Archive for July, 2010

Rumblings and Ramblings

Well, I made it to a swimming pool. And we got our thunderstorm finally. Unfortunately, those two things happened at the exact same time. Right after we got to the quiet pool and spent fifteen minutes slathering on the sunscreen, making sure every last freckle was coated, the sky turned black and began to rumble. We jumped in the pool anyway. Unfortunately, Callie still had her phone in the pocket of her swim shorts when she jumped in. It spent about five minutes underwater with the rest of her body before she realized it. We took it out, took it apart, watched the condensation take over the screen and tried to find hope where we knew there was none. The rumbles got longer and louder and the sky began to light up. I got the kids out of the pool, we gathered up our stuff and made it to the car just as the rain began to pelt. I drove the whole way home with the windshield wipers on the highest speed while we played a rainy day mix on the iPod. Rainy day mixes are my favorite.

When I got home, I began to clean up the house and as I was walking around with a million little things in my hands putting them all away, I walked in the bathroom, put the comb in the hair bin, hit my hand on the edge of the counter and watched my phone fly out of my hand and into the toilet. Of course I did.

On a lighter note, here’s a conversation Chris had with Sadie the other day as she was getting out of the car to go to her friend’s house:

C: Bye, Sadie. I love you. BFF.
S: Umm…..BFF?
C: Yeah. Best Father Forever.
S: Ummmmm……no.
C: I’m not your best father forever?
S: Nope. Gonna have a better one someday. BTF.
C: BTF?
S: Best Temporary Father.
C: Okay. I’ll take it, but you’ll always be my Best Sadie Forever.

And……on a much lighter note, Grace was the rooster in The Brementown Musicians. She performed it at the end of her two-week theatre camp last week. I’ve never known a more delightful rooster or more lovely friends and family who came to support her.

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Here she is when her owner finally caught her. I tried to get a picture of her running around the stage but none of them turned out because she was running too fast.
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And the nail-biting finale where the rooster was standing on the cat who was standing on the hound who was standing on the donkey so that they could see in the window and spy on those evil robbers. It all ended good and they made it to Bremen Town in the end. Phew.
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Janey and Callie at the after-party
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Mommy-sela and Joelsy
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M & C Brothers, Inc., complaining as usual
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Jay the Jay-mi Johnson, really, really close
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Seth the nephew’s beautiful brown eyes
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Sisters and neighbor, discussing the intricate plot detail of the mind-blowing play they just watched
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Mommy Mejia, about to have three-a, as cute as can be-a
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Best Sadie Forever and Best Cousin Whose Name is Joel
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Surely there has never been a more adorable red rooster
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Oh, and after drying our phones out for about 24 hours, we put them back together and they work just fine. So give us a call sometime, Babe.

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Heat

They say it rises. If that’s true, it must have taken all of humanity up with it. I drive for miles without seeing evidence of human life anywhere. Only moving metal objects with darkened windows. Metal and concrete and a blaring white light, causing all still objects to move slightly in the waves that slowly rise. Are the waves real? Or are my eyes seeing things? Does the unreal person on my TV box speak truth when he teases me with the possibilities of thunder storms every day? The clouds never overtake the bright white light in the sky. They just float there, lazily. Adding liquid to the air. Straightening the curls and frizzing up the straight.

This is our winter, here in the southern hemisphere of the United States. This is the time we hibernate in our artificially cooled houses with the shades drawn, only venturing out in the moving metal objects with the blackened windows when hunger overtakes us. Depression settles upon the masses as we resort to animalistic survival instincts, growling fiercely to protect our young, even though our young growl just as fiercely back at us and forget to be thankful as we all just try to make it through one and a half more months of quarantine.

When I drive, I see the beauty that exists. Bushes and trees pop with magnificently colored blossoms in an assortment of colors: red, pink, white, lavender. They stand there, in front of the houses with the rich, green grass; alone and forgotten. They softly blow in the mild, hot wind. The magnificent leaves of the red oaks provide shade for an entire metroplex of people who do not notice and are not appreciative. They have long since abandoned the natural for the unnatural.

My feet are cold, here on my couch, as I am wrapped in a blanket, seeing the sun try to beat in through the curtains that have a crack opening. Who left that crack? What is that sun doing trying to get in here?

I need to find me a swimming pool. A nice, quiet one where I can reacquaint myself with the sun and soak up some vitamin D. And then I need to remember to spend time outside as the sun sets in the evening. The glorious time. The time when colors come alive in the twilight sky and the body can relax in the absolute perfection of the summer night air. The time when everything restarts and I remember that I am alive.

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Favorite Books

This post has been a long, long time in the making. I don’t know why I am always so hesitant to a) make lists b) name favorites or c) share either of those things with others. But that’s a discussion for another post. For today I have faced my fears and I have made a list (although it is in no particular order – I’ve got to keep control over some things, you know…) and I am sharing my favorite books of all times. I’m afraid that it has turned itself into a rather long, long post. For whatever it’s worth, here goes nothing.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
I know it’s such an obvious choice for a favorite book if you’re a girl. And I hate being obvious. I really do. But let’s be honest. There are few things more romantic than the way sentences were put together in the time and culture of Jane Austen. You read it and you long to speak the way they speak. And I have never had my heart pound so much from anticipation as when Mr. Darcy bursts in on Elizabeth who has stayed home alone and says, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” And Elizabeth, who has jumped to all sorts of wrong conclusions, refuses him. Oh! It’s good. And it just gets better from there.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
First book I ever cried in. Fourth grade. I felt like I understood what it was to have sisters when I read this book.

Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
I think this might be one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It is simply a fictional account of an old man on his deathbed, writing his thoughts down for his young son to read when he has grown into a man. There is no story, no dialogue, not the kind of book that normally captures my interest. Just words from the mouth of a dying man. And yet this one wound its way into my soul in a way that I won’t soon forget.

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
First book I ever stayed up all night reading. The summer before eighth grade. I couldn’t put it down. I entered into a world I knew nothing about and it captivated me. The more I read, the less tired I was and the next thing I knew, it was morning.

The Chronicles of Narnia
– C.S. Lewis
One of only two books that I’ve ever read more than once. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this series, actually. At least four times for sure, including the year we lived in Mexico City when I was in seventh grade and my dad would read out loud to the family after the big meal at 2:00pm each day. The best thing about these books is that you get something different out of them each time you read them, whether you’re seven or thirty-seven.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
First time I ever made myself vulnerable by choosing to read a passage out loud to my fourth grade class that had affected me greatly. We all had to read a book and give an oral book report on it, including reading a portion of the book out loud. I chose the portion where Tom and Becky were lost in the cave and he held onto her trying to protect her and comfort her as they were sure they were going to die in that cave. Reading this out loud to your class when you’re nine years old: “Tom kissed her, with a choking sensation in his throat…” has to be one of the most mortifying things you might ever have to do. And yet I had to do it. I just HAD to. It was too good not to share.

Of Human Bondage
– W. Somerset Maugham
This has to be one of the most amazing novels ever written. The title is exactly right. I felt the weight of everything the enlightenment did to the minds and lives of people as I was reading it. I related with the main character in so many ways. It was not an easy read, but it was a good one. I would often read only one page at a time and then close the book just so I could digest everything on that page. Maugham was truly a gifted and tragic man to be able to see so clearly into people.

Midwives – Chris Bohjalian
Just a good story, told in a way that kept me turning the pages.

The Living – Annie Dillard
Another difficult book to read that has stayed with me over the years, about the first settlers in the Pacific Northwest. I am in awe of Annie Dillard and her ability to understand human nature and God and this earth and put all of it into a story that happened 150 years ago, as though she were there and is writing a first-hand account. I am just sure she must have been there when I am reading it. How can anyone write like this?

Giants in the Earth – Ole Edvart Rolvaag
Much like the previous, only this is a novel about the first Dutch settlers in the Midwest United States. Completely different people and terrain than “The Living,” but again Rolvaag has such a grasp on humanity and what it is to fight the ground in order to just survive. Told in such an unassuming way that I wondered at how I could feel so full after reading it.

Heidi – Johanna Spyri
This is the only other book that I have ever read more than once. I had a magnificent red, leather copy of it as a child. It had gold around the edges. It probably wasn’t really leather, but in my mind it was. I thought it was the most beautiful book I had ever seen. It was my comfort book and I would often read the entire thing at night before falling asleep. How I longed to go to the mountain where Heidi lived with her grandfather and drink fresh milk from a wooden bowl.

Dana’s Valley – Janette Oke
I have to put this here, even though I feel silly about it. I have never cried so hard as I cried while reading this book. Maybe it’s because I read it while I had three very little girls and I was exhausted and this is a story about a young girl’s battle with leukemia and how it shaped the lives of the whole family. This book affected me maybe more than any book I’ve ever read. Crying my eyes out basically makes anything have a profound impact on me. I’m telling you. I really, really cried at this book.

Circle of Friends – Maeve Binchy
Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite story-tellers. She is easy to read and I always find myself transported into the lives of her modern, Irish characters . I have read all her books and this one’s my favorite. The ending has stuck with me to this day. It’s my favorite last page ever in a book. Oh wait, I think I felt that way about “Midwives” too. But don’t see the movie. The movie was awful. It changed everything that I loved about the book.

The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
By far, the most graphic novel I have ever read which always makes me hesitant to say how much I liked it. But with that disclaimer out there, this book made me interested in church history and the middle ages in a way I never had been before. Like “The Living” and “Giants in the Earth”, I am just amazed at authors who can truly transport me to another place and time while I sit at home on my couch. I KNOW the characters in this book. It’s been years since I read it and I still know them like they are old friends.

The Giver – Lois Lowry
A wonderful, tiny little book. Sort of futuristic, but sort of backwards too. Timeless and captivating.

Kristin Lavransdatter – Sigrid Undset
This one I’m still reading, but it has to go on the list. I’m on page 934 of the 1,047-page book, so I figure I’m far enough into it to know that it has to go on my favorite-books-of-all-times list. I think it’s definitely the most difficult book I’ve ever forced myself to read. Funny how the harder things are, the more they pay off. This is a Norwegian book set in the 1300’s that follows the life of a girl named Kristin. Sounds simple, but it’s so much more than simple. It’s everything lovely and everything tragic about life. It’s church and dowries, sex and childbirth, family connections, war and disease. It’s the deepness and the suffering and the importance of this life. As you can see, it has and still is greatly affecting me. It’s epic on the grandest of the epic scales. I need to finish it soon.

Yes, all of my favorite books are novels. I’m sort of ashamed of this. I really wish that I could devour non-fiction and learn from it like other people that I really admire. Sometimes I think I might just be lazy. I feel like I always start out excited about books about history or theology or scientific studies or how-to-live-better, but after a chapter or two, I fizzle. It always seems to me that the authors could say all the really good stuff in just a few pages but they’re always trying to drag it out until they have enough material for a legitimate book. I get annoyed when things feel repetitive. But I’m probably just lazy. I do have two non-fiction books that I loved, both of them memoirs:

Baby Catcher
– Peggy Vincent
Girl Meets God – Lauren Winner

That’s it. Suggest some more to me and I might give them a whirl. Or become friends with me on Goodreads. I’m trying to keep track of everything there.

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Life is a Highway

Last weekend I took a trip up to Oregon with my brother. We went for my grandma’s memorial service. It was a beautiful trip. The moon was really something as we traveled the highway to the airport at six am. (See it there, behind the beautiful green sign?)

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After landing in San Francisco, we got our rental car and started out on the six-hour trip up to Klamath Falls, Oregon. Somewhere along the way, we found the cutest little antique store/olive and wine tasting shop/sports lounge in the cutest little California town. It happened to be at the exact time that the US soccer game was starting. We took a tiny little two-hour lunch there to watch the game in its entirety. Lots and lots of dead animals watched with us.

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After staying for the entire game, plus two periods of extra time (that ended very sadly for us), we hit the road again. We pulled into K-Falls about dinner time and had an absolutely lovely meal with family. The next day after church, my grandpa took us out to lunch at a roadside diner on the side of the highway that they used to go to often when my dad was little.

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I had the best blue cheese burger and the best view across the table from me: cousin, aunt, dad, grandpa.

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Then my grandpa took us out to his forest. My grandpa is a forester. I loved his forest. I like to think that it’s my forest.

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Robbie played with sticks, like boys do, when in the forest.

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I think Mindy likes to think of it as her forest too.

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Then we drove up the highway to Crater Lake. It doesn’t matter how many times I go to this lake, the beauty never fails to take my breath away.

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And yes, it’s the end of June and yes, there is snow on the ground. And yes, I’m wearing flip flops.

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It didn’t make for easy walking, but my toes sure were cute next to that blue, blue water.

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And yes, my parents really are the cutest parents in the world.

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Something about this squirrel made my dad seem extra cute.

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On the way home, we drove past the home where my dad lived as a boy on the Klamath Indian Reservation. It looked like a very nice place to live as a boy.

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As we drove the highway back into Klamath Falls, this is what it looked like straight out the left window of the car. The contrast of the green hills and the blue sky were stunning.

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The next day, we said our last goodbyes to Grandma.

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Many family and friends were there and I was so very thankful for the love we all shared for her and for each other in that beautiful place.

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You know, come to think of it, my in-laws are pretty darn cute parents too.

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After much laughter and tears and story-telling and singing and remembering, we finished up the trip with some fierce competition…

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…and headed back down the highway toward San Francisco. Some highways are just prettier than others, ya know?

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There’s nothing like ending a beautiful trip with a westward-facing window seat on a flight home at sunset.

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There’s nothing like coming home either. Hello Dallas.

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It’s good to be home.

Oregon, I hope to be back to see you soon.

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