fickle in the past. Sure, Poisson Puissant may be the fourth title she's used (Thora Tales, My English Cottage, Parenthetical Dialogues, Poisson Puissant). But she liked this title. It was her nickname. Given to her by her own husband, no less!

I must come clean and say that my blog title is still a good name. No, it hasn't changed - I have. It's me, not you. Poisson Puissant will be happier with another Blogger. We'll all be happier. Sure I've flirted with other names in the past - I've always wanted to call my blog "Quintessential Thora." It's the Ralph Nader of Blog Titles - it's always there, but never makes it to the finals. This is more the Abraham Lincoln of titles - it may have come out of nowhere, but the party is here to stay. (Remind me not to make stupid Political jokes in the future.)

So that you may protect your valuable hearth and blog, I'll show you the steep and slippery slope that leads to sites emblazoned with such sleazy titles as, "Fonts and Colors" or "Blogger::Edit Layout."

One day you're walking along, minding you're own bloglist, when suddenly you'll look at your blog and realize that your mind has wandered astray. Just like an itch on your foot. It's okay, you're strong, you can ignore it. Then you get to dreaming of alternate color schemes. And fonts. And catchphrases. The itches pile up; your leg, your arm, but it's still okay, you and still ignore it. After all, it's a good blog title, it's done you well. There's no need to abandon it in a flurry of a seven week itch.

But then you say a phrase, a small one. And you think to yourself, "Self, I like that phrase. I like it a lot. I think I could say, 'The Good News of Thora," many times before I tired of it." And that, my friends, is the itch in the middle of your back, the one you can't reach. Because the deed has already been done; in your mind you have wandered to strange beds of strange titles, and in your heart you are a blog-leaver. Breaker of titles. You even have a "kept title" on the side.

Might as well make it official.

And so I have.

For this week at least. I'm a very itchy person.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Faith Promoting Story

This last Sunday Avram and I spoke in Sacrament Meeting at Church. The topic was tithing, and more specifically Elder Child's talk on Tithing as an Investment given at the April 2008 conference. As with all talks I'm assigned, when I first hear the topic my mind always goes blank as to what I specifically can say on that topic. Of course, I couldn't think of any amazing tithing stories, like the family (in the Philippines, I think) he mentioned that paid their tithing (knowing they had no food in the house) and then as they were walking home a breadfruit fell in front of them, and they ate that. Partly too paying tithing - paying ten percent of your income or increase to the Lord - isn't that large of a topic. I covered the essential in the previous sentence, which is, Pay it.

As Avram and I talked about the topic, I came up with things to say, most exciting for me about the Investments from paying tithing - being able to be married in the temple for forever, being able to attend the temple. Sunday morning as I was writing the talk I thought back to the conversation the previous night where we had talked about how starting the month of October we knew we didn't have enough money to last the month. Avram receives his first stipend from the OSU on October 31, and until then (since moving here September 5) we've been living on money we had from his job in England, the stimulus check, and money he earned over the summer. Fast Sunday in October we paid our tithing, which was a fairly large amount for us because it contained the tithing on a lot of the previously mentioned sources of income. The money we paid contained enough for us to last through the month, but it never even occurred to us to not pay tithing and instead keep it for ourselves.

I don't chalk this up to unnaturally high righteousness as much as years of training and faith instilled in us by our parents and teachers. I know that many times in our marriage (filled with full time schooling) we've had times where we pay our tithing and live on faith. I'm sure that many of you, my dear readers, have had similar experiences.

We also fasted that same day for a way to get through this month. Here on October 29 we have sixty dollars to our name - but we've made it through where we never should have been able to (we're talking hundreds of dollars deficit in the budget department).

I enjoyed giving my talk, my favorite part of which was the personal story I told (I'm a sucker for personal stories. I love hearing them in Conference). I hadn't even realized until the morning of it was a story in paying tithing and having faith, but pay we did and faith we had. I think a lot of life is like that; living through it doesn't seem always large or miraculous, but looked at in the whole it often is.

Then the next day Avram received notification that he was one of the recipients of the Hugh Nibley Fellowship that The Maxwell Institute (used to be FARMS) gives to some graduate students studying the ancient world (Biblical mainly, or maybe Book of Mormon stuff). He's earned (received? won? been given? who knows) $3,000, a sum far greater than we thought he would get assuming he even was chosen at all. I must admit I did a little happy dance in the kitchen.

Now, I don't think that just because we paid our tithing the Lord sent us $3,000 (although I'm not discounting that either). I do think that we have been blessed regardless. Now we get to buy a washer and dryer among other things like having a savings account and sending Avram to the SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) conference in November, where he gets to schmooze with his old Professors and buy expensive biblical commentaries and grammars.

Ironically, we still only have $60 right now, because The Maxwell Institute has to send the check to OSU which will then disburse it to Avram. But soon we'll be very, very rich (by my current standards).Footnote one.

On Monday at the Bishop's birthday party a member of the bishopric told Avram and I that after the talks on Tithing on Sunday a member of the ward paid their tithing, who had really struggled with paying because they didn't have enough money after they paid it - but they felt inspired by the promises of the Lord opening the windows of heaven, and paid it to this Brother. This member said that now they had no money in their bank account at all. The bishopric member said that he'd been praying for them since this happened. So have Avram and I. Fervently. Not that I doubt the Lord, nor his blessings, but because I know that sometimes what the Lord knows we need isn't always what we think we need, but in this case I hope that what this member needs (money to survive) is what the Lord will provide, so their faith will be strengthened.

It's rather sobering to know that you and your husband (and a third speaker) were the cause of someone paying tithing. Of course, that's what we all gave the talks for. But it's a large responsibility to promise the blessings of the Lord on his behalf from the scriptures, and then have someone take you up on the offer.

I have seen the Lord help us this last month (more by lessening our needs and wants than by expanded resources), and I know he can help this member as well.

Footnote one. It's actually scary how fast three thousand dollars can whiz by, even in the planning stages. I tell Avram I feel like I'm a leaky ship or vessel. Every time we get a little money, I plug one leak, or recover one surface, but it feels like I'll never have enough to cover the whole vessel. Does anyone ever have enough to buy a new, leak-proof vessel? Or do our ideas of what's new and leak-proof just grow with our appropriate income?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vignette: A Window Into My Marriage

Last night at eleven thirty Avram and I were lying in bed. I'd been talking to him for over half an hour about the architecture and design books I'd been reading. They say that you shouldn't just have a choppy decorating style - a Tuscan Villa kitchen, a Victorian Living room, a Contemporary bathroom, etc, because you're house will feel choppy when you walk through it, even if each individual room is done well. Same thing goes for having uncomplimentary colors - a red living room, a lavender kitchen, an orange bathroom. These would look weird together.

I was trying to come up with a unifying color scheme that would still express individuality in each room while basically using all of the furniture and decorations we already own. So I had decided that in a hypothetical house buying next Summer the answer lay in picking complimentary paint colors/applications that went well together in the public areas of our hypothetical home, such as different greens or blues or something.

After my twenty mile long monologue, I turned to Avram and asked him how he thought we should paint the walls. He sleepily replied from his part of the bed, "Splatter red paint on the walls, and call it 'Husband murdering his wife.'"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm a 1950s Housewife and I love It

This weekend at a social engagement we were sitting at a table with two Phd students (well, three, counting Avram) and a female Physician who has a nine month old daughter. (Thanks Linus and Carrie, it was a great Oktoberfest!). We were talking about our life missions/activities, etc and how this fit in with children. One married man Tom (his wife was in North Carolina) talked about how he and his wife Joan don't want any children at all. Another woman, Ursula, is married and doesn't want children right now. The third woman Camille is just finishing her residency, and her and her husband decided to have a child now that she's not working eighty hour weeks. Then I piped up and said that I love having kids. That I want lots more, and that I love staying home with them. That I always wanted a large family, and having two children has only encouraged this desire.

Realizing the company I was in (two out of the previous three were not LDS, and everyone in the room (four others as well) had a master's degree or higher) I laughed a little and said that I sounded like a 1950s housewife, but that I really meant it. I know that having lots of children and being a homemaker isn't for everyone, but for me and my life it's great. That I've realized that for me what I'm best at is being a mother; that I really like it, that I'm good at it (not that others aren't, but that I have fairly easy pregnancies, short labors, and I don't find staying at home oppressive but rather liberating). They agreed that if it worked for me that was great, and knowing my mission in life was great, and I didn't feel denigrated in my lifestyle or choices at all (just as I hope I did not sound denigrating to their choices, because I love having female Ob-gyns (the kind of doctor she was), and am a fan of higher Phd education for women).

Often I've been around others who have talked about their views on children, whether the timing or numbers, along with working outside the home or not for mothers, etc. Often I just stay silent, because I don't know how to positively talk about my choices and appreciation for choosing to have children immediately, wanting lots of children, and staying home with them without sounding condemning of other's choices or otherwise sounding like a 1950s housewife. This is the first time that I consciously expressed my thoughts, and it went very well.

The Long Awaited Friberg Factor

This Post recalls back to this One before. Go forth, read, and Prosper. And Forget I ever spelled Friberg as Freeburg. Oh, and I do like his paintings; I'm not trying to make fun of him, BYU, girls who scrapbook and jog on Ninth East, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or people with AIDS.

Laura's brother Joel visited us today, and he told us that her and Jeff are still working on their novel, which is about a Missionary, who receives his mission call....back in TIME! (PS, if you steal their idea, I will have to kill you. Thank you). They've taken a small break, though, because Jeff has actually written another novel, while at the same time working on his Phd. He's a busy man.


We told Joel about our big Friberg series, and he talked about a novel coming out about an FBI agent and secret papers, and I realized that I had to get my ideas out before someone else thought that they thought of them first. All Copyrights reserved and all that jazz.

I'll give you the synopsis, so that way your spending pump will be primed for the purchase (or because I would never put my name to this pile of drivel, even if it could be published, which it
couldn't).

The Friberg Factor

The book opens on a small scale, to draw the reader forward and make her (plus the one or two male readers) connected to the story because it could practically be her life.

Brittney is your regular female student at BYU. She's from California and is a junior in the Early Elementary Education Major at BYU. She and her roommates met as Freshmen in the Dorms and then moved together to a large complex where they like to do fun roommate things together like have group dinners and ask boys to Preference. Her hobbies are jogging along Ninth East, going to Divine Comedy performances, and scrapbooking. She also loves the artist Arnold Friberg. Her favorite painting is the Liahona by Arnold Friberg, where Lehi finds the Liahona outside his tent. She has a large copy hung in her living room, and keeps a pocket version at all times.

Every year the Elementary Education and the Engineering Department at BYU have a social together, because the E.E. has the largest percentage of girls of any department and the Engineering department contrariwise has the largest percentage of males (this social really happens in real life). Brittney goes to it, and as she's sampling at the food table while talking to her E.E. friends, her eye catches with a young man across the room.

He's six foot tall. He has a post missionary haircut, and his name is LaVonn Tanner. He hails from Southern Idaho, and is the strapping son of a prosperous potato farmer turned accountant. He went on his mission to the Yucatan, Mexico mission.

They talk a bit, and he remembers seeing the Liahona painting while walking past her apartment, and she realizes that they live in the same complex, although in different wards. For Brittney, it's love at first sight. She takes walks around the complex hoping to catch a glimpse of him. She signs up for the complex emergency preparedness coordinator so she can go to his apartment (among all the rest) and teach him about mouth to mouth resuscitation. Okay, not really. But she does help him develop a plan for when the big earthquake comes to Utah.

They go on one date, where LaVonn and Brittney go to Salt Lake and take a tour of the Conference Center. They almost hold hands while touring the room containing fifteen (or so) Friberg paintings. Brittney explains how she loves Friberg's strong men who aren't Momma's Boys, and then looks longingly (and secretly) at LaVonn, who also is strong and not a Momma's boy. LaVonn almost holds her hand while eating Ice Cream afterwards, but the moment passes, and he quickly takes her home.

After this one date, LaVonn doesn't seem that interested in her, and it breaks Brittney's heart. She determines to continue on without him, still being friendly of course, secretly hoping that some day he'll come to his senses, and realize what a killer Lemon Meringue pie she can make in under an hour (59 minutes to be exact).

What Brittney doesn't know (here the book changes perspectives for a while to LaVonn) is that LaVonn is convinced he has AIDS. While on his mission he had to receive a blood tranfusion in a dubious country hospital, and has had some health problems ever since. Although LaVonn has never been tested, he's already emotionally prepared himself to lead a short, celibate life before he succumbs to AIDS. Hence he doesn't want to lead Brittney on. LaVonn has a handsome Australian (the chicks dig Australians, so you need one in every book) roommate named Bruce and another token diverse roommate who's Black or otherwise Cultural.

Bruce, although all the girls love him, has proven, tested HIV (from some "normal" source, like a blood transfusion), and he's LaVonn's confidante in his worries about his untested (but emotionally sure) AIDS. LaVonn loves his roommates, in a manly, three pats on the back that mean, "I'm not gay" when you hug sort of way. They're like the brothers he never had (actually, he has five brothers, but they're back in Southern Idaho, and these ones live with him).

LaVonn spends a lot of this book secretly digging Brittney, but half-heartedly avoiding contact because he doesn't want to encourage a doomed relationship. Throughout the book Bruce gets more and more sick, and moves from HIV to AIDS. Brittney and her roommates show their love for Bruce by giving him a "heart attack" on his door (where you post up all sorts of construction paper hearts on a door with cute messages.)

Brittney has been taking Spanish for three years (plus in High School) and it just so happens that LaVonn, is minoring in Spanish. After Brittney has already given up on LaVonn, lo and behold he happens to be her speaking partner in a Spanish class, and so the almost blown out spark is revived.

Meanwhile, LaVonn when he sees Bruce's suffering finally goes to the Health Center and tells the Doctor that he has AIDS, and tells him his symptoms; weight loss, etc. Once the Doctor stops laughing he does some tests and it turns out that he only got tuberculosis and he gets medicine and all is well.

So when LaVonn and Brittney are in the same class he tries to pursue her, but Brittney's feelings are a little hurt, and so she gives him the cold shoulder, which means she only lets him walk her home once a week from class, instead of every day.

Brittney signs up for a study abroad to the Yucatan Peninsula, and LaVonn does too, in order to be able to show how much he loves her. Besides, it's where he served his mission, and he's sure on his "home" turf he can show her the depth of his feelings.

They arrive in the Yucatan and start sight seeing all of the "Proven" Book of Mormon sights there. At a Meso-American temple LaVonn realizes that he doesn't know where Brittney is in the complex; she's not anywhere with the group. He looks for her everywhere - but she has vanished. He's convinced something sinister must have happened when he sees her pocket copy of the Liahona ground into the mud at the edge of the site.

LaVonn knows that Brittney would never treat her favorite painting in that manner, and that somehow, someone must have kidnapped her - or worse! The study abroad group can find no hints of where she went anywhere, but a native tells them that a group who calls themselves the "El Gadiantanos" have established themselves recently in the native hills, and he suspects them with her disappearance.

LaVonn sinks to the ground in despair, as he realizes he may never be able to tell Brittney that he loves her. As the name El Gadiantanos sinks into his saddened mind, he remembers from his mission hearing rumors about a band of renegade robbers who respected no person or property.

Just then an NSA agent badly disguised as a local runs up and asks in bad Spanish if LaVonn is Mr. Tanner, and if he will please come with him....he has some information that might help and hold up a hand-drawn map with Egyptian looking characters on it. Stunned as how a NSA (National Security Agency) agent knows his name (and phone number, and first pet's middle name), LaVonn agrees to anything to get his Brittney back.

The book ends with Brittney coming to out of a faint, and pretending to not know any Spanish as two men discuss with each other how they will use "El Mormina" to understand "El Freeburg Codo," which will show them where "El Dies Tribos of Israelos" are - whether at the center of the earth or at "El Bountifulo Templos", so they can destroy them once and for all. They shockingly hold up a picture of Lehi finding the Liahona, done by Arnold Friberg - not her copy - and she faints again in wonder and shock at their dastardly plans.

The End.

But Stay Tuned for The Friberg Code.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy Third Semi-Annual Anniversary!

Three and a half years ago today, on April 22, 2005, Avram and I were married. That makes this our Third Semi-Annual Anniversary. For our Third anniversary we went to Oxford and ate Cornish Pasties (made in Cornwall, even) and had locally made deliscious ice cream. Lydia was with us, as the only time she was babysat in England was while I was in the hospital delivering Elisheva, and I was only six days away from delivery. Not exactly the most exciting anniversary, but they can't all be, I suppose. So indulge me while I remember our wedding now. Besides, I'm on a kick of posting old pretty pictures. Don't worry, I don't have too many that fit in that description, I'll stop this craziness soon.
First we have my wedding dress. I wanted a large, princess, poofy wedding dress. Completely against tradition, Avram accompanied me (and was usually the only other person with me) while wedding dress shopping. I found this dress in a tiny, elegant little wedding dress shop on Center Street in Provo. It laced up the back, and took ten minutes to get into. But oh, how I loved it! I have lots of guilt for having bought (my mother in law actually bought it) a $500 dollar dress, that I didn't actually even wear when I got married (I wore a temple dress, because I wanted to be married in long sleeves. Ideally I would have bought a long sleeved wedding dress, but I couldn't find any). I wish that someone else would wear it. But I love poofy princess dresses, and I knew that this would liably be the only time in my life I'd have the opportunity to wear one.

I'd give it away, if I could to extend its usefulness, but no one in Ohio wears dresses with sleeves. Anyone want a wedding dress? I'll ship it to you, for free. I'm serious. Tell all your friends and unmarried relations. (It's a size four, but I wear a size six or eight normally (sometimes even ten), so it'll fit you too.) Okay, so I'll stop sounding like a used car salesman, but remember, I'm serious. Take my dress. Use it. Love it.Here's Avram looking debonair. It was the one day in his life he got to dress in a tuxedo with tails, a top hat, and spats. My husband is a secret clothes horse, but doesn't have the means to support this kind of dress. Matt took this picture; many of the pictures I'm posting were by him. That's why there are several pictures of the lovely Frau Magister, his now wife. She got to wear Avram's top hat during the reception because Avram won't wear a hat indoors. Matt was my favorite kind of wedding photographer (as well as my neighbor Pat Geisler, but her pictures were with film, and so although I have the hard copies I don't have good copies for here) - the free kind. Amy didn't want to do the wedding pictures because she hates doing wedding photos when she's actually part of the celebration, as with family.We were married at the Salt Lake Temple. Unlike most people who are married there, The Salt Lake Temple was actually in my temple district growing up. I tell myself this to sound unique and individual. Avram wanted to be married in the Provo temple, but I had spent my whole childhood planning to be married in Salt Lake. I think getting married in the Provo Temple is great. It's a greatly underutilized temple.

I loved our wedding (who doesn't?). I love being married for time and eternity. I still remember at least one piece of counsel that our sealer gave us, which was to pray together every night, and to kiss each other goodnight and say "I love you" every night as well. I remember Amy telling me she loved all the advice he gave, and we should remember it, but unfortunatly I didn't write it all down that day. Wedding days are blurry like that.
The Shannon family official wedding pose thingy. Avram was worried that the picture looked like he was looking down my dress. So let it be known officially he was not.

We got married at three pm, and had a luncheon at eleven before that. We had quiche and hashbrowns and bananas. My bridesmaids were: Amy, Camilla, Tali, Mandie, Mary, Halley (all my sisters), then Martha, Christa, and Michele. Avram just had Samuel his brother as his best man, and Travis was our brides/groomsman. Carol and Kevin came down from Washington, which meant a lot to me. I love Carol.
Here I'm being a gargoyle. Travis and I used to joke that we were always the kind of people that we flamboyant and decorative. No one would call us real bricks (in the British slang usage). Here I embrace my gargoyleness to its fullness. ion wasn't too high class, which was just the way I wanted it. We had our reception at a ward in Camilla's mother in law's wardhouse. My family decorated with lots of tulle and fresh flowers from Costco, my sister Camilla did my hair and the bouquet, and Avram's Mom made the cake. Each layer was different; Pound cake for Avram, Chocolate for me, and the top layer was Sugar free lemon for her (she's diabetic). For food we had various kinds of breads and butters and a six foot Challah. We also had fresh fruit and vegetables. We cut the cake a half hour into the reception, because I love wedding cake, and I hate going to weddings where they never cut the cake. We also did not have fondant, but rather had buttercream, because I think taste is paramount to all things in cake.

Most of our wedding we danced. Because honestly, what else is there to do at receptions? Our line was only a half hour long, because I think lines are boring (although we expressly said when the line was on our invitations, so if someone thought it was important to go through the line they could arrive at that time). The rest of the time we danced. Avram's brother Joshua and we had picked out all the music ahead of time, but somehow the day of the list got lost, so he played whatever came to hand. Including at one point the Macarena. The bests part of dancing at weddings are all of the good future blackmailing opportunities they provide. Samuel, I have many more pictures of this calibre I can pull out at will unless you're really nice to me. (I thought you'd like to know as I was downsizing this picture Lydia looked at it in excitment and exlaimed, "Uncle Samuel!" She remembers you. She also remembers Aleatha and will often mention her. Once she even told us that Aleatha would fly a plane with family in it with her.)

While I went and changed at the end of the reception, Avram kept on dancing with all of his brothers. They danced to Thriller, by Michael Jackson. See what I told you about blackmail?

Happy Third Semi-Annual Anniversary! I think I'll go have some chocolate cake I happen to have to celebrate....

And remember; please take my dress. Pretty Please.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Enough Pictures of Thora to Make Anyone But Herself Bored

Okay, now that my Internet is staying on, let's try and finish my post about pictures my amazing sister Amy took.

First off, we have engagement photos. This is the picture that hangs in our Living Room. I love that I had Avram remove his glasses. (If I had my way, Avram would wear contacts. He resisted for years, because he said that his soul wore glasses. Now he's okay with getting contacts, but after I looked at how much more contacts are versus glasses, I've decided that his soul can wear glasses for awhile longer.) I also love how I look in it. Unfortunately, as in every picture I particularly love of myself, people constantly comment that it doesn't look like me (this is before I say I love it). Mmmm. Maybe that's because this is what they're looking at in real life (don't worry, Amy didn't take this one):
That's why I love makeup and good cameras and good photographers

I like this picture, because when I see it I can pretend that I'm either a seductress or a heroine in a (moral) romance novel. The kind that throws her long, luxurious hair over her shoulders. Can't you see how I've enticed him into my grasp. I'm a wily one, I am.Aww, I love remembering my young and hip days. This final sunset picture was the background of our wedding announcement.












A year and a half later we have a cutie patootie seven month old Lydia. This was supposed to be some formal pictures of her, but Lydia loved to eat leaves.

She was still cute even doing so, but it wasn't quite the shoot I imagined; the smiling baby. You know, the kind you send to grandmas. I think deep down I like these ones better.










After all, how can you not love a face like this? I love the tell-tale leaf bit poking out of her mouth; she almost
has you convinced she's not stuffing her face with dead tree matter. Almost.

Elisheva fits into these same clothes now. It's crazy. She can comfortably wear 12 month clothing, and she'll only be six months old next week. My babies are growing up.

None of the pictues Amy took are sans leaves. Lydia and leaves were just meant to be.

I love this face too. She's concentrating so hard.






This final picture was taken the same day. Don't I look so matronly?




I really wanted to show Lydia's one year pictures, but I couldn't find them anywhere (read: Amy, if you have them, can you send them to me? I have some hard copies, but no digital ones in Ohio. Thank you). Ahh, I just love looking at pretty pictures of me and my family. (Don't mind the random placement of pictures. I was getting creative, but mostly just ended up being random and ineffective with my space. We try).

Don't Mind My Lazy, White Trash Ways

Nine AM this morning, I'm in the kitchen starting to sweep the floor after having finished the breakfast dishes. I'm still in Pjs because I want to take a shower, and didn't wake up early enough to do so before we needed to eat, and then Avram left for school while I clean up. The floor is covered with Lydia's kitchen “toys,” an amalgam of magnetic plastic alphabet letters, utensils like a funnel, small egg beater and deep fat fryer strainer that she pulled from kitchen drawers, and kitchen towels she also place on the floor, and finally also lots of little pieces of food gunk and dust. Lydia and Elisheva are also still in Pjs.

And then I hear it; the sound of the maintenance men, Ed and Jack, coming to fill the long list of orders I put in yesterday. I hate it when this happens, when people come and they see me not even dressed yet, and I'm sure they're thinking that all Homemakers must be the laziest, dirtiest women there are. Which may or may not be true, but I must admit this was neither the first or second time I've had maintenance come fix something in apartments I've lived in while still wearing Pjs.

So I shrug at the inevitable, and let them in, and tried not to feel self conscious about my greasy, long and uncombed hair and bedclothing. While they fetch their tools I take the opportunity to sweep the floor at least, and otherwise my kitchen is clean. My living room is even clean. Thank heaven for small favors. Then when I show Ed how the toilet is sluggish and I lift the lid...it is somehow, inexplicably unflushed. What can you do when they've already seen your messy bedrooms and nightclothes? Just shrug, say sorry, and flush it.

I spend the remaining time dressing Lydia and Elisheva (I'm still waiting for my shower), and then try to make small talk about broken things in my house. Scintillating conversation, really, to go along with my shocking appearance. It's a wonder that I have any self decency left at all. Perhaps I don't. They didn't seem to mind; they probably see lazy, Pj wearing homemakers with messy bathrooms and unflushed toilets all the time. I hope.

Aren't I cute?

Ahem. I just had to show everyone what a good photographer my sister Amy is. Go check her out. All of the pictures I have of Avram and I and our family are by her. In fact, I'm in despair because I really want a family picture, and until I go to Utah next summer I probably won't get one. Please weep for me, but also please enjoy her pictures. And if you live in the Wasatch Front, then you should hire her and pay her lots of mula.

Thank you.

(PS - I love some of her other shots even more, but I was morally obliged to post this one, because I'm in it.)

P.P.S. I'm going to post some other pictures that she's taken, although a lot of my favorites are still on our old computer in Virginia.

After much, much time spent trying to upload pictures, when my Internet goes on and off like Christmas Tree lights, I'm officially giving up. Look for more pictures later.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Frieburg Factor

For the first four months after Avram and I were married we were window washers for the now obsolete Deseret Towers. Every day, all day long we were together (along with our window washing buddy Daryl in the mornings). With all of the newlywed alone time at home, the extra eight hours at work were overkill, but we made it through by inventing the plot to a book. We're planning to publish it, and then you'll all buy it, and I'll make at least forty bucks.

We planned out three novels, called together The Frieburg Chronicles, composed of The Frieburg Factor, The Frieburg Code, and some other title that sounds good with "The Frieburg" in the beginning. Avram was inspired by a picture that Travis made for this title, and hence book. You can thus blame Travis for the following drek. The impetus came because we were talking with a member of Avram's home ward, Laury Frary (Insert married name here, because for the life of me I can't remember it) when we ran into her one day. She told us how her sister-in-law was a reader for one of the Mormon publishing houses; she test reads the books before they're published. I'd like to take a moment to say here that why is this not my job? I'd be a great test reader! I love to read Mormon Romances (Or MoRo as the previous Clement girls call it.) And I only deny this love occasionally. Plus I read really fast. Anyway, moving on....

Her SIL told her that a lot of the books that get published are bad. Really bad. If any of you share the same hobby I have, and are willing to admit it, then you know what I mean. Of course, there exists much good Mormon fiction as well. I love the Work and the Glory Series, by Gerald Lund. Children of the Promise series, by Dean Hughes, is well written. I even like A New Dawn by Jack Weyland. But there's a lot of badly overwritten impossible romantic scenarios as well. So Laura and her husband determined to write a Mormon Romance and get it published, since they figured they could manage to come up with some mediocre drivel together.

Avram and I determined to do the same, and although we never got to the actual writing stage, we worked out the whole plot while window washing - which said activity is a sure stimulant to the creative senses.

In a shortly forthcoming post I'll give you the synopsis. I just have to work out a couple of plot holes and add more references to the Frieburg Paintings. So, now you can put your name on the waiting list, to purchase my exciting, new piece of hud book.

To get you excited, it's a romance that deals with the lost ten tribes of Israel, the Golden Plates, Secret Combinations, CIA and FBI coverups, and of course, your necessary BYU moments of luuuve. Not to mention what Frieburg knew all along in his paintings....

Thank You.

Aspiring Authoress, Thora.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Peter Piper Picked A Peck of Perfect Pumpkins

I think I'm living in Leave it to Beaver. Except that I've actually never seen Leave it to Beaver. But if it's what I think it is - the idyllic life, then that was today. I'm officially part of a Mom's group that covers three wards (and others who are friends of these moms) and it's a pretty might awesome group. They even have a yearly tubing camp out in August. So although I've joined I've never actually read anything they post, and so have had yet to actually do anything with them. But then my visiting teacher, Sarah Jones told me about a pumpkin picking activity, and offered to drive me there.

Today we drove up in a crisp, cold, grey morning. The brilliant leaves surrounding the roads enlivened our drive. We were even dressed for the occasion. My sister Camilla sent me a package I received yesterday, which contained, among other nice goodies, flower hair clips for Lydia that actually stay in. Yes, it's amazing. I strapped an Autumn orange and red flower in today, and Lydia wore her Halloween Pumpkin themed shirt that she's worn for two days and nights straight. What can I say? She loves the shirt. She loves pumpkins. (And don't worry, I finally retired the shirt tonight to the dirty clothes hamper). I wore my first sweater of the season, a striped green, heather brown, cream, orange and red one from American Eagle, although I bought it at the good old DI. (Why am I describing our clothes? Because still no camera. If anyone has an old digital camera they're not using, email me, I'll give you my address, you send it to me, and then you'll get pictures. Until then this blog will keep sounding like bad Mormon romance where they always describe what the girl is wearing, and it's always weird.)

The Farm we went to, called MadMax, is run by a family that had a son with an illness of some sort and he died at age five. Everything runs by donation, and a hundred percent of the money goes to the Columbus Children's Hospital for kids with illnesses. Have you ever noticed that if you have to pay for an experience as you do it you compare the experience to the price you paid, to see if it was worth it, etc? Oh, well I do, because I'm cheap and lame like that. But whenever something is donations (especially for a good cause), I always give more that I would have wanted to pay if it was priced, and I feel great about everything the whole time. So, basically I felt great the whole time.

We had to wait while the tractor pulled hayride wagon took a load, so Lydia sat in a Green and Orange tractors and pretended to drive, and then in a 'Gator that's actually used, which she liked most of all because of the yellow seats. She also managed to pull gloves out of a compartment and other paraphenalia that, don't worry, I put back. I got a burnt Orange (Burnt Sienna? Raw Sienna? What in the world is Sienna?) huge Mum plant for our kitchen table to dressify the house (also by donation, but with price amount). Being outside and in the country with many plants and tractors already felt amazing to me, and we hadn't actually gone to the main attraction yet!

Then after a fun tractor ride we arrived in the pumpkin field. Although you're in the field for about half an hour, it only took us the first five minutes to find our pumpkins, since we wanted small ones, and most people want large ones, so they were all easily accessible. Good thing too, because since I'm a city girl I brought Elisheva in a stroller, unlike all of the other moms who had carrier things. I have slings and a baby backpack thing, but somehow the whole picking your own pumpkins thing hadn't made me think about how a stroller was supposed to go overland to find pumpkins.

The whole experience was great; Lydia loved being outside, and loved the tiny pumpkin she found. She even came downstairs tonight while stalling the final bedtime and hugged and kissed one of the pumpkins, while telling it, "I just love you, Pumpkin!" When she's that cute when she stalls, I'm a sucker for it. Especially since she next came to me and gave me a hug and told me she loved me.

While waiting for the tractor, I had good Mom conversation, which is fun because it's the first time in my life that my social group has really included Mothers (large scale). I don't want to discuss parenting, or being pregnant, or whatever it is that Moms talk about all of the time, but on occasion it's fun. Then we went out to lunch with another mom, Bethany at Culver's, the most amazing fast food place ever. They make custard, and today's flavor was Pumpkin Pecan and it was yummy! I didn't even feel bad about randomly going out to eat because my darling sister sent me some money as part of the package, and told me to count it as winning the lottery without even entering (number six).

My day was still perfect, even when there were tons of June bugs that crawled out of the Mums while we were driving, and we spent a lot of time enticing the bugs to the window so we could flick them out. I even littered for the first time in my life when I used a piece of paper to lure them onto, and as I released them out the window the paper flew off too. But the Leave it to Beaverness feeling still stayed. Although I wonder if Beaver's mom would have glued back on a picturesque pumpkin stem after Lydia broke it off?

I love doing more than just sitting at home with my kids while my hair isn't brushed, because I once again can't find my hairbrush (although to be honest, that happened today anyway, so I just put my hair in a clip for the trip.) I feel more alive when I go places and see people. And being part of a group (that I shall now start checking, so I don't miss out on more amazingness) helps me in achieving this, since I basically just showed up.I find that when I get out and celebrate seasons or holidays that they are so much more meaningful to me.

All to often I wonder why a holiday, like this last fourth of July, passed by with no memories at all. Perhaps because we actually didn't do anything for it, including fireworks. And now that I've decided to love my life (because as Tali mentioned in a comment, yes I do think a lot of feeling settled and loving my life happened because I decided and made an effort to do so more than circumstances) I'm rededicating myself to going out and experience a lot more activities. I can already hear Avram's silent groan when he reads this - his social/activity tolerance level is much lower than mine.

Any ideas on how to live October/Halloween/Thanksgiving to their fullest potential?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Give Thanks This Day

I keep telling Avram that I really, really love my life.

Oh, sure I have days like yesterday, when I didn't remember to take enough quarters to the laundromat, and so most of our clothes came out half wet and I strung them all over our two bedrooms and then managed to accomplish nothing else besides an unplanned nap and causing a screaming hysterical fit in Lydia because I took the wipes she had stolen for her baby. But most of the time, I really, really love my life.

I spent the last year and half in moving three times (which when I was single would have been nothing at all, but with a family and moving continents and not down the street, to me it was a very, very big deal). Also, I spent the last year and a half being pregnant, miscarrying, living with in laws in the country through a very hot Virginia summer (that was five months long), getting pregnant again, and then living in a foreign country, out in the country, during a very, very long winter, because it never warms up in England, and having no energy because of anemia, and then living with said (very nice) in-laws again. (I also like to use almost meaningless words that English teachers hate like very and really, really a very lot.)

In many ways I spent the last 18 months feeling only half alive. Telling myself I aught to value my time more, because I would only have one kid again once, and I would only have someone who makes dinner instead of me once (both my Mother-in-law and Avram through Elisheva's pregnancy), and I would only like in England once. And I did have parts I thoroughly enjoyed. But most of the last 18 months I spent desperately looking towards Settling Down. The magic day when we would live in the same place for an entire year or even more. Unpacking our belongings. Making friends that would last. Most importantly for me, when we would go to doctoral school, when we would move to Ohio, we would stay in one place, and I would love it. Going to Ohio became a mantra for me. A promised land to look forward to, flowing in my own car and belongings.

Avram tried to help me. He did help me. He reminded me that I needed to take joy in the here and now, that just moving situations would not automatically make my life perfect. I tried to follow his advice, but my time in Virginia and England always remained a sojourn to me. The only place I settled in at all at was our two respective wards, because I find as the more wards I move to that moving wards is only visiting different parts of my family - my church family that I have not yet met, but know I will love when I do.

Avram and I were married for two years before we left BYU. We've been gone from Provo almost as long as we were there as a married couple. And yet the time in Provo meant so much more to me because I gave myself to it. I decorated our walls, I walked all over the Tree streets, Indian hills and Wymount, and I became friends with Two Jacks and Lon's Cookin' Shack (can you become friends with restaurants? Yes, yes you can).

Since then I've left walls unadorned, I've spent many, many days never leaving the house at all because of either the heat and ticks or cold and damp, and because of half living off of student loans, I rarely made friends with any pub.

In many ways I've felt like my marriage, my life, my all have been somewhat on hold.

But, but (now let us get back to the whole point of this post) I really, really love my life now.

We've been in Columbus for five weeks, and I love, love, love my ward. We go on walks while I pick out my future houses I'm going to buy in a year (we even stumbled upon a neighborhood that's mere blocks from our townhome, and yet it feels like the country. It's tucked by the freeway and a large road, but it's surprisingly very quiet. It was built before subdivisions so every house is delightfully different, and resides on large, tree filled lots while multicolored leaves gently drift to the carpet of leaves below. There are no sidewalks, but also no cars pass. We saw two girls ride gently by on bikes. Neighbors were out talking to each other. I think we walked into the fifties, and I loved it.) We haven't yet made friends with restaurants, but hey, we have time.

We've been more social in the last few weeks that we were for the entire previous year and a half. I'm finally feeling like I can interact in a social situation before my rusty social skills seize up and I make a bunch of faux pas because I'm used to only interacting with my husband and the Internet while wearing pajamas.

And have I mentioned my stuff? My lovely, lovely stuff? I know that tomorrow if my house burned down and all I had was Avram, Lydia and Elisheva (and our trusty 72 hour kits because they're in our car) I'd be fine. Having said that, I sure love my stuff. I love our blanketed walls with a prayer rug, my triptych of family pictures, my Arabic hand quilted wall hangings, two of which actually say Ilrub ilalamein (the Lord is over all) and Bismallah ilrahman ilraheem (In the name of Allah, the most merciful one) but look like works of art. My Kitchenaid. Oh, how I love my kitchen aid. My shelf of beautiful books that are picked on the basis of looks alone. My pseudo Victorian standing lamp complete with hanging beads, that's from Walmart because I'm plebeian like that.

I could go one listing my beloved belongings, but I can't take pictures of them (silly lost camera battery. It's driving me crazy.), so you're bored and hence I'll move one.

Just let it be known, that although I know that one needs to be happy anywhere, and I need to bloom where I'm planted, and all that jazz, that moving to Ohio basically cured 18 months of the Blahs. Because I love my life.

Already I feel more settled in Columbus than I have for a long time. Today we went to a Metro Park, which are 15 parks that surround Columbus that are huge and have nature reserves and other activities. We went to Inniswoods, which is mostly gardens and strolled around while I marveled at the herbs and smelled every single rose bush so I could know what I someday want for my house. The weather has been perfect lately - not hot or cold, and the tall beech trees and other trees that I haven't the faintest idea of their species surrounded us in a bright spectrum of greens, golds, flaming oranges, bright yellows, intense reds. As we walked the trail I kept thinking to myself, and exclaiming out at points to Avram, that I love my life.

I once saw a Japanese film at the International Cinema at BYU about a holding place after death, where you pick one memory from your life. Then the people running the holding place help you recreate that memory, and then everyone gathers together to watch your memory in a theatre, and when the lights go up at the end of the film the person whose memory it was is gone from their seat - they've moved on to the rest of their eternity with only this one memory from their previous life. It was very International Cinema. Since then in my life I've thought a lot about what memory I would take with me if I could only have one. Today, walking with my family, surrounded by the wealth of Autumn, happy with my place and location in life, I felt so alive, so fulfilled. I could take that memory with me for eternity - it would be enough.

I love where we live. I love how all the older homes here, ours included, have marble windowsills. I love having a separate kitchen and living room, and having matching couches. I love how today my visiting teacher Sarah dropped by to meet me, and she's going to pick me and the girls up on Friday and take us to a Pumpkin Farm with other women from church and Lydia will get to pick her own pumpkin out. I've always wanted to go to a Pumpkin Farm. (And now I really, really need to find my camera).

I love Autumn. It's my favorite, favorite season. I love that Lydia's learning to play with other girls, although she still hates to share. I love that I'm going to go back to making homemade whole wheat bread this week instead of buying store-bought. My scripture study feels more alive, my interactions with Lydia feel more real. Even my continued dessert explorations are going great (I've stopped chronicling them because with out pictures it would be boring. Just know that I've made a layered birthday cake (from scratch), eclairs, and a blackberry cobbler.)

At Conference Elder Bednar talked about prayers of only gratitude. I know I should be grateful all the time anyway, but in the past week expressing prayers to Heavenly Father with only "Thank You" has been very easy. I am thankful for being in Columbus, for having a car, for our ward, for a townhome, for my lovely husband and daughters. I'm grateful for Avram's fellowship, for the Temple, for forever families, for not just having one perfect memory of today, but many memories of times past, and future memories to come, all of which I'll have forever, along with my love ones. Mostly I'm grateful to be me, to be Thora, living the life with those I love in Columbus, Ohio.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Husband is On the Phone and My Kids Are Asleep

Random Thoughts Going Through My Mind (And Some Updates to Other Posts)

1. In a followup to my Eschatalogical Questions, The Greater Kansas City Area Temple is being built in Shoal Creek, in Clay County, Missouri. It's 15.8 miles from the Temple site, so I do not think that it is one of the 24 temples that will someday be built there. However, as Avram thinks as well, it is very exciting that in a state that we, as LDS members were once driven from and told never to return because of the extermination order given by Lilbourn W. Boggs, we are now returning and building a temple, in a county that the Saint once lived in. My less Politically Correct husband calls this pointing a finger in the mob's eye. I call it a sign of the Church moving forward, and that as we built temples in Nauvoo and Winter Quarters and Palmyra, we now will have a temple in another historical area, Clay County. I'm stoked. For a super official press release for my source, look here, at the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints newsroom. (How did this happen five days ago and I didn't know!?)

2. My sister, Mary, has been in labor for three days. THREE DAYS. As in Friday, Saturday, Sunday, but hopefully not Monday. She's all the way in Washington State, very, very far from Ohio. We fasted for her (we meaning I did all the prayers with Avram, but he did all the fasting, since I'm nursing.) For 24 hours, last night to this dinner. And she's still in labor. She's a trooper. I was only in labor with Elisheva for three hours. Me? Not a trooper. And she's my baby sister too. Which means that she's 24, but somehow in my mind, she's still just a little girl, withe a cute smile and we called her Marzie doats. Actually, she still has a cute smile, and I still call her Marzie doats. But she's not a little girl - she's going to be, sometime in this millenia when her labor ends, a Mama. And she's going to have a little boy. Then my Parents will have 18 grandchildren.

3. That's a lot of Grandchildren.

4. The Fair for the 72 hour kits went really well. I feel reconciled to having them. And we have more food still than I remembered having. Plus I like feeling prepared. We're keeping our kits in our car, and then if we ever get stranded in the Donnar pass, like Elder Cook was in a snowstorm, we'll be really prepared. Because I never want to be stranded in the Donnar pass. I think I would get nightmares. The Work and the Glory book that talked about the Donnar/Reed party practically gave me nightmares.

5. I didn't mean to give the impression in signing up for the Preparedness Fair that I don't like signing up for things in Relief Society. I really do. I love it. Today I signed up to clean the ward house, clean the temple, make chili for our ward's trunk or treat on Oct 25, and make bread for Enrichment this thursday. And I'm really excited for all of these things (I'm not being sarcastic, either.). I'm going to make popcorn balls to hand out at the trunk or treat because everyone knows me, and knows that I'm not going to put little razors or arsenic in the popcorn. (Have you ever know anyone who had bad experiences with homemade Halloween treats? I haven't. Maybe it's an urban legend.)

6. Avram didn't get a job offer yet, but he does have a preliminary interview/audition with Kaplan test preparation for teaching their GRE test prep classes. He auditions (you have to give a small lesson on something non academic to show that you wouldn't be drop dead boring when you teach) on October 24. This means that we are this close to the rest of my perfect life. I should have put winning the lottery without even entering on my list. Then that would come true too.

7. Lydia and Elisheva are the cutest girls ever. I would post pictures, but the Lithium camera battery that Lydia lost is still good and lost. So, no pictures. And I would tell stories, but they're never as cute on paper (or screen) than they were in person at the time. So Mom, call me and I'll tell you them, and for the rest of you, just know that they're darling and I love them. I especially love to kiss Elisheva's large cheeks. Her cheeks just demand to be kissed. I really can't help it. (She's 18 pounds! She's huge! And so kissable.) And Lydia's at the stage where she says the cutest things.

8.We're being sociable. We went over to two different houses on Conference weekend. And then we invited a family over this Saturday, and another two families over next Tuesday. We're going to play games on both nights. Not your boring Yahtzee of Sorry Games. Exciting, fly by the seat of your pants games like Shadows over Camelot and Carcassone.

9. I'm having difficulties with My Super Hopeless Romance now. Mostly because Cordy is being so passive about what happens to her. When I was in my dating life (in college - in High School I was a grade A wimp) I was very proactive. I made sure that if I liked a boy I let him know it, and know that if he didn't date me he was missing out on the chance of a lifetime. That's why I once had a missionary while dating his brother....and a missionary while being engaged (not to his brother)....and a missionary while dating another man (who is now my husband).....

Hmmm. Maybe I should just start an anonymous blog and write out my dating life, but change the names. Or not change the names, and then all my old boyfriends can read it and officially be glad they didn't end up married to such a piece a work as me.

Anyway, I'm not sure I can take much more of watching someone let their life run over them. Although I do feel very bad for her.

The End of my random thoughts. For this minute, at least.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm An Expert - It's True

Our first Sunday in our new ward, a little binder came around with all sorts of neat-o sheets. I signed the roll. I signed up for some powdered milk that I use when I make homemade bread. And I signed up under a couple of categories, 72 hour kits and Baking, for a far off Preparedness Fair far off on October 11. I like to put my name down on neat-o sheets. It's a weakness I have. Also, I like to pretend I'm an expert in things.

October 11th isn't so far off anymore. It's tomorrow. And this week a brother in the ward emailed me and asked me to do a booth on 72 hour kits.

A couple of years ago our Wymount ward had a huge drive for being prepared, and in a sudden fit of can-do-it-ness, I up and started our 72 hour kit. Really, it was easy to begin by just dumping the stuff we had already into a couple backpacks, and then my Dad and his wife went on a kick of giving us preparedness items for our presents for birthdays and Christmases. We loved it (because I'm cheap, and love useful presents) and they loved it and we were all happy. The week I bought the food for it, I felt silly having so many pre-prepared and snack like items that I apologized to the cashier, and told her that my family really doesn't normally eat like this - it's just for our 72 hour kit. The cashier just looked at me. I just felt stupid.

Nevertheless I persevered, and thus our 72 kits came into being. We even rotated our food before we left Provo, and ate everything that would go bad while we were in England. It turns out that most recommended food lists for 72 hour kits leave you calorically STARVING. But we still persevered.

And that brings us to today, when I ran around the house like a chicken with its head cut off, re assembling our kits after the move and checking for important missing items and pretending like I'm an expert because we've had mediocre survival kits for two years, one of which we were on a separate continent from them. I even made up a list for a take home lesson, and nice colored signs to show the aspects of our laid out kits at the fair. I'm so crafty. (Hey, I folded pieces of paper in two, and wrote things like, "Food" on them in colored markers.)

This shows you to be both wary of neat-o papers and also to actually be an expert when they ask for experts in a topic.

Although, really, how expert do you need to be? It's just food and survival items for three days in an emergency. It may be life saving, but it's also fairly basic. When I went to the Church website, Provident Living, this was all they had to say on 72 hour kits:

"Church members are encouraged to prepare for adversity by building a basic supply of food, water, money, and, over time, longer-term supply items. Beyond this, Church members may choose to store additional items that could be of use during times of distress."

This was all that the entire website (that I could see) said about the kits. Not exactly what you would call a rousing endorsal of the specific practice of 72 hour kits. So, how useful are they? Do we just use them out of habit? Do any of you, my dear readers, know anyone who actually has used theirs?

I'm going to start storing ours in the car, and then if we crash/get stuck in a snowstorm somewhere remote, they'll be useful then. Because I'm pretty sure that we aren't going to have most natural disasters here in Ohio. Not that I think 72 hour kits are bad to have. Just that I'm not sure they're hugely necessary/will ever actually be used (unless you live in Hurricane/Wildfire areas. Then all bets are off.)

Oh dear, I had better not put that on the handout I so carefully prepared for tomorrow - after all, a true expert wouldn't express self doubt, would they?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Today Is The First Day of the Rest of My Life

If I planned my life from this point out, it would go like this (in some ways, mostly Avram's career ways).

Tomorrow Avram looks into a well paying 15 hour a week job that's intellectual - like his cataloging out of print books job at the Oxford University Press that pays well. They are so impressed they hire him on the spot. (Hey, if you're making things up you should do it well). We now have enough money to eat for the rest of the month.

Monday we receive a letter informing Avram he's up for the top amount (only a couple thousand dollars) for the Hugh Nibley Fellowship he applied for from the Neil A. Maxwell Institute (used to be FARMS). We buy a Washer and Dryer and Avram joins the SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) and goes to their Conference in Boston.

Avram continues to get this fellowship every year until he graduates. Every conference he meets with his old BYU professors, and they love him. They really love him. They sit around with the Maxwell Institute people and have conversations about how up and coming Avram is. (I just know Avram's going to think I'm weird for writing this all out. Not out of character - just weird.)

Next Summer a house basically falls into our lap with a mortgage we can afford that's in our ward, right around here (because we like the neighborhoods where we are). We buy it and the seller pays the closing costs and we got it so cheaply because it needed a good paint job and some landscaping, all of which I wanted to do anyway. It's three bedrooms with some nook or attic somewhere for a study/library for Avram.

Meanwhile I'm excelling at being a stay at home Mom. We eat whole grain everything, including Angel Food Cakes, and we love, love, love it. Avram learns to love eggplant, cooked green beans, cooked fruit desserts and chocolate, and I become acquainted with the joy of pickles. We realize we really love eating oatmeal every morning, instead of just doing it because I'm both cheap and determined to be healthy.

When Avram graduates, one of his old Hebrew (or Religion, whichever he's feeling closer to at the moment) professor retires, and he applies for the opening. Since they all love him so much, he's their top choice, and they pay for us to move to Happy Valley. I'm happy, he's happy, and my mother's ecstatic because her grandchildren with only live an hour away from her. You all are happy for us too.

We buy Representative Clark's home in the tree streets of Utah. I used to take Avram on walks through the tree streets, picking out the houses I would like to buy. This one was the best (and then I saw that a state representative owned it, and I realized we would never be able to afford it). (He also happens to be NieNie's dad. It's a small world.) We sell our home in Columbus at a profit, even through a sluggish housing market.

I become a Utah Democrat, which I think is what I truly am at heart - good morals and good politics (Soren, please still be my brother).

We pay off all our student loans, and then pay off our home early and then invest really well and never have to worry about money again (but we still help all the needy and poor and our kids and stuff).

Avram gets tenure, and he keeps busy writing lots of religious books that you, good little LDS consumers that you are, keep on buying to support me in the manner I'd like to become accustomed to living in.

For our second honeymoon we travel to England and see everything we didn't see the first time (which is basically everything) and we connect with our old ward members, and they love us too.

Avram becomes over/teaches at the BYU Jerusalem center and we travel there lots and are very cultural and our kids grow up as our best friends because we spend so much quality family time there. We also are there when there's finally peace in the Middle East (I like to dream really big).

After all our kiddie-poos are in school (and there are lots of them - I want a big family) then I go back to BYU and get a masters in something exciting like English or Anthropology. Then Avram's department hires me as the department secretary, because secretly when I was a secretary that was my most favorite job ever. I work only thirty hours a week, so I'm home for my kids when they come home from school.

Our kids grow up and get married all in the Temple, and we go on missions to Israel and convert everyone (or at least plan the concerts they have weekly in the BYU Jerusalem center).

We retire, and then die at the same time and are exalted to the Celestial Kingdom.

The End.

What does the rest of your life look like?

(Oh, and Mom, I know that my life isn't really going to go like this. But you and I know I'll just keep planning the rest of my life at once anyway. This is me, the same person who when I signed up for classes for high school planned out all four years of classes at one go, so I would know what to take. When I had a missionary, and he wrote home and said he wanted to be a doctor (he's now studying to be a high school English and German teacher) I planned out the rest of our life together with him as a doctor. I once had to write an obituary for a college class, and it was really easy because I'd already planned the rest of my life anyway. I don't mind if it changes all of the time. It'll keep me on my toes. Besides, then I get the fun of planning it all over again.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Conference Review

I thought that everyone would have a requisite post about Conference, so I thought I wouldn't write one. Then I've noticed that almost no one mentioned Conference (not because you aren't spiritual, I'm sure, but just because it's not necessary to mention everything you do in life) and so I wrote one anyway.

My favorite session this Conference was by far the Sunday Morning Session. Why was this? Well, I did enjoy the talks a lot, which I'll get to later, but I think the largest reason resides in the fact that this was the only session wherein I did all of the following. I stayed awake and wasn't even sleepy, took notes, didn't hold a fussy Elisheva, didn't constantly parent Lydia (read: lecture about sharing) and hence it was the only Conference session that I not only listened to, but listened to with more that half my mind and actually remembered what was said. That will go a long way to help liking a session.

Regardless, I loved the talks on Sunday Morning. In the past I've come to Conference with a specific question, spiritual or otherwise in mind, and have been edified and uplifted in regards to my internal prayed over queries. I hadn't done this for several years though, and I thought that this would be a good Conference to try bringing my questions and difficulties to the Lord. The Family Home Evening before Conference we talked as a family (well Avram and I talked, really) about questions or concerns we could bring as a family and as individuals to Conference. For the family and individuals what I thought I was thinking about was prayer. This topic was addressed, most specifically for me by Elder Bednar.

The questions that I hadn't asked, but I was thinking about anyway were about blogging. It's kind of a silly hobby sometimes. For one thing, as I've mentioned before, I don't really like the name (although it's grown on me). (There was going to be a link here to an old post where I complained about the word blog, but for the life of me I can't find it.) More importantly, blogging feels like a fringe event, one that's considered a waste of time, or for people with no lives, or something. The first time I can remember reading something about blogging was back when I read Newsweek or Time and it had a little article about a Professor who blogged (or read blogs) for three hours every day. It had this picture of him in a dark room, staring into the blue light of a computer screen, all alone. (Avram says this says more about Newsweek or Time than about blogging. I agree with him, considering every article about the Church is always very slanted and gets things wrong).

That was the image of blogging I carried for years until I found out my friend Sarah read blogs, and then suddenly since she clearly wasn't a social outcast/hermit I developed a new image of the blogging world.

Still, blogging as an activity has been on my mind lately - how productive it is or isn't, what my place in the blogosphere is, why I write, etc. Also, I had been thinking about why I don't read almost any group or controversial LDS blogs. Not because I don't usually enjoy the actual posts. More because often the comments degenerate into fighting, and frankly as a member of the same faith it's both upsetting and embarrassing for me to read. I wish arguments about what's modest (a specific one I read) weren't hanging out like dirty laundry all over the Internet for the whole wide world to read. Also, I wish that we (I include myself, because although I never post on fighting comment sections, I simmer inside and then Avram gets to hear it all) as representatives spent more time acting like the Savior that we believe in. Avram used to have to hear my worries or anger about either people's interpretations of doctrines or practices, or merely how people could fight so bitterly (I think because of the relative anonymity of a computer screen. We would never stand up in Relief Society and say those kinds of things).

Now I just avoid websites that have very controversial topics or comment free-for-alls. Once again, not because I don't think that these topics shouldn't be discussed necessarily, but because I don't like the manner they're approached in.

Realizing that I dislike argumentative approaches to blogging, I try to avoid this in my own blog. Of course, there are lots of controversial opinions I hold, and would (sometimes) love to discuss in person, but from what I've seen when others attempt this, I don't think the Internet is the best medium for constructive discussion of controversial topics. I have all sorts of topics I feel strongly about that I write mental blog posts on, but that I end up discarding because of the potential backlash.

Anyway, while listening to the Sunday Morning Session, when President Eyring talked about Unity and being nice, it hit me strongly that I wanted to be nice on my blog and sow seeds of unity in the gospel and in life in general. Now, I don't think that being nice means being fake or that being unified means all being the exact same in all things and hence being boring. St. Augustine said, (although my ever loving scholar husband says that we (we being people like him) know he didn't say actually say it, but I say "whatever," because it's a good point anyway) "In the essentials, unity, in the non essentials liberty, and in all things, charity." So being unified doesn't equal being the same. I felt very supported in trying to focus on nice things, in general. The posts that I cringe over writing the most are all because they are negative rants of some kind or one where people negatively disagreed in the comments, and I'd like to look back over all I've written and not cringe at all.

Sometimes I have a hard time in life and sometimes I even write about it. I don't mean that I have to only write posts that sound like Seriously, So Blessed. I mean that even when I have hard times, I want to be nice and try to be positive.



Then in the next talk - yes, I know that I've spent more time talking about blogging than about the session, but this is what I felt inspired from the session. And it didn't take this long to think all of this in my head. In the next talk, by Elder Hales, he mentioned that we should respond in a Christlike way to things in life, and one of the specific examples he gave was nice comments on blogs. Later in his talk he also admonished to stay on the high ground online. (I'd like to give an actual quote here, but unfortunately the written copies of the talks aren't up yet). Here I felt re-strengthened in focusing my Internet activities on positive sites and thoughts, so that I come away from Internet and blogging time uplifted instead of dejected or worried.

On another note, I also really liked Elder Cristofferson's talk on Zion. The story about the table in the trailer park made me realize that I am far too concerned with having a nice home that matches and is cute, and don't spend enough effort on helping others, or staying in budget because I feel that the Declaration of Independance actually says I have a right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happinees, and matching couches, a cute toddler bed, and a microwave.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Inside I'm Single Too

I stumbled across this blog, My Super Hopeless Romance, and I can't stop reading it. My heart just bleeds all over the page every time there's a new entry. The very cynical part of me say it could just be a hoax, but I'm 95% sure it's real (because, could anyone's life be that sad? Yes, yes it could.) Avram wasn't sure he understood writing a blog instead of a personal journal, but I can. Clearly.

Anyway, every time I read I realize that Cardy and I are exactly the same. Except that I'm married with two kids and three years older and she's single and in love with her best friend who's oblivious and has a girlfriend. Inside though, I'm still 21 and single and agonizing over boys inside and even worse, I always worried that I would never get married and so really, we are the same.

I know I've never highlighted a blog before, but really, you should read it. And then go find Seth and ostracize him.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Eschetalogical Questions

Did anyone besides me notice that Kansas City area, where a new temple will be built, includes Independence, Missouri? Did anyone besides me wonder if President Monson said the Kansas City area because he didn't want to give the idea that we were starting to build a temple in Zion/or alternately that we are building a temple in Zion but he didn't want everyone to move to Missouri and wait for the Second Coming? Does anyone besides me hope that they are going to build a temple in Independence, Missuori, because as Avram says it will be a great sign that the work is moving forward?

Just Wondering.

Summer of My Spontaneity

Avram's at the Priesthood session, both of my girls are asleep for the night, and I am completely alone. Have I mentioned it's my birthday? Yup, I'm 26 big ones today. So indulge me in a long, rambling post that's full of sentiment and memories. I love talking about my past. Really. My whole childhood I planned to publish my journals as memoirs someday, like Anne Frank without the whole Jews in hiding in WWII aspect.

Through the wonders of Facebook, I became recontacted by an old halcyon college era friend, Jarom, this last week. Those were crazy days.

I first met Jarom the summer after my freshman year, at BYU, at a swimming pool. I mentioned that I was going to go practice swordfighting with a friend (probably the last time I actually pretended that I was going to swordfight, but that's another story), and he perked up and came along. Everyone loved Jarom, he was real suave and a ladies' man and looked like a hobbit, but in a good way. I'm serious, he's five feet and four inches and has curly hair. Most girls either had huge crushes on him or hated him (they were jealous, I bet).

Jarom was also the most spontaneous person I've ever met in my life. That was a crazy summer, because it was full of him doing all sorts of crazy, spontaneous things. Shortly after we met he came along on a ward trip to see the Manti Mormon Miracle Pageant (in Manti, south of Provo), and we ended up in the same car. On the hour and a half drive home in the middle of the night after the pageant we got to talking about how much we like city-scapes. I told him that I especially loved watching Salt Lake City at night from the top of Ensign's Peak.

What did we do next? We dropped off the other sleeping passenger in the car and drove to Salt Lake at two in the morning to climb Ensign's Peak. First we drove by the temple, and it sat there in the wee hours and was green, and absolutely beautiful (I have no idea how a grey granite temple could be green, it must have been a trick of the lights). We then climbed Ensign Peak at four in the morning, and watched first the city scape and then the sun rise while singing hymns from the hymnbook I'd surreptitiously brought along. This trip was made all the more amazing by the fact that I had known him for less than two weeks and had never had a conversation alone with him before this.

We and others went stargazing, one of my favorite activities ever, many times that summer. Once when we came home my roommate and I were locked out, and so made up a bed for ourselves in the back yard with all of the blankets we'd taken to lie while star-watching.

We spent a Sunday evening wading through the mud in the Botany Pond canal until one in the morning. We even had a mud fight. Covered in mud at one in the morning, I found out I had forgotten my keys, and none of my (nine) roommates responded to me knocking on the door. Finally Jarom took me to his grandparent's house in Orem (where he lived), where luckily his very low key mother was staying as well, and he woke her up and had me sleep in her room (after borrowing some of his PJ's) in the extra bed. Unfortunately no one had told his grandparents I was staying there when I came upstairs wearing his clothes in the morning....

He'd show up at my house at eight in the morning on a Saturday with an ice-cream machine to make ice-cream.

We went on walks to the amphitheater behind the insane asylum in central Provo, as well as many other places. We even had a huge fight at that amphitheater - a little drama is spontaneous too.

He told me I was graceful, although I'm really quite clumsy, which I told him. He clarified it was the more important kind of grace (did I mention this was under the moonlight?) (Hey, sometimes when I'm all alone on a Saturday night I like to revel in remembering compliments I've received. I know this isn't actually spontaneous, but humor me.)

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a wee bit of a crush on him. I had a huge crush on him that Summer. We never dated, although we talked about it. Ultimately we made great friends, but would have had a lousy relationship.

For my birthday that year he gave me a letter. A letter that said he loved me (I thought he meant he loved me like a sister, he meant he was in love with me, but then he went away for a visit, and came back and never brought up the letter again. Years later I asked him about it, and he said he'd realized that we wouldn't work, so he hadn't pursued anything. I'd realized the same think a few weeks before him, so we were all happy). I still have that letter - I keep everything even remotely emotional from every boy I've ever even thought of liking, or that has somewhat liked me. Sentimental is my middle name.

After that Summer I dated a guy named Peter briefly, and Jarom dated my roommate briefly, and then I was in school again (he wasn't in college) and he made other friends, and although we were always still friendly with one another, that crazy, crazy Summer only remains as a shining jewel amongst my memories.

I'm a huge fan of the color personality test, and although my whole life I've been a red/blue (Type A pushy personality/people and relationship personality, in a nutshell) split, for a few years after that, every time took the test I came up as a yellow/red/blue (yellow being fun/party personality). That's how much influence that Summer with Jarom had on me.

In my mind, Jarom is still that happy-go-lucky crazy hobbit, while I'm still nineteen and surrounded by lots of friends and admirers (hey, I have a very rose colored memory). So it surprised me when he wrote me this week on Facebook and said, "Are you still being spontaneous? I kinda calmed down and don't do much unexpected anymore. Well, at least not comparatively."

Granted, I have two daughters now, and he's married with two sons now, but it still surprised me somehow. Surprise that Jarom wasn't still living in Orem in 2002, I guess. Oh, of course I'd known he'd gotten married (I think I even got an invitation). When I'd married Avram I'd bought his desk which we used until we left Provo. I'd seen him many times in the years following. So I'd known that he'd grown older too, but that knowledge never filtered through to my state of being.

I'm sure that although Jarom doesn't get into mud fights on the spur of the moment nor does he drive an extra two hours for the kick of it, spontaneity is enough of his makeup that he does keep life exciting. Sadly, although that Summer I fine honed my ability to pick and go without even a moment's notice, always with a crazy destination in mind, my spontaneity has long since been swallowed by diapers, bedtime routines and scheduled meals. It takes me a half hour to even get my girls ready to leave the house and actually arrive to the car, let alone any destination.

I wouldn't trade this life for that. I love being a Mom and being married, and although I sometimes wish I could visit the land of magical 19 year old Summers, I would never want to stay there forever. For one thing there's no lasting joy like a child, which all the stargazing can never replace.

But sometimes, I like to remember the time when just us two drove to the country and watched the Leonids falling in the August sky while I lay there in the middle of an alfalfa field feeling kindred to the meteors (and very aware of Jarom next to me, becaause I did like him) and more alive than most sleeping people surrounding me in their farm houses. (Although then a police officer came and made us move because we were on private property, and we had to go watch the shower outside of a national park by the highway because it was public land. Hey, no memory is perfect.)