Monday, December 15, 2008

We are having "another op'nin' of another show"!

First, I have to admit that I am late in updating the blog this month. My tardiness has a lot to do with those fleas I was thinking about last month, most directly the fleas of my husband's drastically increased travel schedule (which comes along with the blessing of a new job & paycheck) and the flea of the increased demands on my time (which comes along with the blessing of a job for me with a bit of a paycheck, a creative outlet, and special time spent with my kids.) One of those topics now leads me to today's blog entry title.

We opened another show! This one was a bit different because I have been the official assistant director. This is my new job! During "Fiddler" practices (see the Tradition blog entry) I was staying at the theatre to conserve gas and gas money, then helping with the painting because I could and because my friend (the theatre owner) needed the help. This time I had more definite hours, more specific duties, and the bonus of a bit of pay. As with the first show, though, the most valuable thing the boys and I have gained is time spent in the car and at home as we sing together, discuss ideas about their acting choices, and talk about my memories of growing up during the 70's.

The 70's theme is a direct result of the play the kids are putting on: "Schoolhouse Rock, Jr." What a surprisingly fun show! We seriously considered not signing up for this session because we weren't really sure how Schoolhouse Rock could be turned into a play, but we are so happy we did it! Amazingly, the theatre owner/director was able to adapt the script to include solos for all 16 principal cast members. Having recently worked on adapting a script myself (for our women's group's - Relief Society - depiction of the Parable of the Ten Virgins) to accomodate the talents and needs of 12 women, I have a healthy respect and admiration for Miss Debbie's dedication to showcasing the talents of so many kids in one show.

Here is a picture of S1 at practice. His hair is almost as long as the girls' hair around him, but he's clearly the boy in this shot.

Here he is in his costume, just about to go on stage. (We tried slicking his hair back to make it look kind of like Danny Zuko's. I think I should have used more gel and less wax.)

Here's S2 (in the red shirt) running through his part during practice while the director shows the rest of the cast what to do as they face and respond to his character.

Here he is in his costume. How fun is this Mr. Kotter wig?! What a good sport he was!

Here they are with the main characters in the cast. The chorus kids were wearing tie-dyed shirts and fun jeans, but weren't in this shot because we wanted a closer picture of the main group.

Here's a kind of fuzzy shot of our family after the version of this show where my boys were in the chorus.

Some fun shots from the cast party. Along with other music, the kids like to sing and dance to songs they've done in previous shows. Some kids have been doing shows at this theatre for 6 years and dozens of shows, so there are always lots of requests.

Here's a shot of my work as it progressed:

Here's the way the set looked the way I preset the main area just before the show started:

This is my mural of the Capitol building in Washington, DC.:

It's always a little bit heart-breaking to paint over the last show's scenery, but then it's exciting to start designing and see if I'm able to make the new set make sense. Before long, I guess we'll see what I need to paint to help bring "Beauty and the Beast" to life for the kids!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We will be thankful - even for the fleas in life!

Corrie ten Boom's story The Hiding Place contains one of my favorite reminders about the Lord's direction to us to be thankful, as much for the annoying or even painful parts of life as for the blissful times. Her sister insists on giving thanks in her concentration camp prayers, even for the fleas with which they must contend in their barracks. The sisters eventually came to learn that the fleas were what kept their captors out of their barracks, thus giving the devoted pair the opportunity to read and study the Bible together. Corrie's sister had told her to be thankful, even for the fleas; her life was forever blessed for those fleas!

So we're acknowledging our family's "fleas", but we are going to continue to give thanks for them. Some of them bring blessings we can feel and see right away; some will take more patience and faith than others. All will be for our overall experience and eventual good ... we hope.

So let's talk about the relatively little, more tangible things first.

* Our cars. Grrr. Fleas, both of them! Imagine me in the rain, running back and forth from side to side of the car, trying to get the key to work in just one of the locks. Imagine my 4 kids waiting for me to get any one door open so we can squish into the car, where the heat may or may not be working but will surely not be working well, the door-open indicator light will stay on even if I've re-slammed and checked every door, and countless other non-inspection-passing problems will loom. None of this even takes into the account the fact that this car is quite painful for me to even sit in, much less drive. My back issues scream at me the entire time I'm sitting in this car. But at least we have it. We have a second car to cover us when the minivan won't start (which it has been doing quite often - so much so that we had to further stretch our budget to include the purchase of a new battery) and when the daddy needs to take the minivan on one of his many out-of-town scheduled work trips. We are definitely blessed to have a mechanic who we love and trust and who will work our needs into his hectic schedule so often!

* It's been unusually cold here in the last couple of weeks. Nights have been in the low 30's until this week. Several days didn't get a whole lot warmer. We haven't had any heat in our house, unfortunately. Friends at church offered to help us pay for someone to fix it when they heard about the situation, but we decided it's really not such a bad thing for our boys to know that hard times can actually be hard and that we don't always get what ever we want right when we want it and just because we want it. We've just been bundling up more, sitting a little closer to each other, and being thankful for the more normal weather we've had this week.

Then there are some less tangible, but deeply impactful situations for us to deal with.

* I took a job! I'm working at the theatre where the boys are performing. It's also run by my friend, so my friend and fellow church member is also my boss. I'm the assistant director in the current play (which started a few weeks ago and will wrap up on December 20th - and I take it on like I have nothing at all to do with my time during this particular season. Lol.) I do get some income and I also get BOTH of the boys' tuitions included - woo hoo! I also love the time I get in the car with my big boys. Most of it is spent singing together or talking about things they are very happy about, which is priceless time when they're such grumpy adolescents on a regular basis. My schedule is horrifyingly overwhelming these days, but I'm hoping the boys will one day know that I put in all this time and work to give them the gift of this experience.

I get the right of first refusal for the next play, too, which is going to be AWESOME. We just recently applied for all 3 of the boys to be in that one. This theater thing seems to be infectious - in a good way. More about this job's effect on our lives in a moment.

* Another good news-bad news thing is that my husband got a new job! He's excited about this company and that's a good thing. I want him to love what he does, you know? They can't match his last salary, but we're hoping that other benefits and the possible bonus will make it at least comparable. The company is based in our neighboring state and he'll have to travel there and throughout his territory regularly, but he'll be based out of our home. His territory is every state between NC and TX that touches water. Clearly, he's going to be gone a whole lot more. None of us is very thrilled about that.

That takes me back to my job thing. With the dad being gone more, I'm trying to figure out how to do MY job without having my two younger kids become too much of a nuisance at the theatre. I will have to take them with me some nights. This should be an interesting juggling act! As I wonder which would be the fleas in this case - my kids or the job - I realize I'm going to have to say neither, actually, since I wouldn't wish away either my kids or this opportunity under any circumstances I can imagine. I'm glad I've at least temporarily got the option to take the kids with me sometimes when I do this job.

* I'm also giving a lot of time and energy to a play we're doing at church. We'll be performing for the women's groups (called Relief Society) from my ward (church members who go at the same time I do and live in the same geographical zone) and my SIL's ward. It's the biggest deal of the year for us, and the biggest production we've ever tried to pull off. We're going to do a portrayal of the parable of the Ten Virgins. I've adapted and rewritten the script twice already, cast 11 parts, and dealt with 12 women's needs, schedules, and feelings. I'm also going to be acting and doing the first solo I've ever sung in front of this large of a group. Although it's emotionally and physically taxing, I think the spiritual rewards will be worth the work.

Every glass is both half-filled AND half-empty, right? Even glasses that are almost empty have something to offer. Glasses that are empty once held something that can be remembered and appreciated.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We are building a TRADITION!

Phrases I never would have guessed I'd say to my boys:

"Stay in the car and sing, boys, while I run in and buy you some lipstick."

"You didn't have enough mascara on last night, son. We'll have to put on 2 layers tonight."

"Do you prefer the long-wearing lipstick, or just the lipliner?"

Based on our activities over the last few weeks, the list could go on and on, but you can get the general idea from these statements. No, I'm not teaching my boys how to properly and tastefully apply daily make-up. I have been putting make-up on them, however - to more than a mild amount of protest on their parts! Stage make-up was a requirement, though, as the boys have starred in a local children's theater workshop production of "Fiddler on the Roof, Jr." My oldest son (we'll call him S1) portrayed Tevye and S2 (I bet you figured it out already, but I'll point out that this means my second son) played the tailor Motel Kamzoil (or Camzoil, depending on the source.)

S2 as Motel (rhymes with bottle)

S1 as Tevye - before beard. (We put the beard on him at the last possible moment so the tape and spirit gum wouldn't irritate his skin any more than necessary.)

Words can hardly express what this experience has meant to our family! In fact, there's no way I could properly document every feeling and important moment that has transpired, but the whole thing has been such a blessing for us that I have to try to get some of it described in writing.

Let me say now that my siblings and I grew up in a town where we were lucky enough to have an amazing Fine Arts Center. We attended dance, drama, and art classes there over the years, but mainly the three youngest of us (my next older sister, my youngest brother and I) were part of the Youth Chorale and our parents performed in several Broadway-quality operettas. At a young age and over several years, I watched my parents participate in such exciting productions as "Mikado", "H.M.S. Pinafore", "The Wizard of Oz", and "Fiddler on the Roof" from plush theater seats, as well as from the wings and storage areas off to the sides of the stage.

Here is a shot my brother recently dug up. He and I are on the front row of these groovy singing kids. I don't know when this was taken exactly, but it had to be some time in the 70's.

Here is a shot of (my younger brother along with) my dad as he practiced for his part as Lazar Wolf. He played this part in "Fiddler on the Roof" beautifully, even growing the only beard I ever remember seeing on his face so that he would look authentic. (At the time, I was about the age that my S2 is now.)

Of course, to me, my daddy was always Tevye. When Tevye sang about his little bird, it was supposed to be Daddy singing about me. When Hodel sang to Tevye, it was supposed to be my song to my dad. My mother was part of one of the families (they grouped the whole cast into families, except for Daddy because his character being a widower is an integral part of the story), but I knew she had a more operatic, leading lady voice than anyone else on the stage. I went to most of the rehearsals and watched the whole show - 11 magical, sold out performances - from the wings.

The significance of this story in our lives didn't end when that production closed. When I was married, we had a ring ceremony at our church building. My parents sang "Sunrise, Sunset" during that ceremony for us. They also sang it at my dear friend's wedding. (This friend is so special to me that her name is one of my daughter's middle names.)

Twelve years later, when our family was moving from Georgia (relatively reachable from NC) to California (where we thought we'd live for the rest of our lives - too far for most of my NC family to travel), my father quoted to me from this story. He reminded me that when Hodel is going off to Siberia to be with her intended, she says, "Papa, God alone knows when we'll ever see each other again." Then Tevye responds, "Then we will leave it in His hands." Daddy had had a stroke several years ago and was no longer a big traveller, so he knew he'd never fly out to CA. He was telling me the same thing Tevye told his daughter. I still cry when I hear the song from this scene, knowing it echoes the way I've followed my husband through all these moves, as well as the indescribable bond between my father and me. Just writing about it makes me have to swallow a new lump in my throat.

So now this tradition of ours has come full circle. S2 has been an actor in several musical productions both at his previous school and in theater groups. S1, however, is the athlete and Scout leader in the family, so I was more than a little bit surprised when he announced that he was interested in joining this camp. Not only did he want to participate, but he wanted to audition for the role of Tevye! My surprise only grew when he opened his mouth and sang BASS at auditions, making him the only child in the cast of 24 kids who does not have a soprano voice. For him to find his voice at this time and for BOTH of my older boys to be participating in this production of this particular play right now is heart-warming beyond words.

In case you're wondering, I was at the auditions because I'd volunteered to paint the set. (When you see the set's artwork in the backgrounds of pictures, that's my work!) We are conserving gas as much as possible these days, so I wanted to make myself useful while I was waiting for the boys during practices. Once I started helping, I discovered how much I enjoyed being involved in that artistic outlet! I loved working with the adults who made the play possible, as well as with all the talented kids. On the boys' audition night, I had to choke back tears and hide blushes of pride as my two boys sang and acted their hearts out, earning them the roles they'd wanted and the roles for which their individual personalities could not possibly be better suited. Neither of them is ready for Broadway just yet, of course, but they both put their whole efforts into getting these parts!

Here are my boys with my parents. Tradition, tradition... TRADITION!

Opening night was S1's first time on stage, in front of an audience, delivering lines (and lines and lines!) of dialogue and performing solos. My sister was able to attend that night, as well as some girls from S1's class at church. I suppose I should have warned him that the girls were in the audience. He didn't miss a beat when he saw his aunt in her seat, but the sight of the girls made him forget an entire line of dialogue. He recovered his character quickly, though, and finished the play wonderfully.

S2 never seems to be nervous about going on stage. (This attribute he does not get from me!) This character, in particular, was quite natural for him to portray. His comedic timing was especially helpful. His only opening night blunder was forgetting to put the wedding ring on Tzeitl, his bride. (He is still a pre-adolescent and a boy, after all.) The rest of his missteps and near-falls were scripted, or at least planned in advance.

The boys with their aunt (my sister):

S1 with those (distractingly cute) young women:

Last night, for their second performance, my boys had 10 family members in the audience! Since the entire place holds only slightly more than 60 audience members, it's clear that our family had a great showing. The show was especially exciting for me because it was the first time I sat down and watched the whole play from the audience section instead of on the green room monitor or from some painting position. My husband, S3, and D4 were finally able to come see the show they'd heard rehearsed so many times at home. My brother and his wife practically moved mountains to find a sitter for their young daughters so they could be at the theater for this performance. Two of my nieces were also there - one who is 5 and loves to watch Topol's version of the play on DVD, and one who is her high school's Student Body President and delegated one of her responsibilities at their football game so that she could not only watch and support her cousins, but also drive my disabled parents to the show! (I know this is an improperly long sentence, but that grammatical structure helps to show how much we recognize and appreciate her sacrifice.) It is nearly impossible to get our extended family in one place at one time any more, so the boys were thrilled to be able to share this experience with so many of their relatives over these two days!

The whole bunch at the play last night:

Since this cast puts on only two shows before they all switch parts and perform two more times in different roles (except for S2, since the cast is slightly short of boys to fill all the boy character slots), the second night of the play (last night) was closing night for S1's Tevye. It's a bittersweet time around our house today. He hummed and subtly danced the Bottle Dance as he stepped onto the field at his soccer game this morning. (I note here that this was an early game - an early game a little over 1/2 hour away from home, no less, and he'd insisted on going to the ice cream place with the cast the night before. Oy!) As we walked back to the car after his team had won their game (woo hoo!), he had already begun to sing, "If I Were a Rich Man." We talked on the way home about the mix of feelings actors and crew experience any time a play ends. I think my oldest son and I have talked more, and more deeply, during this last 1&1/2 months than we did for the entire several months preceding it. That development, alone, is priceless to me!

In an increasingly difficult time for my family, this play has surely been an indescribably special experience for us! (You'd get a kick out of my boys and me singing along with the soundtrack as we drive all over town for the various things we do. My 4-year-old daughter can even sing "If I Were a Rich Man" most of the way through!) What an inspiration! What a blessing! What a gift! What a TRADITION!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We are having our own last supper, of sorts.

I just made dinner for the kids and me. I made some for Michael, too, but he is staying at his office quite late today. He's cleaning out his office, to be exact. After all, tonight is the last night before he goes in for his last day at his current company.

We're hoping this lay-off or whatever it's supposed to be called will lead to an even better opportunity. He had such high hopes for this company, but we see now that some things were not only never going to progress, but were actually changing for the worse.

Does that mythical company where hard work and talent are rewarded by gratitude, increased trust, increased pay, job security, and - dare to dream - possibly a little bit of recognition even exist? He doesn't do what he does for the recognition, by any means. He does what he does because he loves it. From the sound of his evaluations, his business contacts, and his trainees, it sounds like he does it extremely well, too. It's just hard to see him being subject to the whims of the business world. In his heart of hearts, he wants to be with one company for the rest of his career, building a program from nothing and making it the most outstandingly effective, best run program the pharma or mental health field has ever seen. He used to think he wanted to be a vice president or CEO of one of these companies, but he's since decided that he probably isn't heartless enough to do what they do so often.

I don't think I'll post all the details of how this particular loss came about. I'll just write the basics of what's happened. A couple of weeks ago, Michael called me from his office. He sounded absolutely sick; I could just imagine his face looking ashen and his head and shoulders hanging low. He had the feeling he was about to lose his job. His immediate superior at the company had denied that anything was going on, saying that he had no problems with the job Michael was doing. Still, we're sure he was given this prompting for a reason, so we began to prepare for the worst.

The most painful part of this experience for him has been his confusion over the whole situation. How could he get the rave reviews and evaluations he's been getting, but then have his legs cut right out from under him? If he hadn't pressed his supervisor that next Monday and finally told him that he KNEW something was going on, we don't know when the company would have broken all this to Michael. As it turns out, the man was planning to have Michael teach this last group of trainees, then make his last day the same as the last day of the training class. That brings us back to tomorrow.

So tomorrow is his last day. He's not being fired. He didn't do anything wrong. In fact, he's been doing an excellent job and has received excellent feedback from trainees, from employees in the field, from outside contacts he's worked with on behalf of the company, and from other supervisors. The company is just going a different direction and won't be needing the service he provides any more. They want someone else to do the small part of his job that they'll continue to need - someone who can also do another job for which Michael is not qualified.

Still, the whole thing just feels creepy. He only knows of one person in this office of dozens who knows that he'll be leaving at all, much less that tomorrow is the last time he'll be in that office. Can you imagine their confusion when they see him go home tomorrow, leaving an empty office behind? No farewell luncheon, no gold watch, no expressions of concern and good luck for Michael and his family. Conveniently for the company, they won't even have to pay out his end-of-year bonus, most of which he has already earned. Conveniently for his supervisor, the guy isn't even going to be in the office tomorrow. (We suspect that before Michael had pushed for information about is own fate, the supervisor had planned to have the HR woman hand him a severance package agreement just after all these trainees were supposed to leave tomorrow. As it is, they barely got it to him before his last day.) Why is this feeling like such a shameful thing when he didn't do anything wrong? Are they afraid the other employees would revolt, demanding that he be kept on or they'll all walk out? (Not likely, but somewhat of a satisfying fantasy.)

He is pretty sure his semi-replacement is already hired and is just waiting in the wings to occupy his office. In fact, he's completely sure because some dolt at the conference he was supposed to attend next week has recently sent an email with the new guy's name on it to Michael's email address. Duh. It seems the new guy is coming on just in time to get a free trip to San Diego!

So we'll say we're on to bigger and better things. I've been helping rewrite and adjust his resumes and objectives so the things we highlight are geared toward the different jobs for which he's been applying. (Not easy to do when you've got training classes to teach just about every minute of your last 2 weeks.) It's fun to see him getting excited about the possibilities at these new places, seeing how his particular set of qualifications fits so uniquely into some of these job descriptions. It's good to see him have hope that he may find that mythical company one day. Most importantly, we keep praying for the wisdom to know which of these opportunities (and others that may be yet to come) will turn out to be the right one, the strength to make it through whatever we have to go through until he gets a new job, the confidence to proceed with whatever changes we may have to make, and the patience to have it all happen according to the Lord's timetable rather than our own.

We are remembering when 9-11-01 became just 9/11.

It's one of those era-defining questions. Where were you when United States astronauts landed on the moon? Where were you when JFK was shot? Bobby Kennedy? Where were you when the shuttle blew up? (I remember that one, by the way.) Where were you when September 11, 2001 became just 9/11?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had planned to take my 2 younger boys and take the Metro into DC to pick up some tickets at the MCI Center for an ice show we wanted to go see. I slept in a bit later than I'd planned, though, so I was walking out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my hair when Michael's almost frantic call came in. He told me to turn on the television because something very weird was happening. None of our lives would ever be the same after that.

If I had been in DC when I had planned, the 2 younger boys and I would have been stranded while my oldest (then in 1st grade) was being delivered home as quickly as the bus could get him there. All the schools were closed right away and all the kids were taken home. All Metro trains were stopped. Whether we had been on one of the trains or just planning to use one to get back home before the oldest's customary arrival time, I don't think we would have found our way out of DC very easily that day. You see, we lived in Gaithersburg, MD at that time and our area was within that no-fly zone around Washington, D.C. that became eerily quiet in the days and weeks just after the attacks. We had a friend whose uncle died in the Pentagon crash. We heard the stories of local people who were lost in the blink of an eye.

We are still a blessed nation. Sometimes I miss the flags that waved on every single car that drove by for the next several months. If it's this painful for me to remember the way the whole world seemed to shift that one day 7 years ago, I can only imagine how the immediate families of all those hundreds and thousands of people who died must be hurting. I'll do today what I have done every 9/11 since that day and say a quiet prayer for all those families.

We are deciding why we should blog.

I've considered the idea of blogging on and off for some time now, but obviously didn't decide to do it until today. Why blog? Why today?

It might have something to do with an email I received and to which I responded today. A woman whom I admire incredibly much has a speaking assignment coming up this weekend. She wanted to include some examples of, "How small acts can make a big difference," and asked the ladies in the ward to send her any stories that came to them.

I wrote one example for her. Before I'd finished writing about that one, another came to my mind. As I wrote about that one, another popped up, then another. You can tell where this is going. If we sit and quiet our minds, then let ourselves ponder the things we've experienced, we can recall all kinds of small acts and big differences we've witnessed.

Here are some of the things I listed:

1. A certain leader bore her testimony to the sisters in Relief Society. (A women's class/organization that meets during the 3rd hour of our Sunday church meetings. The worldwide group is one of the largest and oldest women's organizations in the world.) She told us that she was thinking about the sisters in our ward (local church) one night, trying to remember each of our names and listing them in her head. She was somewhat disturbed because there was one sister she knew she was leaving out, but could not remember her name. She prayed for each and every one of these sisters. The next morning, the missing sister came to her mind.

It may sound like a small thing, but it touched my heart deeply to know that someone cared about each and every one us, individually and as a body. It reminded me that our Savior knows us as individuals, as well, and has people here who act in His name, in our service, and on our behalf. When ever I hear the Irving Berlin song that goes, "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings," I think of this sister. I often think of her example when I can't sleep, as well, and I try to use those opportunities to pray for individuals who may need an extra something at that time.

COUNT MY BLESSINGS (Instead of Sheep)
(Irving Berlin) from the 1954 movie "White Christmas"
« © '57 Irving Berlin Music, ASCAP »

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds.

If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

[ ... ]So if you're worried and you can't sleep...

2. When we lived in GA and I was having a very painful and scary miscarriage, Michael called our Bishop's wife to ask for advice. Within a few minutes, her car pulled up in front of our house and I heard her footsteps running up our front entry steps. She held my hand, rubbed my head, and talked me through the pain (I didn't know it, but I was having labor contractions) until the ambulance came to help me down those front steps. (I couldn't make my legs move.) While Michael rushed me to the hospital, she stayed with our kids and kept everything calm at home. At one of the most difficult times of my life, I felt completely surrounded with our Savior's love through the service this sister provided.

3. When I was pregnant with my daughter and we were relatively new to CA, a kid hit me with a bike and broke my ankle. My husband worked out of town a lot and was out of town when this happened. Our Bishop's wife came to the soccer field where it happened, took my kids to her home so her daughter could look after them, stayed at the hospital with me, called a Priesthood holder to give me a blessing, and made sure we all got home safely that night. The relief, support, and assurance she provided were priceless and indescribable.

During my recovery, I was supposed to stay completely off my feet for a period of time, but I kept trying to handle things in the house by myself. A sister in the ward volunteered to make sure my oldest son got to Scouts each week. She lived in our neighborhood and it wasn't much out of her way to take him, but it was hugely important as it showed my son that his Church activities are important and it kept him current with what his class was doing. One night when she was dropping him off after Scouts, she snuck into my kitchen and filled a section of my refrigerator with Lunchables. What a relief she provided me! My youngest son was with me all day while the other two went to school during that time, so her lunches made it possible for the little one to have meals that I would not have to get up to prepare for him.

4. We lived in CA - far away from family - when my daughter was less than a month old and Michael lost his job very unexpectedly and suddenly. We were trying to make it through those months on our own (with lots of prayer), but things were starting to get worrisome. We got a call one afternoon that said, "You need to go get some things that are outside in your driveway." When we got out there, we were shocked, touched, and humbled to find all kinds of food and supplies that had obviously been bought at Costco and were tailored to our family's needs. (Diapers, pancake mix, meats, cereal, oatmeal, bread, on and on.) We never found out who did this amazing thing for us or how many families had participated in some small way.

I can't even describe the feelings our family experienced as we lived off those supplies for a good chunk of the time until Michael got his new job. Our boys were all young, but they were old enough to remember the family home evening lesson we'd had on tithing the very week before Michael lost his job. They were sure we were being extra-blessed because we had been obedient to Heavenly Father's instructions. They felt like everyone in our ward had participated and was looking out for our well-being. Since that time, we have also tried to pay that kindness forward, providing support and service to others whose needs we see as often as we possibly can.

5. When a family in another ward lost their young son last year, several other ladies and I went to the family's house during his funeral so that we could give the house a thorough cleaning. I hope that we made it so the family had one less thing to be worried about during such a difficult time in their lives.

6. Before the funeral of an infant who died, our family spent several hours cleaning and preparing the church building. We've cleaned the building as a family before and since, but this time we talked to the boys particularly about the things the family might be feeling - both uplifting and heartbreaking - and the fact that we were trying to make the building as clean as we could so that nothing would take away from their family's time to say good-bye to her.

We will eventually share about Trek!

This is one of my favorite pictures that I took during our Pioneer Trek this past June/July. Trek is something I definitely need to blog about. I hope our kids gain a new appreciation for the experience they had there every time they think about it again. I know I do.

We will serve the Lord.

I had to finish it. For reference sake, it is a scripture from the Bible, found in the book of Joshua, the 24th chapter, 15th verse.

"... choose you this day whom ye will serve; ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

We're trying. We really are. I want to keep a record of the ways that we're trying to teach our kids how important unity and service really are. I want our kids to know how very blessed their lives are. Of course, it will help for me to have that reminder, as well.

I stink at journaling - at least I do until I try to write a short email or online group post about something that has happened in the life of my family. Then, when I'm typing, I seem to blurt out everything I've been holding inside. I'm hoping I will be better at journaling if I do it in this format. Time will tell, right?

My parents have always said I have a very hard time letting go of people. I don't disagree. I am not very good at expressing it all the time, but the people who come into my life are so very important to me that they become a part of who I am. My brain is constantly filled with thoughts of others, wondering about their lives & current situations, prayers for their well-being. I hope this format becomes another way to stay in touch with the people who mean so much to me.