Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thesis Update: Chapter 4

I met with my thesis advisor at PSU again this afternoon, and I am feeling encouraged about the progress I'm making. There are days when I think, I'll never be able to do this. Sometimes I have to talk myself into sitting down to write just one paragraph.

But bit by bit it is coming along, one chapter at a time. Today my advisor and I went over Chapter 3, and he was encouraging. Yes. I think I can do this.

My goal is to work with the 200 pages I wrote last summer (rough, rough, rough...) and shape that material into 20-ish chapters. Last night I finished the next draft of Chapter 4, which I turned in today so he can read it prior to our next meeting. When I get feedback, it goes into a notebook with numbered dividers for each chapter. I'm not going back to do much revision just yet. I need to keep writing the chapters. If I can write one chapter a week, I will be wrapping up this phase at the end of the summer. Then I can start all over again, one chapter a week, to do the next round of revisions, which will bring me to February or so. Then I can quickly do one last polish to have the whole thing ready for the thesis committee's review a year from now, in spring term 2012.

Ummm...that's ambitious. We'll see if it comes together by then.

But it feels good to be thinking about Chapter 5 this week!

In another update, I've compromised about the photo wall at the house. The dining rooms are staying the way they were in this post, but I've put up a few old favorite family photos on a different wall, in the family room. This wall doesn't get as much traffic, so it doesn't feel as constantly cluttered to me as the dining room wall did.
There is something that pleases me about the mix of frames and faces. I like turning the whole wall into a collage.

(For those of you who were wondering, the photos that have come down from the walls have not gone away. They are tucked into an album, where I can enjoy them and share them with others any time.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter on the Road

We left Provo yesterday afternoon, stopped for a delightful dinner with Mark's brother and sister-in-law, and then climbed in the car to begin the long drive home. About midnight, we stopped at Glenn's Ferry State Park in Idaho and camped for the night.

No snow this time!

A beautiful Idaho morning. It was filled with birdsong, and I heard a woodpecker tapping in the distance.

Our campsite was near the Snake River. What a handsome hunk I travel with!

We didn't really have our feet amputated...we were standing below a little hill...

We enjoyed learning more Oregon Trail history before we left Glenn's Ferry. This is a replica of the ferry the pioneers used to get their wagons across the Snake River in this area.

And here's a replica of one of the wagons that might have been on the ferry.

We were on the road for another 8 hours today, and reached home late in the afternoon. We had a wonderful family trip, but it sure feels good to be back in our own place again. We had a little rain in the Blue Mountains, and again in the western end of the Columbia River Gorge, but other than that we had glorious sunshine the whole day!

We celebrated Easter by singing Easter hymns in the car and reading our Sunday School lesson aloud. We were glad not to have to stop very much on a Sunday, and make others work on Easter. We had to buy gas once, but we had food with us. It is so nice to have cell phones so we could share our Easter wishes with family while we were traveling. We reflected on our testimonies of Christ, and how grateful we are for His Atonement and the plan of happiness for us here on Earth.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Family Time in Provo

Katie's husband Bryan graduated from BYU on Friday. He'll be heading to Ohio State to begin optometry studies in the fall. We are so proud of him, and it was wonderful to see the family for his graduation.
An added treat was spending time with Joshua, Hillary, and Ethan yesterday. They have just moved to the Salt Lake area with Joshua's new job. This was the first time Oliva and Ethan became acquainted. They had a great time playing together!

And here are a few more fun photos from our family trip. We had such a wonderful time!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's that hitting our tent, dear?

Yesterday afternoon we left right after school and headed east, to Utah. Our son-in-law Bryan is graduating from BYU, and we were anxious to attend his graduation. We planned to drive until we got too tired, and then stop for the night.

We figured we would probably stop at a motel along the way...but we put the tent and sleeping bags in the car, just in case we found a convenient campground. It's always nice to save a little money. And we love camping.

We stopped to eat a late dinner in Pendleton. By 9:00 pm we were on the road again. We figured we could make it as far as La Grande. Or maybe we'd find a campground in the meantime. No rain, a little overcast, but nothing to worry about. We had our warm camping gear with us.

Eureka! We found Emigrant Springs State Park just a short way out of Pendleton. We pulled off the freeway and followed the signs to the camping sites. What was that under the trees...snow? Yes, it was, but the road was clear, and many of the campsites had non-snowy areas big enough for our little tent. It was in the 40s, not too cold out.

We circled the loop and selected our spot. Close to the restrooms, not too close to neighbors, just enough space for the tent...perfect!

We had brought double thermarest pads, and two sleeping bags each. So cozy! We slept well all night long. Our bladders woke us up at 4:40 am.

"What's that hitting our tent?" Mark asked.
"Ugh, I hope it's not rain," I replied. "I don't want to have to pack up a wet tent."

Mark unzipped the tent and found...SNOW! About 1/2 inch!
We were really surprised. We had been so toasty warm all night, we never would have guessed.

Well, we were camped at almost 4,000 feet, near the summit of I-84 in the Blue Mountains, so we shouldn't have been all that surprised.

Since we were wide awake, we decided to pack up and get underway. By 5:30 we were back on the road, headed to our sweet family. After a long day in the car, we arrived in Provo about 4:00 this afternoon.

Here are a few photos to make you chuckle. I have no idea what our campsite looked like in the daylight. We arrived and left in the dark.

Good morning!
Mark snapped a photo of me sticking my head out of the tent.

Mark loading gear into the car.

Snowy scene.

Almost ready to go.

Did I mention how much I love having adventures with my sweetheart? We'll be reminiscing about this for a long time, I am sure. Tonight we're in a motel room in Utah, with the tent spread out near the's almost dry...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Before and After

Before: The dining room picture wall

After: The dining room picture wall

Before: The dining room picture wall (right)

After: The dining room picture wall (right)

Before: The dining room picture wall (left)

After: The dining room picture wall (left)

Hmmm...In theory, I prefer the concept of clean and uncluttered.

In practice? I'm not quite sure yet. My family IS large and cluttered, and I love to have lots of photos to remind me of my wonderful children and grandchildren.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Summer of the Bees

Bridget's post took me back to one terrifying summer here on Laurel Lane...the summer of the bees.

It was probably the summer of 1994, a drought summer for Oregon. Mark and I were still newlyweds, having just married in May of that year. We had a houseful of teenagers and pre-teens, and I was in college full time while Mark looked for work. We here happy and in love, but life was a little stressful.

Then the bees came...

Actually, they were yellowjackets, which makes it even creepier. We first began noticing a yellowjacket here and there in the kitchen. A little pesky, but no big deal. Then we were plagued by several critters in the kitchen every day. Then there were lots. Eeeek!! We finally noticed that they were coming out through the cupboard doors under the kitchen sink. The cupboard doors (dating from the 1950s) had little metal vents, I guess to make sure the under-sink area was nicely ventilated. We saw yellowjackets crawling out through the metal vents, into the kitchen.

Mark braved the crawl space under the kitchen and found a drip in the pipe that was attracting the yellowjackets. I forget what he did to fix the problem, but it involved manly dirty scary work. My hero.

By now the kids were pretty jumpy about yellowjackets, so when Polly and Kendra, who shared the attic bedroom, began complaining about bees in their bedroom, I didn't pay too much attention. The girls insisted that they kept finding yellowjackets up there, and they began sleeping on the living room couches at night. They only went up to their room to get a change of clothes, and they made those trips as fast as they could. It was hot up in the attic during the summers, so I didn't blame them for wanting to sleep downstairs.

After a couple of weeks of yellowjackets in the attic, Mark and I finally did a more careful investigation. We discovered that there were, indeed, yellowjackets coming through the fluorescent light fixtures in the peak of the ceiling. The fixtures had little holes at the end, near the ballast gizmo, and we actually saw a yellowjacket come crawling out.

Mark said he had done his share of manly dirty scary work, and he wasn't going after these bees. This is when I found out that he feels certain he has an allergy to bee stings. He has never actually been stung by a bee, and these weren't technically bees, but he still wanted nothing to do with this project.

Many years prior to this, my first husband had kept a hive of bees in our backyard for several years. Though that hive was long gone, I still had the beekeeper veil and long leather gloves down in the basement. Mark fixed up a tube of caulk into the caulking gun while I suited up. The kids watched with big eyes. Then I grimly marched up the attic stairs to do the deed.

It was hot sweaty scary work. It seemed to take hours, but I was probably up in the attic for all of thirty minutes or so. I was no expert at caulking, but in all these years, Mark has never criticized the sloppy application of caulk around those fluorescent fixtures. I laid it on thick and goopy. Three or four yellowjackets buzzed in the attic that summer afternoon, and I actually caulked one of them in place coming through the hole while I was doing the job. That'll teach 'em, I thought.

It took several days and a thorough vacuuming of the attic to convince the girls that the room was safe again. Trauma like that takes time to heal!

Thankfully, we have never experienced such an insect invasion again since then, but to this day, no one in the family likes to remember...the summer of the bees.

Other bee notes: Another time, when Mark was doing some electrical work in the attic crawl space above the kitchen ceiling, he shone his flashlight into a corner near the eaves and saw a huge paper-wasp next hanging from a rafter. It was about the size of a basketball. He freaked out for a few minutes until he was able to figure out that no one was home; it was an old, dead nest.

In 2005, when we gutted/remodeled the house, I was tearing out lath and plaster from the angled part of the ceiling in our bedroom. I ran into a whole section of honeycomb in between the studs. No bees, no honey but the scent of honey still lingered. It was a lovely discovery, and I actually relished the thought of that small hive of bees hidden in the walls. I wouldn't have felt the same way about it if the bees had still been home! They must have lived there pre-1980, when we had the vinyl siding installed. I was fascinated that the beeswax--it was old and dark--could retain the scent of honey for so long.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MUCH Better

Mark is feeling much better. He went back to work yesterday. He expected to be tired, which he was. In the morning. By yesterday afternoon he was actually feeling better than he had in the morning. And today he felt better still!

This afternoon he went back to the eye doctor, who gave him a clean bill of health and told him to come back in a year for a checkup.

Whew! Mark and I are both grateful that he (mostly) dodged the shingles bullet. Talking to others who have suffered through "normal" shingles has filled us with gratitude that his case seems to have been fairly mild.

Our thanks to so many who lent their prayers and made a difference.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Reflections at the Salt Lake Airport

Miracle: it's only been about 100 years since the Wright brothers coaxed their flying contraption to briefly skim the sands above Kitty Hawk. And here I sit this morning in a sprawling glass and steel complex, waiting to board a jet plane that will whisk me back to Portland and my home. For all my conflicted feelings about the ways I participate in overusing energy and other resources, I am nothing but grateful this morning for the miraculous gift of airfare that allows me to travel so quickly, so easily, to see faraway family. I take 21-century miracles so easily for granted.

I am sad to miss church today. I love my church family. Our ward boundaries were reconfigured a little over a year ago, and now I am settling into Sunday worship with these people who are becoming more and more my spiritual brothers and sisters. Today is Fast Sunday back home, when the congregation will share testimony and sweet experiences and struggles. These testimonies let us inside one another's hearts; they bind us together, and I am sorry to be away.

In fact, I will worship with these dear friends only one time this month. Last week we worshipped at home, viewing General Conference via the internet. Today I am in Salt Lake, and in two weeks--Easter Sunday--Mark and I will be in the car, driving home from another trip to Provo for son-in-law Bryan's graduation from BYU. That will mark the end of an era, our last child to graduate from BYU. We have been making trips to Provo via auto and airplane several times a year since 1996, when Angela enrolled at BYU.

Two wonderful highlights to this trip: the first was 15-month-old Olivia. She is such a sweet and darling little girl. Very much her own individual. Katie and Bryan are wonderful parents, and I was thrilled that Olivia warmed right up to me, even though I hadn't seen her in person for a year. (Thank goodness for video-chat conversations to fill in some of the gaps!)

The second wonderful highlight: I went with a large contingent of family and friends to see Anna's play, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) last night. The play opens with the premise that Jesus, if he were to show up at our homes, would be a genial and down-to-earth guest, lending a hand and participating with us in the activities we enjoy. In the play, Jesus helps wash dishes, goes skateboarding with TJ, plays miniature golf with the roommates. He is a kind, helpful, friendly savior.

Anna's wry humor comes through beautifully in the script, which is by no means irreverent. I think the laughter in the audience happens because we recognize the humor in ourselves--the inherent comedy of our human lives--as we watch the story unfold.

As the play progresses, tensions in the characters' lives come to the surface. Can Jesus fix things? Will he? Should he? The plot turns to the frustrations the characters experience as they address the ways their expectations of Jesus don't always align with their experience of him. Ultimately, it is his gentle and generous ways, which bring the characters to understand how they can reach out to others and help them heal--to truly be Christlike, as in being like Christ--that bring the play to it's conclusion.

I found the play to be thoughtful and thought-provoking. The actors brought Anna's script to life. I had read the script on the page ahead of time, but it was fascinating to watch it unfold in 3-D. One of the features of the script is that Jesus doesn't speak. He uses facial expression and hand gestures to communicate, and it really worked. I had wondered ahead of time if it would.

This small theater company specializes in producing new plays, so after the final applause, the actors seated themselves on the stage for a "talk back" session, in which questions and comments from the audience are welcomed. Since Anna was in the audience, she was invited to join the actors. Of course I didn't take photos during the play, but here are a few photos I snapped during the talk back session.

Homeless Guy, Anna, Jesus
The little girl on the Homeless Guy's lap might have been his daughter. 
She came up to sit with him after the play, during the "talk back" session.

Anna, Jesus, Tom, Max (girl named Max), theater company manager (standing).

Seth, TJ, Stephanie

By this time, later in the Talk Back, the little girl had moved to his lap. 
So maybe she was his daughter? Not sure.

Anna, the play's director, the theater company manager.

The set in the black box theater.

And here are a couple of photos from the "author's party" Bryan's mom hosted for Anna prior to the play. I hope these photos will help satisfy Bridget's desire to know how the play went. Bridget and Anna were roommates back in their BYU days, and I enjoy following Bridget's blog.
Anna and college friends:
Jacob, Shelley, Jancy, Anna, Becky

Another shot of college friends:
Jacob, Shelley, Becky, Jancy

Now we're about to board the plane. I'm anxious to be home again. When I talked with Mark yesterday, he said he is feeling much better. The shingles seem to have "turned a corner," he says, which is a relief to both of us. It appears that he may be coming away with a fairly mild case, for which we are both very grateful.

PS - Now that you've seen some of the actors in WWJD, if you are curious to read the script, you can find it here. Along with the script of the play itself, I think Anna's reflection that follows the script, on what the play means to her--part of the thesis process for her M.F.A. degree--is fascinating to me as a writer and uplifting to me as a person who seeks to know Jesus better in my own life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Good Times in Provo

I have been so excited to come to Provo to see this play with Katie this weekend. Her sister-in-law, Anna Lewis, wrote the play. When Mark got sick, I thought I'd be staying home after all. But he knew how much I wanted to come, so he made arrangements to stay with his brother and sister-in-law, and told me to get on the plane!

Coming in for the landing - snow, sunset, and a serene Great Salt Lake (the mountain in the photo is actually a snow covered island in the lake).

Salt flats below the wing tip. Almost to the airport - Friday evening.

The view out Katie's 3rd-story window this morning - April snow!

On a shopping excursion with Katie - more snow - and to think that we finally had a sunny day back in Oregon City...sigh...

Katie and I worked on a little project - she found a car top carrier for $20 at the thrift store. It will be a big help with their move later this summer!

Katie shows her special skills using the green pliers that Mark gave her.

And best of all...time with Olivia!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Not a Bug Bite...

Sunday afternoon Mark noticed a painful bump on his forehead. We thought it was an early spring bug bite. Yesterday and today it's been more and more painful for him. This morning it was painful for him to just chew our rice breakfast. By the end of the school day, he wasn't looking so good.

You know he's not feeling good when you say, "Honey, we need to get you to the doctor," and he agrees without any hemming and hawing.

So the title of the post gave it away. It's not a bug bite.

It's funny...this morning as I was getting dressed, I thought to myself, "I wonder what will happen today? I wonder if the end of the day will be a lot different from what I expect?"

I suggest you not think things like that. Or maybe God was giving me a little warning nudge.

Turns out Mark has shingles. The childhood virus from chicken pox has been waiting around inside him all this time, and it chose this week to get active again. Bummer.

But there is some good news...
1. We live in the 21st century, with good antiviral meds and pain meds available.
2. We got to the doctor while it was still very early and treatable.
3. We have medical insurance.
4. Mark has plenty of sick time.
5. He wasn't contagious when we were visiting little grandchildren over spring break.
6. He should be well enough for us to travel to Utah for our son-in-law's college graduation later this month.

It's all well and good to keep counting those blessings, but poor Mark... how come such a nice guy gets stuck with such a painful illness? I hope he has a mild case with quick healing. When we got home from the doctor, he signed up to have a substitute teach in his classroom for a week. The doctor said he'll be doing well if he can go back to teaching then.

So please do keep Mark in your good thoughts and prayers!

And by the way...I looked online for some kind of "shingles" image to share, but they are all gross photographs of people with a horrible rash. I am glad to assure you that Mark doesn't look anything like that. So far he has a rashy place on one part of his forehead. The rashy area will get blistered and oozy and hurt a lot before it gets better, but since we caught it early and he is on antiviral meds, the doctor is hopeful that it will be confined to that one area.