Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Just Call Me Addison

A fun little name generator ran on the TIME website earlier this week, and after running my own name, I was curious to see the names of others in my family.  Just for fun, here are the results:

Andrea Kirk Adam Alex Dylan
Today Addison Cash Colton Elijah Christopher
2000's Mary Alvaro Vincent James Luis
1990's Brittney Tracy Spencer Robert Travis
1980's Christine Ron Johnny Jeremy Derek
1970's Debra Reuben Henry Thomas Aaron
1960's Carolyn Elvis Howard Kevin Roger
1950's Virginia Armand Edwin Donald Carl
1940's Marie Major Mike Edward Earl
1930's Ruby Dewitt Maurice Paul Francis
1920's Grace Gustave Sidney Walter Anthony
1910's Beatrice Asa Horace Harry Theodore
1900's Mattie Son Earnest Walter Elmer
1890's Jennie Seth Dan Walter Benjamin

In other words, if we'd been a family in a different decade, you might stop by to have dinner with Ruby, Dewitt, Maurice, Paul, and Francis Fife!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Something I've learned this year: some books are better out loud.  Well, maybe not the book in terms of the plot.  But the book in terms of the individual words the author carefully wove together to tell it just so.  I'm pretty convinced that this new theory only applies to some books, though.  Because I'm equally convinced that many authors are blessed with the ability craft a plot like nobody's business, while only a select few have a way of making the words themselves beautiful.

Something I've learned this year: Wilson Rawls is one of those out loud authors.  Sure, I'd have probably still noticed his alliterative flair and penchant for similes if I'd quickly skimmed the paragraphs on the hunt for action verbs.  But I wouldn't have enjoyed the way each word felt leaving the tip of my tongue if I'd never experienced reading them aloud to my students.  

"For seconds his deep voice was still, and silence settled over the mountains." 

These kinds of words were just meant to be read aloud.

Something else I've learned this year: good literature needs no interpretation.  Some stories are told so well that the connections make themselves.  And so, because I never want to forget them, here are a few excerpts from Chapter 19 of Wilson Rawls Where the Red Fern Grows.

Old Dan must have known he was dying.  Just before he drew one last sigh, and a feeble thump of his tail, his friendly gray eyes closed forever.

At first I couldn't believe my dog was dead.  I started talking to him.  "Please don't die, Dan," I said.  "Don't leave me now."

I looked to Mama for help.  Her face was a white as the bark on the sycamore tree and the hurt in her eyes tore at my heart.  She opened her mouth to say something but words wouldn't come out.

Feeling as cold as an arctic wind, I got up and stumbled to a chair.  Mama came over and said something.  Her words were only a murmur in my ears.

Very gently Papa picked Old Dan up in his arms and carried him out on the porch.  When he came back in the house, he said, "Well, we did all we could do, but I guess it wasn't enough."

I had never seen my father and mother look so tired and weary as they did on that night.  I knew they wanted to comfort me, but didn't know what to say.

Papa tried.  "Billy," he said, "I wouldn't think too much about this if I were you.  It's not good to hurt like that.  I believe I'd just try to forget it.  Besides, you still have Little Ann."

I wasn't even thinking about Little Ann at that moment.  I knew she was all right.

"I'm thankful that I still have her," I said, "but how can I forget Old Dan?  He gave his life for me, that's what he did--just laid down his life for me.  How can I ever forget a thing like that?

Mama said, "It's been a terrible night for all of us.  Let's go to bed and try to get some rest.  Maybe we'll all feel better tomorrow."

"No, Mama," I said.  "You and Papa go on to bed.  I think I'll stay up for a while.  I couldn't sleep anyway."

Mama started to protest, but Papa shook his head.  Arm in arm they walked from the room.

Long after my mother and father had retired, I sat by the fire trying to think and couldn't.  I felt numb all over.  I knew my dog was dead, but I couldn't believe it.  I didn't want to.  One day they were both alive and happy.  Then that night, just like that, one of them was dead.

* * *

Two days later, when I came in from the bottoms where my father and I were clearing land, my mother sad, "Billy, you had better look after your dog.  She won't eat." ... My dog has just given up.  There was no will to live.

That evening when I came in from the fields, she was gone.  I hurried to my mother.  Mama told me she had seen her go up the hollow from the house, so weak she could hardly stand.  Mama had watched her until she had disappeared in the timber.

I hurried up the hollow, calling her name.  I called and called.  I went up to the head of it, still calling her name and praying she would come to me.  I climbed out onto the flats; looking, searching, and calling.  It was no use.  My dog was gone.

I had a thought, a ray of hope.  I just knew I'd find her at the grave of Old Dan.  I hurried there.

I found her lying on her stomach, her hind legs stretched out straight, and her front feet folded back under her chest.  She had laid her head on his grave.  I saw the trail where she had dragged herself through the leaves.  The way she lay there, I thought she was alive.  I called her name.  She made no movement.  With the last ounce of strength in her body, she had dragged herself to the grave of Old Dan.

Kneeling down by her side, I reached out and touched her.  There was no response, no whimpering cry or friendly wag of her tail.  My little dog was dead.

I laid her head in my lap and with tear-filled eyes gazed up into the heavens.  In a choking voice, I asked, "Why did they have to die?  Why must I hurt so?  What have I done wrong?"

I heard a noise behind me.  It was my mother.  she sat down and put her arm around me.

"You've done no wrong, Billy," she said.  "I know this seems terrible and I know how it hurts, but at one time or another, everyone suffers.  Even the Good Lord suffered while He was here on earth."

"I know, Mama," I said, "but I can't understand.  It was bad enough when Old Dan died.  Now Little Ann is gone.  Both of them gone, just like that."

"Billy, you haven't lost your dogs altogether," Mama said.  "You'll always have their memory.  Besides, you can have some more dogs."

I rebelled at this.  "I don't want any more dogs," I said.  "I won't ever want another dog.  They wouldn't be like Old Dan and Little Ann."

"We all feel that way, Billy," she said.  "I do especially.  They've fulfilled a prayer that I thought would never be answered."

"I don't believe in prayers any more," I said.  "I prayed for my dogs, and now look, both of them are dead."

Mama was silent for a moment; then in a gentle voice, she said, "Billy, sometimes it's hard to believe that things like this can happen, but there's always an answer.  When you're older, you'll understand better."

"No, I won't," I said.  "I don't care if I'm a hundred years old, I'll never understand why my dogs had to die."

As if she were talking to someone far away, I heard her say in a low voice, "I don't know what to say.  I can't seem to find the right words."

* * *

Papa came over and laid his hand on my shoulder.  "Billy," he said," there are times in a boy's life when he has to stand up like a man.  This is one of those times.  I know what you're going through and how it hurts, but there's always an answer.  The Good Lord has a reason for everything He does."

"There couldn't be any reason for my dogs to die, Papa," I said.  "There just couldn't.  They hadn't done anything wrong." ...

"I think it is a miracle," Papa said.  "Remember, Billy said a prayer when he asked for his pups and then there were your prays.  Billy got his pups.  Through those dogs, your prayers were answered."

"If he gave them to me, then why did he take them away?" I asked.

"I think there's an answer for that, too," Papa said.   "You see, Billy, your mother and I had decided not to separate you from your dogs.  We knew how much you loved them.  We decided that when we moved to town we'd leave you here with your grandpa for a while.  He needs help anyway.  But I guess the Good Lord didn't want that to happen.  He doesn't like to see families split u.  That's why they were taken away." ...

"Now say your prayers and go to sleep.  I'm sure you'll feel better in the morning."

I didn't feel like saying any prayers that night.  I was hurting too much.  Long after the rest of the family had gone to bed, I lay staring into the darkness, trying not to think and not able to.

* * *

"Mama," I asked, "do you thing God made a heaven for all good dogs?"

"Yes," she said, "I'm sure He did."

"Do you think He made a place for dogs to hunt?  You know -- just like we have here on our place -- with mountains and sycamore trees, rivers and cornfields, and old rail fences?  Do you think He did?"

"From what I've read in the Good Book, Billy," she said, "He put far more things up there than we have here.  Yes, I'm sure He did."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

33 Days of Happy

One year ago today, I got an email from my best friend, Logan, who was currently serving an LDS mission in Chicago.

"So here's the thing, right now is rough Andrea. And I just need something happy. Will you send me something happy? Pictures from the new house, a recent blogpost, anything really. Thanks! Love ya!

-Elder Logan Gifford"

I replied:

"Let me know if this gets super annoying. I kinda wanted to do this thing everybody is doing on Facebook. But I hate those sorts of things, because they clutter up everyone's news feed. So instead my hundred days of happy is going straight to Logan. I had actually already taken a few, because I was trying to think of a cool way to do this. So here's what I have already, and there will be more. Unless you say I'm an annoying distraction."

He gave the green light to my plan, and what followed was 33 days of happy.

Day 1:
I designed these cool screens to cover my TV when we are not using it. I designed them, and Michelle thing to them. And I love them.

 Day 2:
We saw this bunny yesterday while we are walking to church.  Dylan said "I didn't know we were going to see a bunny."

Day 3:
I see so many beautiful skies on my way to work.

Day 4:
I saw this in the store the other day, & I really wanted to buy it. I have really been enjoying decorating my house. It's kind of calming in a way.

Day 5:
FYI I don't guarantee that it will be 100 consecutive days days of happy. But I will send 100 days. And then I will go through and download all the pictures I sent to you, and retroactively do 100 days of happy blog post.

That's going to be a pain.

This is a picture of the product label for my new Smart TV. Its all Samsung all the time at our house.

Day 6:
The front of my mother's day card from D.

Day 7:
Even though it is nowhere close to finished, having a place for the boys is awesome.

Day 8:
The time my sister in law reposted this with the status "It comes natural."

And I HAD to comment.

"I tried to resist, but I just can't seem to hold it back. It comes "naturally."  'Cause it's an adverb. Sorry!"

I may pay for that one. I hope it was worth it.

Day 9:
When Alex sets the table for breakfast for everyone, without being asked

Day 10:
I am the proud mother of a kid with a cursive license. :)

Day 11:
The camera that came with our new alarm system lets me keep an eye on Alex when he's the only one home.

Day 12:
Living close enough to spend a lazy Saturday morning at Skye and Michelle's and getting to see poor, sick Ryder laying on a pillow like this.

Day 13:
Dylan is feeling left out at the eye doctor this morning. He says he needs glasses because "red sometimes looks like pink" and that he can't see in the dark.

Day 13: (the 2nd, because I can't count)
When we moved, Roxie took a particular liking to the boxes and box lids. Wanting to makes her feel at home, I put a nice soft towel in a lid for her. She won't touch that one, but sleeps in an empty adjacent box each night.

Day 14:
Everything about this. That my sister would take him swimming. That Kirk beats me home and gets to spend some time with the Pickle. That technology let's me see this, too. That this ginger is mine.

Day 15:
Watching the siblings of two of my favorite missionaries perform and receive awards (best senior alto and best senior tenor) at Cyprus' last choir concert.

Day 16:
When my class scores above state and school averages in 4 of 6 categories on their writing assessment (and at the state average in the other 2).  Did I mention I am new at this? :)

Day 16 (again):
Reviewing for UTBA. I wouldn't normally drive an hour to the show I know nothing about.  But in this case taking that risk meant being an awesome show.

Day 17:
Sunday night is now Disney Night at Skye and Michelle's. Tonight we're watching Wall-E.

Day 19 (to make up for the double 16):
Knowing that all these papers are graded. Which they aren't. But when they are I will be really happy. :)

Day 20:
This shadow. The kid's not so bad either.

 Day 21:
Eating the classroom emergency supplies because they won't keep until next year. :)

Oops... I missed a few days.  But here it is.  Room 23. My home next year as a full time 5th grade teacher.

Day 22:
It's like Christmas when Grandma cleans out her classroom.

Day 22 (yeah, I suck at this...):
When a cheap yard sale find means games at the picnic table.

Day 23:
After we fed the missionaries and took them to get frozen yogurts at Menchie's, Adam asked the missionaries to ride bikes with him.

Day 24:
I drove home from church to grab something really fast, and I ended up here. Not my house.

  Day 25:
When a warm summer rain means sitting next to Dylan under the "berella" at the baseball game.

Day 26:
I just noticed this tree gives gorgeous morning shade to my picnic table. Things like this happen all the time at the new house. I know Heavenly Father wants us here.

Day 27:
I don't have to do this again for 10 months.

Day 28:
Kind of having a sucky day. So here's my store bought happiness.

Cuddly brothers.  'Nuff said.

Day 30:
My random children (in this picture they are apparently statues).

Day 31:
Spent the last 3 days at girls camp with the meese.

Day 32:
When Adam asks if he can bring a book along for a car ride.

Day 33:
Kirk got sunburned today and then shaved. Now he looks like he's wearing makeup because he shaved and his beard had protected the bottom half of his face.

On Day 34, instead of a quick picture, I ended up sending a long message and a video that would turn out to be the last email I sent to "Elder" Gifford before he returned from his mission:

Jack's homecoming was today, and my family got together yesterday to practice the song we were going to sing today.  As I sang the same words I've sung countless times, they suddenly had all new meaning.  I asked my family if I could send you a video of us practicing, and of course they agreed.  Please ignore the fact that I'm in a hat and pigtails (we'd spent the day at an air show at Hill Air Force Base) and that Michelle looks like the 80's threw up on her (she's singing with Channel Z, an 80's cover band, and was on her way to a gig).  Ignore also the fact that my mom and Lisa managed to stand outside the video and that my dad couldn't practice because he had a migraine.

Instead, think of this:

I always thought of this as meaning prayer, but I realized for the first time yesterday that it's not prayer at all that the song is talking about.  

"In the presence of the King, bow the knee."

Whatever happens really is God's plan.  And it might be REALLY hard.  And I wish it didn't have to be.  But God does know.  He knows how much it sucks.  He knows how much you hurt.  And He has a purpose.  I know he does.

"In the presence of the King, bow the knee."

Give in.  Not to Satan.  Not to temptation or to laziness.  Not to giving up. Give in to whatever the Lord has planned for you.  Don't fight so hard for control.  Bow down and let Heavenly Father know that you are ready to live His plan.  And whatever happens, He is here for you.

Stay strong, but not so strong that your Father and Brother can't help you.

I set out last May on a quest for #100daysofhappiness, but that really isn't enough for me!  I am eternally grateful for the Plan of Happiness and the knowledge that all that stuff I sent to Logan last year is just as true for me!

33 days of happy?  Nah!  I'm shooting for eternity.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sound Off: Type A

Once upon a time while earning my bachelor's degree through the University of Phoenix, I belonged to the highest functioning team I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of.  I honestly don't know if I can even remember their names.  I'm going to take a stab that they may have been Tyler, Mike, and Kim.  But the beauty of this team is that despite working together for over a year during a time period in which the good ole UoP still required a face-to-face team meeting weekly in addition to our night of class, I don't even remember these people's names!  That's because in all the time we sat around a table at the Union Park Barnes and Noble, we didn't get to know each other at all.

And the others in our class simply called us the OA's: over achievers.

I was never so content working with others as I was when I had the chance to work with three people who understood perfectly what, apparently, "Every Type A Personality Wants You To Know."

1. We're not impatient, just efficient.
Oh how I wish I could go back in time and direct a certain television personality who asked my Dickens cast, "Is she always like this?" to this article.  I still feel really badly that I cut off his sentence.  I just already knew what he was going to say, and it seemed to me like time was of the essence, and me listening to apologies I didn't need for offense I hadn't taken just seemed inefficient.

2. Arriving late to anything is agonizing.
Actually, for me, arriving more than 5 minutes early is agonizing.  Think of what I could have accomplished with that 3 minutes I wasted waiting for the meeting to start!

3. We live by to-do lists.
Yes.  Every day.  Everywhere.  I even put my leisure activities on my list so I can earn the satisfaction of crossing something off.

4. Each task we're assigned is urgent.
One of the hardest things about becoming a teacher was learning to have an ongoing list that didn't necessarily all have to be done today, because things come up and a good teacher puts people before tasks.  Now I call my list my "wish" list.  I "wish" I could do everything on it today, but some of it will almost always have to roll over to tomorrow.

5. We're extremely goal-oriented.
Yes, and my goals take up precious mental space when I am trying to sleep.  Sadly for me, I have a healthy dose of laziness to go with my lofty goals.  Otherwise I would mostly certainly have made millions from one of my dozen schemes and inventions.

And sometimes, apparently, this makes me scary.  I have been told that when I'm focused on the goal (like when I am directing), I get a little intense.

6. It's hard for us to relax.
I can relax!  As long as I planned to do it.  Having friends over for games is the perfect mix of relaxation and activity.  But just sitting on the couch watching TV is definitely difficult for me.

7. We get stressed out easily.
According to the article, "We also tend to default on the worst possible outcome when working through a situation."  So true!  The first time I remember doing this was when my parents' ended up on a later flight back from a trip they'd taken.  I was certain the plane had gone down and I was already planning which cars to sell and how I would take care of my siblings.  Now I plan for every contingency just because I deal poorly when my plans get changed.  Some people find it macabre.  I find it calming.

8. We have nervous habits.
I clench and grind my teeth.  I also doodle when I feel like my time is being wasted.

9. We're emotional.
According to the article, this is because we care too much.  I'd like to say it's because we care about the people too much, but I think it may be because I care about the system too much.  Not sure that's due to the Type A... more likely do to my love of logic.

10. We're constantly ruminating over something.
For me it is conversations.  Ones I have had.  Ones I wish I could have.  Ones I think I am about to have.  Ones I plan to write.  Ones I may have written but can't remember for sure.  Always words in my head.  Always!

11. We have a competitive side.
What?!  Not me!  I have never dislocated a pinky trying to beat Chris Kennedy in a blow up obstacle course.  Or broken a blood vessel in my hand accidentally hitting a teenager while trying to win at States or...  okay.  Fine.  I'm competitive.

What's funny is that I see most of this as my strengths, though I have read personality tests that shed a different light on these traits.  What I've learned over the years is that not everyone is going to like me.  Thankfully, I have a husband, family, and friends who seem to, and that's enough for me!

Sunday, May 10, 2015


"Where are you going?" the kids asked as they watched me pack a suitcase on Friday.

 I beamed ear to ear.  "I'm going on a Mommy sleep over!" I chirped excitedly, ready to hit the road and head for Park City.  Our Relief Society had planned an overnight women's retreat, and I was looking forward to 18 hours of food, fun, and friendship.

A few years ago, this scenario would have filled me with dread.  I have never belonged to a group of female friends, preferring instead to be the honorary female accepted as part of an otherwise all-guy group of friends (the wolfpack about which I theorized back in 2011.)  I have never felt confident navigating the waters of "girlfriends," too afraid of... well, of what I can't say for certain.

But then a wayward text changed everything.

At the time, Amy was an acquaintance I knew from being in the same ward, attending the same book club, and from casting her son in a few productions.  One April day, Amy texted her best friend Janene, inviting her to go to the new Nicholas Sparks movie, The Lucky One.

Meanwhile, I got a surprise text... a message from Amy inviting me to go to the new Nicholas Sparks movie, The Lucky One.   I sure didn't expect it!  I mean, girls never invited me to do stuff.  I got all geeky and excited the way I do, and although I was ridiculously nervous, I accepted the invite.

The movie was playing at a Bountiful theater, and since Skye was managing the Sizzler up there, I figured he could hook us up with some discount dinner, too.  Amy and I made a date of it, and we quickly became friends.

She didn't tell me until over a year later that the text was never meant for me, or that she had desperately tried (to no avail) to get Janene to attend, too.

Unlike me, Amy is constantly surrounded by a close-knit group of mom friends.  There's the Zumba crew, her Bunco group, and the eat-out posse just to name a few.  And being friends with Amy meant a seat at each of those tables and a warm welcome from the women who were more than happy to bring one more into the fold.

Being friends with Amy means receiving invitations to events like "Megan's husband is out of town and she doesn't want to cook, so we're going to Winger's" or "we're going to a movie right now - we'll pick you up."  Being friends with Amy means that she and Janene show up at my house on a Sunday with Arby's because they noticed I wasn't at church and were worried about me.  Being friends with Amy means that when we choose to stay up all night playing games, she might randomly announce to the table that "when you get to know her, Andrea is actually really cool."  And then laughing together as everyone makes fun of what a complement that really wasn't.

But the best part about being friends with Amy is that she has taught me how to be friends with more than just her.  She has helped me branch out and realize how wonderful women in general are.  She has taught me that there is something incredibly sustaining about having a group where literally no topic of conversation is off the table and where someone probably understands exactly the trial you happen to currently be going through.

I explained to Amy yesterday between Park City outlet shopping and lunch at a Mexican restaurant that I still feel a bit like a guest in Amy's group (my own fault for sure, not that of the ladies we hang out with) but that in another year or two I'll probably wonder how I ever navigated motherhood without this kind of support.

And so on Mother's Day, I just want to give a shout out to all the incredible ladies I have gotten to know over the last 3 years and to all the others with whom I am certain to become friends in the future.  You are incredible people, each with diverse talents and equally unique challenges.  Knowing you has made me a better wife and better mother, and I also know you're helping me become a better person.

Thanks for listening to me recite prepositions at 3:00 a.m., for never telling me I talk too much, and for seeming to genuinely enjoy the real me.  Having the title of Mom seems so much more special when I think about the incredible women with whom I share it.

Sappy?  Hmm... maybe I should have slept a bit more at the retreat!