Friday, May 15, 2009

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass by Emily Dickenson

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him,—did you not?
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,

Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,—
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
--Emily Dickenson

I think this was the first Emily Dickenson poem I ever read. I'm posting it today because I feel like I've been spending a lot more time in nature since we moved. I've been working on the landscaping at our new apartment, which needs serious help (though I'm told that they only recently cut down all the giant thorn bushes that were infesting the property, and haven't put anything new in). I've pretty much convinced my landlord to give me a budget for plants and gardening supplies, and he says that now that I've pulled all the rocks out of the dirt they dug up to fix the water main, he can probably get sod in during the next week or two. I haven't seen any snakes, but I have seen a bunch of centipedes, earthworms (which I now realize were missing in California), potato bugs, ants, robins, and quail in our yard.

I finally got a new computer yesterday. My last one was from 2002, and even with upgraded RAM, it simply couldn't keep up with the demands of the Internet and updated software. I've barely been able to check my email for the last couple of months. Our new apartment (along with the rest of Provo) has amazingly fast Internet service (it's a public utility here), so I was able to upload a whole bunch of videos that I've been waiting to share. I'll space them out in this blog post which will catch up on the last 6 months of very erratic posting and general life craziness. Hopefully, I can get back into a regular schedule of posting now that I have a computer worth using.

Let's see, the last time I posted something that wasn't a eulogy for a grandmother, or an email that I dropped into my blog for posterity, was before Christmas. We had a good Christmas, with plenty of presents for everybody.

Elizabeth was not interested in unwrapping packages, but she did enjoy the gifts them selves. She got a bunch of Fisher Price Little People and a sweater set that matches her baby doll's, but her very favorite things were the Busy Bug (a pull toy snail with a drum full of sorting shapes as his shell, and orange drumstick antennas) and her Christmas Orange:

I had never given her oranges before, but she so obviously loved it, that I've given her a lot more since, and they've become her favorite food.

In January, we went to Utah for Grandma Helen's funeral. The defining part of that trip was the enormous blizzard that blew in that weekend. We will miss Grandma Helen, though it was time for her to go home.

After the funeral, Mom and Dad came out to California to do their share of cleaning and emptying Grandma's house. That was a fun job, from an organizational perspective, but also very sad because we had to say goodbye to the house and Huntington Beach as well. I don't know if we'll ever go back there -- though I hope we will. Here's a video of Elizabeth enjoying the wonderful sand they have there on Huntington Beach. She really enjoyed knocking down sand castles, and interacting with the wildlife (sea gulls mostly, but also a hermit crab that Daddy caught).

While my parents were at our house, we celebrated Elizabeth's birthday, and she learned how to blow out candles (though we didn't get that part on video).

Happy Birthday Elizabeth! One whole year! It's pretty amazing to think about. I love you lots, and you're such a good clever little girl, you're a joy to be around :)

I had been looking forward to a couple weeks with my parents at the end of their trip west, but because Grandma died before they came, the whole trip got turned backwards and they only had a few days with me before they had to drive off to Mike's house to watch the boys, then visit David and his family.

While they were gone, I tried to stay cheerful by meeting my friends at the park each week. They were a HUGE support to me, and I hope I was to them as well. I will certainly miss Lisa, Susanna, Jen, Julie, Rachel, Christy, Lynne, and all their kids. Elizabeth will miss playing with them too. In this video, she and her friend Ari are having a yelling contest, and enjoying themselves thoroughly.

In this one, she's having a great time on the slide.

I think this is a good spot to put in the partial blog post that I began writing in February, but never finished.
Well, you can guess from my lack of posts that I've had a terrible month.

The last time I posted was around Christmas. I've been in therapy since the economic and family crisis craziness started last June, but even that wasn't enough to keep my spirits up under six months of constant stress and uncertainty. Seeing myself get more and more depressed and anxious, my doctors and I decided it was time to go back on medication. We picked a drug I haven't been on before because it's supposedly the best for breastfeeding. One real problem with it though is that not only does it take several weeks to kick in, but you actually feel worse before you feel better. It's one of the ones that increases suicides in some patients, and I got the full brunt of it. I had no energy, I felt like crying all the time, and some days it was impossible to make myself do even the simplest of tasks. I felt like I was swimming through molasses -- it was so frustrating!

One of the worst parts was that I knew there was no rational reason to be upset most of the time. I honestly couldn't trust, or often even interpret, what I was feeling or why...

...So yeah, I was feeling pretty lousy, and I was very sad that Mom and Dad left so soon. When I get depressed, I stop wanting to eat. I did make myself eat three meals a day, but with breastfeeding Elizabeth, I still wasn't getting enough calories in, and I began to lose a LOT of weight. Then, when my body's defenses were down, I caught some kind of viral tonsilitis, and couldn't swallow even if I wanted to. There's nothing they can do to treat the virus, so I just had to suffer for a week and a half, and boy did I suffer! I was really sure that without some kind of help, I was literally going to die.

With all my complaining, Mom and Dad drove back down the coast from Oregon, and nursed me back to health. Then, a week or two later, I flew out to Ohio for a three week visit. The stated purpose of the visit was to come up with a long term plan for deciding on and cooking meals, and to gain 15 pounds. Mom did her best to stuff me, but I only put on a couple of pounds while I was there. We did get a card file system worked out for choosing dinners, so that part of the trip was a success.

Elizabeth had a hard time learning to sleep in a new place, but when she was awake, she had no shortage of people to dote on her. Grandpa Randy was especially fun. Here, he's pushing her around on a tricycle (her feet can't reach the pedals), which he was willing to do over and over and over again.

It was bitterly cold and/or raining outside for a lot of our trip, so Daddy made a swing for her by tying a laundry basket to a rope hung from the balcony above. I love the noises Grandpa Roly made as he pushed her. She doesn't always look like she's really enjoying the swing, but she certainly objected when we'd try to take her out!

Heather was also feeling the need for some family support, and since I made her cancel her trip to my house that month (I didn't want her or Anna to catch the horrible virus I had), she decided to visit Mom's house while we were there instead. This video shows what the interaction between the two little ones was like most of the time they were together (except, interestingly enough, in the bathtub). Anna has a toy. Elizabeth takes it. Somebody gives Anna another toy before she gets upset. Elizabeth drops the toy she just stole, and takes the new toy. This sort of juggling could go on for 20 minutes at times.

Mom made the dresses, and knitted the sweaters (and even made a matching dress for 'Lizbeth's doll), and we just happened to be at her house together when they were just the right size for the girls. Mom had gotten out the bassinet for Steve and Rachel's baby shower, and we found that when just one of the girls was in it, they both felt a lot more secure.

Elizabeth decided that she liked climbing into things and sitting in confined spaces because it defined her territory, and Anna couldn't get there. Here's one of her favorite places to sit:

That trip was really good for me, and a momentous three weeks for Elizabeth. Soon after her birthday, she figured out how to go from taking a couple of large shaky steps before falling down, to taking several small steps in a row. Pretty soon she could really walk. When we arrived in Ohio, she was still a baby, but while we were there, I watched her turn into a toddler before my eyes. She could suddenly do so many more things, and even her posture changed when her main form of locomotion changed from crawling to walking.

Also on that trip, she got sick with an ear infection that took several courses of antibiotics to clear up. About that time, she also began throwing up on a regular basis, and did it for about five or six weeks. There was at least one night in Ohio that I spent sitting up in bed, holding her so she could sleep upright. I was very happy when dawn came and Daddy offered to do his patented soft talk and bounce walk around the house. He was able to get her to sleep, but he couldn't lay her down either.

One other major reason for the visit to Ohio was to see Grandma Fawnie. She had deteriorated a lot since I saw her in September, and each trip to the nursing home got harder than the last because her condition was frightening to the little girls. I knew, when I left, that I was saying goodbye to her forever, and the day after I got home, she died. I did manage to post a eulogy for her that week, so I'll leave it at that.

Of course, that meant we had to unpack from one trip, and pack and leave on another within less than a week. Elizabeth wasn't recovered from her ear infection yet, and this second trip was quite hard on her. The antibiotics she was taking gave her a horrible yeast infection that was red and sore all the time, and sometimes got so bad it was bleeding. She had to adjust to yet another place to sleep, in a house overcrowded with family, kids, and repressed emotions.

Here's a video of a quiet time we spent one night reading one of her favorite books before giving it to her cousin Anna to enjoy:

It was fun to have the whole family (minus Steve) together, but it was also a very rough time for everybody emotionally. We spent a lot of time remembering Grandma, but I don't think that anybody had the energy to really grieve for her while we were there. There were simply too many things that had to be done, too many schedules that had to be accomodated, just plain too many people for the house, and too many expectations that had to be met to stop and really feel any of it. I know it was especially hard on Mom, who had to organize and coordinate everything.

Back to the fun bits, here are Elizabeth and Jonas jumping on the trampoline at Uncle Steve's house after the funeral.

It was really good for Elizabeth to be in the house with Jonas, because he's big enough that he doesn't have to let her steal his toys. It took just one day to convince him to come tell an adult instead of pushing her down when she took something, but we all spent a lot of time trying to teach little ones to share the toy tools that Ryan's boys had left in the house.

Speaking of Jonas, he was a fun kid to be around because though he's old enough to talk, he still has his pronouns mixed up (a totally normal stage of language development). He thinks that "You" means "Jonas" since that's what people say to him, and "I" means "Other Person" because that's what other people say about themselves. It was a little hard to figure out what he was saying, until I realized that if you imagine he's prompting you with what he wants you to say, then it all makes sense. Nearly every time he'd see me, he'd say, "Hi Jonas!" and I'd reply, "Hi Jonas!" Then he'd say, "I have a flower in my hair!" and I'd reply, "I do, I have a flower in my hair!" and then I'd turn around and show him. There were also variations like, "Where's my flower?" until I realized that he wanted me to wear it all the time since to him, it was my defining feature.

Peter had a specific mission on that trip: find a job -- any job with benefits. He'd wanted to move to Utah so he could have friends to hang out with in person rather than just online, and with finances getting dire after he was laid off from his temp job, we were ready to try anything. He worked really hard, interviewing, and networking with everybody he could think of, and then his friend Brandon offered him a job as his personal assistant! It was the answer to our prayers, and we hurried back home to start packing --but not before visiting his sister Barbie and her daughter Hazel:

Back in California, we celebrated Easter by coloring eggs. I didn't want to chance the mess Elizabeth would make with a cup of dye, so I put her in a bib-shirt, and gave her a marker to draw on the egg with. It's one of the first times she's really figured out what a marker, pen, or even crayon is for, so that was exciting.

Then we started to pack. Generally, I would fill boxes while Peter entertained Elizabeth. When the PODS container arrived (like a U-Haul that they haul for you), we packed and packed amd packed stuff in. Elizabeth was kind of weirded out as everything she had ever known disappeared one box at a time , and she was left with a few things in the middle of empty rooms and white walls.

It was hard to leave the house that we had put so much time and energy and money into. We had to forclose because since the bottom dropped out of the housing market, the house was worth less than half what we owed. With the space rent so high in the mobile home park where we lived, 1/4 to 1/3 of the people couldn't afford to live there anymore, and every week brought more "For Sale" signs, more "Price Reduced!" fliers, and eventually, more abandoned mobile homes. We'd had it on the market for 10 months, and in the last few, nobody even came to look at it. We weren't allowed to move it, we weren't allowed to sublet, so when Peter found a job elsewhere, we decided we just had to walk away and start over. I felt, for a while, like the universe was telling me that everything I had done there was worthless. Still, before I left, I pulled all the weeds, got plastic put down under the last of the gravel and paving stones, and cleaned the house till it shined. It was silly, but I needed to do it for my own self respect, just like the pioneer women leaving their homes in Nauvoo had to sweep the floor one last time.

We sent the container off on a Thursday, my friends threw me a farewell party, and then we left on Sunday evening. I gave Elizabeth some Benedryl to help her sleep, and we drove all night. We arrived in Provo exhausted, but safe. We unpacked our cars into the new apartment while waiting for the POD to arrive, but after just one or two days, the maintenance problems, and the smell drove us to request a different unit. They let us move next door where we're much happier. Here is Elizabeth doing a Happy Dance she made up. She often just twirls around and around like this till she's dizzy.

When the POD finally arrived on Friday of that week, we went up to Grandpa Roly's house to unpack it. We had asked all sorts of relatives to help, but it wasn't a convenient day or time, so only Lesli's brother Mark was able to be there. We planned to get just the essentials out, then wait until Saturday morning when others might come, but Peter, Mark, and later Ryan, just kept right on hauling stuff to the basement till the POD was empty. Mark really went above and beyond the call of duty. Not only was he not really related to us, but he had also had a medical procedure done under general anesthetic that morning. He was still woozy and queasy from the drugs when he arrived. He was also nearly faint from hunger since he'd had to fast the day before the procedure, and hadn't been able to keep any food down since he'd woken up. We kept asking if he was all right, and telling him he could stop anytime, but he just kept right on going. It was amazing, and terribly kind of him.

We filled our cars with stuff to take to Provo, then on Saturday, I borrowed my cousin Jesse's truck to haul some of the larger pieces like the rocking chair. A week later, I went back to put the basement in order (the guys had just dumped stuff), and get a few necessary odds and ends I'd missed.

So now we're settled in Provo (for a few months anyway), and Elizabeth is enjoying the parks and the apartment building's yard. Once all her favorite things started appearing again, she took to the new house like she'd never lived anywhere else. Here's a video of our FHE activity the other night that shows how cheerful she is.

Well, this post has gone on much too long, but then again, I was trying to catch up on about six months of eventfulness. This summer I plan to: work in the yard, gain some weight, wean Elizabeth, go to Library Story Time a couple of blocks away, hang out at the water park a couple of blocks the other direction, and invite all my cousins over for dinner at least once.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Germ by Ogden Nash

The Germ

A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ.
--Ogden Nash

I picked this poem today because I wanted something short and easy to find a picture for. We've been hearing rumblings about the swine flu, and I'm surprised at how close to home it's getting. My mom says that they have confirmed cases at a school in Elyria, Ohio which is in her Ward, and my sister in law says that Park City Utah schools are closed because of suspected cases. Pretty scary.

I wanted to post an update for my friends in California, and anyone else who follows my blog but isn't on my family email lists. Here is an email that Peter and I sent out last night that covers most of the bases:
Our new address is the same as the one we've been handing out, but now it's #3 instead of #4.

Our first apartment had so much broken furniture and such a bad smell that we got them to switch us to the apartment next to it. Its furniture is not broken and the apartment doesn't smell. Hooray! There is the sound of water running constantly somewhere overhead, but presumably this is a problem with an upstairs apartment and can get fixed sooner or later.

Tomorrow the POD is going to be delivered to Grandpa Holt's house in West Jordan between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. If anyone is around the area near 5:00 Friday or 10:00 Saturday morning and wants to help, call Karen's cell phone for directions! Unpacking it should go a lot more quickly than packing it did, but a couple extra hands will definitely help. We'll probably be moving the heaviest stuff (big
pieces of furniture) Saturday morning.

Elizabeth seems to be adjusting well to our new home(s) but she's waking up a couple more times during the night than usual. Hopefully with a better-smelling room and some of her own furniture she may be able to turn over and go back to sleep. She really enjoys having a large fenced-in grassy yard to walk around in. She likes to pick the dandelion stems once all the seeds have fallen off. We're right by the
big Provo library in the old Academy building, and there's a park a couple blocks away with a large installation of playground equipment. There's also a pool there with a water playground and two ginormous waterslides (like they should be in a commercial water park) that looks like it's getting ready to open up soon, so that should be something fun to do while we're here this summer.

Karen and I are tired from moving and from sleeping on bad mattresses. The air mattress we slept on the last week in our old place took a toll on us as well—Karen says she could not have taken another night of it. We are pleased to have arrived in Utah and that the trip went so well—Elizabeth slept all but about one hour of the drive.

I went to my new job at Brandon's house today and put in a good day's work, which was very satisfying. I started setting up the computer and then inventoried the boxes of books stacked in the basement.

Karen is looking forward to having real dishes, clean clothes, and Elmer's glue to fix the books that Lizbeth has been destroying. It will also be nice to go to our new ward on Sunday and see if we can make friends and find playmates for Elizabeth. says we are in the Provo 4th Ward, and the church building is two half-blocks away.


Peter mentioned the smell, but the words "bad smell" doesn't really do it justice. It smelled like somebody had wet the bed in Elizabeth's room, and probably the carpet underneath. It wasn't so bad when we had the windows open, but when I shut them at night (it gets pretty cold here), the stench was overwhelming. We tried just removing the mattresses, but that just spread the foul odor. The other maintenance problems were kind of overwhelming too. I wrote requests for the most urgent ones, and ended up with 19 workorders. There were holes and peeling paint (reportedly lead based) in the walls and ceilings and the light fixtures were literally falling out of them. The kitchen faucet dripped (and had mold underneath), one toilet wouldn't flush, one tub wouldn't drain, and the other wouldn't hold water in. The shower rod and most of the towel racks were broken or missing. Half of the drawers in the closets had lost their fronts which were sitting around with the sharp screws sticking out of them. Several pieces of furniture were broken in other dangerous ways. The couches had that sticky slightly feel of furniture where college guys have sat, sweated, eaten pizza, and wiped their hands on the cushions. The fluorescent lights in the vanity area buzzed, and the cabinets and drawers there couldn't be counted on to close let alone keep Elizabeth out. Somebody had stuffed a couple of rolls of old carpet and linoleum into the furnace closet making a horrible fire hazard, and on top of all that, there were ants!

The new apartment has obviously had a kitchen remodel recently, and the walls and ceilings have been repaired and painted as well. The furniture is obviously newer, and while the place still reeks of BYU student housing, at least it doesn't literally reek.

The drive went as well as could be hoped. We had to jump my car to get it started before we left Torrance (at about 7:30 pm), but it started up again every time we stopped on the way. I had to push myself to make it to Vegas, but once we were through the city, I had hit my second wind. We did end up stopping for about an hour in Mesquite to nurse Elizabeth and nap, but the cars had so much stuff in them that we couldn't lay the seats down so we didn't stay long. I thought we were going to make it all the way to Provo, but when we were still about an hour south of there, I got VERY drowsy and thought it would be best to stop and wake up. We went to a Burger King, ate some breakfast, and drank some caffeinated energy drink, and walked around a bunch before heading north for the last leg. I did give Elizabeth one dose of Benedryl as we set out from Torrance, but that lasted her the whole night, and though she woke up several times, she generally just fell back to sleep immediately.

Well, it's time to feed Elizabeth some lunch, so I'd better sign off. I want to write sometime about my feelings as we left our home, but I don't have time right now.