Monday, August 19, 2013

A Not-a-farewell Farewell

I was already awake when the sun peaked it's happy glow over the Wasatch Mountains. Though I've never been a great sleeper, as of late, I find myself wide awake well before the dawn. Even if it hadn't been summer, and even if I'd had some early morning appointment to be to, I have no need for an alarm clock. My mind, though not specifically being weighed down by any one thought, is a flutter with what feels like a million things to do.

He still needs an umbrella... will his shoes really be waterproof? And bedding. We still haven't decided what to do about bedding? Should he buy a pillow there? Or take a comfortable one from home? I wonder if his suitcase is too big. Is it possible to be too big? Lot's of people coming today... is he ready? Am I ready? Got to frost the cupcakes. Did the bathroom get cleaned? Do we have enough chairs? Enough food? Should I make more cookies? 

I glance at the clock: nearly 7:30. My mind has been going in circles for three long hours. Time to get moving. So much to do.

I roll over and snuggle into my husband. Sleep doesn't seem to allude him. I have a moment of jealousy, wishing I too could sleep a little longer. How is he so calm?

A set of soft eyes open and smile at me. I know I've woken him. I also know that I should let him sleep in. It is the Sabbath, afterall, and our church meetings don't start until 1:00 pm. He could easily growl at me and I'd understand. Just because I'm up at the crack of dawn, doesn't mean he needs to be too. Instead, he greets me with a warm embrace and a cockeyed grin. "Today's the big day," he sighs.

We've spent the last two weeks making physical preparations: baking cupcakes and cookies, making salads, cleaning the house, making sure his friends and our family members have received an invite. We use to refer to this day as a "Mission Farewell" but in recent years it has been changed to an "opportunity to speak prior to leaving on a mission." What formerly was an occasion for the departing missionary as well as his/her family to speak in sacrament meeting is now an opportunity for the missionary and another member of the ward to speak. I'm not sure how I feel about the seeming downgrade. I have a lot to say about my testimony of the Savior and the wonderful opportunity my son has to serve the Lord. Of course, I typically have a lot to say about everything! My husband, on the other hand, expresses his gratitude for what he considers an "upgrade."

As we discuss the reality of the day - the magnitude of what it represents - both of our eyes cloud with tears. Our son will be leaving in just over two weeks. We will send him off a boy and the next time we see him, HE WILL BE A MAN! Things will never be the same again. We take a minute to mull it over, holding each other tightly. Physical preparation is one thing, but emotional preparation seems merely a fantasy.

"Thanks for making my cry," I softly slug his shoulder.

"You started it," he smirks.

"Did he let you read his talk?" I ask. I'd made the offer to look over it but, in typical eighteen-year-old fashion, he declined, claiming he had it under control.

"Nope," my husband blinks. My nerves do the Fandango. Oh, dear, I think. This could be bad... or, good. I play it over in my head. Maybe I should offer again. - I don't.

I stand in my closet in a daze. Nothing seems to fit quite right anymore. Last fall I was in the best shape of my adult life, and now I'm probably at my worst. The last few weeks alone have left me with an extra ten pounds of stress around my middle.

I choose my polka-dot dress. My husband says it's his favorite. That's good enough for me.

The mirror bears another harsh side effect of my stress: a pimple... okay, who are we kidding? When there is one, there is at least two! Aren't I too old for this?

The morning goes by with beautiful smoothness. There is a feeling of peace that, honestly, has been missing in recent weeks. I embrace it.

I help the girls do their hair. My eleven year old, admitting that he's going to miss his older brother, decides to where a suit coat to church even though it's going to be near 100 degrees outside. It's a special day.

We take bets on who will drop the first tear. I'm typically not a crier, so my money is on my husband. The kids pool their bets on grandma...

We arrive at church early to save seats for our visiting family members. Some are already in the pews and by the time the meeting starts the chapel is full. Afraid of impending tears, I hesitate to look back to see just how far into the overflow we've gone. Without even looking I can feel the overflowing love. My husband takes a peak over his shoulder. The overflow is full all the way back to the stage. There is standing room only. - It's a good thing he doesn't tell me this til after the meeting. I do, after all, have a no-crying bet to win!

As I watch my son on the stand, something happens. The boy who'd rolled his eyes at me not 18 hours earlier, seems to instantly morph into a man. There's a squareness in his chin I've never recognized before. A confidence in his eyes. A surety in his posture. I hope it's not for show. I hope all these people didn't come to hear him make a fool of himself... maybe I should've read through his talk.

But, the feeling doesn't last long. Instead, I'm overcome with peace. Look at him up there. So grown up. So handsome. So ready...

Following the two previous speakers, he takes his spot at the pulpit. As soon as he opens his mouth, the spirit touches me. He is ready. Though many try to give my husband and I credit for the spectacular young man our son has become, I can't but help to recognize that his preparation is not because of our efforts alone. It truly has been a village that has raised our son: dedicated Primary Teachers, committed Youth Leaders, outstanding Seminary teachers, Sunday School  grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, employers.. And, many of them fill the room. He has been blessed with an abundance of great influences and examples. He is ready.

Following his talk - a great sermon on obedience - I'm happy to report that my eyes were still dry. There was a close moment or two, but all my mascara remained in tact. My husband too kept it together. The kids should've gone double down on grandma.

Our house filled quickly and very snuggly with well-wishing friends and family. The cupcakes, cookies, and salads were happily consumed. Many hugs were dealt, many laughs shared. And, as I fell into bed at the end of the day, I realized just how blessed we are to be a part of this work. The next two years may hold a few more stress induced pimples, but in the end, they will be worn with pride. I am grateful to be a part of this work. I am grateful to be sending my son off on the errand of the Lord. I am grateful for friends, neighbors, and family members that love and support my son. The man he is becoming is a good one.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Five things to do with all that Zucchini

Welcome to this week's Friday Five. If you are new here, Friday Five is nothing more than a short (hahaha) list of five random(ish) things. They might be favorites, thankfuls, pet peeves, or frankly whatever else strikes me on any given Friday.  - And, let's be honest, my diligence has been greatly slacking on the summer blogging front. Don't worry, I'm not going to throw out any excuses. Take it for what it's worth, I'm just busy creating a summer full of memories! ;) 

That said, since my blogging has been less than abundant, I'm devoting my Friday Five this week to something that is ever abundant: ZUCCHINI.  

Summer is zucchini season. Whether you grow your own garden or not, chances are you've got a zucchini or two sitting on your counter begging to be used. Fear not, ye who are zucchini riddled, for I too am not traditionally a fan of this popular little squash; however, over the years I've found ways to not just tolerate it, but to actually ENJOY it... and thus, here are my five fav things to do with zucchini: 

1. Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies  - A close sister to the ever delicious pumpkin cookie, this is my very favorite thing to make when I've got a zuc or two laying around. Years ago I modified my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe to accommodate for all of my not-getting-eaten zucchinis. Eat these cookies fresh, or freeze them for later = delicious!! (Get the Recipe Here)

2. Zucchini Roll - Also derived from a pumpkin recipe that I modified. What can I say, I'm a dessert fanatic and when you add cream cheese = heaven!! (Also freezable!) 

3. Grilled Zucchini - So, this is probably the only way I enjoy zuc as a traditional veggie. Slice into spears, marinate in italian dressing, then grill. Easy and tasty. 

4. Spaghetti Sauce - I'm sure I'm not the only mom to try the hide-veggies-in-everything trick. When my kids were little I tried to pack them full of veggies every chance I got. They never even noticed when I loaded their spaghetti sauce up with shredded zucchini (and carrots too), but they did notice when I stopped doing it. Though they all enjoy veggies in their un-hidden form now, we still love to pack our spaghetti sauce with them. 

5. "Mystery" Pie -  Like apple pie but with zucchini instead of apples. Sounds strange, but if you keep it a mystery, no one will know that they are eating zuc instead of apples. - Deceptive, you say?... yep, that's how I roll! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What is it like to be an AUTHOR?

During the course of conversation, sometimes the subject of "what do you do?" arises. Though I could pull a book or two out of my purse and begin a marketing ambush, I often find myself shrugging as if it's no sort of accomplishment. "I'm an author," the announcement flows from my tongue somewhat awkwardly, as if I'm still unsure of it's reality myself.

Sometimes people just shrug, "Oh, that's nice, you write." Sometimes they often throw in a little, "I write too." And, on the rare occasion I'll get a,"Wow. That's cool. Do you have anything published?" And then the big question.... the one that probably should have me losing sleep at night... the one to which my answer is pretty lame: WHAT'S IT LIKE TO BE AN AUTHOR?

First, I suppose there is a small need for some clarification: There is a difference between an author and a writer. Though cursory as it may be, a writer is someone who writes, whereas an author is a writer who has had his/her work published. ("When it comes to writing books, a person becomes an author only when the book is published. So if you write a lot, but never get them published and out to the public, you remain a writer." - Read more: Difference Between Author and Writer | Difference Between | Author vs Writer )"

There are a lot of people who write. I meet a lot of them and have the utmost respect for their determination and talent. Writing is hard work! And, one might suppose that getting that golden publishing contract might just be the pinnacle of satisfaction... the final capstone to your great accomplishment... the end to which you pass your pain-stakenly polished manuscript off to big brother publisher and let him take on the work load so you can start a new chapter (or, as the case may be, a whole new book!)

Sigh... if only! For any hopeful writers out there seeking after that coveted publishing contract, please know that it is worth the work; worth the struggle; worth the rejection... but, being published does not mean the end of your work. To be honest, it is only the beginning. Writing is the easy part.

So, in answer to the question, "What is it like to be an author?," my answer is this:
Fabulous! Rewarding! Validating... and busy. I still do laundry, and dishes, and grocery shopping. But I also do a lot of marketing and planning and more marketing. And, while I do that marketing, my kids argue, my furniture gets covered in dust, and my yard gets bombarded in weeds. There are days I'm lucky to make it to the shower. And, the one thing I love to do, the thing that got this whole crazy ball rolling in the first place - the WRITING - often gets pushed to the back burner. The ideas don't stop, however, the time to bring life to them gets hindered.

Being an author is what you make of it. It can be work and stress, but it can also be the most rewarding thing you ever do. When a good review rolls in, or a piece of fan mail hits your inbox, or when a stranger recognizes you in the store and thanks you for making an impact in their life, all the stress magically melts away and all that hard work becomes justified. Penning (or, as is the case for most modern writers, typing) a book is a huge accomplishment. Becoming a published author is an exciting, crazy, whirlwind of an adventure. If you have the heart, the desire, and the perseverance, I say, "Do it!!" And, if you think it's the ticket to a quick, easy buck... I say, "Think again."

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work." 
Colin Powell

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