Newness for a New Year

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

For all you who think you have a great vocabulary

This is a great website that will test your vocab skills and help people throughout the world at the same time. What could be better? But be careful, this is addicting.
Check out

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NPR and the Word of Wisdom

Okay, so NPR didn't exactly report on the Word of Wisdom, but it did talk about good health. I found an interesting article about how occasional fasting is actually good for you. Imagine that!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Being Thankful

I was in Macey's grocery store last night, and I couldn't help but feel excited for this time of year. People were buying turkey, pumpkin, spices, and egg nog. There was a sense of excitement as people were getting ready to spend time with family and to relax a little. I can hardly believe this week is Thanksgiving, but I am excited nonetheless.

I couldn't let this week pass without expressing how thankful I am for so much that has happened to me this past year. I never expected that 2007 would bring such joy and pain. I also realize there is still much to experience in 2007, so I withhold the right to add when needed.

I am most thankful for my knowledge and faith in God. Even when everything seems to be crumbling, His love is stable and ever-flowing to those who seek Him. His grace is truly sufficient.

I am also deeply grateful for my family and friends. I could never have made it through this year without you. I have relied on your strength and your support through all my challenges, and I have loved sharing my joys with you as well.

I am thankful that 2007 has taught me a lot about love. I have felt more love in my life this year than I ever have. I have also learned that real love doesn't end when you stop seeing someone, or someone moves to a different state, or you fall out of contact with someone. It continues on and even grows stronger at times.

I am thankful for experiencing the kind of love that exhibits itself in deep and solid relationships. Elder Maxwell said, "All of us should strive, therefore, to have some friendships that are deep and solid--so solid, for instance, that if they were interrupted, the unfinished conversation could be resumed months later almost in mid-sentence, just as if we had never been apart." I have renewed many such friendships this year, and I have worked to build new relationships that will be as deep and solid.

I am thankful I had the opportunity to see so many of the beauties of the earth. I traveled quite a bit this year, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to stand before the Nike of Samothrace in the Louvre, but I am also thankful for discovering beauty in Utah by climbing to the top of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park. I believe that you can travel the world for beauty, but not at the expense of discovering beauty in your everyday life.

I am thankful for beauty. Not only in the outward displays of such, but also in the expressions of the soul. I am thankful for the times in our lives when we can wrap ourselves in the beauty of life and of learning. We experience joy, pain, more joy, and probably more pain. But, in the end we become better people. Our capacity to love and to give expands and we begin to become useful to God and his purposes. I am also thankful for forgiveness and the ability to change.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just a picture, but what a picture

This is Lake of the Woods. It comes from the Camp Loll alumni website.
You can also check out the blog.

I love looking back through the pictures and remembering the days of working under tall pines. I don't as if you can really describe those days to anyone who never experienced them. You went to work in the most beautiful place on earth, and you made some of the best friends you will ever have. You never made much money, but you made wonderful memories and good character.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Pleasure of Portland

Although I spent last week in Portland, I technically spent very little time in the city. I actually spent my time in Hillsboro with the Allred family. We also went to the coast on Saturday. I will let the pictures tell the story.

I flew in Thursday night. But Friday morning we went to the library for story time. After it was over we walked around the park outside the library.

Salli was holding Megan, and Sadie couldn't get enough of the ducks.

We then spent the rest of Thursday lounging about. We watched Anne of Avonlea, which Sadie loved. She even called Captain Harris the spooky man, which I have always thought he was. We even watched the Osmond clan on Oprah. It was actually very interesting to watch. There is so much I have never known about the Osmonds. Here are the girls, just hanging out.

It was about this time that Sadie discovered my bag, with all the treasures inside. She took everything out of my wallet and played with all the money and cards. One of the privileges of being the friend is that I can let kids play with my cell phone and wallet when parents can't, especially since I was only there for a short amount of time. Here are some pictures of Sadie enjoying the contents of my bag. She loved my reading glasses, lip gloss, and sunglasses. I guess I have good taste.

The next day we headed out the coast. We first went to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Where we saw the cheese factory in action. I was amazed at the process.

Who knew cheese production could be so fascinating. I kept wondering what it would be like to work in a cheese factory. Salli said it might be a good job for Richard because he loves cheese so much. But, I always wonder if you would soon tire of it if you had to work with it daily.

Although in Utah we usually only see Tillamook cheese, they also produce ice-cream, yogurt, butter, and fudge. We couldn't pass up an opportunity for ice-cream, fudge, and of course cheese. I bought fresh cheese curds to bring home to the family. They were the squeakiest curds I've ever had--and the most delicious.
After the factory, we headed to the coast. We went to Cape Meares and Oceanside Beach. I was taken back by the beauty. I first saw the Pacific Ocean when I was 17 and on an art history trip to San Francisco. I later returned to spend two summers on Catalina Island off the coast of L.A. I loved all of those adventures and I have a fond love for the Pacific, but what I beheld in Oregon was breathtaking.

I have always known that Oregon is known as a green state. But, I realized that it truly is so much more than their wonderful environmental awareness. I have never seen so many hues and textures of green.

I love that green seemed to attach itself to everything. It didn't matter what or where, even the air seemed to be rich with green. It had rained a little, so all the vibrancy of the smells were at full force and intoxicating.

And more of the splendor ...

We also saw a slug, some great toadstools (at least some woman told us they were toadstools), and a light house.

And then we actually went down on the beach. Where the beauty kept intensifying.

Sadie loved playing in the sand. We kept telling her to look up and see the larger view, but she was enjoying the sand and rocks right in front of her face. She enjoyed them for what they were on her terms, not on what we saw as beauty. She found her own bit of beauty that afternoon. She never grew tired of gathering sand and chasing me with it. We played and laughed all afternoon. She reminded me that sometimes we just need to enjoy what is right in front of us without worrying so much about trying to take everything in at once. So often we can only see what is right before us, but we must learn to enjoy it for what it is.

The water was cold, but not so cold that I didn't let it wash over my feet. The tide was low, so there was so much beach to explore. I never tire of watching the water interact with the beach. I love to watch it come with such force and then reside with ease. Perhaps this is how life is, it often comes at us with so much force, but we have to wait for the release. And of course, the whole undulating process smooths everything it touches. The pebbles are so smooth, but they have undergone the push and pull so much.

I couldn't help but feel renewed and refreshed as I walked the beach, especially since I got to walk it with Salli. Sipping beauty while conversing with dear friends can help ward off all kinds of sorrow. I was glad we opted for the coast as opposed to the city. I am sure I will go back some day when I can explore the urban landscape of Portland. But I found what I went for. I feel most myself when I am immersed in the larger beauty of the earth. It reminds me that patience and faith are required to create such glories.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Portland and Perspective

Let me just preview this entry with this picture. I was in Portland last week and I took this at the coast. I believe that anything in this world is possible when such beauty as this exists.

I will fill in the full entry soon, with many more pictures and much more pontification.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Glory of Fall

I went to Centerville yesterday to vote, since I always forget to change my registration info before November 6. My Mom and I went in the afternoon, so there wasn't much of a line. When my Dad went later he said he had to wait a bit, which is good. It is good to know that people will stand in line to exercise that power.

I then spent the remainder of the afternoon and early evening raking leaves with my Mom. I forget how delightful it is to subject yourself to that process: the raking, scooping, bagging, and then more raking, scooping, bagging. The day was chill, although I soon was warm enough to just enjoy being outside. There is something in the fall air that resonates so deeply with me. It quickly seeps into the inner regions of my soul and lingers there with freshness and vigor.

I am off to Portland tomorrow. I have always wanted to visit that city, and I am finally doing it. SalliJune and her husband Richard live there with their two daughters Sadie and Megan. I think that such a trip in the middle of the semester will be a nice break. My students and I have started to feel the lull that is the middle of the semester. But, things are starting to really gear up in my classes. It is time to talk about the final papers and to simply endure.

Next week I'll make sure to post pictures from Portland, so stay tuned.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tribute to Nana

Yesterday I got a phone call that my mom and sister were taking my nana to the ER. I don't think you could ever really know what emotional response to expect in such a situation. Nana has been having some having health problems now for a while and so the call didn't fully surprise me. I was aware that for the past few days she had been having bowel difficulties. I told Emily I would meet her at LDS after I finished teaching. I canceled my office hour and left Provo, picking Amelia up on the way. Emily met us outside the ER and we decided that Amelia should go in with Mom and Nana (only two people could be in the room). Emily and I took her kids back to Centerville and waited. Nana came home a few hours later, very much confused as to why her stomach was hurting and bewildered by her state. Her dementia steadily worsens, and her body is slowly shutting down. In February 2007 she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and all the complications that come with it. Yesterday, as I waited for news, I couldn't help but reflect on the frailty of her life, of all our lives. All to often we save our tributes and our praise for the crowds of people gathered at gravesides instead of celebrating the lives of those we love while we can bask in their influence.

For Nana

When she was diagnosed with heart failure in February I wrote about the experience. I believe it sets the tone for this post.

My grandma was admitted to the hospital two nights ago. She was short of breath and the doctors decided to admit her to run a slew of tests. It is funny when something like that happens in your life. I was taken off guard. I was in the middle of grading a huge stack of papers, which seemed so insignificant after the call from my mom. After a day of tests they diagnosed my Nana with congestive heart failure. I would think that they could think of a better name for it than heart failure. It feels so ominous, but that is exactly what it is. They pumped her with medications and relieved some of the pressure around her heart, then she was allowed to go home. We all went home yesterday to spend the day with her and to help my mom. I was sitting on the couch with her as she fumbled with her memories from the past few days. Although she has been struggling to hold onto memories for a while, her time in the hospital seemed to increase the lapse of reality and time in her mind. Over the course of 15 minutes she retold what had happened to her about 5 times, right after each other. She would finish, pause, and then begin again. In some ways it was an improvement because earlier she had forgotten that she had even been to the hospital, but the repetition worried me. Up until that point, I had only been emotional once, earlier in the day on my way back from class when reality collided with my expectations. My sister was updating me on Nana's condition and how they were talking about drawing up legal orders in case the worst happened.

In a short walk down the long corridor in the JFSB I realized that my Nana, who has always been so close to me, could soon be far, far away. Those same emotions pounded down onto my spirit as I sat with her on the couch. It was sad. Here is this woman who helped me carve out my own identity for so many years, and her own identity was slipping through her fingers like liquid. The woman I adored as a child is hidden away in the past, a mere shade of who she was. But, in that same moment, I realized that the presence of other people in our lives helps us to remember who we are. I can remind her of who she was, which re-establishes who she is. It made me want to make sure people know who I am and what I am thinking so that when my own memories start to slip away, they can be found somewhere else, on solid ground
That has been many months ago, and Nana has fought her way through pain and discomfort. She has severe arthritis, which makes walking very painful. Even though she is a very different woman now than before her dementia, she continues to make us laugh. She is a comedian at heart, and she loves to laugh and laugh.

The above picture shows Nana next to some beautiful pink flowers. Her favorite color is pink, and she loves flowers. I can never walk past pink petunias and dusty miller without thinking of her. She loves that combination, as long as her plastic pink flamingos and
row of plastic ducks are near by. She has always loved working in the yard, although now she can just sit outside and enjoy the yards of others. Perhaps she is so taken to the outdoors because of her childhood on farms.

She was born Lora Florence Cook on May 28, 1922 in Kentucky. She was the oldest girl. When she was but 14 years old, her mother died, leaving her the mistress of the house. Great-Grandpa Cook worked as a farm hand and moved the family to Illinois. It was here that Nana met Byron Lewis, who is my mother's father. Nana and Byron never married, and she left that part of Illinois when my Mom was little. A few years later Nana met with the missionaries and joined the Church, which changed the destiny of us all so drastically.

Nana and my Mom moved to Utah after a time and settled here.
Nana always lived close to our family, and she was almost a daily part of our lives. Her apartment was on the route to the elementary school, so we would often stop on our way to and from school. It was always a treat to go to her house because she made the most amazing food. She was working in the Ogden Temple at that time, as the dessert chef. Nana loves pizza, and we would usually get that to eat. Although she had the habit of drinking orange juice with her pizza. I continue to love pizza to this day, but never with a side of OJ.

She would also take us "to town" meaning to Ogden. She couldn't drive so we would take the bus. We would usually go to the Temple first, so she could show us off, and then we would go over to the mall. We would eat lunch at The Pizza Cutter, shop a bit, and then head home.
As she got older she couldn't take care of herself all that well, so she moved in with our family. It has been about 10 years now.

She is a wonderful grandma who always takes care of us. She loves the grandkids and will sit and hold them as long as they let her.

She is always good for a laugh. Here she is opening a present, which of course is pink. I don't remember her favorite color being pink when I was younger, but it is most assuredly pink now. If it is pink she loves it. I guess the pink petunias and flamingos should have been my indicator.

Here is another shot of her with Ethan. They love to play with her cane, and she loves to let them.

She is a dedicated grandma who will do anything for her family. She has taught me so much about self-sacrifice and pure grit. She has worked her entire life, and now she can enjoy the company of those she loves.

She dedicated her life to the Church and to her family. I always think of her when I reflect on my own full-time mission because she served in L.A. She set a great example for me.

She loves snickers candy bars, Oreo cookies, Little Caesar's pizza, and KFC. She spends a lot of time with word searches, and she loves to read.

I am thankful for her presence in my life. She has always been there for us when we needed her, and she has given us an exemplary life to follow. Although her body is slowly slipping away, her spirit continues to leave its impression upon the lives of so many.