Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is Google Analytics Broken?

So, I haven't looked at my Analytics account for a long time. For those of you who are not familiar with that, it tracks visits and usage of your websites for you. It's sort of fun to see where the people come from who are looking at your site, how many people visit and how often, etc. But I just looked at it again and it says that over the last month there have been 6 visits to my blog. OK. That's fine. It also says that none of them are new visitors. That's also cool--people are coming back! It says that each of the 6 is in a different country--OK, way cool! People all over the world like my blog and are visiting more than once! All but one visited 2-3 pages of this blog. That's cool, too. But wait, it says every single one was on my sight for 00:00:00 amount of time. How can you visit 3 pages in 00:00:00 seconds? And wait a minute, I know at least 3 different people commented on my blog this last month--which means they must have visited it, right?--and they are all in the US. So why aren't more recorded as being in the US? I don't know. Maybe it's broken. Sigh. I liked that little tool.

Speaking of tools, Rhys calls everything even vaguely tool-like that he can get his hand on a "hammer." And he will use every last one of them to hit things (even a stuffed animal or a handful of noodles from dinner). He's a funny kid. He loves to wear shoes, but we don't let him usually in the house because he steps on things much more damagingly than if he were barefoot. I love my little man!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The New Green Me


I first, my sister got chickens. Then, about a year later, I bought a bike trailer and have enjoyed pulling my kids around everywhere I can. And a few months ago I decided to jump into cloth diapering. And one day I thought, "It's been really sunny and warm for a while, I should just hang those diapers out to dry instead of using the dryer." So I strung some line on our back patio and when they were all hung up I thought they looked so lovely there in all their colorful glory I decided to take a picture. It was really hard to get a clear picture with such bright sunshine behind, but I finally got something that captured the bright, happy colors hanging in a row. Then I noticed that the picture also captured my bike and trailer in front of it and the chicken coop in the background. I looked at the composition and thought, "Wow! I look so green." And I laughed. Because, although I do greatly support efforts to conserve resources (I am a conservative, after all) and I believe we have a very important stewardship to care for this planet to the best of our ability, I hate the term "green" and all the trendiness it implies.

My efforts to behave responsibly toward the planet have nothing to do with social agendas. But the funniest part is that none of the aspects captured in this picture had any basis in caring for the planet anyway. We got chickens to find out if fresh eggs are really any better, to have a little bit of farm life at home, and to have animals to care for to help our children learn where food really comes from and a little about life cycles. I started pulling a bike for health and the love of that particular exercise, and to save a little on gas money. I started cloth diapering because I got sick and tired of paying so much money into a landfill and diaper genie bags are expensive! And lastly, I hung things to dry on the line because I love the quaintness and retro feel of sun and air drying clothes and have also discovered that the actual process of hanging and taking down clothes from a line is like a little meditative relaxation for me. I really, really enjoy doing it. I will not deny that in all of these things there is also an increased connectedness to the earth and nature that I enjoy and has driven my determinations and decisions about them, but that is incedental to and not necessarily inextricably tied to environmental preservation.

So there you go. It's the same old me, just new, improved, and planet friendly, all by sheer coincidence.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Tummy--Not So Yummy

I ate exceedingly much very delicious food today. And now my tummy is complaining.

I rode in the back of a full minivan to Portland for my nephew's wedding. It was really fun in the back seat doing sudoku with my little brother and his wife. But we had to get up very early in anticipation of traffic on I-5 in order to get to the Portland temple by 11:30 am.

For breakfast, on the go, I had a granola bar and some dry cheerios. For second breakfast I had convenience store chicken tenders and jo-jos. For early lunch I had whoppers (the chocolate malted kind, not from Burger King) and chocolate covered donettes (also from the convenience store). For late lunch I had entirely too much delicious Texas-Style BBQ (Thank you, Bryan and Michelle!). For the record--my side dishes were green beans and green salad. For early dinner I had more chocolate covered donettes, and for late dinner I had a few stolen french fries and Micky Mouse head chicken nugget left overs from my sister's when I picked up my kids.

Um. This equals very ill stomach. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Yugh.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And I dwelt in a tent

This is another post I have been meaning to get to for long time—about 19 months to be precise. I first started writing it in my mind when I was in Utah waiting for Rhys to be born. The title comes from 1 Nephi 2:15 “And my father dwelt in a tent.” It is a seemingly straightforward and innocuous scripture—just sort of a matter-of-fact description of how things were. But I once read a comment on that phrase “dwelt in a tent” that said that for the Hebrews of the day (about 600 BC) to “dwell in a tent” was not just to be out camping, but was regarded as a spiritual state of being in constant reliance on God. To dwell in a tent—to remove yourself from physical permanence even in your abode—was to put yourself wholly in God’s hands and to live with very rugged and real faith from moment to moment, not knowing where life would take you next, but at peace because of your trust in God’s provenance.

As we were living with various relatives—relying entirely on the hospitality of others for our sustenance, and without any idea (beyond a general one month range) of when we would be allowed to return to more foreseeable circumstances—that phrase often came to mind, along with all the deeper meaning, as a very apt description of how I felt. Because even though I recognized the temporal and emotional uncertainty of my situation I felt perfectly at ease, comforted and and confident in the assurance that the Lord supported what I was doing. I knew I was exactly where He wanted me to be, doing exactly what he wanted me to do, and I was at peace.

It was a magnificently profound time for me spiritually and I am deeply grateful to all of those who invited me allowed me to stay with them and made the entire experience possible—My mother, my sister Maria, the Lines family, the Mounteer family, and my beautiful Angel Midwives.

And just recently I found myself again drawn to this phrase as a description of my current life. Not actually right now, but several months ago, before Kevin went out off-shore again. We had been for 6 or 7 months with no work for Kevin at all. He started doing odd jobs to fill in the gaps in our savings, then more and more just to meet our monthly budget. It never seemed like there was enough work, but we always seemed to have money in the bank enough to cover our obligations and still keep the accounts open.

I couldn’t explain how it happened. I’m still confused by the math that doesn’t look at the outset like it should add up, but somehow does. Yet as the months went on and I intellectually felt like I should be concerned, I slowly realized that emotionally and spiritually I wasn’t troubled. I felt perfectly at ease, even as we lived from paycheck to sporadic paycheck. And I came to recognize the hand of the Lord in not only our sustenance, but how I felt all the time. I was confident that we were doing our best to keep the commandments, build our family, and make our way and we were following the path that we had prayerfully seen laid out for us. With all of this to rely on, I had no fear for the future—trusting that the Lord would take care of and make us equal to whatever it turned out to be, no matter how easy or hard on us it would end up. I felt again as if I were dwelling in an tent—no physical anchor to my present temporal life, but firmly anchored to the Lord and his daily supplying of my needs and the needs of my family.

I can’t even convey how grateful I am for these times that I have been allowed to live so very close to the Spirit, because there was so little left to get between us. I hope that even as our temporal circumstances improve, as they are right now, and even if we become well enough established to feel permanently tied to a place with our own home and some land, as is our dream, I hope that I will be able to hold on to this feeling of close communion with the Lord—of every distracting tie stripped away—for the rest of my life. I pray ever to continue spiritually to “dwell in a tent.”

A Late-Breaking Breakthrough

I finally opened up the folder in my computer of blog posts I wanted to be sure I remembered to write, but usually only get to typing the idea and saving it, but never looking at what is already there. And here was an almost finished one from April. So here I go posting it now, for your perusing pleasure and my procrastinatory penance:

I think I’ve made a breakthrough

Two weeks ago we had fast Sunday and I as I sat through the meeting I felt the Spirit very strong, but was not impelled to rise and bear testimony myself. I wondered if I would be for a little bit, but as I sat up and actually paid attention to those who were bearing their testimonies, all urging feelings went away. I’ve suspected for a while that one reason I have been so frequently compelled by the Spirit to get up in front of everyone and bear my testimony (read “every month for the last 4 years”) because I just don’t do a very good job of paying attention when I’m not the one speaking. It’s even up for debate how well I pay attention when the words are coming out of my mouth, but there is no doubt that I feel the Spirit very strongly. I do know that it wasn’t simply a matter every month up til now that I needed to listen, not to get up myself, but it was very exciting to feel that way this month.

That said, two months ago I did feel a very strong urge to get up and bear my testimony, but I had to take Rhys out of the meeting and didn’t get the opportunity to do that. At that time I had the impression that I should write and post my testimony for all of you, so that you would have no doubt as to what I believe. I wrote it down to copy over here, but then forgot about that decision until I found it in my book of promptings that I try to review each week (but clearly do not, otherwise I would have remembered sooner. Yikes!)

I know that there is a God. I know that he is our Heavenly Father, the literal father of our spirits. He loves me. I know that Jesus is the Christ who came to redeem the world, the Son of God in deed. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. He restored the Gospel and was Christ’s instrument to organize His church in this day. The Book of Mormon is a true and inspired work. It is all it claims to be. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church of God and Jesus Christ, organized under His direction. The priesthood—the authority to perform binding ordinances and to bless in the name of God—was restored to earth and is held by leaders and worthy men in our church today. Thomas S. Monson is a true and living prophet. He speaks to us for Jesus Christ today.

The Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon, chapter 5, verses 45 and 46 quotes the prophet Alma after preaching to the people, “And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.”

As I read this as a teenager I noted the phrase “fasted and prayed many days” and lamented how difficult it was for me to fast just one day. I really disliked fasting. I love eating. I fasted every month, and I tried very hard to have a reverent and submissive mindset about it, but I never enjoyed it. I really wanted to know that what I believed was true. I wanted a witness from God. But I didn’t know how I could ever qualify for it when it took the prophet Alma fasting “many days” before he knew. I don’t know how long it was, but probably years, but during one reading of that verse, quite suddenly I saw what I had never noticed before—the qualifier that is not there, but that I had always added anyway, “in a row.” The verse does not read “fasted and prayed many days in a row,” but simply “many days.” I was struck by how many months, how many years I had been praying constantly and fasting once a month to know “of myself” that these things are true. Surely all of those individual days taken together add up to “many days.” And as I thought this the Spirit flooded through me so deeply, entirely, and profoundly that I knew, and even to this day I know that the things whereof I have spoken are true. For “what greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:23)

I am forever grateful that my Heavenly Father took the time to craft my life such that even I, weak as I was, could qualify for such a sure and pure witness. And now every time that I read those words, “And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit,” my heart sings a silent echo, “Me, too! Me, too.”

Friday, August 20, 2010

Morning Solitude

I must confess, I secretly love it when my kids keep each other up at night. I ignore them completely because they are usually happy. Perhaps if there was screaming or upsetness I might intervene, but they are usually pretty quiet and giggly. And so I have as pleasant of an evening as I otherwise would, and then they sleep in later in the morning and I get more time to myself then, too. Like this morning I wrote in my journal, read scriptures, did a load of laundry, and now am blogging. It's great!

Except when Willow finds naughty ways to amuse herself in her room alone at night--not last night, but some time ago she found a sharpie and proceeded to decorate an entire corner of her room--the wall, the light switch plate, the window sill, a roll of duck tape, a few books, the curtain, and a small ceramic birds nest with baby birds in it that I made in highschool. That was a hard one to go to sleep on. But in general they just laugh together. And I love it.

This is the face of a man who has seen it all.

While visiting my sister the other day, one of her children's legos decided to make a break for it. He stowed away among my possessions hoping to see the world. His trip, however, probably led him to see much more than he ever wanted to. He secreted himself somewhere no one would ever think to look for him--in the stomach of my 18 month old. What he didn't bargain for was the fact that, since I am cloth diapering, I am now much more intimate with the contents of my son's diapers and there is not much in them that escapes my notice. And so he was recaptured. But for reasons unfathomable to me, when asked, my sister said she did not want the fugitive returned. Well played, Tiny Lego Head. You have won this round. But do not become overconfident. I must warn you that your captors here are much less squeamish.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Template

Because I'm craving the rain!

Harvest Time

It's here! It's here!
That magical time of year
I absolutely love
And absolutely loathe.

Days upon days
Upon days in a daze
Of picking and tipping,
Of peeling and packing,
Of scalding and slicing
And sticking and stacking.
To brine or to boil?
To salt or to syrup?
How'd we do this last year?
How many cases?
Was that even yummy?
We still have some left?

The heat from the sun
And the heat from the stove
Endlessly boiling up humid oppression.
And flies! Forever.
The fruit flies forever!

But when you are canning,
you get to eat peaches.
Peaches and peaches, all you can eat.
And green beans are never
so utterly lovely
and yummy delicious
as stolen straight from the vine
with a leaf stuck to your shirt.

Peach juice penetrating your fingerprints,
Vinegar and dill penetrating your nostrils,
And the odd sort of self torture of
Bean tips penetrating under your finger nails.

But it is worth it, it's all worth it
For the rows and boxes of beautiful jars
That last us all year
And fill up our tummies.
We have peaches in January
And zucchini in March
And a sense of accomplishment
That little else can bring.

I feel a connectedness to the soil,
The Earth that blesses us with bounty
Even when we have given so little for it.
I feel powerful and capable,
Able to feed my family
with the work of my hands.

And I am grateful
For this lovely, delicious time of year.