Music I Love

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Speaking of Bravery...

Sometimes I'm not sure whether the things I do are inspired or just impulsive.  

Yesterday, as I was basking in my first real moments of uninterrupted quiet since June, my head wandered to a song I had heard on Sunday morning.  Craig almost always gets up on Sunday mornings and turns on some kind of churchy, inspiring music.  I love how it fills the whole house.  I love the combination of beautiful music and the sun streaming through the downstairs windows.  It's a nice way to start the morning.

This is the song I heard...
That's a familiar song because I sang it a couple of years ago with that first little group that later launched me into looking for more musical opportunities in my life.  I loved it then, and I loved it when I heard it again Sunday morning for the first time in forever.  

Read the lyrics...they're amazing.

They heard His voice, a voice so mild.
It pierced them through and made their souls to quake.
They saw Him come, a man in white,
The Savior, who had suffered for their sake.
They felt the wounds in hands and side,
And each could testify:

This is the Christ.
This is the Christ, the holy Son of God,
Our Savior, Lord, Redeemer of mankind.
This is the Christ
The healer of our souls
Who ransomed us with love divine.

I read His words, the words He prayed
While bearing sorrow in Gethsemane.
I feel His love, the price He paid.
How many drops of blood were spilled for me?
With Saints of old in joyful cry
I too can testify

This is the Christ.

(Words by James E. Faust)

I found the song on Spotify yesterday morning and listened to it again.  And again.  Maybe four or five times.  And then part of the song stood out for me, "the words He prayed while bearing sorrow in Gethsamane," so I looked them up in Matthew and read them.  And that led to a really huge, immensely humbling experience that I won't even write about here because it's just way too much...even for me.    

After that, I remembered a woman stopping me on Sunday to ask if I would help her think of a musical number for a missionary homecoming/farewell that's coming up in our ward in a few weeks.  I checked to see if I still had the sheet music for this song.  I did not.  But the miracle of technology makes nearly everything instant these days, so within a few minutes I had printed out the accompaniment to This is the Christ.  (Success!)  Except what I had printed was actually the solo version...the low voice solo version.  (Eek!)  And that's when the "20 seconds of insane courage" took over.  I texted Donna and told her I had an arrangement of This is the Christ that might work for the program.  She asked if it was all women or mixed, and I said, "It's a solo arrangement."  And she said "For Craig? Or for you?"  And I did it...I said "for me" and I hit SEND.  (If I could add that emoji with the shocked face that's mostly eyes, I would do that here.)  

Donna was shocked,  I was shocked.  Craig was shocked when I texted him later and told him what I did.  Because I don't sing solos.  I'm a choir voice.  I'm support.  

There's still a possibility that divine intervention will do it's thing and...well, save me from my recklessness.  The family may not love this song, or the Bishop may not love it, or there might miraculously be some better option that will slip in at the last minute.  I'm kinda hoping for one of those things.  In which case, I'll know for sure that it was impulse and insanity, not inspiration that made me do such a crazy thing yesterday. 


Maybe the water slide experience has gone to my head a little?  

Maybe this bravery isn't a fluke; maybe it's a trend?  

Maybe I'm braver than I thought and it's time to take on the next scary thing?

I'm leaving it alone for now and just letting the Powers That Be decide.  I'll let you know what happens.  

"Always do what you are afraid to do." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, August 25, 2014

The First Day of School

Oh, what a weekend it has been...

It's a miracle that any of the people in my house survived the chaos.  We were slightly over scheduled all weekend, but I think we could have handled it better if it hadn't been the weekend before school started.  Too many things to do, and too many places to be, combined with the various emotional drama that three teenagers and their mother bring to any and all transitions.  I'm pretty sure I have personally strained every one of my relationships in the last 72 hours, and the weight of that is still lingering.

We survived though, and they all made it to school (I'm fairly sure) with lunches and backpacks and a couple of them had pens and notebooks (I think.)  

We had just enough time (and patience) for exactly three pictures of the three different shifts as they left this morning.  

I'm grateful for a new, "more consistent, less frat-house" kind of schedule.  I'm grateful for a few hours of quiet before everyone comes home.  I'm grateful that we made it through the chaos of the weekend.  And I'm grateful that our home doesn't typically run this way.  Hopefully, everyone's emotions will settle as the school schedule becomes more least until Thursday when early morning Seminary starts... 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Uncharacteristically Brave

So this happened today...

It's been a crappy day.  Really crappy.  

Except for the parts that were amazing.  

I always tell people that I'm afraid of heights and afraid of the dark and afraid of everything.  I bill myself most days as a chicken.  I always think that I'm more nice than I am resilient or strong or hard working.  And before today, that might have been a little bit true.  

But do you know what I realized just a few minutes ago?  I'm different today than I was a month ago or a year ago or ten years ago.  I've done hard things before.  I do them all the time.  And in the past week, I've crossed crazy long bridges...over water, trespassed in abandoned buildings, and slid down a dang waterslide!  

After I did it, McKay said, "I love that you're so adventurous!"

...and that makes amazing beat out crappy for the day.

"Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves."  - Cheryl Strayed

Monday, August 18, 2014

Happy Surprises

I've been waking up at the crack of dawn for some reason all summer.  I think that must be a side effect of reaching my mid-40s.  I remember hearing my parents' voices before dawn on most mornings comparing calendars and coordinating schedules and whatever else they were talking about.  Since Craig hasn't yet reached his mid-40s, he was still soundly asleep when I woke up this morning and realized I had a few free hours to go on an expedition.  So I happily slipped out of the house without anyone even knowing.

I never really have a plan with these trips.  They're mostly spontaneous except for the camera, the music, and the Diet DP...those things are not random.  Since I've tried driving east a few times, I opted for west today.  I vaguely remembered seeing some wide open spaces when I drove Megan to Denton for Bass Camp one summer, so I typed Denton, TX  into the GPS with some random address just so I could get in the vicinity, turned up the music, and started driving.  

I found a few backroads, exactly one barn, and then a giant lake that I wasn't expecting at all...apparently that's Lake Lewisville.  Who knew that was even there?

...and then there was absolutely nothing worth stopping for.  I snaked through subdivisions and drove down backroads that just led to freeways for nearly an hour.  By 10:30, I went back to consulting the GPS and decided to follow it to that random destination I had typed in earlier.  And here's where I ended up...
I glanced left, and saw a HUGE, random Tyrannosaurus Rex made out of what looked like aluminum foil just standing right in someone's front yard!  He was my last, and maybe my best, picture of the entire day.  He was unexpected.  He showed up when I thought I was going to have to go home with nothing.  And he made my whole day.  If I had known when I left the house this morning that this tinfoil dinosaur would be my only find, I still would have gotten up and gone on this expedition.  He was so worth it.  And the whole day turned out to be sprinkled with little happy surprises.  

I love when life is like that...happily surprising.  It makes me want to keep going on adventures and to keep expecting those little happy things, because if you put them all together, they turn into really happy days.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday School

The lesson today in Sunday School was on the importance of learning about our family history.  That's an appropriate lesson for me to teach, don't you think?  I happen to really LOVE family history in this season of my life.  

This morning, I gathered a few family pictures, worried about my lack of preparation on this subject, and then spent the rest of the morning irritated at the kids about the most insignificant things.  I couldn't focus at all during Sacrament, and the only thing that kept running through my head was that this parenting calling, and these church callings, and this waiting patiently is way too hard for me some days.  

By the time I got to my class, I was over whatever little things had bothered me before church, and happy to be surrounded by those 20 teenagers who I have grown to love so much. They asked a few great questions.  I talked about my complicated and vast family, and the reasons I started doing family history in the first place.  And then I thought about a scripture from the lesson (D&C 128:18) which refers to "welding links...between the fathers and the children" and also says "for we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect."  And then I realized the real reason I do family history.

There is some point in every single day when I feel motivated, hopeful, happy, and confident.  Typically that happens early in the morning before the house wakes up, before chores and distractions and life get in the way of my great plans.  And inevitably there is also some point in every single day when I crash...emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  Usually I can count on that happening about 12 hours after getting up, but every now and then it hits at a time or a place when I'm not expecting it.  And every now and then it hits harder than I expect it to.  Everything feels too hard, or too far away, or impossible to achieve, and mostly what I want to do in those moments is just give up.  

But the craziest thing about family history is that all of a sudden, after finding what you think are just names to fill into a tree-shaped chart, those names become people, and those people become connected to you.  Eternally welded links.  

I have had spiritual experiences in the past four years through family history and temple work that have connected me eternally to people whose names I didn't even know before 2010.  They are part of me.  And therefore, I am part of them.  And I am convinced that they have a vested interest in my well being.  As I do family history, I invite more and more of the "numberless concourses of angels" into my life.  They then have the ability to influence and assist when I cannot keep up the spiritual and emotional pace.  

My family tree is broad and leafy.  It is complicated and messy.  And I may or may not be related to some of those people who I've fit into unique spaces on those branches.  But, what I have learned in the past few years is that we are connected to more people than we realize, and in ways that we may not have anticipated.  Sometime, long before I came here, I know that I made promises to people I would meet in this life, and people who had already lived theirs.  I promised that I wouldn't just walk through this life randomly all by myself.  I promised that I would marry the man I married, and give life to the four children who are currently in our home.  I'm also quite certain that I promised other things to other significant people. Maybe those 20 kids in my class?  Maybe my visiting teachers, or my sweet neighbors who I adore, or the missionaries serving in our ward?  And because I know that, I am physically unable to quit when I want to, even when it's really, really hard to keep going.  Those eternally welded links between my ancestors and countless other people provide not only the hope and motivation I need at the beginning of the day, but also the additional assistance that I need 12 hours later.  

Family history isn't just an opportunity to help our ancestors.  It's an opportunity for them to help us.  I am eternally grateful for the people who have gone before me and paved the way for my family.  But I'm even more grateful for the knowledge that I am welded right in the middle of that family link and many other links, and that the place that I occupy is uniquely mine, necessary and integral to my joy in this life and all of ours in the next.   

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Backroads of Texas

"Listen for the voice of the Father in the bounties and beauties of nature, in the gentle whisperings of the Spirit."  - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I've been on a quest since we got back to Texas, to find something inspiring to take pictures of.  It was effortless to find things in Cache Valley because there is so much obvious beauty everywhere.  And my pictures were effortlessly beautiful, too.  I didn't take 100s.  I took 50...maybe.  And every single one turned out breathtakingly beautiful.  
But it's been harder to find those kind of landscape shots here.  The barns are hidden behind dense groves of trees.  There is more traffic on the roads, even the back ones, making it more difficult to pull over for anything.  And there are no mountains.  

So, I changed my plan and my perspective today.  

I got rid of the passengers in my vehicle because, for me, I hunt (and find) better when there is loud music, a clear head, and when I'm driving the car.  Sorry...I absolutely love the quality time with my beloved passengers (or that cute guy who drives me around occasionally) but it's just not conducive to photography expeditions.  

I also stopped looking for barns and landscapes like the ones I love so much in Utah.  Texas isn't Utah.  But there is still much to love about this place.  

I drove along the highway looking for those pretty bales of hay that I had seen a couple of days before.  And then I found somewhere to pull over and get a picture of them.  When you drive slow enough, you can always find a backroad.  
And while I was pulled over on that backroad, I kept following it, and found this...
It's an old withering field of cornstalks.  But I just loved the way those little sunflowers looked sprinkled in between.  And the perspective was so cool from my very low to the ground vehicle.  It was all cornfield and sky.  You would never know that there are thousands of homes just beyond that field, and a busy highway right behind me.  

I was overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that beauty exists outside of Utah, that Heavenly Father has filled this earth with stunning things, and that I had the time this morning to catch a few of them in some unlikely places.  

"It's not what you look at that matters.  It's what you see." - Henry David Thoreau

Monday, August 11, 2014

Girls' Weekend

There's a great blessing in having someone who has been part of your life since childhood.  

I didn't grow up with siblings, but every summer, my niece, Laura would come for a few months and help me learn how to share, how to tolerate another person in my space, and how to wait patiently for my parents' attention...none of which I did very well.  
Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to spend some time reconnecting.  It's been ten years since we last saw each other!  How does the time get away like that?  Since then, our lives have changed so much.  Our babies have turned into teenagers.  We have moved from Atlanta to Utah to Texas.  My parents (her grandparents) have both passed away.  

And in that time, we've become more different than alike.  Not that we were ever really alike before.  We're about as different as two people can possibly be.  She's a martial arts instructor.  And I, clearly, am not.  She is outspoken and opinionated.  She is powerful and confident.  She is brilliant and commands a room with her knowledge of absolutely every subject under the sun.  I have plenty of my own super powers, but none of them are anything like hers.  

Despite our differences, though, the thing that binds us is our past.  We have the same experiences.  We come from the same people.  We know things about each other that no one else on the planet could ever understand because they didn't live it like we did.  We have inside jokes, and pictures from those awkward years.  We have tragedies and triumphs.  And we don't have to tell each other our backstory because we already know it.  I love that.  I love having one other person who knows how I used to be, and how I am now, and how those two people fit together.  

I'm so grateful for the immediate ease that we both felt in each other's presence.  I'm grateful for the planets that aligned and allowed this weekend to happen.  And I'm so grateful for this niece who, over the last 40+ years, has become more like a sister.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

High Five for Frday

1.  Home
I don't know if you've noticed that this blog has been woefully neglected for the last 30+ days.  We've been having a busy, wonderful summer, and there is so much to share about that, but for now, just let me tell you how happy I am to finally be home and not traveling for least not until later today...

2.  Utah
We spent the most amazing month in Utah getting reacquainted with family, old friends and the most gorgeous scenery that I somehow managed to miss during the seven years we lived there.  There's no way to back-post everything, but just know that there are many. many scribbles in my journal anxiously awaiting their chance to launch into blog posts very soon.

3.  Emma
Guess what is no longer a major part of our family!  (No, not Emma.  She is very much still with us.)  That dumb boot!  After exactly 8 weeks of dragging that thing through multiple airports, on trek, to Beehive Camp, youth activities, dances and EFY, the doctor has given her complete and total clearance to take the thing off and run around as much as she wants.  Hallelujah!  We are ALL celebrating that news this week.

4.  Weekend Plans much for being home and getting back into normal life...the pace just keeps going around here.  My niece, Laura, who is more like a sister than a niece because she's just a year younger than me, and we spent summers together growing up, and we have a history a mile and a half long, is coming in for the weekend from Atlanta!  We haven't seen each other in YEARS and I am so excited I can hardly stand it!  

5.  Oh, and a Little Blog Redecorating...
I thought I'd add some new pictures and a little color to the blog.  What do you think?

I've missed it here...SO happy to be back.  Hope you have a happy, relaxing, restful weekend.  See you Monday!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


My maternal grandmother lived with us when I was growing up.  Her life story was fascinating to me then, and I often asked her to tell me what little she knew about her parents and her early years. Sometimes, if I caught her in the right mood, I could coax out of her the most vivid details from her past.  She was born in Puerto Rico with a twin sister.  Her mother died in childbirth, but there was a much older sister who took care of them while their father worked.  Eventually, he and his three daughters took a ship from Puerto Rico to Maui where he planned to work the pineapple plantations.  Apparently there was quite a lot of work there and masses of people migrated from Puerto Rico to Maui for several years in the early 1900s.  There are passenger records that I've found that confirm his passage around 1905, but there are no records of my grandmother or her sisters.  In 1910, there is a census record showing that both my grandmother and her twin sister were residents in a Salvatoin Army orphange in Maui.  My grandmother said that after they moved to Maui, her older sister died, and their father was forced to take the twin girls to a local orphanage because he had no way to care for them during the long working season.  Both girls lived there until they were in their late teens. 

Since starting this new family history hobby (which sometimes feels more like a compulsion) I've had such a hard time finding any information about my grandmother's parents.  I have tried on many occasions to remember their names because I know she mentioned them, but each time they eluded me.  Finally last month, when I found the Puerto Rico to Maui passenger list, I found a passenger named C Bruno, and I knew that was my grandmother's father.  A little more digging led to a marriage record between C Bruno and a woman named Tamashia in the late 1890s.  That name didn't sound familiar and it didn't feel quite right when I added it to Family Search, but it was the closest thing I had to a name for her, so I printed it out and took it to the temple last week when we did baptisms as a family. 

And then today, while I was sitting in the temple, thinking about my mom and my grandmother and all of the other people whose work we've been so diligently focused on lately, I heard in my head the tiniest little whisper, "Thomasia."  And with it came all the familiarity that I needed to confirm that that was my great grandmother's name. 

I have a testimony of the miracles of family history work and the blessings that come when we are actively engaged in the eternal welfare of those who came before us.  I know that through the Holy Ghost, anything and everything can be brought to our remembrance.  I know that Heavenly Father knows the intentions of our hearts and will give us the things that we need and that will most help prepare us for his plans for our future. 

I am so grateful to have been in the temple today and to have received that one tiny whisper along with a few others that I needed.  Heavenly Father is absolutely in the details of our lives. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bike Rodeo

McKay and I went to our monthly Cub Scout pack meeting/bike rodeo last night.  Can you see by the look on his face that he's not super excited about being there?  It's funny to watch these kids of mine as they become old enough to move into new programs and organizations.  At first, they are filled with excitement and enthusiasm, but as they approach the next transition, they get antsy and move on in their little heads before they've officially moved on in age.  McKay will be 11 next month and will cross over into the Boy Scout program.  He's completed all of the Webelos requirements and earned his Arrow of Light.  And enduring additional Cub Scout activities is a bit agonizing.  I looked at this picture this morning, though, and realized that he's pretty ready for that next stage.  His Cub Scout shirt is filled with achievements (that his mother finally sewed on permanently last night...)  He's outgrown the younger boys that are still excited about new Cub experiences.  And apparently he's outgrown that bike a little bit, too.  We're both very excited for the next stage of scouting, but we have loved this time in Cubs.  (I'm not-so-secretly hoping that I'll also get to transition out of Cub Scouts when McKay leaves...)  

The scouting program does amazing things for confidence levels in little boys.  They get to build rockets, and hike, and work as teams, and discover things , and shoot stuff.  And they earn badges for all of that fun!  It's really an awesome thing to be a part of, and I'm so grateful to all of the leaders who make events like this one the middle of the summer, with less than stellar attendance.  I'm grateful that McKay has been able to earn all those badges and beads in the last 3 years and that he can look at that shirt and be proud of his accomplishments.  

Boy Scouts, here we come!  (well, not WE!  I'm definitely NOT going to Boy Scouts with him!)