Sunday, November 28, 2010


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


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


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!