We have now been settled (if you can actually call it that) in Michigan for a little over two weeks. All in all it has been quite the positive experience, but not without quite a few changes.
Simply put, things are just plain different here.
The house. Our home is old (built in 1920), and very different from what we're used to, but charming. It is a little bit creaky and a lot drafty, but I think it is perfect for us. I still have quite a bit of work to put into it to make it "just right" and I am sure I'll have lots to blog about in the home decor department. Of course, I'm still getting used to the layout. I find myself turning the wrong way in the kitchen to throw something away or to open the fridge and I spend a lot of time wandering around trying to determine where I might have decided to store something. But most importantly, the kids love it, and they are so excited to be here because of our house. Sophia will often walk by the fireplace or her bedroom and squeal "My new house!" Adorable.
The time. I'm embarrassed to admit that my entire family, with the exception of Joel, still seems to be running on Utah time. Since we are now in the Eastern Time Zone, this means that we get up around 10 in the morning and go to bed way too late. This week I intend to conquer the time change, especially since school is starting for the girls next week and they will have to be up super early.
The weather. The day the movers got here it was 95 degrees and very, very humid. We kind of thought we would die from the heat. Everyone told us it was a complete anomaly, and indeed, a few days later it cooled down and has rained every day since. I have been sorely tempted to turn on the heat in my house (in August!), but resisted the urge and have resorted to wearing sweaters and cuddling up in my down comforters. I can't wait for the long, cold winter. :) Do you think it's acceptable to turn up the thermostat in September? 'Cause that's tomorrow.
The scenery. Compared to the desert of Phoenix, where Joel did his doctoral work, Utah is a veritable oasis. But after being in Michigan a couple weeks, I think that Utah is pretty much a desert wasteland just about on par with Arizona. Hello greenery. Hello huge trees everywhere. Hello old architecture. Hello Lake Superior. We basically live in a quaint little village in the woods on a hill on the shore of a lake. Truly breathtaking.
The Church. Of course, my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is much less established here than it is in Utah and Arizona. I expected that. I even attended our new branch while I was house-hunting and was made very aware of just how small it is. It's still a huge adjustment, though. I got called as the Young Women President after being here only one week. I don't get any counselors or advisors, and I only have two really active girls, a couple that come occasionally, and a handful that don't come at all. Joel hasn't been given a calling yet, but I'm sure they'll put him to work very soon. I can see that the members are very close to each other, and I do look forward to being a part of that. It's very different from feeling lost in the shuffle of a very large ward.
The people. Within minutes of the moving truck driving up to our house, we had three neighbors visit us, and more and more have dropped by as we are here longer. And they are all amazing. One is another music professor who knew we would be living two doors down. His wife is a florist and they brought us a beautiful flower arrangement and a couple popsicles due to the extreme heat. Another neighbor brought us banana bread, and was especially excited to meet us because she grew up in Utah and actually attended Joel's high school with his older sisters. One neighbor even brought us two Yooper Scoopers (heavy duty snow shovels)--a small one for the kids and a big one for Joel and me. We've had a few other neighbors bring dinner and many others just give us a huge welcome to the community. Which is more than plenty. This has never, ever, EVER happened to us before when we've moved in. I definitely have a lot of cookies to bake and thank you notes to write.
The garbage. We were a bit stymied when we first moved in because we couldn't find the city-assigned garbage can for our house. As it turns out, you don't get one. Instead, you buy yellow and orange trash bags that say City of Houghton: A Nice Place to Live and you just throw them on the side of the road on trash day. I still didn't believe it until I saw people actually doing it on our first Tuesday here. I think we'll probably buy a big trash bin to keep them all in, but it is nice that I won't have to go putting stuff in all the neighbor's cans on trash pickup day when I have an unusually heavy trash week (like I've been having for the past couple months with all the moving organization!).
The schools. I guess there is some Michigan law that says the school districts may not begin class until after Labor Day. This is very different from Utah and Arizona schools, which generally start in early to mid-August. Michigan also pays for all of the school supplies, so my kids have no supply lists to gather. So, I have them home for another week and then they will get on a bus to go to their first day of school. Yet another big change for us who have lived a block away from the elementary school the past three years. The bus stop is about a block away from our house, and school starts almost an hour earlier anyway, so we have some very early mornings to look forward to!
The streets. Yes, I'm a westerner. I'm used to the grid system. Even in Phoenix they have it--just with street names on top of it. Here, there is no grid. The streets are like a willy-nilly maze and I have to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B in the mess of streets that stop without warning or change to another street name, causing extreme confusion. For instance, the girls' Elementary school is on Bridge Street (or so I thought), but I couldn't figure out how to get there from the south. I could get there from the north, but it seemed the longer route from my house. Finally, I figured out that if you are coming from the south it is no longer Bridge Street. It is Military Street. And the school is, in fact, on Military. Sigh. I'm getting it, slowly but surely. And I can always find my way back home, even if it is a bit convoluted sometimes. Besides, getting lost all the time helps me figure it out even better, right?
These are just a few of the changes we're learning to deal with. But like I said, the changes all seem to be positive at this point. At least, I'm choosing to look at them that way. Except maybe the cold. I'm really not so positive about that right now. It is still August after all!
Monday, August 31, 2009
We have now been settled (if you can actually call it that) in Michigan for a little over two weeks. All in all it has been quite the positive experience, but not without quite a few changes.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I'm back up and running!
I have had internet for about a week now, and I have tried to get back into commenting and reading other blogs. Otherwise, I'm still quite busy putting the house together and probably will be for some time.
I am very lucky that I had not one, but two, uncles living along our Utah-Michigan driving route. And in perfect spots, too.
Stop number one was just outside of Denver--just about an 8 hour drive for us from Cedar City.
When we got there, my aunt had bubbles ready for the stir-crazy, stuck-in-the-car-all-day girls, and they had a wonderful time blowing them and running around in the yard in general. Once all the wiggles were out, we had a lovely pasta dinner, bubble baths and great conversation over brownies after the kiddos were abed.
A fabulous end to the first of four long driving days, I say!
Friday, August 28, 2009
I’m shaking in my shoes a little, stepping onto the hallowed ground that is Lara’s blog. She is at once funny, forthright, informative, intelligent and inspiring—five things that tend to make a great blogger. But I also have the pleasure of knowing her firsthand, and let me tell you, that is a distinct privilege. However….I can hear Lara blushing from my effusive compliments. She may even want to run and hide somewhere. So perhaps I should get on with my guest-post! For as long as I can remember, our family has relocated every two to three years. My Dad, now a retired Army colonel, would get this look on his face, and we just knew. The Look was something between a smile and an annoyed scowl. As in, “Oh, I hate to tell my family we’re moving again….but what can I do?!” At the age of 12, I vowed that I would not marry a military man. My dad sweetly asked, “But what if you fall in love with a military man?” My confident answer: “I just won’t.” For almost 8 years now, I have had the immense joy of being married to a handsome soldier, with whom I have moved a total of 8 times. Let me tell you—I would not consider myself a person who embraces change. I use the same route on the way to the store; I watch the same five TV shows; I load my dishwasher the same way every time, with accompanying anxiety if I decide on the fly to change it up. But let’s consider for a moment Nature vs. Nurture. It is my nature to be resistant to change. If I can help it, I will not beckon upheaval. But I have been nurtured to accept change, to make the best of what must come, and sometimes—to be brave and bring on some change myself. On a Thursday night a short while ago, Lara stopped by my house to pick up a CD. We chatted for a moment at the door, and she said something that really set my mental wheels turning. “The one thing about moving is that you can sort of re-invent yourself.” Immediately, my mind was reeling with flashbacks of the countless times I have had to move. There was the time we moved from Belgium to Georgia, and my little sister took the opportunity of re-invention to new heights. We sat in church, very aware that we were very new. One sweet, unsuspecting girl asked my little sister, “What’s your name?” “Lucy.” I flinched and slowly turned to her, my eyes full of big-sister scolding. But she was brazenly brave, and continued. “Yes. Lucy—short for Lucille.” I couldn’t stand it; my moral compass was going haywire. “Actually, her name is Kate. Short for Kathryn. She just wishes her name was Lucy.” “Rae! Don’t be rude….” “Kate! Don’t be a liar!” Oh, the complex nature of sisterly relationships…. Anyway—each time we moved, in some small way, I did re-invent myself. Little by little, I was reformed, but with this re-invention, each new place brought out my most authentic shape. I was astounded to find just how much I had become myself through all the revolving locations around me. “I am going to be an exerciser,” Lara said that night. I wondered silently which aspect of my life I would want to refine, were I to re-locate again. My temper. My writing. Quality time with my children. Selfless service to others. I tallied countless options for improvement, given my oh-so human state. It doesn’t really matter, though, does it? As long as we are consistent in our quest for self-improvement, and brave about who we can become, the sky is the limit. After all, the greatest secret to embracing change is to view it as an opportunity: a new route, a new destination, a new beginning.
I’m shaking in my shoes a little, stepping onto the hallowed ground that is Lara’s blog. She is at once funny, forthright, informative, intelligent and inspiring—five things that tend to make a great blogger. But I also have the pleasure of knowing her firsthand, and let me tell you, that is a distinct privilege.
However….I can hear Lara blushing from my effusive compliments. She may even want to run and hide somewhere. So perhaps I should get on with my guest-post!
For as long as I can remember, our family has relocated every two to three years. My Dad, now a retired Army colonel, would get this look on his face, and we just knew. The Look was something between a smile and an annoyed scowl. As in, “Oh, I hate to tell my family we’re moving again….but what can I do?!”
At the age of 12, I vowed that I would not marry a military man. My dad sweetly asked, “But what if you fall in love with a military man?” My confident answer: “I just won’t.” For almost 8 years now, I have had the immense joy of being married to a handsome soldier, with whom I have moved a total of 8 times.
Let me tell you—I would not consider myself a person who embraces change. I use the same route on the way to the store; I watch the same five TV shows; I load my dishwasher the same way every time, with accompanying anxiety if I decide on the fly to change it up.
But let’s consider for a moment Nature vs. Nurture. It is my nature to be resistant to change. If I can help it, I will not beckon upheaval. But I have been nurtured to accept change, to make the best of what must come, and sometimes—to be brave and bring on some change myself.
On a Thursday night a short while ago, Lara stopped by my house to pick up a CD. We chatted for a moment at the door, and she said something that really set my mental wheels turning. “The one thing about moving is that you can sort of re-invent yourself.”
Immediately, my mind was reeling with flashbacks of the countless times I have had to move. There was the time we moved from Belgium to Georgia, and my little sister took the opportunity of re-invention to new heights. We sat in church, very aware that we were very new.
One sweet, unsuspecting girl asked my little sister, “What’s your name?”
I flinched and slowly turned to her, my eyes full of big-sister scolding.
But she was brazenly brave, and continued. “Yes. Lucy—short for Lucille.”
I couldn’t stand it; my moral compass was going haywire.
“Actually, her name is Kate. Short for Kathryn. She just wishes her name was Lucy.”
“Rae! Don’t be rude….”
“Kate! Don’t be a liar!”
Oh, the complex nature of sisterly relationships….
Anyway—each time we moved, in some small way, I did re-invent myself. Little by little, I was reformed, but with this re-invention, each new place brought out my most authentic shape. I was astounded to find just how much I had become myself through all the revolving locations around me.
“I am going to be an exerciser,” Lara said that night. I wondered silently which aspect of my life I would want to refine, were I to re-locate again. My temper. My writing. Quality time with my children. Selfless service to others. I tallied countless options for improvement, given my oh-so human state.
It doesn’t really matter, though, does it? As long as we are consistent in our quest for self-improvement, and brave about who we can become, the sky is the limit. After all, the greatest secret to embracing change is to view it as an opportunity: a new route, a new destination, a new beginning.
Rachel (also known as Rae) is always hungry. Always. And that's all the biography she has on her own blog for me to steal, so I get to make the rest up all by myself.
Rae is one of those amazing people that you hope will be your friend from the moment you meet her. She is good and kind and thoughtful and beautiful and fun to be with. We have a lot of common interests in our photography and music (she plays the cello), not to mention other things like reading, writing, mothering and crying when the alarm goes off in the morning. She is the wonderful mother of three and wife to Phill, an army man who has been deployed more than once, and who I secretly hope gets transferred to some army base in Michigan (is there one?). She is currently training for the St. George marathon and that is where our commonalities rather drastically end, unfortunately--until I make good on my word and become an exerciser, that is.
Rachel blogs at Creative Catharsis and also keeps a photography blog at Rachel DeVault Photography.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
With this being the month o’ moving for Lara and her family, I have been invited to write something about my own experiences with relocating from one loony chunk of geography to another. My husband is a federal agent, and we’ve seen our share of moving vans, seedy hotels, and drunken packers who steal your power washer as you’re heading to the tropics – where the mold is so aggressive and organized it has congressional representation and its own zip code – but thoughtfully pack your snow shovel for the same move.
Yet no move quite compares with our last, and I thought perhaps I would share with you my own personal experience of trauma and growth which took place on September 11, 2001. It's a story of hardship and triumph, a testament to sheer endurance and one woman's determination to overcome against insurmountable odds, a memorial to the unbreakable American spirit which enables all of us to nobly press forward and spit in the face of tragedy and heartbreak, giving the metaphorical finger to enemies of freedom everywhere.
On September 11, 2001, I had to renew my driver's license.
A little background:
Our family had moved to Las Vegas from San Juan, Puerto Rico, just a month earlier, because we've always had a knack for arriving in a new locale at the most hideous time of year for that particular corner of the planet.
Who moves to Las Vegas in August? I'll tell you who. The same people who moved to Seattle in November, 1990, which marked the beginning of the wettest, snowiest, most diabolical winter the Northwest had seen in 50 years.
The same people who moved to the Caribbean in July at a time when the power was out which meant, of course, no air conditioning. But at least there were plenty of mosquitoes so big they required FAA licensure. Yep, that was a plus.
So, in keeping with our track record of not googling the climate before calling the movers, we arrived in Las Vegas in August, 2001.
After a heavenly week at Mandalay Bay (at taxpayers' expense, no less, so, you know, thanks for that) we decided to find a place to stay that was closer to where our house was being built.
Our first attempt was a slimy little joint called Santa Fe Station. Without going into a lot of ugly detail, let me just assure you, it was NOT Mandalay Bay. It didn't even qualify as Mandalay Bay's dumpster. Mandalay Bay would have seen a dermatologist to have Santa Fe Station lanced.
And the first thing the criminals at Santa Fe Station did was "lose" my driver's license, which I had left at the desk as collateral while we toured a room, in case we, I don't know, waltzed off with the vibrator or something.
Eventually, we settled on a hotel that didn't have a 'pay by the hour, red lampshades extra' option, and I determined to take care of a number of details that had fallen by the wayside in our move, including replacing my license.
The first order of business, however, was the most urgent: I was out of Prozac. Unless we wanted the new town slogan to be "Whatever Happens in Vegas Goes Up in a Mushroom Cloud", DeNae needed to get her hands on some happy pills, pronto.
So I contacted the insurance-recommended doctor's office to schedule an appointment. The receptionist's response was a little odd. I asked if the doctor was, in fact, taking new patients. And she said, quote, "Uhhhh..."
So I called the insurance company to explain that, apparently, the doctor was booked up and her office staff was under some kind of gag order that prevented them from forming actual words, and could someone please shed any light on the situation?
True story. It turned out the doctor had been murdered. By her mother. Who then killed herself.
So, no, she wasn't accepting new patients at that time.
I thanked the insurance company representative for the heads' up, offered several suggestions on how to improve customer service starting with "not referring clients to dead people", and asked for another recommendation.
I got another name, and on September 11, 2001, I went to see this doctor to pick up a scrip for my anti-goforyourthroat pills.
Now, by the time my appointment actually came, I knew all about the terrible events unfolding in New York. I had two little kids with me (my kindergartner and my 3rd grader), and they kept watching the TV while we waited in the lobby, drawing pictures in the notebook I provided of planes crashing into buildings and people falling out. I'm not making this up. My husband keeps one of those pictures on the wall of his office. Kinda reminds him of why he does what he does.
After 45 minutes of waiting, during which time I filled out a small rain forest worth of forms, the receptionist informed me that the doctor would not see any new patients unless they could provide a copy of their driver's license. I explained that my license was currently being used to establish a new identity for the night manager at Santa Fe Station, and that I therefore could not give them anything to copy.
Well, then, sorry. No license, no appointment.
I don't remember much of what happened after that, but I'm pretty sure at one point I actually swore in Klingon. Whatever the case, one thing was clear: My life was only going to become more complicated in this town if I didn't have a driver's license.
So, being the Prozac-deprived semi-psychopath I now was, I concluded that the only logical course of action was to take myself and those two little ones over to the DMV and get a Nevada state driver's license, essentially from scratch.
This meant taking the written test. Which I did with my kids crawling around my feet on a floor so filthy with DMV germs that the creation of anti-bodies which resulted likely immunized them from every major communicable disease, including whatever virus it is that makes otherwise sane adults think Will Farrell can act. So that was good.
After I passed the test (barely, since who really knows or cares how many drunken prostitutes can legally be permitted in a rented Humvee limo on Prom night? The Nevada test gets down to practical matters. The answer is "42".) I began the long day's journey into oblivion that only battle hardened DMV customers can appreciate.
And of course, there were TVs everywhere, all tuned to that feedback loop that had my 3rd grader and children like her convinced that NYC was being attacked by several hundred planes crashing into several hundred buildings.
Four scary-drawing-intensive hours later, my number came up to see a clerk and finalize the paper work for my driver's license. Passed the eye test. Yes, I'll be an organ donor -- do they take Wurlitzer? Weight, umm...let's go with 165. That's right, lady. One-six-five. You got something to say? Didn't think so.
Now, for the ID part. I was prepared. I had looked up the required documentation for receiving a new license when the old one was partying with its other fraudulently obtained credential buddies (that's what they called it on the web site, verbatim), and handed the clerk both my social security card and my birth certificate.
Uh oh. Hmmm. Yeah. Weeeelll, there could be a problem here.
It seems I had caved to social pressure and that blasted institution called "tradition", and changed my name after I got married. And as a good doo-bee, I changed it with the Social Security Administration as well. So now these two perfectly legitimate forms of ID had different names on them.
The clerk assured me that everything would be all right, but she had to get the OK from her supervisor to proceed.
Cut to the supervisor. This guy was in his early 60's, and had obviously retired in all the ways that mattered except the one where you stop showing up for work. His desk was EMPTY, except for his hands folded snugly and tight atop an unused blotter. There wasn't even a name plate. He was so inert he could have been described as "glacial". Am I painting a vivid picture here?
The clerk walked over to him and explained the situation, quite well, I thought. Had a license. Was stolen. Has the proper ID. Passed the test. Needs Prozac. Stat.
He listened impassively, then rose to join her at the desk where my two now-starving children and I were waiting. Without even acknowledging I was there, nor, for that matter, casting a reflection on any mirrors, he looked at but did not touch the two cards on the desk. Looked a second time. Looked up at the ceiling (awaiting revelation?). Looked back at the cards.
Looked, finally, at me, and without so much as a hint of irony observed, "Your married name is not on your birth certificate."
And with that, he turned and walked the eight feet back to his desk, where he refolded his hands, stared into space, and waited for someone to drive a stake through his heart.
Seriously?? That's how you handle things, you cold blooded, vacuous waste of carbon and polyester?? By cleverly ascertaining that my parents had not signed up for the Ambassador Class Birth Certificate which included the Prescience Package, and therefore had no way of predicting what my married name would someday be??
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??
And this is where my version of the total structural collapse we'd been watching all morning took place.
The clerk started to say, "It's all right, dea--" but was cut off by, "No, it's NOT all right! (Initiate chin quiver sequence) Nothing about this horrid place (engage tear ducts) is all right! It's hot and it's dry (proceed with nose running) and everything is covered with rocks and dirt and people steal your stuff and make you go without your Prozac (activate sobbing protocol) and kill off your doctors! And I can't open a bank account or (big gulps of air) register my kids for school or even get a friggin' library card (thank clerk for tissue) because I don't have a driver's license! And now that (shrieking volume at full throttle) USELESS IDIOT over there tells me I can't even GET a driver's license because I wasn't freaking MARRIED when I was BORN!!! And if that isn't enough, I don't really weigh 165!! What the hell is THAT all about??? WAAAAAAAHHHH!!!"
And so it was, that on September 12th, 2001, I loaded the same two children into my van, packed up my social security card and my birth certificate, and drove the 110 miles to St. George, UT, where I obtained a copy of my Utah driver's license, which I had acquired one summer while on leave from Puerto Rico in violation of at least thirty good laws and seven or eight stupid ones. There were no lines. There was no fuss. There were no supervisors questioning my parents' precognitive abilities. Simply, "Stand here, please. Smile. Hazel is such a lovely eye color. No, you don't look an ounce over one-sixty."
So, yes, September 11, 2001 really was a terrible day. Traumatic. Horrifying. Called into question my faith in humanity. Left me feeling vulnerable and exposed to the whims of sociopaths bent on world domination. I don't know that I'll ever get over it.
And on top of it all, there was that crazy stuff in New York, too.
DeNae is a Music teacher, composer, arranger and director of the Las Vegas Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus. She is also a free-lance writer with one published book, "The Accidental Gringo".
She says that her writing style is "essayist", which means she, like Norman Mailor and Moses, is incapable of uploading digital pictures to her blog.
DeNae blogs (essays?) at My Real Life Was Backordered, but I'm pretty sure she could take over for Mary Roach at Reader's Digest if she really wanted to. In fact, once I found DeNae's blog, I promptly got rid of my subscription, since the humor column is all I really care about anyway.
Unfortunately, DeNae is the only one of my guest posters that I have not actually met in real life--but that's not for lack of trying. It seems that if I am in Vegas, that's when she decides to come to Utah, so essentially we're like two ships passing in the night. Sad, really. I even thought about crashing her nephew's wedding here in Cedar City, but that didn't work out, either.
Friday, August 21, 2009
What exactly is it about change that makes one so resistant? And as I've been pondering about this very thought for the past few weeks, (years actually) I've come to a few conclusions.
It's exciting, out of the norm and a little bit rebellious. But, when the change becomes an actuality, it's downright frightful.
Lara's Husband, Joel, is my Brother. One of six Brothers plus 2 Sisters. Growing up we had the opportunity to live in some really cool and exotic places like Israel and Hawaii. And as a little girl I always thought I would get married and move out of Utah to some cool and exotic place. So, I married a great guy from Nebraska...umm....not so exotic yet. Then we moved to Murray for five years...a great place to start a family, but still not very cool or exotic.
Then, my Husband got a really great job offer out of state.
To.......El Paso, Texas.
Cool? No. Hot as Haiti.
Exotic? Well, the primary language spoken was Spanish. And there were palm trees. But, hardly exotic.
Anyway. On to my next conclusion.
2. We tend to glorify the past.
We loved our Murray neighborhood and had some amazing friends there. But, the main issue was that we were outgrowing our house fast. It was a small, brick rambler with a mother-in-law apartment in the basement, that didn't get much use. The hardwoods were in desperate need of replacing. They were terribly creaky and plagued with fifty year old water stains that were becoming increasingly difficult to cover with rugs. We had a very small galley kitchen and a very small bathroom that we all shared. The ancient furnace needed to be replaced and the original windows were single paned & paper thin, so much that we could feel the freezing winter breeze through them as if we were outside. The driveway was cracked & the backyard was rather small.
I complained about that little brick house all the time.
And eventually, the time did come to move. Me and my Husband tirelessly worked until the wee hours of the morning getting the last boxes out into our cars and cleaning the house from top to bottom for the new owner. After the cleaning supplies were on the porch, exhausted and sore, I took one last walk through my little red brick house. The creak of the floors echoed all the more with the absence of furniture and they reminded me of the many times we would tiptoe past the baby's room with careful steps, so we would not wake them. Many times we did. And we would curse those floors.
I stared out those drafty windows and admired the beautiful, tree-lined street that beheld millions of white blossoms in the spring. I walked outside and plucked off a stem of basil from the garden and walked around the swing set that took Hank days to assemble. I could practically hear the laughter coming from my children as they climbed up and down the slide over and over.
Back inside, the fireplace looked as worn and drafty as ever, but I couldn't help but recall the warmth it provided on Christmas Eve as we busily wrapped piles of presents.
How could I possibly leave this home? The home where we as newlyweds mapped out the course of our new life. The home where we welcomed our first two babies. I cried and cried and felt like I couldn't let go. Me & my Husband knelt on those bare hardwood floors & said a prayer of gratitude. I was more thankful for this house than I had been in the many years of occupying it. And as we shut the lights and turned they key to the front door for the last time, I realized that the home is just a home. But, the memories we make as a family will follow us wherever we go. I won't lie. Two years later and I still drive by our little red brick home on Atwood Boulevard with a lump in my throat. And it will always hold a special place in my heart.
But, life goes on.
Change is sure.
Time is unyielding.
I am devastated to be "losing" Lara and my Brother, Joel, and my three darling nieces. They are two of the very best people I know on this earth and Houghton is a very lucky town come mid-August. But, I know they will embrace the change.
Far better than I.
(Insert tears...and sniffles...)
I love you guys!
Anne-Marie DeOllos is a full-time Mama to her three little rockstars: Kanoa, Gabriel and Lucas. Hank is her Honey and they've been married for 7 years. She's been a makeup artist for a really long time, but her true passions are singing and acting. She looks forward to performing more often in the future, but she's got her hands full with this Mommy role. (And she wouldn't have it any other way.) Anne-Marie writes to reflect, remember, laugh and learn.
One of the best parts about marrying Joel was that I inherited sisters--something I had never had before in my life. Anne was one of those sisters, and I'm pretty lucky to have her. I count her among my closest friends. She's also one of my favorite people to photograph because she's so stinkin' photogenic. Maybe it's all those make-up artistry skills, but I tend to think it's her beauty.
Anne-Marie blogs at Coconut Diaries.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Moving... moving.... well, it's /moving/ to think about moving...Mostly because most of my own major move involved crying, and lots of it.
The lack of control over the moving van coming (stuff arrived 2 days late, with nary a phone call from them). The fact I had no idea where ANYTHING was, I remember driving by a Wendy's and being SO happy to finally have seen a restaurant that had English writing. Not a friend in sight, and a new job to be figuring out.
It was all very moving.
But the worst part, the WORST part? Well, it was leaving our families. For you see, my husband and I decided to leave the safe confines of Utah valley and move to California just as everyone from California decided to move to Utah. Driving away from my parents house was one of the scariest, and saddest things I have ever done. Off into the unknown from something that was so well known.
But was it worth it? Boy, oh boy has it been!
So Lara, here are my favorite things about moving:
1. Family drama? Click. That's right, when the drama's gettin' high in Utah I can say "Oh man mom, one of the kids needs something, I'll call you later! click." In Utah I am forced to participate in said drama. Enjoyable? Yes.
2. The food. We thought we had great restaurants in Utah. We were wrong. I still miss Brick Oven, I will admit. Although, at first it's hard to find those "great" spots -- once you do
find them, you will find they are just as delicious.
3. The weather. Just thought I'd rub it in that my weather is awfully nice. You can rub it in that you are close to Canada, or the north pole. :)
4. The friends. I am guessing you will also find in your ward that there are people just waiting for a friend, for "psuedo-family" to wrap their arms around. People who leave our ward miss the tight-knit friendship we share here because most of us are without family. They are waiting for you. I think you already know this.
5. The experiences. When God tells you to move, it's for a reason and when you find that reason it's amazing to see how He has guided your life. I am so grateful that he told us to move here. We never would've thought of it on our own. Really. NEVER.
6. You just have each other. There's something about going through a hard experience with your spouse and realizing that they're there for you -- no matter what. And that you're there for them is enjoyable as well.
Originally from Utah, Hilary currently lives in the Bay Area. She recently added child #3, a girl with two great big brothers and a band directing daddy. She is a nurse to the core, but also dabbles in photography, scrapbooking, cooking and serious DVR usage.
Hilary blogs at Pulling Curls and has the knack for being funny and insightful all at the same time. Truth be told, I appreciate her insight more than her wit, although I do enjoy a hearty laugh fairly regularly because of something she wrote.
Hilary and I "met" on a scrapbooking message board, but quickly found that I remembered her band-directing husband from our college days (I think I had music history with him) and she had gone to high school with my own orchestra-directing husband. We were pretty much instant bosom friends just like Anne Shirley and Diana Barry and have rarely gone a day without speaking to each other in some form (usually instant message) in four years. We've had the opportunity to get together in person several times, usually at our favorite Provo restaurant, Brick Oven.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Lots of my friends went on fun vacations for the summer--Sea World, Knotsberry Farm, Disneyland, etc. Where did I go? Well, I went to Woodland Hills, Logan, Hyrum and Saratoga Springs, Utah as well as Montrose, Colorado. Why? Family lives there and when your family doesn't live where you live, your vacation life seems to revolve around visiting them wherever they may be.
Being on vacation has brough to light one of life's biggest unsolved mysteries for me: The Suitcase Issue & How Do You Find Anything You Need In Your Initially Very Well Organized Suitcase By The Second Day? Seriously, it's not as though I ran through the house just chucking stuff into that rectangular contraption (that is desperately in need of a new zipper, but that's a whole other story). I carefully thought through important things such as:
Church shoes (Don't tell me you haven't seen people at church whom you can easily identify as forgetting this seemingly small item which makes a huge difference in your Sunday ensemble!)
Lotion (Some areas are much more dry than other areas and your legs can start to look like a vast, desert wasteland.)
Swimming diapers (Those regular diapers will not work in a pool and buying an entire pack can break the bank!)
Q-tips (May not be important to some of you, but there is just something for me that feels so incomplete if I feel like I have dirty ears when I step out of the shower.)
Cell phone chargers (It's great to feel connected, but you may find out you don't have your closest friends' numbers memorized when your phone dies and you forgot something crucially important that requires your friends to sneak into your home using your hidden key.)
Anyway, I remembered all of these items for this trip, but even with my most careful foraging through various suitcases, they still look like disheveled messes by this point and I'm finding it hard to not just wear the same shorts day after day instead of facing the monster that is the bottom of the duffel bag my husband and I shared. I've already resorted to having my boys sleep in whatever it is they wore that day and my daughter is sleeping in an adult T-shirt. Any hope of a schedule for naps and bedtimes disappeared with the sunlight (which is apparently close to 9 pm each night I've learned) and since visiting grandparents I've discovered that I've come to feel that if every item of food which my children are going to eat has to have chocolate, can't it also have some nuts in there for protein? You know, some peanut M&Ms at least?
Oh well, schedules and suitcases neither one seem to be very helpful on vacations. A break from normal life will just have to be exactly that. My kids will have to start eating items with grains and vegetables when we return home. I'd continue to bemoan the situation, but my cinnamon toast with chocolate milk are getting cold.
Audrey Petersen is 30 years old, 5' 7 1/2" and weighing in at none of your bid-ness! Wife to Derek & mother of three--one little girl and two little boys. (Except, I'm pretty sure she's celebrated a birthday between the time I set this to post and the time it actually posted. No matter, she probably prefers to stay 30 anyway. I know I would.)
Audrey blogs (not nearly often enough) at Pete & Re-Pete, and I usually shout for joy each time her site updates in my reader. At one time she was my hand-picked-by-the-Bishop first counselor in Relief Society, and took over for me as president not much longer after that. That experience taught me quite a bit about how the Lord uses each of us differently in the same callings, and I learned much about leadership from watching Audrey.
This post may not be about moving, but Audrey tells me she HATES packing, and I have to heartily agree. Doesn't matter if it's for a week long vacation or to move across the country--packing stinks.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Of course, I'm really NOT here.
I'm driving through Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin today, probably still praying that my house will close before I get to Michigan tomorrow.
Being born in mid-August, and then marrying an academic has meant that I often find myself moving on or around my birthday. And here we are again. Moving on my birthday. Fun times.
I say that it means my birthday doesn't count this year.
I'm totally still 34.
(But happy birthday to me, anyway!)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Entering junior high (or in my case, it was called, “middle school”) is always a nasty experience, but I’d venture that mine was a bit rockier than most. My family had just returned from a three-year stint in Finland. Those years were hard, too, in their own way, especially the first one, where it was cool to beat up the American girl, I had to make friends, and (!) learn the language.
But there was one big plus: I spent all three years with the same teacher and with the same classmates, in the same classroom. I had no idea what a good thing that was until I lost it.
Back in the States, Mom took me to get registered me for school. Now I’d have seven new classes with seven new teachers and likely few students I knew at all—a far cry from my last three years.
On our tour through the school, we happened past the library, and my mother recognized the assistant librarian, Mrs. Peterson. They chatted a bit, and then Mrs. Peterson said they still needed another TA. Was my schedule full, or would I like to be a Library TA for one of my electives?
I thought that sure, it might be fun, and signed up. I didn’t give it a second thought, beyond thinking it would be an easy A.
School started, and every single day, I ached hour after hour. Even though the halls were packed, I’d never felt so alone. The school was fed by several elementary schools, but I recognized students everywhere I looked.
Only they didn’t recognize me. For all they knew, the person I’d been three years ago had vanished off the planet. But I knew so many of them.
That girl right there? She’s Keisha and she plays violin. Once, we had some stupid fight. I didn’t remember what it was about, but I always felt bad about it.
The guy behind me in French was Kyle. In fourth grade he sat by me and was really smart. He used to bring Boy’s Life to school.
That kid over there? Chad. He had a crush on me one year and baked me a lopsided heart cake for Valentine’s. He even tried to kiss me, and that was the one time I was grateful for a big brother who beat up on me, because I shocked the guys by fighting for my “honor” and got away.
It went on and on. In Science was Emily from kindergarten. Sarah from third grade showed up in another class.
There was Mark from second grade, who tried switching places with his twin Jeff on April Fool’s Day. And the boy who ate paste and had his hair pulled in first grade by the teacher who was later fired for child abuse.
I saw Jeannie and Stacie and Kelly and . . . oh, my heart just broke. It went on and on. None of them saw me. They looked right through me, because I didn’t exist to them.
They didn’t have the slightest clue who I was, and I couldn’t very well just grab them by the sleeve and say, “Hey, remember me from three (or more) years ago? Remember how we played at recess together in Mrs. Wallace’s class? Or, “Remember how I came to your house when we were in Mrs. Mixa’s class?” It’s not like they’d remember, even if I had the guts to say something—which I didn’t.
I’d just spent three years with the same group of students. When I made friends with the Finnish girls, I never again had to step out of that comfort zone and do it again, let alone in so many classes and in a new culture, and a new (yes, English felt new) language. Somehow, my mouth was paralyzed shut. I couldn’t make friends. I couldn’t speak.
But each day when my library TA hour arrived, I walked into the room and the burden fell from my shoulders like a physical weight dropping to the ground. There were no students to interact with, no one to judge me or try to get along with or make friends with or to impress. There were just shelves and shelves of my best friends: books.
Plus Mrs. Peterson. She became my best human friend.
My library jobs were easy. Checking out books to students wasn’t too scary. Checking in books even less so. Shelving was quiet and non-threatening. I could do that with nothing but me and silence and my thoughts. If there was nothing urgent needing to be done, I sat at the front desk and read. Sometimes I brought along some knitting.
But quite often I found myself in the back room talking to Mrs. Peterson. She made me feel at ease; my paralyzed mouth could open around her and speak. I could be myself. She never once treated me like a dumb little kid. I was always an equal in her eyes. My opinion mattered. I was there. I was present. I was never invisible to her. Her face lit up when she saw me, and she waved good-bye each time my hour was up.
She was the bright spot in my days, the one thing that kept me going during that miserable year. I had someone and something to look forward to. Someone to talk to, one place where I could drop my worries at the door and be and matter.
By the second semester, thanks to Mrs. Peterson’s genuine friendship, I had the confidence to open my mouth just enough to make two friends, one of which—miracle of miracles—is still a close friend.
I doubt Mrs. Peterson has any idea of the enormous impact she had on me, even though I kept visiting her off and on over the years, even after I got into college.
That school is no longer a middle school, and I don’t know where Mrs. Peterson is now. But if I could find her again, I’d give her a big hug (and likely some chocolate), then let her know how what a balm she was during a difficult transition for one girl in desperate need of a soft place to fall during a difficult year of middle school.
And then I wonder if I’ve ever overlooked the chance to be someone else’s balm by doing something as simple seeing them and talking to them in a genuine and real way. Because when I boil down what Mrs. Peterson did for me, that’s what it was. She cared. She talked to me. She saw me. I can do that, can’t I? But have I? It’s something I should strive for, because I know firsthand what a powerful effect it can have on a person’s day—and on their lives.
Annette Lyon is a historical novelist, freelance writer, and editor when she's not wearing her wife and mother hats. She received the 2007 Best of State medal for fiction in Utah and was a 2007 Whitney Award finalist. Annette blogs at The Lyon's Tale, where you can find two of my personal favorite installments: Word Nerd Wednesday and the serial column detailing Annette's writing journey.
If you like her blog, I know you'll love her books. I've read several of them since I met her, and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. Her latest published novel is Tower of Strength.
I honestly don't know how I managed NOT to ever meet her until just last month. It seems impossible since we know many of the same people (case in point: The girl named Keisha mentioned in the above post I knew as a music major at BYU and the boy named Kyle I dated while in high school), not to mention the fact that my husband, Joel, and Annette graduated from the same high school in the same year. Finally getting to meet her face to face only felt like catching up with a friend I've had forever.
Shortly after I discovered Annette's blog, I found myself sick in bed with some icky bug. I used the downtime to read every single thing Annette had ever posted and I had a wonderful time doing so. I hope you enjoy her blog as much as I do--she's brilliant.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Last year, my family lived in Ames, Iowa while my husband was completing his internship for his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. We knew it was only going to be a one year stint, and we were excited to finally have him be finished with school after 10 years. He applied for jobs across the country, from Eastern Kentucky, to central Texas, to Knoxville, Tennessee, to three sites in Utah. We accepted a job offer in Cedar City, Utah and prepared ourselves for the move. I had never been to Cedar City. I knew no one there. All I knew about it was that there were a lot of red rocks in the area, and the mountain biking and fishing nearby were amazing (my husband loves both). Right before we moved, I decided to Google "Cedar City bloggers." I only found one blog (not Lara's), and I felt uncomfortable reading it. Up to that point I had never read or commented on anyone's blog that I did not already know. I quickly closed the blog and we moved shortly after.
We had lived in Utah for about a month when I decided to search for bloggers in my town again. This time, Lara's was the first one I came across. She was very friendly, and I didn't feel uncomfortable reading her blog. I wondered whether she would be uncomfortable knowing someone she didn't know was reading her blog, so at first I just lurked. A couple of weeks later, however, she wrote a post about a woman in her ward spotting a tarantula when she was weeding her garden.
I had only lived in Cedar City for six weeks. I had no idea there were tarantulas here. It completely and utterly terrified me that I might see a tarantula in my own yard. So...I got brave and left Lara a comment:
Okay, you're totally freaking me out...I just found your blog (love it, by the way), and I just moved to Cedar City from Iowa last month. DON'T tell me there are tarantulas!!! I have been freaking out by all of the little daddy long legs I keep finding in my house. And now I have to watch for black widows, hobo spiders, and tarantulas?!? Should I move back to Iowa???
Oh, and my name is Erin. Nice to meet you!
Of course, Lara had to come over and see who this 'Erin' was that was commenting on her blog for the first time...and that, my friends, is the beginning of a great friendship. We have since gone out to lunch, gotten together and let our kids play with each other while we visited, and made cupcake pops together. Now, Lara is moving across the country, but I am so glad we will still have our blogs to help us keep in touch.
Good luck, Lara. I wish you the best.
Erin is taller than her husband when she wears shoes and he is barefoot (and he is 6'1"). I can attest to this fact, since I was a little surprised by her height when I first met her, since I am usually taller than most women (and many men) that I meet. Erin plays the piano, and loves to teach; at one insane point she had 42 students. If Erin could do whatever she wanted 24 hours a day, she would read and blog.
Speaking of blogging, Erin blogs at If You Give a Mom a Moment, and is an awesome friend. Not only is her blog fun and insightful, but you can learn a lot about how to be a better blogger from Erin. She is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, and I can say that, because I've met her. I'm thankful daily that Erin read my post about tarantulas and other creepy crawlies and commented on it. As hard as it was for me to live in Cedar City, Erin made the last year a little bit easier for me, and I will miss her muchly. But not as much as I might, because I will have her blog to keep me company.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
But moving is just painful.
Exactly one week from today, we will load up our beloved mini-van and begin our four-day trek to our new home in the North.
One week, people. I can't even believe it.
We still haven't closed on our house, but our loan officer assures us that all will be well and that we will close before we actually arrive in Michigan. Of course, since it is my job to think of everything that could possibly go wrong, I am a little worried that something is going to fall through.
My current house is probably 3/4 packed, and yet it amazes me how the kids can find ways to mess it all up when I have either packed or sold or given to charity all of their toys with the exception of their teddy bears.
Yesterday, I bought a bit of new furniture for my new house (pending closing). It did make me rather excited for all the home improving I have in store for me.
Joel was officially released from the Bishopric on Sunday, and it was surprisingly emotional for me. I mean, hello? He can sit with me during church now! But the thought of saying good-bye to anyone is awful, and so I'm trying to avoid it at all costs. I guess the releasing just made things that much more real, and I have to say good-bye to people.
We sold our car to our next-door neighbor, after a previous buyer fell through. I am so thankful that it all worked out. Our new house (pending closing) is only about 2.5 blocks from the University, so Joel can walk or learn to snowshoe. Besides, I figure that when we're buried in snow, it isn't likely that I'll want to be driving in it on a daily basis, so he can have the car. We survived quite well in the Phoenix area with only one car for almost three years before we bought the van, so I have no doubt that we'll be able to handle it in a much smaller town.
So that's it, everything is pretty much in order. We're really going.
And that means that I won't be online for a while. This is officially my last post until I have internet service in my new (pending closing) house. It took me a good two weeks after I moved here from Arizona to acquire an internet provider, so I'm not banking on it being quick. Besides, unpacking is almost as much of a trial as packing is, so I may not even have time to come up for air anyway.
Which poses a slight problem with my BlogHer contract, among other things (like reading and commenting on all of your blogs, for instance). While I couldn't figure out a way to visit you and make comments while driving through most of Middle America, I did figure out a fun way to honor my contract and not have to stress myself out coming up with posts during the craziest two weeks of my life.
I have asked seven amazingly talented bloggers to guest write for me. Not only are they amazing and talented, I am lucky enough to count all of them as my friends. And lucky for me, they all agreed to guest post here on my blog! I figure that since the reason for their posting is my huge move and life change, that they should write about that very topic. I have absolutely loved each post that has come in, and I'm sure you will, too.
So good-bye for a time, but not farewell. And now I must go pack a few more boxes and do a few loads of laundry...
Sunday, August 02, 2009
This is my parents' dog, Daisy.
She's getting on in years now. She was born about a week before Joel and I got married...her birthday is June 17, 1999, and we got married on June 26, 1999. She was a super hyper, happy puppy and adolescent dog. So much so, that I was totally worried about how she would behave around my brand new little baby Bria. I think Daisy was about a year and a half old when Bria was born.
For a time, I never let Daisy near her when I was at my parents' house. But one day, she escaped from whatever room she had been locked up in and came to check out the new human. She was totally gentle and protective of her, and I never worried about her being around my babies ever again.
She was a wonderful playmate as my kids got older, and loved nothing more than to run around with them in the yard or follow them around the house. I really wish I hadn't packed up all of my pictures from that time, so you could see, too.
(No, Daisy is not recently dead...I just realized this sounds somewhat like a eulogy.)
She's just always been such a great dog for my kids, even now as she's getting a little arthritic and old lady-ish, she really loves them. She doesn't have the energy to run around near as much as Sophie would like her to, but she does still follow them around the house. You know, to make sure all is well with her charges.
Last week while we were visiting, Chloe (who is my little mother hen child) decided that instead of a dolly or a stuffed animal, Daisy would be her baby. For an entire day, she made sure Daisy had her hair done, a toy or two to play with (you'll also notice she made sure Daisy was hugging her teddy bear at all times) and she even shared her favorite blankie with her. (I'm not so sure Daisy really liked it much, as it was also around 100 degrees outside that day.)
But the best part? To find Chloe reading Dr. Seuss to Daisy, and Daisy actually listening.
Now that is a good dog.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
(That's my awesome brother Jon.)
"Just go ahead and smell it, Sophie."
The Man wins.
Except, I'm not so sure The Wild cares.
P.S. I neglected to mention in my last post that Sophie crushes very hard on certain boys. She's been known to have a little thing for my niece's boyfriend and her Uncle Matt. More recently, it's her Uncle Jon. All because he loves to play with her and totally speaks her language of tease. She hasn't stopped talking about this little hose incident, and it's been a week already. And we all know that a week in the life of a 3 year old is practically an eternity.