Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Christmas Wrap Up

Another Christmas has come and gone, and this one quite memorable for a few reasons. First of all, it was my first Christmas as a married person. One of my wishes came true when we got our Christmas tree. C got it to please me, but I know he loves having it just as much as I do. Now he doesn't even turn the tree lights off at night, but we keep them on all the time, because it's such a pretty sight. The gift-giving was multiplied, but C did all the shopping. I thought I could make all my gifts, but of course I ran out of time. Anyway, we picked names in my family, and so we were only supposed to buy one gift, but C couldn't resist getting something for everyone, so when we drove up to my mom and dad's house on Christmas Eve, C had a Santa hat on his head and our car loaded with gifts. My nieces and nephews were overjoyed to see him, not just because of the gifts. He's their favorite uncle by far, the only one that will play games with them, carry them up into the tree-house, and run around the yard with. The kids were adorable, but little did we know that they carried a horrible secret...

After a wonderful Christmas Eve spent with my family, C and I spent the next afternoon and evening, Christmas Day, with his family. It was a lot of fun. So much delicious food, and the anticipation of snow in the air. His family is delightful. We arrived home late and went to bed, and three hours later I awoke as sick as sick can be. Ugh. A day or two later, my dad called and said that he, my mom, and my two sisters were all sick too. We'd caught it from my littlest cutest niece, who'd had it two days before Christmas Eve, and apparently these things are still contagious after the symptoms manifest.

Nobody likes being sick, but its worst of all when its a stomach bug and you've just eaten a huge Christmas dinner. Not to mention the scads of leftover cookies, pies, meats, and breads that you've been sent home with, and all the gifts of chocolate, nuts, and candies, which you now cannot enjoy. As the snow started covering the land, I moaned with agony, and have been too sick to eat anything but pretzels for the past three days. It's not fair! When everyone else was out making snowmen and sliding down hills on saucers, I was in a cocoon of blankets, sleeping all day and all night. Only today did I finally begin to feel a little better, to finally venture outside, to get out of bed for more than just a few minutes.

But the snow is already almost all melted away. The weekend half-lost. All the things I was going to do, undone still. Sigh! It was a really great Christmas nonetheless. I was able to enjoy both family get-togethers before getting sick, and now I've had three lovely days in bed watching TV and movies, with a wonderful man doting on me. I've read half a book, crocheted half a hat, and best of all, C is feeling fine. I guess he was blessed for being such a fun, kind uncle.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuff

I know I complain about all the stuff that C hoards, that is filling up our house, but there are times when his propensity for collecting comes in handy. Every time I need something, he miraculously has it! No need to go shopping for random things. Whenever I ask him for something, he just goes into another room, roots around for a few minutes, then appears with the thing I needed. So far he has provided me, on the spot, with: bay leaves, tiny earrings with real silver backs, pads of paper, a metallic gold pen, a knob for my crock pot, Christmas tree lights, and tapes of Christmas music.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's Christmas Time

Finally! I'm going to try to start posting pictures of Durham churches, to follow my tradition of posting Harlem churches every Sunday when I lived in New York. I picked this one for today, partly because I already had a picture of it, and also because if you look carefully up at the very top, there is a tiny window and, though it's hard to see from my picture, the window has a nativity scene etched in the glass, with a manger and a star.

Yes, it's that time again! Christmas is almost here, and my mood has been very festive since Thanksgiving, when my sister-in-law gave me and C a handmade wreath bedecked in hollyberries, pine boughs, and spotted feathers. We hung the wreath on our front door, and then a week later it snowed, making the Christmas music on the radio all the more apt. At work, we had a big holiday open-house for our customers, friends, and family, and spent the entire week decorating a huge tree and making all sorts of last-minute decorating projects. Then, at church, we had our ward Christmas party, and C and I were in charge of coordinating the food. It was fun shopping for industrial-sized amounts of cider and hot cocoa, and manning the refreshment table to make sure no kids burnt their hands on the pot of hot water for the cocoa. I got to see children helping themselves to heaping portions of marshmallows as if it were a side dish. C voluntarily washed everyone's baking dishes after the entire table full of food was consumed, while ward-members performed talents on stage, decorated cookies in the back of the gym, and Santa himself made an appearance at the end. My mom told me that her ward party was going to center around "A Walk To Bethlehem" where successive rooms of the church would be decorated with the scenes of the story of Christ's birth, and kids would reverently go along and see all of them. Our party was more of a raucous hullabaloo, probably a result of all the sugary foods, but it was a lot of fun.

But outside the party, it was a rainy, dreary winter Saturday and, besides Christmas, my mind has been occupied with the tragedy of a wayward sibling. There's not much I can do about the situation--I've already given all the advice I have to give, and not even sure that it's welcome--so all I can do is pray, try to be a good example, and be available for any help or support that other family members might need. Sometimes I feel like doing something dramatic to try to fix the situation, but then again, I don't know that anything can really fix it except the person whose decisions are affecting the family peace. Then I wonder if I could have been a better sister, stayed in closer touch or given advice that would have prevented what has happened, but I don't know that, either. All I know is that from my own experience, keeping the Lord's commandments are the only way to find happiness, and I cannot keep them for another person. They must find that out on their own. But how hard it must be to be a parent and see your beautiful children falter and fumble in life and make horrible decisions and mistakes! I wonder if it seems like a waste, or if it is somehow possible to retain hope that your children will turn around, wake up, and become better? Certainly, it is possible, but it must be so hard. I know it's hard enough just being a sister!

Meanwhile, my own tiny family of me and my husband is doing wonderfully, and despite the wintry weather, we went and got a Christmas tree. Speaking of people changing, C has lived in this house for 16 years and never had a Christmas tree. I guess he didn't feel like making room for one, or going to the trouble for just himself. Yet I somehow convinced him that he could move a huge pile of his stuff into another room and thus clear a perfect space in our little family-room for a tree. He did it, and we brought home a lovely little Fraser Fir, which is now all bedecked in colored lights and flashy baubles. When he set it up in it's stand, the tree was still all tightly bound up, as it had been for travel, and C told me to wait until it relaxed and opened before decorating it, but I just couldn't wait. I found a radio station playing Christmas music, and set about rediscovering all my treasured ornaments--some handmade by my mother during her first year of marriage--while C brought down some of his own from the attic. When it was all done, he looked at it with wonder, like a kid for whom last Christmas was eons away and so everything about Christmas is new and amazing again. Not only is it his first tree in this house, but our first Christmas together. For that, I feel so blessed and happy. So, despite the weather and family drama, I'm going to enjoy this season! Sitting here, warm beneath blankets, beside my twinkly tree, my husband nearby, I feel perfectly content.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankful

This Thanksgiving season, I'm thankful for so much!

I'm thankful for my husband. One year ago, I had no idea I would ever get married, and I was just enjoying my life in New York, without a real plan. But the Lord had a plan and opened my eyes, and I've never been happier than I am now with my beloved C, who is a genuinely honest and principled man, a gem. He constantly cares for me, makes me laugh, and loves me like crazy. This morning we both woke up before the sun was up and just stayed in bed talking for about three hours until we had to get up or we'd be late for church. I have the feeling that if given the chance, we could just sit and talk to each other without losing interest for several days or more. And often, on Saturday mornings, he makes me a pancake breakfast in bed!

I'm thankful for my family. My parents are so wonderful, and my brothers and sisters teach me so much. And now I have a whole new extended family with C's relatives. We went over to his brother's house for Thanksgiving dinner and had a wonderful time talking with them. I admire his brother and sister-in-law's desire to adopt children from Africa, and I love the creativity and energy of his niece and nephew, as well as the wisdom and kindness of his parents. My new sister-in-law made us a gorgeous bent-wood wreath with holly, pine, and feathers on it. The day after Thanksgiving, we went to my parents' house and spent time with my mom and dad, my brother, and with my sister and her family. Her four kids immediately glommed onto C and he spent the next 4 hours tirelessly playing games with them. They are the cutest kids! And every time I go home, my parents have their arms open, wanting to know how they can help me and C in any way. I aspire to that kind of kindness and generosity.

I'm thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it blesses my life. I know where I come from, why I am here, and where I will go after I die. I know that I can repent and be forgiven of sins, and I know that I am a child of a loving Heavenly Father, whose son Jesus died to atone for the world's sins. I know there is a prophet, and that he teaches the truth, and I know that the truth can be found in scriptures, both ancient and modern. If I follow the truth, I can be reunited with my family and with Jesus after death. This knowledge gives me so much comfort and direction in my life, and I know it has saved me from a lot of sadness.

I'm thankful for the beautiful earth. C and I often go hiking, and even though the woods are brown and barren seeming this time of year, and the air is cold, the earth still has so much beauty to offer. Our garden is dead and withered, but in the backyard a huge camellia bush has begun blossoming, and the flowers are large and pink and gorgeous. Birds fill the air with color and song, squirrels chatter and play, and the days have been so sunny.

I'm thankful for my job. Since C lost his job in September, I've become the breadwinner in our family, but I make enough money to support us in all of our needs, and not only that, I really love what I do. Me working gives C the opportunity to accomplish much-needed repair and maintenance on our house. I bring home tons of fabric with which to make things really cute things for my home, my relatives, and to sell. My coworkers are fun and friendly, and I have really enjoyed learning some new skills.

I'm thankful for my health, which is strong, and for C's health. I'm so thankful for my generous, happy, fun, and interesting friends. I'm thankful for delicious food, for a warm home, and for television. I'm thankful for well-written books, my sewing machine, good neighbors, and the fact that no mice live in my house! There are so many things I am thankful for, and so few things I lack. I thank my Heavenly Father for all these blessings, and hope that everyone might be similarly blessed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Bachelorette: Cat Edition

Just as I predicted, the neighbor's cute little gray kitten that used to spend all day pouncing on things in our backyard has grown up into a slender gray siren, and is currently attracting every male cat within a mile radius. She rolls around in the piles of oak leaves that C has raked up, and purrs invitingly at her suitors, who lurk in all the bushes. So far there are three principal tomcats vying for her attention, and I'm accepting bets on which one will become the baby-daddy. Bachelor #1 is white with dark gray spots, and may or may not belong to the guy who lives two doors down from us, who comes out at dusk and calls "Kittykittykitty." Bachelor #2 is a short-haired gray guy, who seems tidy enough to be someone's housecat. Bachelor #3, who C is betting on, has long gray Persian fur, and has been a long-time stray in this area. A year or two ago he had a hurt paw and was so bedraggled he looked like a dustmop, C tells me, but he's looking fine now, and since he doesn't belong to anyone, he hangs around here the most. All three of them constantly chase the gray lady-cat around and when she gets exhausted from the attention, she hides in the rafters of our garage. Meanwhile, C takes shots at all the males with his bb gun, just to scare them away but, nevertheless, our yard has turned into a cat soap opera.

The cat's don't bother me so much, though I'm torn between wishing the neighbor would get his cat fixed and anticipation at the idea of having adorable gray kittens being born, probably, in the crawl space under our house. Kittens are so cute!!! I'm mostly just hoping that the freshly turned dirt in my garden beds doesn't become a giant litter box for all these gentlemen cat-callers. I've been weeding and turning the earth, so it will be ready for spring planting. I've also been investing in spring: planting daffodil and tulip bulbs in little clumps around the backyard. It was a warm sunny morning today, and felt so good to be outside working the land. We still haven't had our first frost, and there are still some hardy mosquitoes out there; you can be sure they found me. C did battle with the fence on one side of the property, and replaced some old wooden posts with metal ones. The sound of his cursing, as he extricated wire and wood from the tangles of ivy, kudzu and barbed ilex, drifted on the breeze and mixed with chickadee tweets, wind-chimes, Latin music, and the sounds of kids playing somewhere in the distance. But when he's done with a project like that, the frustration instantly melts away, replaced with satisfaction and pride. We have a stronger fence now, and in the spring-time we'll have lovely flowers. And kittens.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Glass Castle

For book club this month, we read The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeannette Walls. Unfortunately, I got completely mixed up and thought book club was tonight, not last night, so last night I was curled up in my bed, finishing the book. It would have made for a great book club discussion, but from what I heard, several of my friends didn't like the book very much. I actually liked it a lot.

Jeannette Walls tells the story of her childhood--a tale of incredible survival. She seems to honestly report memories of being raised as one of the four children of a pair of grifters. Her alcoholic father could never hold down a job or money to support his family, and her free-spirited artist mother neglected her children's basic needs in order to pursue her own flights of fancy. The children were fending for themselves from the time they could walk. Jeannette recalls being able to cook herself rice on the stove when she was 3 years old, which in itself isn't a bad thing, but when she gets burned and hospitalized, then busted out of the hospital by her parents in the middle of the night so they don't have to pay the bill, the reader starts to see the problem.

With Jeannette's mom and dad it was feast or famine--small periods of stability when her dad would get a job and they'd enroll in school, like the one in Arizona that gave the kids free bananas, then times when the family was living in a rotten rat-infested house on the side of a freezing West Virginia mountain with no plumbing, electricity, or telephone. When the kids miraculously found a diamond ring in their dirt yard one day, their mom declared she'd rather keep it for her self esteem than sell it to buy food, of which they had none. On one hand, you curse the dad and mom for being such horrible examples, and then you admire the fact that they taught their kids to read and write at age 3, do their math homework in binary code, and to think about things like planets, geology, and polar exploration.

The book is written so well, the reader rolls right through, seamlessly transported through experience after jaw-dropping experience highlighting the struggle these kids had to grow up. It reminded me of a tragic Little House on the Prairie. The memories were sad, but engaging and enlightening, so I can say that I enjoyed the book while I certainly do not condone the parenting style it described.

The kids do survive and three out four seem to turn into amazingly talented, successful people, especially the author. At age 17 she follows her older sister to New York, becomes a journalist, and goes to Barnard College. Meanwhile, her parents become homeless on the streets of New York City, but seem to enjoy it just as much as anything else they did in their lives, and it's hard to feel sorry for them at all. One of my favorite parts in the book is when Jeannette relates a college class she was in, where her professor was talking about homelessness. The teacher asked the question whether homelessness is a result of drug abuse or the lack of proper social security and economic opportunities. Jeannette answered that she felt it is sometimes neither, that "people get the lives they want." Her professor became angry and asked, "What do you know about the hardships and obstacles that the underclass face?" and Jeannette, a bit ashamed of her past at that point, and unwilling to expose herself, did not explain that she knew firsthand. I think this book is her way of finally explaining to that teacher, and the rest of the world. Sometimes I would stop reading and wonder how she could be so honest about everything, and wonder if there were even darker memories that were just too painful to write down, but then, some of the things she shares are so horrible, I don't know that she could have experienced much worse.

The title comes from a grand scheme Jeannette's father had, or at least a tall tale he told his children. He was working on the plans for a glorious mansion he was going to build, all of glass, powered by solar cells, where his family could live in luxury and self-sufficiency. It struck me that a glass castle was an apt metaphor for the bubble of artificial security that Jeannette's parents built around the family, a fragile gloss that was so transparent and easily broken every time they betrayed their children's trust.

I liked this book because it had a happy ending for Jeannette and her siblings, so it was in many ways a satisfying story of growth and the overcoming of obstacles. There were small moments of fun, adventure, and redemption throughout. I also liked it because it opened my eyes to the fact that there are people in the United States probably still living like Jeannette did, in similarly crazy families, in conditions that would shock us. I wondered if being separated into foster families would have been better or worse for these kids, who formed their own team against the world early on, and loved and protected each other. It made me remember being a kid and how there were always certain kids at school that didn't really fit in because of what they wore or how they smelled, and I wonder why other kids are so cruel and don't realize that children are entirely dependent on their parents for everything. I also thought about alcohol addiction, and this book only added fuel to my belief that alcohol is one of the most dangerous and destructive substances on earth. I read with interest about the author's final conflict: a woman with a Park Avenue address has homeless parents. What would I do in that situation? What would I have done as a child in such a family? Would I have even survived to the age of 7 with such a life?

I admire the author and am inspired that she could become so successful after such a childhood, and wonder how much of that success came from the strength she gained from growing up fast and struggling to survive. Nature or nurture? Not all poor neglected kids turn out great, and not all rich pampered kids do.

So, I guess I liked the book mostly because it was so well written and engaging, because it inspired me, and because it was so thought-provoking. It illuminated a slice of American life I might never have known about otherwise, and real life fascinates me. If this book had been fiction, I would not have believed it, but because it is true, I am fascinated.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shoes

My husband and I bought matching slippers yesterday. As she rang them up, the checkout lady at the shoe store eyed us and said, "Ya'll are too cute." But I couldn't help it. We were actually at the store looking for some sensible shoes for me, because all I have are high heels, flip flops, a pair of running shoes, and a pair of boots. I need something normal, that I can wear with socks, to book club or to the grocery store. But while I was trying to justify a pair of cute Pumas or some low-top Converse, C went over to the men's section and started putting on fleece-lined suede slippers. He needed some, and the price was good. And they looked so comfortable and warm that I went over and dug out a pair of men's size 7 that just barely were small enough to stay on my feet and announced that I was getting some too. I didn't get any sneakers, but that's okay. My feet are warm and cozy right now.

On the way home from the store, we passed a couple out for a late-afternoon walk, and they were wearing identical hooded sweatshirts. "Are we going to turn into one of those couples that dresses alike all the time?" I laughingly asked. "Only if you start wearing ripped up camouflage pants and pocket T-shirts," he said.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Randoms

1. Hopefully I'm not getting a sinus infection. I've had allergies pretty much since the beginning of September, but I hate taking pills because they make me feel like I'm sleepwalking, so I just suffer, and some days are better than others, but today I feel like I'm really getting sick. Ugh.

2. Is it possible that an oven thermometer is wrong? I'm still getting to know my new/old oven here at my new/old house and the thermometer reads about 50 degrees higher than the knob on the oven, which seems crazy, so who do I believe? It does seem like my cookies are taking longer to bake when I obey the oven thermometer, but maybe I've always had hot ovens. Anyway, just so you know, you can't put under-baked cookies back in the oven after they've been out for a while. It just never works.

3. It's time to make a list of things to make people for Christmas!!!! Hopefully there is still enough time to make everything.

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Update

What's new? Well, C continues to work on the kitchen, which is great, but there is still no where for the home teachers to sit. They want to come over soon, but I don't know what to tell them, and now it's getting too cold to sit out on the porch. The days are sunny but brisk now, and yet we still have not turned the heat on in the house. Instead, we have about 8 blankets on the bed, and space heaters, and I bake as often as I can. But mostly I have been sewing--making things for Christmas gifts, because it's coming up soon! I'm going to make all my gifts this year, if possible, and since there are a lot of people I want to give things to, I'd better start now.

Work is great--I've learned how to operate the fabric printers, which is very exciting. It can be either very rewarding or very frustrating depending on whether or not they decide to work properly. They are very temperamental. Half of them are named after Three Stooges and the other half after Star Trek characters. Then there is Edna, the only girl, and I have no idea who she is named after. They like humid air, so the print room is rather dank at times, but it doesn't bother me, because I get so caught up in the printing process that I become focused and addicted, and I don't even want to stop for lunch. "Just one more print!" I say, but there is never an end to them.

We printed a lot of bacon fabric recently, I think for Lady Gaga meat dress Halloween costumes. So much bacon fabric! I didn't do anything for Halloween. I was super tired that night, and knew I was going to be useless, so I just got into my pajamas around 8 and watched TV and ate popcorn. C went to visit his mom and dad, so I was home alone, and then the doorbell rang! I remembered that I'd turned on the porch light, like usual, having forgotten about trick-or-treaters. And I think it must have been some sad kids out there, because I didn't answer the door. For one thing, I didn't have any candy, and for another thing I couldn't open the front door if I wanted to because it is nailed shut. That is one of the things I'm trying to get my husband to change about the house, but it is a pretty sketchy neighborhood, and I know he doesn't want anyone to break in again. Still, it would be nice to eventually open it for guests, at least. Meanwhile, I was quiet until I heard the kids leave and drive away and then I turned off the porch light. So sad!

The other sad thing is our yard, which is in need of some tlc. I know it's getting to be winter, and everything is going to be dead anyway, but I'm vowing now to go outside and weed for at least a half hour every day when I come home from work. Then things will be in better shape in the spring, and my husband and I can plant things then. He's been lamenting about how wild it all looks, but I rather like a wild garden, and it doesn't bother me when plants get out of control.

I'm really loving life right now, loving being married, and loving the time that my husband and I spend together. Sometimes we make a fire in the backyard and roast hot dogs and marshmallows, and sometimes we do more mundane things like Saturday night when I cut his hair for the first time. I'm kind of impressed that I was able to do it, and he didn't hate it, either. He just hated sitting still, but what boy doesn't?

So, that's the news. I know, I know... I'll try to write more often!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Testimony

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
~Walt Whitman, "A Clear Midnight"


This week I've been thinking a lot about death and life. When a friend or family member dies, it forces you to decide what you believe in. Are you going to see that person again? Where are they now? What do they think, and what are they doing? Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon), I've been taught things about life and death since I was a child. Still, when faced with the crisis, I now decide to accept or reject the things I've been taught. I accept them, for several reasons. Here I will give a few of the main ones.

I guess the first reason would be because it sounds great. LDS believe that after someone dies, that isn't the end, but the spirit lives on, reunited with spirits of ancestors and friends, and waits until the final moment when Christ returns to the Earth and everyone is resurrected. We believe that this spirit world is very similar to our world, and that spirits there can continue learning. For example, if they never heard about Jesus on earth, they can learn about him there, and accept or reject his gospel. So anyway, it's comforting to think that death doesn't just mean lights out, the end. To think that I can see my loved ones again makes me happy, and I want to believe that I will.

Second, it makes sense to me. With my belief in a loving God who is actually a Heavenly Father, I believe that he would not make us just for this earth life alone. Such an existence would not be very meaningful to him, and why would he put so much effort into teaching and schooling us if there is nothing after this. It makes sense to me that if there is a God, then there is life for us with him at some point after this life.

Third, I believe because I trust the people who have taught me. My parents are honest people, and they have shared with me the most personal moments in their lives, when the veil that separates this life from the spirit world has become so thin that they have seen for themselves that there is life beyond mortality. To deny it would be to call them liars. The same goes for prophets, both old and new, who have testified of life after death, which becomes possible because of Christ's atonement for our sins and his resurrection. I believe the prophets, and I believe in Jesus.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, I believe because I just do. There is a spiritual part of me that asks questions, seeks, feels, and receives answers. Many others believe in the Holy Spirit, by which it becomes possible to receive inspiration, answers, and comfort from God. To some it comes as a voice, to others just a warm good feeling. For me it is a good feeling, a clearness of thought, a burst of happiness from deep within, and a confirmation inside of myself that answers the question I'm asking. It's very hard to explain this sometimes, and I know that for others it can be much more of a struggle to receive answers and feel faith in things they don't understand. Death is very hard to understand, and separation from a loved one is painful enough to cloud the mind and heart for a long time.

However, I know that after winter comes the spring, after trials come blessings, and after hard work comes reward. Thus, somehow, after death comes life again.

I was thinking the day most splendid, till I saw what the not-day exhibited,
I was thinking this globe enough, till there sprang out so noiseless around me myriads of other globes.

Now, while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me, I will measure myself by them;
And now, touch’d with the lives of other globes, arrived as far along as those of the earth,
Or waiting to arrive, or pass’d on farther than those of the earth,
I henceforth no more ignore them, than I ignore my own life,
Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive.

O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me—as the day cannot,
I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.
~Walt Whitman, "Night on the Prairies"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DLF

There was no one in the world like her. Seriously, is there anyone else who hates cinnamon? She loved dance movies, dance television shows, and we shared a huge crush on the American Idol contestant Constantine Maroulis. She loved Las Vegas, the color red, the Bob & Sheri radio show, sushi, grilled peaches, and bald tattooed guys. She had a passion for helping others, especially children. She worked with sight-impaired kids, and knew sign language and could read braille. She was always where there was work to be done. The last time I saw her, she was helping prepare a meal for over 400 people, just because she wanted to help a friend out. She was so excited about my wedding, calling it "the event of the year" but at the reception she rolled up her sleeves and helped out in the kitchen. She was faithful and religious, but so funny. She would gripe about having so many church responsibilities, saying "if only the Jewish side had won!" but I took great strength from her testimony and dedication. I had immense admiration for her, so much love, and enjoyed her friendship so much. I never thought there would be a time when I couldn't make plans to go to Shiki Sushi with her and the gang, or chat with her about the latest funny thing we'd heard on Bob & Sheri. In your thirties, you don't expect your friends to die. I'm going to miss her so much.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Exploration

The days were getting shorter and colder, and I begged to turn on the heat in the house, but instead my husband just put two more wool blankets on the bed and offered me a selection of fine aged flannel shirts to wear. I drove to my parents house and got all my sweaters out of their attic, and put away all my summer dresses and skirts. Then, a few days later, it was 87 degrees again and I found myself chasing the ice cream truck down the street because I thought I was going to die if I didn't have something frozen to eat. Such is the fickle nature of the Southern autumn.

Sunday was a warm and gorgeous fall day, and C and I decided to explore our neighborhood. We had heard tell of a new renovated pedestrian bridge that crosses a major highway near our house, and so we set out to find it. An hour later, sweaty, dirty, and clutching our knives (we have to arm ourselves in my neighborhood--or at least we feel better if we do) a seemingly dead-end street on the wrong side of the tracks led us to our destination, and we stood atop the R. Kelly Bryant, Jr. Bridge, feeling the refreshing breeze from semi-trucks speeding below us, and gazed at the romantic Durham skyline. But we didn't cross the bridge, because on the opposite side there was a sketchy looking man with a bottle in a brown bag, just loitering. The main reason for renovating the bridge, I heard, was to make the walls transparent so that people couldn't get mugged and beaten up on it without being seen by cars below, but we didn't want to test things.

Now, I may be painting a negative picture of my neighborhood and town, but I actually really love Durham, and I loved exploring my neighborhood with my husband. Walking, you see so many things you would never see in a car. We passed a cement factory with amazing huge cement-rendering vats protected by cement fences. We saw what used to be a huge train yard, where the depot is now a "green" flea market space. When we passed it, dozens of Mexican families were packing up what must have been a huge food-oriented gathering. We walked down shanty-lined streets, where the poorest tobacco-factory workers lived back in the 1930s and 40s, and where things haven't gotten much better. And we traversed streets of once-gorgeous Victorian houses, bedecked in crumbling gingerbread trim, now with broken windows and gaping holes. Someone's carefully constructed quartz-studded sidewalk is now cracked and edged with overgrown weeds. Some places in the middle of town felt like we were in a rural setting, the vines had so taken over. A red and white stucco church we passed made me feel like I was in a Mexican village, but the watchful eyes of a guard dog living on a tight leash under a porch brought me back to reality. People don't have much here, but they protect it fiercely. C and I both love to see the decay, the layers of time and weather, even though we wish things were better for the people and places on this side of town. We are fascinated with our neighborhood, even while alert for the danger it holds.

The pinecone-strewn trail leading away from the bridge brought us to a busy road, where a tattoo parlor vied with a beaux arts church for attention. A tattered awning fluttered from the side of the next nearest building, abandoned and caved in, but still bearing a trademark feature of this town: glass block windows, half broken, half gleaming in the brilliant autumn sun.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Playing Games

Note to self: Never play Scrabble with an ex-con. My brother was in prison for a little while, and one of the things he was allowed to do in the clinker was play Scrabble. So of course he decided that if he was going to play, he was going to win, and he memorized all the two-letter and a lot of the three-letter words in the official Scrabble dictionary. If you challenge his words, he proves you wrong and you lose all your turns, until he plays nonsense words and you're too scared to challenge them. Sigh. I guess I'm not the Scrabble champion in my family any longer. But that's okay. I'm really happy that he has gained his Scrab-fabulous skills, and I think he ought to go compete at the Scrabble Championship games, which I'm sure exist somewhere.

"So why won't you play with him anymore then?" my husband asked me. "Just because you aren't going to win, you aren't going to play Scrabble?" Sigh... What fun is a game that you know you can't win? I'll stick to Scrabble Beta games on facebook with E and Peter (not that you can't beat me, E! You have many times), and long Sunday afternoon Scrabble games with my husband where we go to look up a word in his gigantic unabridged dictionary and end up poring over diagrams of battleships or beetles.

And maybe I'm a word snob, but I just think that if you play a word in Scrabble, you should know what it means. Half the fun of playing an obscure word is the look on faces of people who go, "What does tripe mean?" The rest of the fun comes when you reply with, "Oh, you know, a cow's stomach." It's funny 'cause it's true.

Anyway, maybe I'll play Scrabble with my brother again sometime. I'm really happy for him because he and his wife are expecting their first baby and they just found out it's going to be a girl! I'm happy because it's so much more fun to sew things for girls than boys. Dresses are a hundred times easier to make than collar-shirts, I discovered recently. In fact, I think I will have a hundred dresses made before I figure out how to fit the collar to the yoke on the shirt I'm trying to make for my nephew. What's a yoke, you ask? Well, you'll have to play Scrabble with me to find out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Inadvertent Love Note

Book club was last night, and the next month's reading selection was chosen, but it's too soon for this fast reader to begin it. Instead, I pulled a book of my husband's bookshelf and dug in. A few pages in, a bookmark fell out. It was a small Christmas card with a message... from me!

"Promise me you'll let me read these when you're done. Merry Christmas! Love, H" it said.

The book I was reading was one that I'd given C for Christmas about five or six years ago, when we were just coworkers and friends. I'd completely forgotten about it. Now, looking back, it filled me with awe to think of myself those years ago, ignorant of the future, and tenderness to think that C saved the note, not knowing we'd be married someday.

Then I thought, "Hey! How come he never let me borrow the books?!" and laughed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Home Teaching

I keep thinking of things to blog about, but the time has been going by so fast. I can't believe it's almost October! In my head I've composed posts on many and varied topics: the word bindle, the neighbor's crazy cat, mystery novels, money-making ideas, projects I've been working on... there just isn't time to write it all down. And then when I do get time, I end up writing a novel. I still have an unpublished post about seeing The Drums for the first time, when they came to Chapel Hill earlier this month. There was and is so much to say about it and them and that experience that I am still not finished writing about it, though it's become extremely long and, I'm afraid, unwieldy.

But I don't want the days to slip away unrecorded. There are some things about these times that I will not mind forgetting (the piles of boxes in this house that are driving me crazy, for example), but for the most part, C and I are having a wonderful time. And I continue to be surprised and amazed by him.

On Sunday, one of my Home Teachers came up to me and asked when a good time to visit would be. I suddenly panicked, but couldn't say anything because C was right there. My Visiting Teachers already know that instead of coming to visit me at home each month, it's better to meet at an ice cream place, for example. My house just is not presentable yet. In all the years that C has lived here, he has filled the rooms, hoarder style, with boxes of tools, books, pots and pans, etc. to the point that the place is bursting at the seams and there is hardly room to walk around, let alone sit down. If it were just up to me, I'd have it whipped into shape in a matter of days, but it drives C crazy to not know where anything is. He has to do it all himself. C knew that when we got married, things would have to eventually change--I believe a house should be comfortable, functional, clean and organized--but he has been changing very very slowly (in my mind) and while things are improving, the house is still claustrophobically cluttered, with corners I haven't even been able to reach, let alone dust yet, and definitely not ready for visitors. So, like I said, I panicked. While I nodded in agreement with a fake smile on my face when they asked if they could come for a visit on Tuesday, in my head I was freaking out. I looked at C out of the corner of my eyes, but he had no idea what was going through my head. He somehow didn't share my views on the situation, and calmly jotted down the man's name on his notepad. We went in to Sunday School, and I didn't hear a word the teacher spoke. My mind was reeling. What was I going to do? Should I cancel the visit? Could I hurry and rearrange and clean the house by Tuesday? Could I let them into the house as it was? No, I'd die!

After Sunday School, I couldn't keep silent anymore. I told C we needed to go outside and talk, so we did, and in the church parking lot I started to tell him how I felt about the house. I even cried. He didn't understand at all, and I spent the rest of the day trying to explain how I felt about people coming to the house with it looking this way, and I guess maybe it was our first real fight, even though there was no yelling or anything like that. We skipped the third hour of church and just drove home. I felt like a horrible, proud, ungrateful wife, and at the same time I believed I was right to want what I wanted. C maintained that anyone who came over to our house was entitled to think anything they want and he couldn't care less what it might be, because we are honest hardworking people with a new roof over our heads, and they ought to not judge. I agreed, but insisted that a house should, if possible, be kept neat and clean and reflect the personality of its residents, and also that guests should have a place to sit where they are not surrounded by mounds of boxes and assorted piles of things, with a view of cobwebs in unreachable places.

We talked it out for a long time, and then I went over to see my mom and dad. On the way to their house, it was rainy and foggy, but the sun hadn't set yet. I passed a farm, and saw a herd of deer running in the distance. One doe was pure white. Maybe I took it as an omen of peace or hope, but I already knew that everything was going to be all right.

I decided not to cancel the Home Teachers' visit, swallowing my pride, and C, swallowing his, started excavating what may eventually become our living room. It wasn't ready by Tuesday, but we compromised and decided to host our Home Teachers on the front porch, the most attractive section of our house at the moment. It was a fine evening and, despite a few noisy cars going by, it was pleasant and charming to sit out there, citronella candles burning, and the scent of autumn just barely beginning to creep through the neighborhood. On a whim, I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

I'm so glad I didn't cancel the meeting. Our Home Teachers arrived and were more than happy to sit on the porch and talk. This was the first time we'd met them, so we spent the time just answering questions, telling them about us, talking about all sorts of things. The conversation inevitably turned to the church and the gospel, and C asked questions about the Book of Mormon. We talked about Joseph Smith, obedience, and faith. They bore their testimonies humbly, and shared several scriptures that related to the things we were talking about. When they left, I couldn't believe it had only been an hour--we seemed to have covered so much ground. C felt the opposite--he was left wanting more, and said he wished they had gotten even deeper into a religious discussion with even more meat to it. That made me smile with joy and surprise at my once-reclusive husband's willingness to receive visitors, talk about the gospel, and wish for more!

I learned a lesson this week, and I'm continuing to learn it. Some things are important, others are not.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The End of an Era

After church, C and I kept on our nice clothes and went to a funeral. It wasn't the funeral of a person, but of an era, a place, a way of life. In 1972 a man with big dreams and big style opened a frame shop in Chapel Hill. A few years later, a young man stepped off his friend's motorcycle to answer a help wanted ad, and knowing nothing about framing at the time, learned a skill that kept him employed for the next twenty and more years. The frame shop became an art gallery, a jewel of fine art, glass, sculpture, and jewelry, and thrived with the booming eighties and nineties. Nine years ago, fresh out of college, I answered a help wanted ad at that art gallery. It was my first professional job, and I learned so much. My experience there propelled me to success in school and work in New York, and then brought me home again, to my husband, that boy on a borrowed motorcycle. My feelings about the gallery are a huge nostalgic mixture, and maybe they are larger than life, but I don't think I'm the only one who was sad to see the gallery go into Chapter 7 bankruptcy and eventually close this weekend with a public auction. I know a lot of people feel like the loss of such an amazing business is a tragedy, not just for this area, but for the artists spread all across the nation who sold work there. And why no bailout? Well, I won't go into politics. I just wanted to say how strange it was, how sad, and how sickening, to see the gorgeous gallery stripped of its finery yesterday, its every moveable part grabbed at, sold to the highest bidder in a feeding frenzy of a crowd, and then to see the place empty out to nothing but tipped pedestals, empty fast-food restaurant cups, and broken glass.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Times They Are A Changing

Since I've become a factory girl I go to bed early and wake up early. I don't fight sleep like I used to do--I am content to obey my closing eyes, lie down, and let myself rest. But in the hours between work and sleep, I have been making things. My sewing machine is on, fabric is strewn about, and I know I'm a simple old lady when the highlight of my week is treating myself to a brand new pair of Gingher chromed nickel dressmaking scissors with a serrated edge for excellent gripping. While I create things out of whole cloth, literally, my husband has been uncreating. The company where he works is bankrupt, he'll be out of a job by the end of the month. He feels responsible for the people who've paid for things, and so he works late into the night to finish picture frames. I admire his pride in his job. In one week everything will be sold at auction and there will be no more picture frames to make. The harder he works, the less there is left to do, and he is making sure that things are ended well. After 30 years of making frames, C won't make frames anymore. So, this week I'm happy about my first paycheck, and sad about his last one. Not because of the money, but the end of an era. The start of something new is always scary, too. And yet, we're in it together now, and I'm starting to wonder if that's not one more reason why we were put together at this time. Heaven knows.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Factory Girl

Top Ten Things I Love About My New Job:

1. Work is close to home and C and I carpool. It's so nice to chat on the way to work and then see him pull up to get me at the end of the day.
2. I can listen to my ipod while I work. In the morning I load it up with podcasts of all my favorite radio shows. My work consists of cutting, packing, shipping, loading fabric into big machines, and stuff like that, which I can do with my headphones on. In fact, it's much more fun to work while listening to something, I think.
3. Fridge full of Diet Coke. Must try to restrain self. There is also a cupboard full of Wheat Thins, granola bars, and Sourpatch Kids.
4. I can wear whatever I want. I love to dress up, but it's nice to not have to.
5. I don't have to answer the phone. YES!!!!
6. Everyone is so nice!
7. I can take home all the fabric I want from the scrap pile (stuff that has slight errors in printing, stuff that was printed twice accidentally, stuff with mill seams, etc.) C set me up a sewing nook in the house and now I'm making clothes for my nieces and nephews, quilts, and all kinds of stuff! But I must try to only take home what I really love, because it would be so easy to go overboard and become a fabric hoarder.
8. I'm not in charge of anyone or anything. Secretly I always wanted a manual-labor job where I could just be a cog in the wheel of a machine, perfecting one part of the chain. That leaves me responsible only for my own work, which I find very satisfying. Does that make sense?
9. Surrounded by creativity. My favorite thing to do is cut the fabric, because it gives me the chance to see the amazing designs that artists have created.
10. Free lunch Fridays. Every week. And that means today!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Update

I'll start blogging more regularly when I get internet hooked up at my house. The school/community center across the street used to provide a strong enough signal for me to use, but now it just doesn't work for some reason, and it's driving me crazy! However, I just started a new job, and I have to get here wicked early because C and I are sharing a car, so it gives me a few minutes to use the internet before I have to start working. My job is fun! I cut and pack fabric for a company that prints custom designs for people all over the world. Nothing high-powered or high-fallutin', I know, but I LOVE it! Because, what? Free fabric? Yes! I can have my pick of the scraps, cast-offs, rejects, stuff like that, and there's a ton of nice stuff. I can already see myself competing with C in the hoarding department. I've been trying to get him to clean out the house, but now I'm going to be just as bad, bringing home bags of fabric every day! No, I'll try not to go crazy. Anyway, my NYC trip went well, but I'm very happy to be back home, beginning a new chapter.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Harlem Church

I have been lazy and have not been posting church pictures on Sunday like I promised I would, but since I am back in Harlem this weekend, here is a Harlem church of note.

Riverside Church stands like a sentinel over Harlem, the tallest thing around. It's hard to fit it in the frame of my camera.

The carving is gorgeous and so is the ironwork on the massive doors.

Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in! (Isaiah 26:2)

I went to church in my old ward today, and was joyfully reunited with beloved friends. How wonderful to be part of a worldwide family, a sisterhood of love and charity. After church I wandered over to 135th Street, where Harlem had rolled out her finery in the annual Harlem Days celebration. Colorful fabrics, baskets, music, incense, jewelry, food, and entertainment were all there to be had, and I enjoyed it all.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Different Kind of Alive

I keep suddenly looking around at the walls and ceiling of this New York apartment where I used to live and thinking, "How did I get here?" A few days ago I was peacefully living with my husband in my new Durham North Carolina life and now suddenly I am back in New York, working at the job I escaped from five months ago. It could be a nightmare, you know? Or an episode of the Twilight Zone, where I come home from work and my apartment is the same but slightly different. The bedroom furniture that was mine since age 8 are in another woman's bedroom, filled with her clothes. A once-thriving plant that I potted in a beautiful yellow flowerpot sits in the front room, quietly dying. An old apron that I used to wear when baking hangs from a hook in the hallway, but I don't know if anyone ever wears it. I opened the hall closet and there was the metal rolling cart I used to move in and out of every New York apartment I ever had. Next to the kitchen sink is the gallon of dish-soap that E bought over a year ago when she and I lived in Harlem together, over on St. Nicholas Avenue. I'm predicting that soap will last another ten months. There are things here in this apartment that used to be part of my life, but really aren't anymore, except that I recognize them. When I leave, I'll leave them behind for the second time. Will I ever see them again? Who will they belong to then?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New York, I Remember You

"You've grown skinnier since you got married," said Joe Cigar, as he handed me a neatly folded white paper sack. The aroma of warm chocolate-chip cookies hit me like an alarm clock, and I automatically reached in for a bite. Some things never change, I guess. I've been away for five months and when I come back, I still get cookies on Thursday. Why Thursday? I guess he knows that by the time a girl reaches Thursday, she just needs that little push to get her through the one long last day before Friday. Why Joe Cigar? He says I remind him of his daughter. I think he has a thing for girls smiling and eating cookies. C always tells me he enjoys watching me eat because I appear to love it so much, and maybe Joe Cigar feels the same way.

I was hoping for shortbread cookies from Sant Ambroeus, but he brought chocolate chip cookies from Macchiato, newly opened around the corner. And he was right--it's much too hot and humid for good shortbread right now. The chocolate chip cookies were fat and decadent, fudgy and crisp at the same moment, somehow. As rich and overwhelming as New York City itself.

But New York and I have a thing. We get each other. It pushes me and I push back a little, then I give in and fall into the city rhythm. In some ways it's like I never left, and then sometimes I look around and wonder how I got here. Buildings as far and high as sight will reach, endless people, smells I forgot existed, the most amazing clothes, an utter lack of silence, a never-ending list of happenings, an infinite menu. Yes, I do enjoy food! What else is there for a good Mormon girl to indulge in?

After work, my feet walked to the subway and got on the train while my mind paid no attention. I just knew the way. I found myself wearing my New York face, avoiding eye contact with people, reading my Raymond Chandler novel as the train slowly chugged its way up west Manhattan, as if an old book was so much more interesting than the living breathing pulsing metropolis all around me. But it's okay because NYC and me are old friends, the kind you don't even really need to talk to much because you already know as much as you can or want to know about each other, and usually you're content just to hang out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jetting

Goodbye city of Durham, for a little while. City of medicine, city of tobacco, city of red bricks, glass block windows, abandoned factories, boarded windows, train whistles, crows, my new home. Durham has charmed me with its dusty gap-toothed smile, and I'm going to miss it for the next ten days. And I'm going to miss my husband even more.

I've been summoned to New York on a secret mission! No, actually, my old boss just needed a project done and didn't want to bother training someone new when he knew I could do it blindfolded. And since I'm still jobless and penniless, I jumped at the chance for a free trip to New York for a week to earn some money. Plus I'll get to see old friends, and go to old favorite places. Sant Ambroeus, I'm already salivating! The upside: good money, New York, New York food, New York friends. The downside: I'm going to miss my husband, I'm going to be away from him on my birthday, and I know he's going to miss me. It all happened so suddenly that there wasn't even time for us to think about it, which is why I found myself crying at the airport this morning. It's not as if I'm being deployed to a foreign country for 2 years (how do they do it?) It's only ten days, but everything is different now that I'm married, and so newly. I'm not just a loner anymore, a free spirit that can wander around at will, no ties. My heart is bound up with his, and ten days apart seems momentous.

Last night C found a sphinx moth on the front porch and put it in a jar so I could see it. It lay still next to a leaf, trying to blend it's patchy gray wings in with the twigs and leaves that C had stuck in the jar to make it feel more at home. When it got dark, he set it free, and once it figured out which way to go, the large moth flew out of the protective jar into the perilous night. The moth is free and so am I, but I'm already wishing I were on my way home.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Projects

Since I have a lot of free time, I'm working on two projects. The first one is a Hawaiian quilt for my sister-in-law, which I've been promising to make for her for several years now. I've always been intrigued by the Hawaiian quilt style and graphic quality, and she is from Hawaii, so it's my perfect excuse to make one. But since I don't have the room to make a full-sized quilt, I'm going to make 18 small appliqued pieces and sew them together into a large quilt. The first one is this one:

The second project I'm working on is curtains for the house. One by one, I will make them all. First, the bedroom. And because all I have to work with right now is off-white cotton thread, I'm crocheting a curtain. I estimate that it is going to take me a total of 96 hours to complete it--possibly more, because if I watch TV while I work on it, I go slower... radio is best!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Days


The summer continues on, and here I am. The internet hardly works at home, so I have been loathe to blog. Still, I want to remember these long and lazy days. Mostly I stay home and try to apply for jobs. Then when I get tired of writing cover letters and uploading my resume, I take pictures of my artwork and post it on etsy, in hopes of a sale. I've got to scrape together some money somehow! Sometimes I wonder why I ever went to New York in the first place, because now the only thing I have to show for it is a huge student loan. A master's degree yes, but for what? It isn't helping me find any jobs here. Then again... my experience has taught me that you can never know what is going to happen later down the road. I knew C for years before knowing I'd fall in love with him and get married. Maybe my master's degree will come into similar use ten years down the road from now. But the loan payments won't wait. Sigh...

That wasn't what I wanted to blog about. I wanted to talk about the cadence of my life, the day to day rhythm, which I love. I wake up in the morning and see C off to work. Then, like I said, I work on computer things until I grow weary. Then I turn myself to more satisfying tasks, such as washing clothes and hanging them up to dry on the backyard clothesline, where they sway in the summer breeze to the accompaniment of songbirds, a backdrop of pink zinnias, butterflies dodging and darting. Yesterday a huge praying mantis was perched on a dried flower stalk, blending perfectly with its brown and green surroundings. At first all I saw was dried sticks--then I saw a triangular head cocked in my direction, and long spiky legs. I inspect the squash plants for baby vegetables, but I can't stay outside for long because the mosquitoes are bad. Instead, I take a break and rest on the screened porch, where C has his desk, and I do a crossword puzzle while cicadas buzz in the trees around me. I listen to the neighborhood sounds, and eat frozen strawberry popsicles to keep cool. When C comes home from work, sometimes we go to the grocery store, sometimes we build a fire and roast corn on the cob, steaks, or skewers of fresh vegetables. The past couple of days have been very cool, a nice break from the summer heat. We've had the doors and windows open while we sit inside and play gin rummy together. And I'm starting new projects, like crocheted curtains, and a quilt.

Last night I had fabric out all over the bed and C was cleaning an old clock. Suddenly an owl hooted from the tree right outside the door, and I went to try and see it. Walking in the dark, my head got caught in a spiderweb, and as the light came on, I saw a big cat-eye spider bundling up its dinner. Outside on the ground was a huge cicada corpse, and a few fireflies twinkled in the underbrush as crickets and cicadas chorused loudly. Summer in the south is like that--it seems so quiet and so lazy sometimes, but it's so full of vibrant life.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekend Working Girl

Today I'm working! It's just a one-day fill-in job, but still, I'm happy to be earning a bit of money. And it's fun because I'm at the art gallery where I used to work, literally a jewel box in the middle of Durham. Before I moved to New York and before the gallery moved to Durham, I used to work at the gallery in Chapel Hill. I worked there for 6 and a half years before making a life change and moving to NYC to get my master's degree. Then, of course, fate brought me back to NC, and here I am. This gallery is where I fell in love with C. We used to work together in the old days, at the old place. But this new gallery, so gorgeous, is where we met one cold December blue moon night and fell in love in front of a cozy fire, surrounded by gorgeous art, the place to ourselves. So of course, it holds special memories. This morning, when C dropped me off for work (my lunchbox all packed with treats from him), we sat in front of the fireplace and said a little prayer of thanks together, and were amazed again at the circumstances that brought us together.

The gallery is quiet today: construction outside and a 100-degree day are conspiring against us, but I've sold a few things so far. It's fun to talk to customers again, to model jewelry, to handle objects d'art. I'm happy to be inside on such a hot day, and immersed in beauty. Nevertheless, it will be nice to see C pull up at the end of the day and take me home. Working is all well and good, but... it's Saturday!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Patience

Well, I have not been able to blog as much, because the Internet connexion at my house is very unreliable. I've been borrowing signal from the public school across the street, but it's very weak and sometimes on the weekends it doesn't work at all. Eventually C and I will get DSL, but probably not until I get a job. Things are insecure right now with his job, so we are trying not to spend any money that we don't have to spend.

So, eventually I want to start blogging more about the improvements we're making to our home, the interesting features of Durham, my art projects, my garden, etc. But right now... I'm just trying to be patient! And C is trying to be patient with me. He's not used to having someone come into his home and want to rearrange everything, even someone with impeccable taste. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our Travels, Continued

Sorry I have not been blogging more. I really have a lot to write about, but just haven't found the spare moments. Also, my internet connection at home is not the greatest...

Anyway, to pick up where I left off, C and I spent four days on Ocracoke Island, which was fantastic. I recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting and fun place to vacation. There are miles of beautiful beach, and just enough interesting shops and restaurants to keep one busy during the time not spent parasailing, boating, kayaking, fishing, birdwatching, or whatever sort of island thing you like to do. C and I spent our time looking at historical things (the British Cemetery, where four British casualties of WW1 are buried), going to art galleries (the decoy shop counts as one), swimming (in the ocean and in the swimming pool where we stayed) and going in the sauna (my first time in a sauna, and I didn't like it very much), eating seafood at the island restaurants, going to the surf shop, buying candy (salt water taffy--hello!), and hanging out at our rented house, where we liked to play cards on the deck overlooking the bay and watch the boats and birds and people.

"Let's live here!" said C, and I agreed. But when it came time to leave, we were kind of excited to get on the road and see some more places.

The first place we went was Belhaven, where there is a museum made of all the random objects that one woman collected during her lifetime. In a cluttered and dimly lit room over the town hall, a collection of dusty Victorian clothing, dolls, rocks, bones, Samoan fans, lightbulbs, Victrola records, buttons, furniture, things in jars (!!!), etc. is on display for free to anyone who can decipher the ancient hand-written scotch-taped-on labels. A donation of spare change helps maintain the collection, or at least pays for the lunch of the equally dusty old man keeping an eye on the place. My favorite things there were the whale skull, a random but super-cute teddy bear, the canned vegetables from the Victorian times, and a jar with a label that said "The foot of the last bear that Aunt May caught."

The other fun thing about Belhaven is that they were getting ready for their Independence Day celebration, which seems to be a big deal for them, and everyone was participating in the decoration contest, so every single house and business was entirely decked out in bunting. C and I decided we're going to put bunting on our house next July.

By the late afternoon we found ourselves in Bath, NC. Once a thriving and bustling port town, it is now just a sleepy farm village, with a few historic buildings to draw a few dozen tourists each year. As we drove through the dusky tree-lined streets, we found the one bed & breakfast place in town and secured lodging for the night. The place had bicycles for its guests, and we took full advantage of them, cruising down to the river, over to the historic church, and from one end of the town to the other. Bath has two restaurants, and we rode to one and looked at it, then to the other and looked at it, and then we picked the one that had outdoor seating so we could watch the sun set as we ate our meal. Then we rode around some more as darkness fell, and spotted things like a fake pirate illuminated in the upper story window of an old Victorian house. Both Ocracoke and Bath have historic ties to Blackbeard the Pirate, and play it up.

"Let's live here," said C. In the morning we rode around on bikes some more, and tried to decide which house we would buy, and there were several nice ones for sale, including the B&B where we stayed. We started thinking about how fun it would be to run a B&B, but decided that maybe it would be better to have one in a place a little less sleepy than Bath. We hardly saw any people the whole time we were there. But Bath does have a very interesting old house, the Palmer-Marsh house. Callie, our teenage tour-guide, gave us the history of the place, including the story of the young woman buried behind it, who apparently died of a broken heart when her sailor was lost at sea.

After seeing all the historic sights of Bath, C and I hit the road once again, shunning the freeways and keeping to the "blue highways," the small-town routes, which led us through fields of tobacco, soybeans, field corn, and peanuts, and whistle-stop towns with crumbling Victorian houses and abandoned train depots. We'd stop every now and then to take a picture of something funny or gorgeous, and then continue on our way.

By mid-day we crossed the Albemarle Sound and reached Edenton...

(To be continued, and pictures added soon!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Church in Swan Quarter

My love of churches is such that wherever I go they are the buildings that I am most aware of, and drawn to. I love to study the architecture, to look at the variations in structure that still keep the traditional church character. The arched windows, stained glass, pointed gables, etc. C loves churches and old buildings in general, too, and so we were perfectly happy to spend our honeymoon driving from town to little town, looking at old, often crumbling, buildings.

This is the first church we encountered, located in the tiny town of Swan Quarter, where we arrived on the first day of our honeymoon, with several hours to kill before we could catch the ferry over to Ocracoke Island. We busied ourselves "touring" the town, which consisted of this crumbling church, a couple of newer churches, an old and sketchy sort of restaurant, plenty of farmhouses, a decrepit dock full of old fishing boats, and a "wildlife viewing area." We ate lunch in the center of town, where someone had built a two-level gazebo, and then wandered about looking at all the interesting things like

this old car (extra credit to those who can name the make, model, and year!):

this pile of crab traps that looked like some sort of contemporary art sculpture:

these boats:

each other:Most of all we liked the old church, which was very mysterious with its gray paintless wood and equally abandoned looking semi trailer and boat parked alongside it. Bees nested in an upper story, gaining access through a broken windowpane. Key blanks were scattered around the front steps. The heavy summer heat of the South and the general lack of passersby added to the mystery of the place.

But soon it was time to catch the ferry, and soon C and I were off to our island getaway. After a 2 hour ride, which we thoroughly enjoyed--watching diving pelicans and passing sailboats--we arrived on the small island and easily found the place that would be our home for the next 4 days, a charming and spacious house right on the water of the island's bay, or Silver Lake as they call it. There we had a gorgeous view of the boats coming in and out, and all the water activities, which we could watch from a deck overlooking the harbor. Soon I was frying up pancakes and we were watching the sunset. A wonderful way to start the honeymoon!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Wedding Reception

After the wedding ended, C and I got in his car and started driving out to Hillsborough, to Joe's house, where our reception was being held. We couldn't believe we were finally married! Smiling, still in a daze, we recounted our feelings from the ceremony, sharing our favorite parts. We took some deep breaths and began to relax. The business was done--now all we had to do was go to a party!

Joe's house is like a romantic European villa at the top of a hill surrounded by rolling farmland. Full of art and oddities, it's like an extension of his art gallery, but with personal details. Comfortable and spacious, it was the ideal place for a wedding reception, where people could lounge inside, out on the extensive veranda, or down by the pool. We used Joe's ten-foot long dining room table for the food--sandwiches and salads from The Catering Company--with the cakes on small tables at either end.

Guests were already started to arrive when C and I got there, and we were soon mingling with them all, talking, laughing, just having an excellent time. It was so good to talk to friends I hadn't seen in a long time, as well as with C's family. Everyone seemed to have such a great time, and I enjoyed wandering around and observing the conviviality, all the while being the belle of the ball. Mostly, I was thankful to have such wonderful friends! They all pitched in and helped make sure everything ran like clockwork, while still managing to enjoy themselves.

The usual wedding rituals were followed: C and I danced our first dance, Moonlight Serenade. He is a fabulous dancer, by the way. Then my parents danced to Elvis' Can't Help Falling in Love With You, and we cut the cake, while the paparazzi snapped away. Later, outside on the lawn, I threw my bouquet to all the single ladies, and despite the 98-degree weather, C and I posed for romantic pictures with each other against the gorgeous backdrop of green fields and blue skies. It was only a two-hour reception, and the time just flew by. Before I knew it, the cd was on it's last song, "Thank You Friends" by Big Star, and people were leaving. But a few friends lingered, and we relaxed on the porch chairs, drinking Diet Cokes and feeling blissful. C and I danced a little more. I can't remember ever feeling so completely happy. It was just a glorious day.

Some of my favorite memories of the day are: my little sister K dancing with C's dad to a Glenn Miller song, seeing my mom and dad dancing, spotting my nieces and nephews smiling and pointing at me whenever they saw me, feeling so pretty in my wedding dress, the kind and loving toast that Joe gave us... and at the very end my friends serenading C and I as we walked out to the car to drive away. My three friends from New York, my mom, my sisters and brother all followed us out, singing and dancing with joy, and sent us off with a show-biz goodbye. I opened the sunroof on C's car and stuck myself out of it, waving goodbye to them, as we drove off toward the setting sun.

But first, because we were hot and happy and in love, C and I stopped at Maple View Dairy for some ice cream! Then, refreshed, happy, heart-full, and married, we drove home.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Wedding

I remember being nervous the morning of the wedding, but then going for a swim and then feeling calm and peaceful. Still, my hands shook as I dressed and put on makeup. E came to the church early with me to get ready, and as we prepared downstairs, my heart skipped a few beats thinking about C and what he might be doing or thinking about. I thought of my family, too, and wondered what each one was thinking as they all prepared to come see me be married. My sisters all came downstairs to see me in my wedding dress, and some friends also popped in for a few pictures and well wishes. When it was finally time to begin, I carefully made my way up the stairs and took my father's arm. Then, all eyes were on me as the organ played a fanfare and we began to walk down the aisle toward my waiting husband-to-be. He had the most wonderful smile, and that look of gratitude and amazement that he gets sometimes which makes my heart turn flips. I remember everyone in the pews watching me and smiling, and I returned their smiles with a huge one of my own. I felt beautiful, special, and thankful to have so many kind people there to see me.

All the details were perfect. The flowers in the church were white, and everyone wore corsages of white roses. My bouquet was similar, but with pink peonies and pale pink roses from the garden. My veil stayed in place, and my knees didn't buckle--I was actually able to stand and sing with gusto all the hymns that C and I chose. The ceremony opened with C's favorite hymn, How Great Thou Art, which moved us both. Then a friend read the poem, "How Like an Arch This Marriage" by John Ciardi, which describes how the two sides of an arch lean inward and upward to greater strength. Two ladies then sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" like angels. Next, my dad spoke the sweetest words of praise, admiration, and fatherly counsel, and I felt amazed to have such wonderful parents. "On This Day of Joy and Gladness" was the next hymn, and then it was the moment for Chris and I to step forward. The bishop's words were doctrinal, wise, full of promise and hope for our eternal future. C and I shared long looks, full of meaning and emotion, but our words were both strong and clear as we said, "I do," and as we exchanged rings, promising to one another a pledge of faithfulness and abiding love. My hands were sweaty and my ring stuck, so there was a slightly awkward moment as C wriggled the ring slowly onto my finger, but other than that there was nothing to mar the incomparable moments of being officially knitted together as husband and wife.

The service ended with "Now Thank We All Our God" and my own heart swelled with thankfulness and joy. As C and I made our way down the aisle together, my smile was even larger than it had been before, and C also could not help beaming. We stood in the back of the church as our guests filed out and we greeted each one with more smiles and thanks. There I was reunited with my roommates from New York, friends from near and far, and more joyful greetings from family members. Never have I felt so happy, so entirely at peace with the world, so heart-full. Like a beautiful dream, or heaven, I was surrounded by all my friends and family, partnered beside the best and most wonderful man I have ever known. But it wasn't a dream, and as the reality sunk in, if it is even possible, I just became happier and happier.

My Wedding

Sometimes I would get so excited talking about the wedding plans that I would forget that the whole world didn't revolve around me. I mean, I wasn't a bridezilla (I don't think), but sometimes I would be talking to C and I'd say something like, "oh, this is a card from so-and-so. They can't make it to my wedding, but they send their love" or "guess what? we're going to have little bottles of martinelli's at my wedding!" C would then gently remind me that it was his wedding too. And what a wedding it was. I'll tell you about it soon.

I apologize for being so absent from the blog world this week, but I've been on my honeymoon, a.k.a. the best week of my life. There is no way I can possibly recap everything all in this one post, so I'm going to take it day by day and catch up with posts about each day, beginning with the wedding day.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Somebody's Getting Married

I awoke at dawn, nervous as a bride... wait a second! But what do you do at 6 a.m. on your wedding day, when most everything is done and you don't have to be anywhere until 11? I went for a swim. The sky was turning from grey to blue, birds and bees hummed and flirted amongst the blackberries and rose bushes, and the dog woke up and came to sit by the pool and watch me as I floated leisurely in the summer-warmed water. Gradually my eyes began to open a little more, and the first rays of sun glinted off the ring on my finger. Tomorrow I'll have a husband, I'll be a wife. Today I'm a bride. I realized I was smiling, my shoulders were relaxing.

Now I'm thinking of the bouquet of roses and peonies in the refrigerator next to the milk and eggs. I'm thinking of a man across town waking up and putting on a suit and tie. I'm thinking of all the dear friends I'll see this afternoon, who have come from near and far to wish me well. I'm awake, alive, and happy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Message

Today in church the lesson was on Christ's atonement, so much of the lesson focused on repentance and grace. As we discussed these themes, I remembered these posters I'd seen in Harlem. Put up by a local businessman, no doubt, as a way to try and change the drug-riddled and gang-ridden poor community, yet I wonder if anyone heeds them and decides to repent, or if anyone passing by truly understands their meaning. As I see people around me going through hard times caused by sins and mistakes, some the same mistakes I made myself at one point in my life, I find myself wishing I could just lift those people up out of their problems and cause them to see once and for all the way to happiness and peace. I have all but walked around with a huge poster that says "Repent!" I've tried to be a listening ear, a good example, a giver of advice, a comfort dispenser (to quote Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale) and a sister. With all my heart I long for them to understand, and sometimes in my dark moments I fantasize about kidnapping them and forcibly shielding them from the influences of the world. But just telling them or wanting it for them is not enough, and there is only so much I can do. They have to choose and do it for themselves, just as I learned from my mistakes and chose a better way. Then, by the healing and empowering grace of Christ's atonement, their desire and efforts can be strengthened and they can change, learn, grow, improve, and be sanctified.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weathering the Storm

Deep inside the brambly marriage of a rosebush and a climbing trumpet vine in the backyard is a nest, where a tiny new-hatched cardinal baby waits next to an unhatched speckled egg, it's mouth wide open and ready for its mother and father to deposit food. When the parent birds come, the baby makes no sounds, but the proud cardinal parents chirp and sing and squeak as they patrol the backyard, hunt for bugs, and care for their baby. Since it hatched, there have been two huge lighting storms, with torrential rains, and I often think about the baby bird and wonder if it's able to curl up into a tight ball and withstand the rain, or if it's mother is standing over it, protecting it from the tempest. Meanwhile, there have been four human babies running around the yard, squealing and squalling, laughing and jumping, swimming and sunning, having a grand adventure during the week they've been here at their grandparents' house. My sister and her brood have come to roost with us here for a week and a half while they transition from Idaho to Raleigh. They're moving back East, to be close to the family, to start fresh, to try new opportunities. And I've been so glad to spend time with my two nieces and two nephews. There has been no time to blog, of course. Anyone who spends all day playing with four kids, or has planned a wedding must know that.

I'm grateful to my mom who insisted that I get my own bedroom in the house even though everyone else has to share and squish and sleep on floors. There are some perqs to being the bride-to-be, apparently. So I have had a place to escape to when the family drama gets too hot, or the kids too demanding, or I just want to talk on the phone to C in a quiet place. In fact, the past few days I have felt like I am in the eye of a turbulent storm. People all around me clash and have differences and not everyone in my family gets along with each other, and there have been (minor) setbacks with wedding plans and things like that, but at the center of it all I am still just floating along in my bubble, able to brush aside things that might have once felled me, but which now seem so insignificant in comparison to the joy and love I feel toward my fiance, and the excitement of being married to him. If the entire world fell apart and my whole entire wedding went haywire, as long as we could be together none of the chaos would matter to me. It sounds so cheesy to write it out like that, but it's true.

Yesterday was a hard day. I can't really talk about it because it involves deeply personal issues within my family. Suffice it to say that it was a long and exhausting day both emotionally and mentally, but at the end of it was the dinner where my parents were going to meet C's parents for the first time. I knew that C would be waiting for me at the restaurant, and that when he embraced me, the world's cares would slough away, and all would we well with the world. He was, and they did, and it is. The world is inherently riddled with day to day problems as well as huge catastrophes every once in a while, but when I close my eyes and lean my head on C's strong shoulder and he whispers "Everything is going to be all right," then I can't help but believe him.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Metropolitan

A gem of a church in East Harlem!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three Good Things About the A-Team Movie

The good news about the A-Team movie is that I now have the theme song stuck in my head. That's a good thing because for the past month I've had "It's A Jolly Holiday" from Mary Poppins stuck in my head and that was driving me absolutely crazy. The other good news about the A-Team movie is that I actually liked it. I mean, it's not a great movie, but it was very entertaining. I used to love watching the old TV show with my brother and as we drove to the theater to see the movie today, opening day, we wondered if this new iteration would let us down. It didn't. And the other good thing about it was the inclusion of Jon Hamm! I have missed Mad Men so much, and am trying to survive the last few weeks before it starts up again so to see Hamm, aka Don Draper, was a treat.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Delinquency

I've been delinquent from my blog because there are so many other fun things to do besides sit inside the house and write. And yet, I want to remember these wonderful days and capture them somehow before they slip away. So what have I been so busy doing?

Well, first of all, my mom needed to paint my sister's bedroom, and it was a mammoth chore. I won't say she's a hoarder, but my sister has a LOT of stuff, and we had to organize it all as we painted each wall of her enormous room, with odd walls. I even had to crawl up into a little niche by the ceiling and paint in there while lying on my back like Michelangelo, which is the only comparison I'll make to him because I had a very hard time just covering the wall with two coats of "toasted scone" let alone painting elaborate frescoes with an array of hand-mixed paints.

Then, C said he was going to come over one day after work, and two hours later he showed up with a badminton set! We set it up in the front yard and have been playing it ever since. Well, we played until the birdies all fell apart. They just don't make 'em like they used to. But as soon as we get some more shuttlecocks, we'll be back at it. Meanwhile, my arms need a rest from all the painting and swatting. He also brought over a volleyball, which made me scowl. It just figures that I'm marrying someone who's favorite sport is my absolute least favorite one. I hate volleyball, but he used to play on a volleyball team that traveled around competing. He's determined to make me like it, and I'm equally determined not to. Well, maybe not so much determined as just completely doubtful.

After our round of badminton last night we jumped in the swimming pool, which is where I've been spending a lot of time, too. It's just so wonderful to be floating around in cool water on a hot summer day. There's no where else I'd rather be. And I'm actually getting a little tan, too. There's a lot to see in the backyard while swimming and sunning. The black raspberry bushes are full of delicious ripe berries, the blackberries will be next, and there is a cardinal's nest in a rosebush, with two speckled eggs in it. At night the fireflies come out and compete with the stars, and an owl can be heard in the woods just beyond the backyard fence.

As a reward for getting the room painted, my mom drove E and I to the beach on Saturday. It takes just over 2 hours from our house, but it's completely worth the trip. Just as you arrive in Wilmington, there is the Krispy Kreme donut factory with hot fresh donuts coming down the conveyer belt and under a waterfall of icing, straight into my mouth. Er, um, what I mean is it's a tradition to stop there and get a donut on the way to the beach. The beach was sunny, hot, and sticky. We had a hard time keeping our beach umbrella in the sand with all the wind, but finally E buried it deep enough that it stayed put and we were free to run around and frolic in the surf. The water felt amazing, though the waves dunked me a few times. We watched surfers, kids, diving birds, and all sorts of people, as we sunned, swam, snacked, and snoozed. Then, when the sun got low in the sky and we ran out of quarters for the parking meter, we headed home.

Back at home, I started making a quilt for my new nephew, who was just born a few months ago. He'll be here tomorrow with my sister and her family, who are coming for a visit, so I'm going to try and finish the little quilt today. I've also got wedding tablecloths to sew, and a few other wedding thing to work on. It's all coming along, but getting me a little stressed, just because I don't want to forget anything, and I want it all to be fun and interesting for my guests, and have it be beautiful too. Weddings are hard work! Luckily I'll never have to do it again. Now, I should probably get busy...