Monday, September 29, 2008

Apple Worms and Heart Worms

I mentioned before that the apples on our apple tree have ripened and turned into fantastic baking apples. Since then, I've been making apple bread almost as fast as I can eat it (which is doing wonders for my waistline) and as I was cutting into all those juicy apples the other day, I noticed something peculiar.

I picked up an apple that was rather disgusting-looking, fully expecting to throw most (if not all) of it away. But when I cut into it, I realized that the bruised part was really only a small fraction of the entire apple, and that most of it was perfect and delicious! So, I happily cut out the part that needed to go, and sliced up the rest of it to drop into my bread dough.

The next apple I picked up looked nearly perfect. No big bruises, no soft flesh, just two tiny brown spots. But when I cut into that apple, I noticed that there were tiny tunnels burrowed throughout the entire middle (I'm guessing the two tiny brown spots were the entry and exit points of a very hungry, happy worm). The entire apple found itself in the garbage.

Since my brain loves analogies so much, it started drawing a million lines of comparison between this apple-experience, and life in general. The first analogy that came to mind was the obvious one: outside looks don't always reflect the heart, and it's what's inside that really matters anyway.

But the second analogy that came was a little more hidden, and I haven't really been able to stop thinking about it for a few days now. Satan (like the worm) only needs a tiny, almost unnoticeable, entry point to be able to get into my heart and destroy what is there. I may not even notice the entry; I may not even feel the slight decay as he eats away what is most precious to me. This happens to me every so often - Satan weasels his way into my life and I find myself feeling...different...all the sudden. Most times I don't even know what is different until I start filling my heart with more spiritually uplifting things - kicking Satan out in the meantime.

It's unnerving to recognize, at that point, how much Satan had 'eaten' before I noticed him. Thankfully for me, my heart is different than an apple, and with the Saviors help can replenish and strengthen itself over time.

One of my best friends bore her sweet, simple, sincere testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ on her blog yesterday...and the beautiful way she described her life, in the eye of the public, touched me very deeply. The religious things I believe in are so special and sacred to me that I tend to hold those cards close to my heart. I take things too personally, and the thought of someone laughing at or mocking those things I hold most dear is almost unbearable. But reading Katie's testimony shined a little light into a shadowed part of my heart: the part that is eager and excited to share those things that bring me the most happiness in life. I noticed a little worm hiding there in those shadows, silently smirking for all the years he has kept me afraid. With the Savior's help, I hope to replenish and strengthen that decayed spot so that someday it will be as full and healthy as the spot that knows my Savior lives and loves me. That He has made it possible, through the sealing bonds of the temple, for me to be with my family forever.

Because it is these things that bring me the most happiness in life. And, though that worm has made my heart a little too weak to share it openly and energetically, I still feel the truth of it deeply and undeniably. Thanks for being such a great example to me, Katie!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NOT funny

It has been said that all good things must come to an end. And, so ends my days of never being stung by a bee. I've been through a plethora of emotions today post-wasp-sting. Confusion, pain, hurt feelings, anger, disgust, squeamish...notice a theme? NONE OF THEM ARE GOOD! I did nothing to those uncompassionate little pests, and they still got me.

I'm sure you're dying to hear the story - so, I'll go ahead and indulge you this once. (Okay, okay, so I like drumming up pity for myself sometimes.)

The fall weather has been just gorgeous lately, so we've been doing a lot of yard work, trying to tame the forest that surrounds us. Today was nice...a little humid because of the recent rain...but nice. The only problem we were having were with the blood-sucking mosquitoes that literally swarmed around us as we were working. We kept the bug-spray handy and reapplied as we felt necessary. Carson came out to join us after nap-time, so I started innocently making my way over to the bug spray to give him a little layer of protection. I was walking through the leaves, kicking them a bit so I could enjoy that wonderful sound they make, and scarcely noticed the 5 or 6 wasps swarming around a little patch at my feet. I've never really been scared of bees or wasps because they've never hurt me. I felt we had a little unspoken bond: I leave them alone, and they leave me alone. So I didn't mind them swarming around, and I kept kicking my way over to the bug spray. Seconds later, I felt a wasp hitting the palm of my left hand. I quickly swatted it away and almost immediately felt one in my right hand. I swatted that one away, too, and heard one buzzing right by my ear. I waved him away, but he still buzzed in my ear. I tried waving him away again, but he was persistent on staying right there by my ear. At this point, I realized that he was angry, so I started to run away - swatting and screaming the whole way. The wasp kept with my ear and suddenly darted in front of me, latched onto my lip and stung me! THE NERVE! My left eye started watering like crazy, and I kept running, screaming, and swatting...but that blasted wasp wouldn't leave me alone. So, I ran into the house, through the hall and into the bathroom so I could at least have a mirror as my ally. I saw the bugger still swarming around my head, but got to a point where I could slip out of the door and slam it behind me - locking the fiend inside. It didn't take long before my lip looked like this:

And the pain had traveled up through my upper lip, down my gums, and into three of my teeth! My heroic husband took charge and went outside with some bug spray to kill the rest of them while I watched from behind the safety of a big glass window, holding ice to my lip. It's been over 9 hours now and, just in case you're wondering, it still hurts!
My high school mascot is a wasp...and up until now I've always kind of sneered at that. But now, NOW I see the wisdom behind picking such a ferocious creature. A panther might be scary if you happened to see one face to face - but who is ever going to really see one? A wasp is a much more realistic fear to have...everyone runs from a wasp, and looks like a crazyman while doing so. And let me tell you, they can be PainFull! So, from now on, I will never look at my high school mascot as inferior. They are mean, clever, persistent and able to inflict pain in any creature.

But why, oh why, did it have to inflict pain on my LIP?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Funny -

Funny that I should have been so nervous to mow the lawn. And funny that it gave me a little thrill when I did it. I mowed my lawn. I mowed my lawn! Funny that I should be so happy about it.

I used to mow the lawn every week when I was a kid - and I remember being so terrified of the one, lonely tree standing on the side of our yard. It would menacingly drop it's branches underneath itself, terrifying me that a tiny twig shard would fly and lodge itself right into the white of my eye as I passed over it with that ridiculously fast, spinning blade.

Funny that I was scared of that one tree. I can't even count the trees in my yard now! (Well, let's be realistic...I probably could count all of the trees, but it would take a good afternoon to do so.) And now, I not only have branches to worry about, but apples. Hard, rotting apples that have fallen from the apple tree. (Whose branches, might I add, hang so low that I felt like I was fighting a losing battle as I crouched, danced, and shoved my way through them with our ancient lawnmower - they definitely left their disapproving mark all over my arms!)

I only got about a third of the yard done before Brian came and finished the fight. Our ancient lawnmower is wonderful because it was given to us by some good friends...but that's about all it's wonderful for. :) It protests at every turn, and every lengthy stride as we push it back and forth, mumbling encouraging words to it and gently stroking the rusty handle. It died 4 times in the 30 minutes I had it, and I had to reach underneath and unclog the blade each time.

But, it feels good to have relatively short grass, and the 'cut-grass' smell swirling into our home! I'll miss that smell in the next couple of months when all lawnmowers are tucked away for their own little hibernation. I fear, however, that our own lawnmower won't ever wake back up.

Funny that, when it does die, I think I'll miss it. We've kinda bonded.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Out with the with the new!

I'm always a little sad to see a season end. And the summer of 2008 will forever be known as the summer of the peaches for me. I fell in love with peaches this summer! Ooooooo, the sweetness, the juiciness, the softness. How could you not love a peach? We bought case after case after case at Costco, and each one served us well. That is, until the last one (pictured above). The last case was full of mildly disgusting peaches that got stored up on top of the fridge and forgotten about for a few days...and, as I pulled the peaches down one day to see if they'd gotten better, I literally gasped at what I saw. I sadly realized that peach season had ended.

A few days later, a neighbor told us that we had deer visiting our apple tree in the middle of the night. I had wondered where all of my apples had gone! Being completely clueless about how to tell if an apple is ripe I figured, 'If the apples are ripe enough for the deer, then they're ripe enough for me!' and I took a basket out that very day and gathered all the apples I could find that weren't rotten.

They're quite sour when eaten by themselves, but baked into this apple bread, they were simply divine! I have never tasted an apple so juicy and flavorful when baked into a loaf of bread. Something weird happened to the buttery ended up in the middle of the loaf...but the taste, as a whole, was fantastic - I've had little else for breakfast and lunch the past couple of days. In fact, I couldn't even get a picture taken before half of one loaf was already gone!

There is something extremely satisfying about making something with home-grown goods. Next year, I will plant a garden.

And, with this, I wish to warmly welcome my favorite season - Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Every Phase Better than the Last

There has been a tag going around my high school friends about what they were like during those school years. It's been fun reading all of my fellow Wasps' perceptions - especially because those who have participated so far were not the people I spent most of my time with. I've been tempted to play along, but I'm just not much of a 'taggette'...I find that I'm much too long-winded to answer simple questions, and I sit much too long in front of the screen thinking much too hard about each answer.


every once in a while I compare my high school self to my present self - and the array of emotions that inescapably follow this type of comparison is overwhelming. In some ways, I am pleased. In some ways, I am saddened. In some ways, I feel lucky. In some ways, I feel chastened. In some ways, I feel embarrassed. In some ways, I feel like rejoicing.

I loved high school. I loved almost every part of it. At the time of graduation, I cried because I thought my life was ending. Where else was I going to find such great friends? such wonderful teachers? such security? Yes, I felt secure in high school - especially my senior year. I had friends whom I loved deeply - and who I felt loved me in return. Was I popular? No - not in the Homecoming Queen, Student Body President type of popular...but I was popular among the people who surrounded me - and I felt that they were all popular, too. We generally didn't care what other people were thinking about us, and that left us free to laugh and play and really enjoy ourselves. Let's not pretend there weren't hard times...practically my whole sophomore year was spent in tears over stupid boys (remember, Sarah?)! But, since we're speaking in general terms here, I was happy.

That happiness carried itself into college - and, in fact, whenever I start to think about my 'past' self, I think of this birthday card that Brian gave to to me while we were dating. Inside, he wrote, "I saw this card and thought immediately of you, with all the smiles & whatnot" and later "I hope you have a great day! (I know you'll say you did, even if you didn't!)" Why do I bring this up? Because, every once in a while, I worry that I've lost some of that carefree happiness.

Enter: my honest hubby! Last night I mentioned this concern to Brian by saying, "I just feel like I'm not really the same person you married."
He looked at me with a shocked expression and immediately replied,
"You're not! And I wouldn't want you to be!"
He helped me see that our life experiences have given us depth and an understanding of life. The memories of our sweet son have encouraged me to become more spiritual, and more focused on trying to better myself so I will be with him again. We have grown-up responsibilities that require physical and emotional demands. Brian helped me see that it's okay to not be joking around and laughing all the time, because we've tried to fill the gaps with depth. I may have lost some of my carefree happiness...but the happiness I feel now is so much deeper and so much more real!

I loved high school. I loved almost every part of it. But I just couldn't do it all over again - because now I'd know what I was missing. :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Beautimus and Wretchimus

It was an interesting misconception I had that 'all mirrors are created equally'...that, when given an image to reflect, each one would display the same features. So, imagine my confusion when I would get myself wonderfully presentable in my bathroom mirror (nicknamed Beautimus) only to find that minutes later, a glance in the hall bathroom mirror (nicknamed Wretchimus) showed me that I looked fairly awful. Over the past few weeks I have conducted tests and conclude that this is a consistent finding. My mirrors have developed opposite personalities. My theories on 'how' this phenomonon came to be still have yet to be proven (though it couldn't be due to the fact that Wretchimus has more than three times the amount of light hanging over her than Beautimus).

Over the weeks I have come to a sort of agreement with these mirrors. Whenever I need a sort of 'pick-me-up', I will glance into Beautimus. She will unfailingly show me all of my best features and make me feel lovely and confident - even with bed-head and old mascara smeared under my eyes. Whenever I feel like I really need to look nice in the light of day, I will study my face in Wrechimus. She will undeniably highlight my worst features and scold me when I need more cover-up, a closer pluck job, or anti-wrinkle cream.

So, if ever you see me looking exceptionally awful, yet unfoundingly confident, you can place your bet that I got ready surrounded by the loving words of Beautimus. Conversely, if you ever see me with too many layers of cover-up and red, swollen eyebrows, you can be sure that the advice I was receiving that morning was from Wretchimus.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What is the DEAL?!

I think there's a law in my life that says something like, "No matter how much preparation you do the night before for a scheduled event, you will still always be late."

I am not what you would call a prompt person (though, I must say that I'm usually not the latest person). My internal clock seems to run about 5 minutes behind whatever any wall clock says. So much that I generally feel on-time when I'm 5 minutes late...when I'm right on time, I feel early...and when I'm early, I feel weird. Today was no exception. I knew it would be difficult to get us all out the door by 8:40 for McKenzie's first day of preschool (mainly due to the single fact that it takes about 35 minutes for McKenzie to eat her breakfast...honestly!), so I set out all of our clothes the night before, packed our bags, and laid out McKenzie's hair stuff. I planned to be out the door by 8:30 to give myself a cushion of 10 minutes...but we unavoidably left at 8:52. Does anyone else have this problem?! I plan, I'm prepared, I'm anticipating the possibility of lateness...and still - it happens.

I was not only late dropping her off...but I was a little late in picking her up as well. To make matters worse, we'd forgotten half of the things she was supposed to take to school with her (mainly because I couldn't find the list that was mailed to us weeks ago), AND I'd even sent her at the WRONG TIME. Half of the class was supposed to be there from 9-10, and the other half of the class was supposed to be there from 10:30-11:30. Evidently, McKenzie was supposed to be in the latter group. It wasn't a huge deal...her teacher said that McKenzie did well fitting in with all of the other children - but I still felt like a shoe.

Oy veh! I sure hope this teacher isn't going to be judging me on a first-time impression...because I have seriously left her lacking! Poor Kenz - hopefully she'll feel nothing of my negligence.

I guess all I can do is try harder next time - be prompt, be prepared with everything she needs, and, for HEAVEN'S SAKE be correct on the time!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Let's Go Devils! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)

Brian thought it fitting to wear Duke attire and a Michigan hat because Michigan happened to be playing the Utah Utes at the same time...and since the Utah and BYU are major rivals, he felt he wanted to show his support for his home team

I haven't really been excited about football ever since we moved here to North Carolina. Looking at Duke's football team records might give you an indication why...(if I remember correctly, last year they won ONE game, and this year they're picked to win THREE!). But this year, as I've caught little whispers of fall, I've started to feel a little longing for the football that used to be such a fun part of my fall season. Growing up, the turning leaves and crisp air always meant the beginning of football season in our house. For as long as I can remember, my dad has always cheered and yelled for the BYU cougars. Even as a very young child, it was always easy to know when football season had parents would tuck me into bed with hugs and kisses and then, sometimes, I'd feel the floorboards of our house start to rattle with stomping feet and angry yells, loud claps and triumphant cheers as my dad watched the game.

When I was about 12 or 13, he started taking me along to the home games. For the first couple of years, I spent game-time watching the cheerleaders, listening to the band, eating nachos and ice cream, and asking, "What? What happened?! Dad! What happened!?" whenever everyone erupted in cheers or boos. I'm sure he was mildly annoyed with me at times. :) But as I got older, I started to really enjoy watching the game, learning the signs to the calls the refs would make, following the plays and cheering at the right times without prompting. Through the years, I remember sitting there next to my dad - halfway wishing he would participate in the cheers and the wave when it came by, halfway relieved that he wasn't embarrassing me, always thrilled when he turned to me to give me a high five, proud when he taught me the rules in a 'grown-up' voice, grateful that he bought me nachos and ice cream, excited that he'd let me hold the binoculars for most of the game, and feeling so important and loved that my dad would choose me to spend those four hours with (even though he did it for all of us kids).

By the time I became a Cougar myself, I was ecstatic that I held my own set of season tickets - and as I dressed all in blue, pulled my hair back in blue ribbons, painted a 'Y' on my cheek and headed out the door with my friends, I found myself more excited for the game itself than the social interactions that surrounded it. My dad taught me to love football...and I guess it kind of stuck.

But, why are we talking about the BYU Cougars? I guess I got sidetracked in some memories there... Back to the Duke BlueDevils! (Doesn't have the same ring to it, does it...) As I mentioned before, I was feeling a little longing - I guess for all of these feelings that I've just shared - so when my friend, Janet Gammage, mentioned that she was going to the Duke football game, I jumped on the chance to invite myself along. :)

McKenzie and Leo watching the team warm up

We got their early to enjoy some fluorescent pink hot dogs, socialize a little, and grab our seats (which were AWESOME - 5 rows up on the 40 yard line!) Kick-off time was scheduled to be at 7:00, and at 6:45 the band came in to start off the pre-game festivities. It was fun to hear them play the Duke fight song...but it was completely unfamiliar to me and I just wanted to scream, "Rise and Shout, the Cougars are out!" Somehow, I felt that would be inappropriate I refrained. It was drizzling and, upon seeing lightning, the officials decided to put the game on a 'weather delay'. The Gammages decided it would be best for them if they headed out, but Brian and I wanted to stick around for a while to see if it cleared up. It rained hard for a little while, but the kids were SO, SO great! The kids entertained themselves with the camera, food, my glasses, climbing up and down the bleachers, and just about anything else they could think of...and they LOVED it!

Finally, after about an hour and a half of waiting, the Blue Devils came running out of the tunnel, warmed up again, and kicked off the ball. It was so fun to see my kids enjoying the night as much as I was! Duke did great and ended up winning - though we only stuck around through half-time. (We figured 10:00pm was late enough for the kids to be out!)

Well, I sure miss college sometimes - and right now I miss Cougar football. I miss the loyal fans, I miss the beautiful mountinous backdrop, I miss huddling in blankets with hot chocolate as snow fell around me, I miss shouting the fight song after every scored point, I miss sitting with my dad, I miss walking to the game with my friends, I miss the blue eye-shadow and the white painted "Y" on my cheek...I miss the excitement, I guess. Watching Duke play was fun - and I'm so glad I got to have a small taste of my craving...but I guess nothing can compare to the lifetime loyalty I feel towards BYU.

Go Cougars! Errr....I mean, Let's Go Devils!