Thursday, December 31, 2015

Toasting to the End of 2015!

Here's a toast to the end of 2015.

Somehow, some way, we made it through.

We made some work goals happen.

We hashtagged.
We spent time with family.

And we spent time with friends.

Here's hoping you find a spark to light your way into 2016.

~ via iPhone, because yeah...
Finally I paid off my grad school student loans and I could afford it. Finally!

Nice camera, huh?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Epilogue to End a Year: Words to Hold On To

And as the minutes of 2015 tick away, I thought I'd borrow from two authors to end the year and leave us with things to ponder:

"My little big friend Samy left me with one final scrap of wisdom. For once she didn't shout-- she tends to shout. She gave me a hug as I sat there, staring at the sea and couting the colors, and whispered very quietly to me: 'Do you know that there's a halfway world between each ending and each new beginning? It's called the hurting time, Jean Perdu. It's a bog; it's where your dreams and worries and forgotten plans gather. Your steps are heavier during that time. Don't underestimate the transition, Jeanno, between farewell and new departure. Give yourself the time you need. Some thresholds are too wide to be taken in one stride.'

Since then I have often thought about what Samy called the hurting time and the halfway world, about the threshold that you have to cross between farewell and new departure. I wonder whether my threshold starts here ... or whether it began twenty years ago.

Have you experienced that hurting time too? ... Do you mind my asking these questions?"

~ The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George, p. 301

During this transition time, perhaps these following words will help you. They are helping lots of people who are choosing to be Furiously Happy, no matter what.

from Jenny Lawson's Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, c. 2015

Read this Epilogue.

The Entire Epilogue. 

All of it.

I keep reading it and every time I get something else out of it. Thanks Jenny.

Epilogue: Deep in the Trenches

To all who walk the dark path, and to those who walk in the sunshine but hold out a hand in the darkness to travel beside us:

Brighter days are coming.
Clearer sight will arrive.
And you will arrive too.

No, it might not be forever. The bright moments might be for a few days at a time, but hold on for those days. Those days are worth the dark.

In the dark you find yourself, all bones and exhaustion and helplessness. In the dark you find your basest self. In the dark you find the bottom of watery trenches the rest of the world only see the surface of. You will see things that no normal person will ever see. Terrible things. Mysterious things. Things that try to burrow into your mind like a bad seed. Things that whisper dark and horrid secrets that you want to forget. Things that scream lies. Things that want you dead. Things that will stop at nothing to pull you down further and kill you in the most terrible way of all ... by your own trembling hand. These things are fearsome monsters ... the kind you always knew would sink in their needle-sharp teeth and pull you under the bed if you left a dangling limb out. You know they aren't real, but when you're in that black, watery hole with them they are the realest thing there is. And they want us dead.

And sometimes they succeed.

But not always. And not with you. You are alive. You have fought and battled them. You are scarred and worn and sometimes exhausted and were perhaps even close to giving up, but you did not.

You have won many battles. There are no medals given out for these fights, but you wear your armor and your scars like an invisible skin, and each time you learn a little more. You learn how to fight. You learn which weapons work. You learn who your allies are. You learn that those monsters are exquisite liars who will stop at nothing to get you to surrender. Sometimes you fight valiantly with fists and words and fury. Sometimes you fight by pulling yourself into a tiny ball, blotting out the monsters along with the rest of the world. Sometimes you fight by giving up and turning it over to someone else who can fight for you.

Sometimes you just fall deeper.

And in the deepest, night-blind fathoms you're certain that you're alone. You aren't. I'm there with you. And I'm not alone. Some of the best people are here too ... feeling blindly. Waiting. Crying. Surviving. Painfully stretching their souls so that they can learn to breath underwater ... so that they can do what the monsters say is impossible. so that they can live. And so that they can find their way back to the surface with the knowledge of things that go bump in the night. So that they can dry themselves into the warm light that shines so brightly and easily for those above the surface. So that they can walk with others in the sunlight but with different eyes ... eyes that still see the people underwater, allowing them to reach out into the darkness to pull up fellow fighters, or to simply hold their cold hands and sit beside the water to wait patiently for them to come up for air.

Ground zero is where the normal people live their lives, but not us. We live in the negatives so often that we begin to understand that life when the sun shines should be lived full throttle, soaring. The invisible tether that binds the normal people on their steady course doesn't hold us in the same way. Sometimes we walk in sunlight with everyone else. Sometimes we live underwater and fight and grow.

And sometimes ...

... sometimes we fly.

May we all fly into 2016 and soar.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Long Distance Christmas E-Cards

After all the years that I was able to take an extended vacation to Utah/Arizona/Nevada and then Idaho during Christmas breaks, it has been interesting to NOT for this particular holiday. Having Thanksgiving is one thing, but Christmas is another. (In all honesty, it was ... better to have a break this year. I needed it.)

Thankfully, with the immediacy of modern technology, I can still experience it in more real-time than my poor grandmothers could not that long-ago.

A few branches of the tree came together for an early Christmas. Grandmary and Grumpa were able to spend time with the Nevada crew before Kelli and the Kids peeled off to see the paternal step-side of the family.

Grumpa reports with his iPhone photos:
Jed was at work but after soup and crackers we opened the gifts from you, mom, and Idaho family. The following are just a sample of what we saw. Cannon was running a fever, but staked out his spot and spread out. [Your] sunglasses were a hit. Drew loved all your little items and will be using them as soon as he can. After things settled down, I caught one of the cat lover. 
 (I'm sorry Grandmary, but the squirmy twins look like they want to bolt.)
I missed the initial FaceTime request while the parentals were there, but I got to FaceTime all of them much much later that night. I was already make-up free and ready for bed, so we had a FaceTime chat where I had my sunglasses on. (I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can ...)

Sarah and Cannon got sunglasses from me because Sarah had spent so much time when I was there in November wearing mine - I had to! (And if you get one twin one thing, you better get the other one something similar.)
Oh, the smudgies I had to get off of my glasses.

On Christmas Eve, Grumpa sent me photos of the parentals' present to themselves and their neighbors to the south. A HUGE 110ft long fence, so you couldn't see out the back of the house, down directly into the neighbor's pool, hot-tub, and house. They've been planning this and some xeriscaping for years, but somehow they saved enough money on their mission that they were able to afford. Add in some of the exterior/interior renovations they had to make because of the burst pipe, it just made sense.
It's imprinted on both sides, so as Mr. Frost is attributed: "Good fences make good neighbors."

Just so I wouldn't be left out, on Christmas morning, he sent around photos of how the house was decorated this year. They may be making up for last year's apartment-sized Christmas. (Hey, I don't even decorate THAT much, so their decorations can count for mine.)

Actually (as Nathan would say), the exterior decor, particularly the tiny tree by the door, is more for the lady, Doris, across the street. Because it came from her, so it has to be put to use.
 Every year there is loot under this tree, and every year Pop makes comments about how "we weren't going to do this" and "it's all for your mother." But then he's happy to have the loot. Every year. TRADITIONS! (But there was no, I hope it's not what's in the box insider family joke.)

Per Pop:
Mom reading the role of grandparents before seeing the goofy picture of ME. (Good gift, family!)
Dad's gifts. It seems that if you repair a zipper pull with glue you get two new fleeces to cover the mess you make. I am trying to get through the Book of Mormon again and got two large reading books to distract me again.*
Mom's gifts. One of which has to be exchanged for 24" size. Thanks to the little birdie for the suggestion.
End of event! "Beagle" for breakfast and then to get ready for lunch in Zion Park.

[You are welcome, Mom. I listen. Next time Dad, we'll find out the right sizing. But I have to be subtle in my information gathering.]

On "returns" Monday, there was a replacement for the "you know, one of these days, I'd like pearls" half-off-handed comment. 
With interest.
Apparently there was no "next size up" available. Oh shucks darn shoot.

The folks then took themselves to the Zion Lodge at Zion National Park for Christmas Day 2015. While I had to turn on my a/c, there was snow in them there hills.

From Pop:
Just outside the Zion Lodge

There were a lot of visitors from around the world, and lots of people who didn't know what snow was.
 With just enough white to make the red rocks stand out and red/white/blue for Mary.
They took pictures from the car of a the canyon and of a snowstorm coming in through Springdale.

Aside from some complaints about speed limits, needs for new connectors to by-pass around the valley closer to their house, and meal prices, I THINK Dad had a good time. Even though he said he needed a Christmas Day nap.

Who doesn't need a Christmas Day nap? I think it's part of the day.

Hope you enjoyed this Long Distance Christmas E-Card.

~most photos via Grumpa

*Hey, I just realized. I didn't get one single reading book for Christmas. Odd. That has to be rectified.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Auntie Nettie (Didn't) Reads A Lot 2015 - 3rd/4th Quarters

Sorry, Geoff -- not so keen on poetry, but I did try to read other things. The Festival killed my momentum on library books, so I immersed myself in first in "adult crack" of the Twilight Series (judge me not, lest ye be judged) and then spent many happy hours back in time in The Worlde of ye Gabaldon's Outlander. Then my August/November extended vacations and insane work schedule for December also killed my momentum. 

Alas. Alack. Resolutions for 2016 abound - as does my reading "wish" list.

The usual caveat applies: If you are just finding the blog, please note that this list was maintained mainly so that I could remember what I've (or NOT) read this year. The record does not fully represent me or all of my interests, so don't judge my reading habits. My interests change quite frequently. Also, as a general rule, I don't do book recommendations or link to major retailers or publishers. Except for the ARCs listed below [thanks major publishers!], most of these books came from MY library (now noted) or a public library.  Go forth and READ!

July through September
The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer (I know, I know -- whatever, mine, reread) 

Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paul McLain (ARC) 
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (ARC) 
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (mine, reread) (long reads) 
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (mine, reread) (long reads) 
Voyager by Diana Gabladon (mine, reread) (long reads) 
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (mine, reread) (long reads) 
The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (mine, reread) (long reads) 
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon (mine, reread) (long reads) 
An Echo in Bone by Diana Gabaldon (mine, reread) (long reads) 
Written in my Heart’s Own Blood by Diana Gabaldon (mine, READ - FINALLY) (long reads) 
This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison (ARC) 
The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne (Mine, reread) 
Cleopatra's Shadows: A Novel by Emily Holleman (ARC) 
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (ARC) (didn't finish) 
Since You've Been Gone by Anouska Knight (ARC, reread) 
The Lake Season: A Novel by Hannah McKinnon 
The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley 
Ever After: A Nantucket Brides Novel by Jude Deveraux 
It's Not Me It's You by Mhairi McFarlane 
The Woman Who Stole My Life: A Novel by Marian Keyes 
Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Philips (reread) 
Re Jane: A Novel by Patricia Park 
You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day 
Midnight Crossroad (Book 1) by Charlaine Harris 
Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (didn't finish) 
The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear (didn't finish) 
The Little Free Library Book: Take a Book- Return a Book by Margret Aldrich 
For All Time: A Nantucket Brides Novel by Jude Deveraux 
True Love: A Nantucket Brides Novel by Jude Deveraux  

October through December 
Landline by Rainbow Rowell 
Play for Me by Celine Keating (didn't finish) 
Ever After: A Nantucket Brides Novel by Jude Deveraux (reread) 
The Japanese Lover: A Novel by Isabel Allende (ARC) 
Day Shift: A Novel of Midnight (Book 2) by Charlaine Harris 
Blueprints: A Novel by Barbara Delinsky 
Once Upon a Summertime by Melody Carlson 
Beach Town: A Novel by Mary Kay Andrews 
If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins** 
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling 
Bending the Rules by Susan Andersen (didn't finish) 
The Other Daughter: A Novel by Lauren Willig 
Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir
    by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess   
The Sparrow Sisters: A Novel by Ellen Herrick 
Steadfast: An Elemental Masters Novel by Mercedes Lackey (reread) 
The Rosie Project: A Novel by Graeme Simsion 
The Rosie Effect: A Novel by Graeme Simsion 
BossyPants by Tina Fey 
The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George 
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess
[Whoops I forgot to write things down at some point mid-November] 
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth (ARC) 
Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts (didn't finish vintage Readers Digest condensed book version at my auntie’s house) 
Star of Fortune (Guardians Trilogy Book 1) by Nora Roberts (mine) 
The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennett by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley (mine)
Huh. Looking at it like this, maybe I DID read a lot at some point this year.
** Can I just say how weird it is to be reading along and the author a) mentions the place you used to work***, so that throws you out of the story and then b) also mentions a real-author that you kindof knew of in real-life when you were growing up, who lived about 6 houses away up the hill, who your brother delivered papers to and babysat his kids - so that REALLY throws you out of the story? No, just me? As you were.

*** The Big J / Juilliard and Wally Lamb.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy Anniversary Mary and Max!

In honor of a very momentous year in the now, 48-year marriage of Mary and Max, I present their annual Christmas letter.

  ~ photos by me, by iTouch in August 2015, DC area

December 2015 finds us back in Utah after a very rich and fulfilling time in the Washington D.C. area as missionaries at the Washington, D.C. temple. Our service in the temple was very spiritual. The people we met there will be eternal friends whom we miss daily. The "hundred-things-to-see-and-do-in-the-D.C.-are" list that we received when we arrived was not completed, but we did explore some places we had not seen in our thirty plus years on the East Coast--the Baltimore Inner Harbor and Ft. McHenry; Gettysburg; Hershey, PA; Ocean City, MD; Assateague Island and the wild ponies *, to name a few. In July we got permission to go up to Palmyra, NY to see the Pageant and then to Niagara Falls, which was on my "Bucket List." I was not disappointed. [So, you can now assume that Mary is writing this.]

The temple closed August 8 for some major renovations, a month earlier than our original release date. So, we took our time coming home with detours to NC to visit relatives and a week at Topsail Island and to CT and the Cape for a week. ** (No, I cannot get the Cape sand out of my heart.) We then headed West via Interstate 90 with Moscow, Idaho as our goal to meet our newest grand daughter [Jaime]. We made it as far as Mt. Rushmore when we got a call that brought us home by September 13.

The call was to inform us that the water pipe bringing water from the street into our utility room had burst above the shut-off valve for the house. (That valve was closed). Our neighbor who walks his dog discovered water coming from under the garage door on the afternoon walk. He called our friend who had keys. She rushed over and called our son [Jed] who drove quickly from Mesquite [Nevada] and then called us as we sat enjoying Mt. Rushmore. We told him to call the insurance company and ServiceMaster was here in an hour. We got home to torn out carpet, twenty fan/heaters roaring, and major decisions to make. Three months later, new flooring throughout and a clean house. Now, to convince Max to go on another mission!

The grandchildren grew and thrived while we were gone. Drew is nearly 11; his twin brother and sister are three. The Moscow kids are nearly ten, eight, and six, and Jaime is one. We did get to see her at ten months when we left the mess here for ten days. FaceTime is a farmily-connecting tool we love.

So, what do we do now? We started our service at the St. George temple December 3 and submitted our paperwork to serve for another year at the Home Storage Center the first of January. We need to be busy with enough time to explore our beautiful area, work off the weight we gained from all the missionary parties, and help our neighbors. We are grateful for all our blessings, you being one of them for enriching our lives. May 2016 be good to you.

Love, Max and Mary
~photo by me, November 2015

* Hey, that's on MY bucket list. No fair
** And, hey, I visited for a few days in August to help clear out a lot of stuff. A LOT of the stuff. A CAR FULL OF STUFF. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. MANY PEOPLE ARE ENJOYING ALL THE STUFF.