Friday, October 31, 2008

A Bit of Gratitude

Happy Halloween to all of you!

Tonight I was putting Landon to sleep and I have not yet mastered the art of reading a story and feeding him a bottle. So I decided to try and tell him a great story about how he came to us. I couldn't get through the story without crying. :( He is an amazing blessing to us. Every Halloween from now on I will remember a bit of the story below.

It was one year ago today that my 8 day old baby and I made the long journey home to Michigan. I was so grateful to see Mike at the end of the long airport hallway. I was the last one left in the hallway dragging the baby carrier in one hand and carrying my bags in another. All I wanted was to get to a home I had only lived in for 3 days.
(I didn't tell Landon the last part. :)
Today it really seemed like Landon realized that Poppi was not home. Every morning he comes to play in our bedroom and this morning he looked all around for Mike. It was cute and amazing how much they notice even at 1.
Yesterday we went shopping with our friends Arika and Jackson and I got Landon some great deals! I thought it would be no fun buying clothes for a boy. WRONG! I love it! This little kiddo has more clothes than he can ever wear. But when you are this cute who wouldn't want to buy you so many clothes.
1 day till Mike comes home yeah!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10 Years Have Flown By

In all of the years leading up to this 10th year we have always celebrated our first date. Last year we celebrated even more as that was the day I brought Landon home. This year it was a bit lame. We (mainly Mike) was extremely busy this last week and then left today for Orlando, Florida. Yes, he is in Walt Disney World without us. I can't wait for the day when Landon really understands who Tigger and all of the other characters are.

  • It was 10 years ago on the 27th that Mike and I first met.
  • It was 10 years ago on Halloween this Friday that Mike and I had our first date. This has been the first Halloween we have spent apart. :(
  • It will be 10 years of marriage on January 23.

I would have never imagined we would have ended up in Michigan. When I met Mike he was an elementary school teacher in sunny So Cal. We lived in a little condo that did the job. We have since lived in Argentina, Mike has gone back to school twice, I have gone back to school, we lived in Utah, and have traveled lots. We even have a little tyke to tow a long on this crazy adventure we call life. The day I met Mike my mom said I did not look very nice. What a good way to start off the night at Institute. But my timing and whatever humor God gave me proved to work.

I love Mike and I am grateful that he is willing to stand by me no matter what craziness I send in his direction. Just remember be bold while you are gone and let the ideas flow. We need TENURE.

All my love. Nena

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Living Fully in the Present Moment

I found when I was younger I would spend a lot of time imagining my future and wishing so hard that the next stage of my life would just come already. When I was in school, I was thinking about my job. When I was on my mission, I would think about "real" life at mission's end. Every so often, I would enjoy the present moment, but the moment would get lost as I began thinking again of what I wanted the future to bring. Now, don't get me wrong. Planning for and anticipating a planned-for future helps a body set goals and fuels proper ambition. I'd have never earned the scholarships or pushed on for the PhD without a healthy sense that there was something just out of sight that I was reaching for. In effect, that is the essence of faith.

However, like every positive character attribute, the faith that motivates us to push onward can become a misplaced anticipation of a bright future that outshines the present. Gradually, those periods of enjoying the present moment have grown, and (at least over the past year) I have found myself appreciating the wisdom that encourages people to live fully within the present moment, to enjoy being here, now. This idea is deeper than it sounds, because I have known a lot of people who, in their desire to take in the present take no thought at all for the future, which pattern of behavior has its own problems. I have occasionally reached an inner place that balances thoughtful plans for the future with a deep appreciation for the beauties of the here and now. When I get there, I find a simple peace that's hard to describe. It's a deep, quiet satisfaction of feeling fully present and where I belong. This last week, Hallie checked out Season 1 of Northern Exposure, and in the third episode, Chris (the DJ) has a brief conversation with Joel (the doctor) about the challenges Joel is experiencing as part of his move to Cicely, Alaska. Chris remarks:

"Well, you know the way I see it, if you're here for four more years or four more weeks, you're here right now. You know, and I think when you're somewhere you ought to be there, and because it's not about how long you stay in a place. It's about what you do while you're there, and when you go is that place any better for you having been there?"

That's the stuff. As often as I can find it within myself to do, I will be here now for however long that here and that now may be.


I have read several blogs where people were tagged to write about their favorite things. From what I can tell we have only been tagged by one person and because I was poking around on their blog I found out we were tagged. So below is a compilation of Mike and Hallie's tagged info.

Eight Favorite TV Shows: (If we had cable they would be)
1. The Office
2. Dancing With The Stars
3. The Backyardigans
4. Discover Detroit
5. Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe
6. Battlestar Galactica
7. Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood
8. Ace of Cakes/American Choppers

Eight Favorite Restaurants:
1. Olga's Kitchen
2. Baja Fresh
3. Chipotle
4. Pizza Papalis
5. Lamb's Grill
6. Paradise Bakery
7. California Pizza Kitchen
8. Tommy's/In-N-Out

Eight Things that Happened Yesterday:
1. Got my hair washed at Fantasic Sams due to my thumb injury.
2. Raked wonderful fall leaves in the front yard.
3. Bought cake for Halloween party for celebration of Landon's birthday.
4. Played with Landon and kept telling him to stop touching stuff.
5. Fielded calls for branch members regarding Halloween party.
6. Decorated for branch Halloween party.
7. Attended branch Halloween party.
8. Elders stopped by to coordinate rides for church

Eight Things to look forward to:
1. Thanksgiving
2. Christmas Brunch Hallie wants to have at the house
3. Carly's little Billy
4. Landon getting his one year shots (NOT!)
5. San Diego in April
6. The first snow fall
7. New couches
8. Mike returning from UCEA (lucky dog will be at Walt Disney World)

Eight things on my wish list:
1. Being Debt Free
2. Adopt #2
3. A new dining room table
4. No cold feet in bed
5. New winter mocs
6. New yummy smelling Yankee Candles for fall and winter
7. Landon to have molars so he can eat more yummy food
8. Single Story House

Eight Things I love about the Fall:
1. Apple Orchards and all that goes along with them
2. All the awesome leaves on our street
3. My front porch decorated
4. The nip in the air
5. Trick or Treating
6. Thanksgiving
7. Landon's Birthday
8. Our Anniversary of our first date

Eight people I tag:1. Michelle 2. Carly 3. Stephanie 4. Toby 5. Aimee 6. Bryce and Elise 7. Riley 8. Breanne

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Historic Photo Books

We just finished looking through a couple of interesting books of historic photos from a company called Turner Publishing out of Nashville, Tennessee. As new residents of Detroit, we found that Historic Photos of Detroit offered enlightening insights into the Motor City as it rose from an outpost on the frontier to an automobile and military manufacturing powerhouse to the first stages of racial tensions that affect the city to the present time. We showed the book to a couple of our friends, one a long-time Detroit resident, and the other a newbie like us. Our friend from Detroit remarked that while she has grown up with a lot of the landmarks pictured, she had not realized their significance to the city's history. Our newbie friend noted how the book chronicled for her a story of what might have been. The photos are all black and white, and they end in the 1960s, before things took a serious slide. You do get to feeling wistful when you realize that old photos of Detroit and Chicago look so similar, and yet today the cities have drifted apart. Our friend remarked on the contrast of the night life, for instance. We live a block and a half from Alter Road, and as you drive north on Alter and west onto Mack, you see islands of development that float in the sea of neglect that characterizes much of Detroit. The old girl is getting some TLC (in places), and hope remains in some quarters that Detroiters and those friendly to the city's growth can help bring things back. The Book Cadillac has reopened, midtown is picking up, and portions of Jefferson have healthy commercial centers. All in all, the book provided a lot of food for thought and conversation. It will occupy a visible place in our home as a potent history lesson.

To life-long Cali natives such as ourselves, Historic Photos of Los Angeles brought on a complex set of emotions. The last time we went to Southern California together, we noted that no matter what time of day you were out on the freeways, there were cars upon cars upon cars on the road. We know and have been to many of the venues pictured in the book, and it was like looking through our grandparents' old photo albums, but with a context for each photo. Boy, has LA changed, as the panorama of bathing beauties from 1917 will attest. As with the Detroit book, captions beside the photos tell some of the background and significance of the events portrayed. Of special significance was the portion relating to the beginnings of LA's aerospace industry. Our families came to California from Utah and points further east, drawn to SoCal by jobs in new industries. I (Mike) remember my grandma talking about working with the airplane companies, and seeing photos of the factory line workers gave me a feel for what her work could have been like.

We found out that there is a whole series of these picture books, and we'll have to take a look at their Salt Lake title to see what new insights the folks at Turner have to share with us about our former home. To take a look at titles that might interest you, click here.

Happy 1st Birthday Dearest Landon

Landon turned 1 year old!

I know he had no idea what all of the singing we did to him was about.

Why he had cake at 11:00 am.

He decided to use his teeth to open his presents.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Everything Will Be Alright

I ride the bus to and from work most days, and in the afternoons or evenings as I ride home, my bus passes the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. On the outside of this graffiti clad concrete and stucco building on Woodward is posted a message in large white neon letters: “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT.” When I first paid attention to the sign as I first started riding home from class last winter, a few months after Alison had died and as we were still struggling to get accustomed to this new place, new job, new house, new baby, new calling as branch president, and the new hole in my heart where Alison lived, I took comfort in this simple message: the overwhelming load I was bearing would pass. Someone else held out hope (even in irony) that things would be OK. That bright message floating in the air told me night by night that, in spite of the difficulties, in spite of the grit and hurt and pain, someone else held true to the hope that things would work out. And things did get better, for me at least. Landon has learned (mostly) to sleep through the night, I have begun to learn my duties at work and church, and my grief has begun to wane. Eventually, I stopped paying so much attention to the sign as the summer sun waited for me to get home before it set.
An evolving neon sign installation outside The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), which opened in 2006 in a formerly abandoned 22,000-sq-ft automobile dealership – a great model of adaptive reuse reflecting Detroit’s industrial past and its hoped-for rebirth. Artists: Martin Creed/ Sislej Xhafa.

Now fall is here, and it gets dark early again. About a month ago, I began seeing the sign again. At sunset on a rainy evening, it had changed. “When did it change?” I asked myself. Did it change? Nah.” But, paying attention the next night, sure enough, I saw that a few letters of the sign had changed, altering the message from “Everything is going to be alright” to “Nothing will be alright.” The change in wording, though small, haunts me. I want to ask the sign maker, “What happened? Why the change?” I want to tell the sign maker, “My friend, everything will be all right. We’ll get through this thing that prompted you to change your sign, we really will.” To the Museum of Contemporary Art: Thank you for giving me a message of hope during a dark time when I was new to a strange city. Here was art with impact. I want to return the favor and bear the message. I will pass the good word along and tell YOU, gentle reader, that everything will be all right, whatever your situation. I don’t know how or when, but things will work out. (Follow this link to a story about the change.)

On to another topic—After looking at the blogs of my friends, acquaintances, and random strangers, I think I may have discovered the utility and the risk of a blog: we reveal our hearts to each other when we share our thoughts, whatever our motivation for doing so. For many of us, a blog is a journal we use to seek public confirmation of our private worldview. For others, it’s a sounding board, a soap box, or a stage. It’s as if by writing the thoughts of our hearts and sharing them, other people might read what we say and actually agree with us (or at least not get too offended), validating our beliefs. Then the odd critical comment comes in, and our bubble bursts and we feel tempted to withdraw back to the safety of the paper journal. For those people still too new or naïve to blogging to have been hurt by having a blog post come back to haunt you or for those brave enough to keep writing in spite of (or because of) the reactions you get, I salute you.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Strange Days

We don't usually talk about political issues, but these are strange days and the issues surrounding them give me pause to think. I have said to myself, "I know where I stand. At least I think I know where I stand. Maybe I know where I stand. I'm not so sure where I stand. Hey! Where'd the floor go?" That said, I stumbled upon a most interesting diagram and quiz: The World's Smallest Political Quiz (this is not an endorsement for the Libertarian Party, by the way, although I'm sure they're just as nice as anybody. They just happened to make the quiz). I advocate no position on any candidate for federal, state, or local office. I only hope to find candidates who genuinely represent enough of my views and have the strength of character to see their way through the leadership challenges inherent in political office. Such people seem to be in very short supply. Do me a favor will you? Don't vote with your gut. Vote with the good sense the Lord gave you and your mama taught you to use! Do vote and use this franchise that so few folks have had throughout history. I won't hold it against you if we vote differently, so long as you don't sit on your duff on November 4th. Oh, yeah. And register. It's too late if you live in Michigan, but not in a lot of other states.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~Edmund Burke

So, are you good? Act like it. Love ya.

We Finally Did It :(

On Tuesday October 7 we headed to one of those kid haircut places at a local mall to go get Landon's first trim. It was a bit spur of the moment. I think in some ways it had to be. I really did not want it cut. His hair to me represented being carefree and willing to try anything. Even now just writing this I can't believe I took him to get it cut. Landon was amazing during the cut. He never cried and sat pretty still for being not quite 1 yet. The lady had him sit in a little chair that looked like a police car and the movie Monsters Inc. was on. Landon thought it was a blast holding the steering wheel. As we walked out of the shop the tears just started streaming down my face. It is not Landon, my little baby. Everyone says he looks cute and I thank them for their comment, but to me he looks more like a girl than I thought he did before. The comment, "Give him a haircut! He looks like a girl," when he had longer hair is why we cut it in the first place. Someone told me today the the difference between a bad haircut and a good one is two weeks. I really liked that, and I am counting down the days. Mike said, because Landon a natural waviness to his hair, "He could end up taking after his Uncle Shad. Cool beans!"