Saturday, September 22, 2012

Learning to Dance

I’m learning to dance. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m really excited for the chance to do it. Fortunately, my teacher also happens to be a very good friend of mine.
This is my partner/teacher/coworker/friend Marcus.
 He stood by my side while he showed me the basic steps. I caught on quick. Dancing alone is pretty easy.

And then it got more complicated. His arm was around my back and my hand was in his. We were connected. I was very concerned about moving the right way and at the right time. I kept glancing at my feet. Were my hands in the proper position when we turned out?  Was I rolling on the balls of my feet instead of the heal? Were my knees soft enough to let my hips turn and swivel while keeping my upper body motionless and my shoulders square to his? I was watching his hand and waiting for him to change how he held mine so I could tell when he was going to change the step. All I wanted was to be ready, trying to anticipate what was coming next.

And I kept messing up.

“You have to let me be in control.” He reminded me.

I focused more on what I was possibly doing wrong so it could be more right for him and make it easier for him to lead me. But for some reason, focusing more actually made it worse.

So I decided to try something different.

I closed my eyes.

And instead of carefully watching for the signs that things were changing and frantically measuring how I thought I was doing, I had to feel what was actually happening.

And when I let myself feel it instead of see it…when I let Marcus take control of doing what he does well…it worked. I could feel when where our hands met when he was going to pull me forward or push me back. The subtle pressure on my back told me which direction to go. I could even feel where my hand rested on his arm, the small motion that said we were going to turn out or pivot. And I knew when I came back, his hands would be there to catch mine.

When I let go, and felt instead of saw, I could actually dance.

But it was easy to trust Marcus. It was a fairly simple thing to let go and let him be in control.

I wish I could learn how to dance better in terms of my life. To let go. To trust. To feel instead of focusing on what I see and what that leads me to perceive.  He and I actually talked about it, my inability to let go and let others be in control.

It’s easier for me to let go when the stakes aren’t that high. Dancing a cha cha with one of your best friends is hardly high stakes.  However, when the potential for pain and emotional damage increases, my faith in allowing others to have any kind of say in how that pathway turns out diminishes.  Unfortunately for myself, I often include my Heavenly Father in this disproportionate faith dispersion.

And I think that may be why what I want always seems just outside of my reach. I become so focused on the right steps at the right time…on doing the right things…that I miss the soft and subtle cues that tell me to get ready to turn, or clue me in on what is really about to happen.

If I stop and close my eyes, and stop anticipating, I know I will be able to feel my Heavenly Father’s arms around me holding me up, squaring my soul to His and framing my motions. His hand will be in mine, softly guiding me and telling me when to turn out or turn around. My Heavenly Father is teaching me how to dance.

All day today, when I felt anxious about something, I would picture that feeling. I remember how secure and confident I felt in Marcus’ arms as we danced. And I would take the particular worry of the moment, and close my eyes and take a breath, and wait for the feeling of security and confidence to consume me when I pictured instead my Father’s arm around me and his hand leading me.

When I let go, and felt instead of saw, I could actually dance.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Intermission or Vacation

So, working full time is a new experience for me. I mean, I have always worked...but never the full 40. I love my job. I think I may have said that before. But I look forward to the weekends very much. However, I found I wasn't enjoying them as much as I anticipated. And I realized it was because I was looking at my weekends as an intermission between work weeks instead of a mini vacation from work.

So I changed my focus.I determined that if I lived a little more in the moments in front of me, I'd enjoy life more overall.

So here is a report of my moments.

Labor Day weekend...

Rob and Tamra were here, and so Lisa and Steve invited all of...seriously everyone (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins)... up American Fork Canyon for dinner and games where they were camping. I invited my fabulous friend Brian and his kids to join us. It was a lot of fun. There were games and dinner and s'mores. And laughter. It was cold, but it was great.  Saturday, my longtime friend Brenda Smith (and by long time I mean 23 years) and her husband and kids joined us for dinner (taco salad!) and a game of Settlers of Catan. While we were playing, it started raining...and then it started hailing. The pieces of ice were the size of a quarter. There was lightning and thunder, and it felt like I was in Ohio. Who knew bad weather could make you so happy? Sunday morning, my cousin Mandi had her baby daughter blessed, so we joined family for that special occasion. At her house after sacrament meeting, her husband's mom thought Paul was my husband. Which was kind of awkward. That night, Paul and Maryn went back up the canyon with Bearnsons. Maryn ended up back home at midnight after she started throwing up. Poor thing. Monday I ran over to Grandma Thackers and mowed the lawn.

The next weekend ( the one after Labor Day)...

Friday, Paul headed out with some of the other Young Men from our stake for a campout at the dunes in Moab. It was fun, but they got back later than anticipated. Which made him late for his double date with a nice young lady he met the weekend before, her friend and my cousin Collin. Maryn had a babysitting job, so I took the two younger kids to Grandma Thacker's. I made stroganoff for supper, and then Ashlyn, Grandma and I played Rummikib. Sunday, I invited our neighbors, the Carpenter's, over for dinner. Their daughter Ava Kate loves Maryn and Ashlyn. It was a lovely opportunity to visit with them. That Monday, Bryant brought pizza and soda and breadsticks and s'more pizza from Papa Johns and Mandy Thacker joined us. We had a nice dinner and played Apples to Apples all together before Bry headed off to a softball game.

This last weekend...

Was a BLAST despite the fact I felt kind of lousy. So Brian and I have been friends since February-ish, but we've never really dragged our families into doing things together. That weekend up the canyon was the first time his 4 and my 4 had met each other at all. We were both glad to find out that they also liked being around each other, and the older boys immediately started making plans to do stuff together. And that's how last weekend evolved.

Brian's oldest, Zach,  and his 10 year old daughter Savannah, came down and spent the night with us. I picked them up Friday after work at Bridal Veil, where we stayed and hung out for a little bit. We headed home and made a stop at McDonald's for dinner. After, the girls settled in for a movie and the boys headed off to the theater for Men In Black III. Everyone went to bed way too late.Which is the purpose of sleepovers, right? I woke up very early in a bit of pain and unable to sleep, so I made a 6 am trip to Walmart in my polar bear jammies and a sweatshirt and my hair up and frizzy. An outfit truly worthy of a humiliating "People of Walmart" montage.

Anyway, pain meds in, pain mostly gone...cinnamon rolls in the oven. The girls and I go to Discovery Park and play for a while. Where I almost make Savannah puke from spinning her too fast on the tire swing. Brian, Kyle and BJ join us for lunch and then we all head over (in 2 cars because neither of us own a car that can hold 10 people) to Lisa's for an afternoon of swimming and other nonsense. So much fun. And so many kids. Which is quite possibly what made it fun. We wrapped it up in time to grab some pizza for dinner and let the older boys have a little PS3 time before the Thomas family headed home.

Sunday was regional conference. And then the afternoon was just kind of lazy and nothing.Which I am, of course, a fan of. Although my cute cousin Sage (who is actually a year younger than Maryn) came over for a bit. Nothing like laying around on a couch with people you love. That's quality time indeed.

Loving those mini vacations :) So much better than work intermissions!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


So a few days ago, I stopped at my grandmother's house to pick something up. She stopped me before I left and told me she had something for me and to close my eyes. I did as I was asked, and a moment later felt her tugging on my shirt.

"Uh, grandma? What are you doing?"

"Just a minute. Just wait one second. I'm doing a little something here." (Pause and cessation of shirt tugging) "Okay. Open your eyes."

I looked down, and saw a simple and pretty pin hanging from my shirt. 

And I started to cry. In the pendant hanging in the center was a picture of me when I was one with my mother. Grandma said mom had had two for my mother and one for her (my grandmother). She found it when she was going through some things the other day, and thought I should I have it.

When I got home, I went straight to my box to put it in. 
This is my box. 

My sister brought it back from Poland for me. And really without even thinking about it or planning it, its where I started to keep things that are pretty special to me. 

When I put the pin away, I started sifting through the other things that were in there. As I did, a quote I heard the other day seemed to get trapped in my ears as each piece passed through my hands, moments filled my mind and the memories flooded my heart.

"Tell me who you love, And I will tell you who you are."- Houssaye

And I realized something. The reason I "treasured" each of these things had nothing to do with what they were necessarily, but who they were associated with, the experiences they remind me of, the moments that changed who I was. 

They represent my life. 
They tell the story of who I am.
This is a bracelet I had made for some of my students one year. It has that adorable little grand piano charm on it. I taught in Maria Stein for 13 years and during that time had about 80 students. About 20 of them I had for 10 years of more. I still have relationships with several of them. Having them as part of my life changed who I was, and I am forever grateful for that opportunity.
Okay, I know this is a little rubber duck. I’m aware that it’s not jewelry. But it came from my friend Wendy where I worked at United Way of Wood County. Her and I started working together on getting our information sorted out by county…about getting our “ducks in a row”. From then on, we would snap or find random duck pictures online and send them to each other. Right before she left her position, she gave me this duck. It’s been with me ever since.
These two bracelets are from my sister Melanie. The one on the left is one she gave to me…I think for Christmas. The one on the right she brought me from New York as a thanks for watching her kids while her and Kirk went.

My lovely friend Madhushri Dongre made this for me before I moved from Perrysburg. She’s from India. And besides making me this, she would often make me wonderful Indian food. I have some of her recipes.
This is my name tag from the daycare I worked at when we lived in Las Vegas. I was working there when Paul was born.
This pendant is a gift from my Grandma and Grandpa Downs from Russia.
Dave’s missionary tag.  I want Conner to remember where he’s headed . Someday, he’ll be Elder Cameron as well.
Melanie brought me this egg from Poland. That’s right, my sister went to Poland and I got a box and an egg.  But I think they’re pretty special.
This is David’s wedding ring and his temple handkerchief. I think I would like for Maryn to have the ring to give to her husband someday.
This bracelet was designed and made by my friend Katie Weston. It actually represents hope in the face of Domestic Violence. The color for DV is purple.  As a DV survivor, it helps me remember and keeps my hopes focused forward.
This is my “class ring”. My parents thought it would be more practical to buy a pretty ring engraved with the initials of our school and the year we graduated as opposed to a school purchased class ring I probably would never wear again after I got married. I really love it.
This bracelet is from one my students who also happened to become a friend. Her name is Lucy, and she gave it to me as a gift one year. She always gave wonderful Christmas gifts to me. She took lessons from me for 7 years. I was always very grateful for her friendship.
This little wooden butter knife is from Sweden. My grandmother brought it back from her little genealogy adventure there.  She was in search of long lost family.
These are Conner's baby tags. Not that I don’t love my other children. I may have just lost them. Does this make me a bad mother?
My aunt Lisa invited me, Melanie, Tamra, Mom and some of her friends to join her at the Jersey Shore for the weekend. Conclusion…I love the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of the most amazing and relaxing weekends I have ever had.  One of her cute friends made little bottles with these handmade tags on them. I still have the bottle…Its filled with sand from the beach, rocks, shells and driftwood. But the tag is in my treasure box.
A rock. A stick. A penny. It hardly seems significant out of context. But I’ve had these since the summer I graduated and was in the Hill Cumorah Pageant. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. The rock and stick are from the Sacred Grove. And they gave each of us a penny with the year (1993) on it. They have been in that box for nearly 20 years, and every time I look at them, I remember how I felt when I was there.
This necklace was a gift from an unknown beneficiary from our ward last year. It reminds me that I have people who love me. And I am undeniably grateful for the blessing others are in my life.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Scenic Drive...Nebo Loop

One Saturday we decided to get out of the house and have some quality bonding time. I chose Nebo loop. You can jump on it in Spanish Fork and its dumps out in Nephi. It’s a pretty amazing little drive.

Crossing a creek at the first little "Adventure Pull Out Spot". That's what I called them. My kids called "Why are you making us get out the car again" stops.

What kind of cracks me up about this, is that at this point the water/rock combination made them all nervous. I laugh when a think a few weeks later at Battle Creek Falls, they were skipping around those rocks like it was nothing. I guess it just takes practice.
There are also cows wandering around aimlessly, which my kids thought was weird. At our first random pull out, there was a skeleton at the bottom of a hill. Pretty sure it was one of those aimlessly wondering cows.

We stopped at all of the little pull offs and snapped pictures of the scenery. 

You can go by the highest point on the Wasatch mountain range, Mount Nebo. I pointed out the timberline and we talked about what that meant. I also pointed out a column of smoke coming off the mountainside at what seemed like a random spot. As we got back in the car, 4 trucks labeled “Utah County Fire” pulled up and some men got out with their binoculars and started staring at the column of smoke. I think everyone’s a little paranoid since half the state has been on fire because of the dry conditions.

My favorite part of this little trip was singing in the car and jamming to some old school tunes as we drove home. It was Earth, Wind and Fire Saturday Night Fever baby!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Living in Utah

It’s about time for an update I think. I’ve been in Utah for 4 months (ish) and the kids have been here for two. I should probably write down how we’re doing, how we’re adjusting, how we feel about the whole change.

So here it is in a nutshell.

We have mixed feelings.

Things we like…

Battle Creek Falls hike with the Cub Scouts
  • The mountains and the beauty they offer. We love to go for drives and hikes. We even have a “Scenic Drive” playlist on my iPhone with grand sweeping orchestral music and invigorating instrumental solos and duets. It fits well with most things that we see around here.
  • Our condo. It’s very nice. I’m in love with the granite counter tops. It’s by no means the 3 story, 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom house we just left, but the rooms are good sized and it’s a lovely home.
  • I like my job. I mean I really like it. I’m surprisingly good at it, and I also love the people I work with. I already have some amazing friends that are part of my life because of work. Love it.
  • Macey’s has ice cream cones for 49 cents. That’s pretty awesome. We also have a cheap but still fairly nice movie theater near us. And there’s a great park on the other side of town. I also swear that people in this valley are addicted to shaved ice. There are more shaved ice places per capita than there were ice cream/ yogurt places per capita in Perrysburg. And that, my friends, is a lot.
  • It cools off at night. Seriously. You can open the windows and it feels cooler. Amazing J
  • Close to other family. We’ve seen Dave’s family more in the past few months than almost the entirety of the time since he died. That will be very nice. My aunt Lisa has a few kids close to my kid’s ages and they are becoming good friends, which makes me happy. Lisa is also great at hooking my kids up with people she knows to create friend circles for them.  I love hanging out with my cousin Susan who is also single and a year older than me. Getting to know and love my extended family more.
  • People. For me it’s always about people. We already have amazing people in our lives. Good friends and great experiences that Heavenly Father has allowed to be part of our lives for what I am sure will be a good reason. I also got to reconnect with a few old friends; Emily has been my friend for almost 20 years and Brenda and I have been friends since I was 14. I was at her house the other day, and we were marveling how really extraordinary it is that after all this time whenever we get together, it doesn’t feel any different. We’re older are wiser and busier, but we are still friends. That is kind of cool.

Things we don’t like…

  • It crowded here. There are half a million people in this valley. It can get a little congested.
  • It’s hot. And dry.
  • It’s not Ohio. And Ohio is what’s familiar. This part is more about what we miss about Ohio and not about what Utah is lacking. We miss people we love, rainstorms, the color green…
  • My kids miss the dog. They talk to my parents and spend the whole time asking about Oogie. Sheesh.
  • My kids also sorely miss their friends. It’s a tough transition. Especially for the older two. Paul’s (surprisingly) pretty dang fantastic at finding common ground with others and building on that. Maryn (surprisingly), not so much.  She wants a best friend, and she wants one yesterday. That’s when she grieves most the relationships she left behind.
  • I think Paul actually misses early morning seminary. Release time is nice for the sleep factor, but you just don’t build the same kind of relationships with your class as you do in those early morning hours.
  • I don’t have a piano. Boo.

Things that the jury is still out on…

  • Our ward. There are parts of our ward we enjoy (the people are very nice, Paul’s Young Men’s president is awesome, they have plenty going on) and other parts we struggle with (we don’t fit into the demographic well…lots of young families and retired couples, very small youth program, lots of folks moving in and out very quickly and often ).
  • School. But that’s to be expected. My kids have teachers they adore, and teachers they “less-than-adore”. It’s getting better every day I think, but it’s still a change.
  • Having mom work full time. This is a new thing for us. And it’s taken some getting used to. And there have been a few meltdowns to work through some emotions. They like that we have more money (in theory) and having our own home again. But it’s a struggle for all of us when I miss things because of work.  Moments mostly, not major events. Moments I’ve always been privy to, but now…I just miss them.