Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Power of Prayer

The untold story leading up to the Nepali Festival we attended a few weeks ago:

On Fridays, I am generally out at my parents' house working on the accounting for my dad's business.  Knowing that the evening's activities were in Daybreak, the kids and I decided to just kill time in the Sandy/Draper area between work and play.

First we headed to Southtowne Mall to get the needed hats.  That went quickly, so we opted to stop and play in the Dinoland play area.  But when cheeks began to turn red as overheated boys continued to play, I decided we'd better head elsewhere.  We still needed gift bags, so we set off in the general direction of Daybreak with instructions to look for Walmart, Walgreens, or Target on the way. 

Spotting a Target, we also spotted the Jordan River Temple ahead.  Knowing we'd still have plenty of time to kill, we made the quick Target trip, then planned out a quick visit to both the Jordan River and Oquirrh Mountain temples on the way.  A quick check of my nearly-dead cell phone revealed the texted address to the night's destination.  "11567 I..." I caught as I quickly glanced before turning off the phone to save just enough battery for the GPS to get us there.

We stopped first at the Jordan River temple.  I asked the boys to point out things they noticed.  "It's tall."  "The Angel Moroni."  "The colored glass windows."  We sat along the edge of the fountain, and I reminded the boys this was a place to be reverent because this is Jesus' house.  "Oh, is that why I feel him here?" asked Alex, just recently returned from his tour as the-kid-who-pushed-the-emergency-stop-button-on-the-mall-escalator.  What a perfect reminder that he isn't rotten.  He's just Alex, and sometimes my sweet boy happens to push or pull things that shouldn't be pushed or pulled.

The next stop was the Oquirrh Mountain.  No colored glass.  Same angel.  We discussed the similarities and differences, and once again visited the front fountain.  After a family vote, it was decided that the Oquirrh Mountain temple has the superior fountain.  Not sure how this applies in the grand scheme of things, but it was information duly noted before we headed back to the car. 

We quickly placed the correct hat in each chosen gift bag, and I powered up my phone to GPS our way to the Festival.  But as soon as it powered up, it immediately shut down.  I calmly explained to the rambunctious boys that it was going to be very tricky for me to find the house for the party, because I could only remember part of the address.  11567 I....  With instructions to be very quiet and keep a look out for Grandma's car, Grandpa's truck, Aunt Michelle's car, or Daddy's truck, we headed out on our search.  Unfamiliar with the complexities of the area, I decided to aim for about 11500 South and then drive carefully on an East to West path looking for any street that started with an I.  My hope was that when I saw the street name, I'd recognize it.  Soon after beginning this approach, I realized it would  not be enough.

"Adam," I said.  "Could you please say a prayer?  I think we are going to need help to find this house."  He was hesitant.  "I've never said that kind of a prayer before.  Could you help me?"  Worried that my own lack of faith (and general reliance on that which can be proved) might get in the way, I was really counting on his faith to get us through.  "I'm driving," I explained.  "I would really like it if you could say this prayer for us." 

He said a short, sweet prayer, asking that we'd be able to find the house.  I became worried that all I'd done was double the stakes.  Now we wouldn't find the house AND I'd have shattered my son's faith in prayer.  So I said my own silent prayer.  "Please let me have the faith to see this through." 

After every passed non-"I" street, I fought the urge to go knock on the door of a stranger to use a phone.  The boys were strangely quiet and the car for once still enough to invite the spirit.  I fought back the pull toward "proven" methods and relied on my children's faith.  For fifteen minutes we canvassed the general 11500 S area.  We arrived at the western edge of the Daybreak community without having found the street, but we'd emerged around 11600 south.  Wanting to give up, I felt prompted to head the additional block north and begin traveling east again.

In two streets, we found the street beginning with "I," and as I'd hoped, I recognized it immediately.  Sure enough, the house marked 11567 had cars in front of it, suggesting we'd arrived at the right place.  The prayer story, recounted once to the hosts, once to Grandma, and once to Daddy was quickly strengthened as everyone agreed that it was only because of Adam's prayer that we arrived at the right place.

Chances are, Adam received a small testimony of prayer that night.

Either way, I gained a testimony of faith. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Candy Corn Gratefuls

For the first time since I can remember, I didn't take the opportunity during yesterday's Thanksgiving dinner to follow the Nelson-Norris family tradition of announcing what I am grateful for before eating each of my allotted candy corns.  In part, this happened because Dylan came whining for more candy, and it was easier to just give him mine.  And in part, it happened because we were seriously outnumbered by people who didn't necessarily understand the more generic traditions of turkey and mashed potatoes (the three Nepali families who joined us for Turkey Day) and weren't necessarily in a position to need their meal interrupted every few moments by everyone announcing what they were grateful for.  I decided I'd share the candy, wait a day, and make up for the missed two gratefuls with a post-Thanksgiving grateful list, similar to the daily Facebook grateful lists in which I refuse to participate.   So here it is: 30 days of grateful in one convenient (if wordy) list.

  1. I am grateful for every word Dylan says.  I recently overheard Adam, frustrated because the soda he'd left on the counter was surprisingly empty.  Adam: "Did someone drink my soda?"  Dylan: "Yes."  Adam: "Who?"  Dylan: "Me."  
  2. I am grateful for my sister, Michelle.  She recently took a few weeks off from watching my kids (because she had a baby), and although my interim nanny (one-"l"-ed Michele) did a fantastic job, that extra "l" seems to make a difference for my boys.  It has been great to have her in my ward, in my home, and a lot more in my life.
  3. I am grateful for a husband who, while so many were likely seated with feet up enjoying a football game, worked side-by-side with his wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law for three hours to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.  And for the very long list of other things he does around here.
  4. I am grateful for new friends. especially for this year's addition of Logan Gifford and Ben Meredith to the ranks.  Just as it takes a village to raise a child, sometimes it takes a whole team to preserve my sanity.  
  5. I am grateful for my talents.  I get to do so many cool things with so many great people, and I owe that to a combination of divine blessings, a mom who pushed me to achieve, and hard work.
  6. I am grateful for my stuff.  My house.  My car.  Laptop.  Kindle.  SmartPhone.  Xbox Kinect.  iPod.  I am so blessed, and I have so much!  
  7. I am grateful for missionaries and missionary experiences.  It has been amazing to feel how my focus has changed since sending a few close missionaries out this year.  It seems like the gospel is a bit more present in the forefront of my mind as I think frequently of the experiences Jack is having in Bolivia and Skyler is having in Portugal.  
  8. I am grateful for the modern technology that allows me to communicate with far away family.  It would be a lot more difficult to have Lisa living across the country if I had to spend extra money to communicate long distance.  I am grateful for texting, free long distance, and Skype, and all the things that allow me to reach my sister whenever I need her.
  9. I am grateful for my job.  It's been a bit difficult this year to keep up the energy I need in order to do what I do.  But I can't complain.  I get to work only 20 hours a week doing something I love, making a difference, getting paid, and being in the same environment as my kids.  
  10. I am grateful for heat.  I have already been very cold this fall/winter, and I cannot imagine how unbearable it would be for me without the modern convenience of heat.  Also, I am grateful for hoodies.
  11. I am grateful for safety.  I've read several war books lately, and I've been watching Revolution.  So with that combined historical and fictional perspective, I am more acutely aware of the blessing it is to not have war on my front steps.
  12. I am grateful for music, especially in my children's lives.  When Adam sits down at the piano to play "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and Alex joins in to sing, I am grateful that what I consider to be a family tradition is already putting down roots in the hearts of my boys.
  13. I am grateful to have parents/grandparents so close.  My children are incredibly blessed to have all four grandparents healthy and accessible.  I am grateful for family dinners so frequent that Adam can't see what's so great about Thanksgiving.  We eat and gather like that all the time!
  14. I am grateful for every opportunity I get to play games.  Thanks to everyone who has ever gathered with us around our table our theirs for strategy and inside jokes.  "Come when you're full."  "None shall pass."  Okay, most of our inside jokes seem to be with the Michaelises.  So thanks, Kevin & Alicia.
  15. I am grateful for blogging.  I need the written outlet it gives me, and I like getting to share my life with others.  Thanks to everybody who reads and makes me feel like a rock star.
  16. I am grateful for in-laws.  It is the coolest thing to get to have more family, especially when you get the kind of more I've gotten.  A whole new family that accepts me for exactly who I am at any given moment, plus great additions to my biological family who, I'm certain, were already my best friends in the preexistence.
  17. I am grateful for modern medicine, and especially that my gallbladder removal was as noninvasive as possible.  I am glad my dad is recovering from his hernia surgery, and also that there are still a few more options for Grandma Casdorph who is battling cancer.
  18. I am grateful to have a new niece, especially since Alex thinks she's his little sister.  One of his candy corn's this year was spent on, "I'm thankful I have a new little sister."
  19. I am grateful to be included in the adventure of my parents' mission.  Kuron, Damber, and Sumon are a positive addition to our lives, and the awareness of the situations of the refugees has brought a whole new perspective of gratitude in my own life.
  20. I am grateful to work closely with both of my parents.  I am lucky to work with my mom four days a week and for my dad on the fifth, and even more lucky that they both seem to enjoy doing Dickens with me.  When we all get so busy, it is great to be busy together.
  21. I am grateful to be a part of the Utah Theatre Bloggers Association.  Tonight's date night at the Desert Star Playhouse is courtesy of that opportunity!
  22. I am grateful for all the chances I get to be "the boss."  I am grateful to direct both EYT and Dickens, to be the Ward Choir director, and to teach at NPA.  I need some straight up bossiness in my life, and I am so grateful to all those who put up with said bossiness.
  23. I am grateful for television moms who inspire me, console me, and amuse me.  Whether I want to be like them, want to not be like them, or have to laugh (or cry) because I'm just like them, I really appreciate the presence of the Braverman women, Claire Dunphy, and Frankie Heck in my life.
  24. I am grateful for social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram.  I appreciate the ability to stay connected and to share in an efficient, get-to-it-when-you-can forum.  Some may consider it impersonal.  I consider it perfect.
  25. I am grateful for education - for the foundations I received at Challenger, for the opportunities my kids get at NPA, and yes, even for my degree program at the University of Phoenix.  
  26. I am grateful for money.  No, we don't have enough of it (who does?), but I am grateful for every dollar we earn and for every dollar we get to spend.  
  27. I am grateful for three consecutive weeks in Relief Society, and particularly grateful to the members of the back-row crew.  We may be irreverent and probably even a bit disrespectful, but thanks to those ladies who've filled my cup on the back row.
  28. I am grateful for my sight reading skills.  (read: I am grateful I rarely practiced the piano)  I am so fortunate to be able to sit at a piano and play while my friends or family sing. 
  29. I am grateful for the ability to download eBooks from the library.  So great for a procrastinator, and I love that when I read on the Kindle, I can click on a word I don't know to see its definition. Geek?  Yep.
  30. I am grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who has given me everything I have and the chance to be all I am.  I am grateful for the knowledge that numbers 1-29 are all because of Him.
I have may have missed the around-the-table gratefuls, but only because - like usual - I had too much to say.  Now where's my 30 candy corn?!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Festival of Lights

In case I haven't addressed this bit of back story yet:

In May, my parents were called to serve in the Haven Ward, a ward for refugees from several Asian countries including Bhutan and Nepal.  A few weeks after they were called, the church organized a branch just for the Nepali members, refugees, and investigators.  As I understand it (which is probably not well), these people - or at least their ancestors - were originally from Nepal.  Unhappy with the civic situation in Nepal, they emigrated to Bhutan, where they lived peacefully for some time.  That is, until the government of Bhutan decided they were no longer welcome.  Seeing them as traitors for leaving, Nepal would not take them back.  And so they are here in Utah, a group of refugees trying to figure out America.

Nepal is not open to the missionaries, but there is a small branch there of individuals who've been converted and returned to Nepal.  Many of the individuals my parents serve here in the Salt Lake branch are not members and may never be.  In fact, each week of primary (for my mom) or young men's (for my dad) means brand new faces they've never seen.  Nearly every sacrament meeting includes new member confirmations delivered in both English and Nepali via translator.  And with each passing week, more and more Nepali names become household vernacular as my parents become more and more involved in their new lives.

The first names we knew were those of Sumon, Kuron, and Damber.  Shortly after moving these teenaged boys to the United States about two years ago, their mother remarried and moved, and Kuron (now about 21 years old) assumed the responsibility of caring for his younger brothers, Damber (19ish) and Sumon (14).  My parents were assigned to help this family out.  It started out with lessons in budgeting, needs vs. wants, employment assistance, homework assistance, legal assistance, and parent-teacher conferences.  And then, when the boys were being evicted from their apartment, my parents invited the boys to come stay for a few months while they save up a rent deposit.

And you can't have 3 young boys living at my parents' house without them becoming a part of our lives.  In fact, yesterday as Alex was randomly explaining to me the list of people he intends to invite to his birthday party (in March...), he included Sumon and Kuron.  We've been teaching them card games, number games, and pattern games and enjoyed having a few extra around the dinner table.  While Kuron and Damber still struggle a bit with the language, Sumon pretty much has it down and has enough sense of humor to carry the rest.  One evening, as my mom complained that "everyone in Nepal is named such-and-such," Sumon waited the perfect amount of time before looking up from his cards and stating, "I'm not."  {pause}  "My name Sumon."

Sumon came trick-or-treating with us, having never experienced the American tradition.  In return, we were invited to attend the final day of the Festival of Lights (Tahir Festival) at a member of the branch presidency's home last night.  Kirk was less than interested in attending.  I was excited, but apprehensive.  Would the boys be able to handle the serious ceremonial traditions?  Would I be able to handle food?  Would there be a place for the kids to play?

I should not have worried.  The host family had two adopted children of their own: Maxwell (8) and Asha (6), and other than when requested, I didn't see my children at all during our stay.  The food was different, but completely edible.  I even ate lentils and almost enjoyed it.  And the ceremony was the highlight of the night.

Our hostess is American, married to a man from Nepal who has been in the States for many years (not a refugee) and speaks English very well.  They explained that although the celebration - a Brothers and Sisters holiday - is rooted in Hindi tradition, they have taken the advice of the General Authorities and kept what they could of their native traditions, separating the tradition from the religion.  He told the story of a sister who bargained with the keeper of the underworld for the life of her brother.  She worshiped for five days (the length of the festival), and gave the keeper a mala, or garland of flowers.  It was decided that when the keeper found the end of the garland, her brother's life would be over.  Since the garland is in the shape of a necklace, there is neither a beginning nor an end, so her brother had received eternal life.

In the traditional ceremony, the sisters make and give mala to their brothers.  My sister Michelle and I stood in as sisters for Sumon, Damber, and Kuron.  Asha became Adam, Alex, and Dylan's sister last night, which - our host explained - means she is off limits now from ever dating them, and this is taken very seriously in Nepali culture.  He jokingly told Adam and Alex, "If you think she's cute, don't take the flowers."  But with his somewhat thick accent, they didn't catch it.  In addition to the mala, the sisters give the brothers a hat.  The brothers then give the sisters money.  The sisters apply a taki to the foreheads of the brothers.  Our hostess explained to the children that while we know blessings can only come through worthy priesthood holders, the people in Nepal believe that the taki is a blessing.  She said we can perform it to wish other people well, but we know it is not the same thing as a blessing.  Asha applied a stripe of wet rice flour to the boys' foreheads, then applied a dab of each of the seven colors.  Michelle and I completed this for the Nepali boys.

My boys received the traditional hats from Asha while the Nepali boys
received "traditional" American hats from me and Michelle.  Maxwell
apparently receives a ball cap or fedora or something he'll actually wear,
since he has an extensive collection of traditional caps that just gather dust.
And then we all just hung out.  Our host got out a traditional Nepali game, which I am fairly certain my dad has plans to replicate.  We lost our kids to the very American bedroom of Maxwell, and I had to insist that Maxwell doesn't live very far from the school; maybe we can have a playdate.

Sometimes I will admit it is a little weird to have our lives somewhat overrun by the Nepali influence, but I am grateful for these cultural opportunities.  I'm looking forward to sharing Thanksgiving with "the boys" and, from the sounds of it, several of the other familiar names!

Monday, November 5, 2012

New {and perfect}

Welcome to the family, Tyler Marie Davis.

6 lbs 12 oz, 19", born on November 1, 2012
With a new niece just added to the family, there's been a lot that's new going on around here.

  • It's new to be the big sister of the mom.  I've only ever been little-sister-in-law or the mom.  It's a bit of a challenge to shut my big mouth and let Michelle do it her way.
  • It's new to have a little girl around.  I actually heard Michelle refer to her as a him for a second yesterday.  I think it's like when you've had a dog for eight years that was a boy, and sentences about dogs used the pronouns "he" and "him," and then you're around a girl dog, but to you all dogs are he's and him's.  We've been awfully short on the pronouns "she" and "her" in our family, and using them is a bit of an adjustment.
  • It's new to get to hand a crying child back to its mother.  New.  And awesome.
  • Yes, that is a look of relative disinterest.  And when I asked him
    to hold her head, he palmed her face with the opposite hand.
    "No worries, Mom.  This head isn't going anywhere!"
  • It's new to have Dylan jealous of a baby.  If I try to hold her, I soon have my baby at my side, pulling on my hand and saying, "Mom... mom... mom..." because suddenly he is in dire need of something

Alex snuck in forbidden kisses to Tyler's forehead when no one
was looking.  He thinks she's pretty awesome - for about
5 seconds, then he loses interest.

  • Tyler's toys are all new to the boys, and it's new to constantly have to remind them not to turn on her swing every second.  And new to frequently remind Dylan that the rotating fish mobile does not go backward, no matter how many times he requests it or tries to force it
Adam is 100% doting cousin.  He holds her as much as possible,
but likes to walk around the room, gently bouncing her.  He
laid her next to him on the couch to watch a movie during
yesterday's visit, and whenever she is near, his face lights up in
a pretty silly grin.
  • It's new to get all the fun of a baby without all the work.  
  • It's new for my boys to have a cousin on the Casdorph side.
  • It's new to see Skye and Michelle taking on the roles of parents.  But they are so great at it!  
Yes, I think this little dose of new is just right!