Thursday, December 30, 2010

December is a Long, Dark Month

I feel it appropriate to note that I am sorry for my recent absence from the blogosphere (Is that really a word? Spell Check doesn't seem to think so), and I do intend to return to blogging in the near future. This December has been an exceptionally hectic month, above and beyond the usual Holiday frenzy. It has been filled with shopping, packing, traveling and a whole lot of illness (colds, stomach flu and most recently appendicitis). So, fear not! As soon as I return to mere over-the-counter pain meds and am awake more than I'm asleep in any given 24-hour period, I shall return to my regular inconsistent bouts of blogging.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 24: Time to Face Morph

We don't have a Mac. I wish we did. But, apparently you need a Mac to Face Morph (or at least that's what I hear; I'm not really certain I know what it is). I Googled Face Morph, and got a whole lot of sites for using your photo to see what your children will look like. Most paired me with a celebrity, some allowed me to upload James's photo as well. We opted to use a blend likely to happen in this lifetime (that is, James and me) and see how it compares to our real life genetic meld. The result was so like a brunette version of JonBenet Ramsey that I was rather disturbed and deleted it.

So, here it is, folks. You take James and me, put us together, and this (for better or worse) is your outcome:
Knows how to distinguish high from low.
Does not know how to distinguish her own clothes from those of others.Can get her leg into the pants on her own. Now if only she could get the leg into the correct side of the pants....

Maybe not the absolute top of the genetic pile, but we'll keep her!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 23: Share One of You Favorite Tunes

There are SO many to choose from. This category is possibly worse than the movies. Here are a few:
Ingrid Michaelson - You and I
Alannis Morissette - That I Would Be Good
Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Homeward Bound (the long story of why I love this song is below) and Take Time to Be Holy
The Beatles - Life Goes On
Billy Joel - almost anything
Rachmaninoff - almost anything but especially Variations on a Theme of Paganini (here's one of them, 18 is the most well known) and his second Piano Concerto
Verdi - Nessun Dorma

Shortly after we moved to Madison, I got to feeling homesick. So, as was my daily custom at the time, I decided to call my mom, who answered her phone (miracle of miracles) and she told me she was listening to my song. I didn’t know I had a song. She played part of it for me, but I’d never heard it before. Then she read me the words of the chorus and said it describes me. She doesn’t even know what it’s called because she just calls it “Melanie’s Song.” Of course, I had to look it up and read the lyrics. Then I cried. Then I downloaded it. And I still cry every time I hear it. It really does fit me. These are the words:

In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red.
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming,
When the corn is past its prime,
When adventure’s lost its meaning,
I’ll be homeward bound in time.

Bind me not to the pasture, chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.

If you find it’s me you're missing, if you’re hoping I’ll return.
To your thoughts I’ll soon be list’ning, and in the road I’ll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end.
And the path I’ll be retracing when I’m homeward bound again.

Bind me not to the pasture, chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.

In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing,
I’ll be homeward bound again.

I guess I’ve always had to go off on my own way and find out what it was I needed to do. I’ve always been independent, known where I was, and been determined to get wherever I was going. My mom loves to tell stories of me being lost as a small child. Whenever she would find me, she would tell me how worried she had been. And I would always reply, “don’t worry Mom, I wasn’t lost! I knew where I was.” Little comfort for a mother, but it made perfect sense to my little mind. I was only lost if I didn’t know how to get back where I came from or how to get where I was going. I was a little quick to lose sight of other people’s interest in where I might be.

And now I’ve wandered away again. But I still only feel lost when I lose sight of where I came from or where I’m going. I was excited to move away to college, two hours from home. Mom told me that when she dropped me off for my first week of college, she cried as I walked away from the car. I was just excited about what lay ahead. I did cry when I came home for my first visit a mere ten days later.

My emotions were similar when I left on my mission to Italy. It seemed like everyone at the MTC was crying, except me. I was just excited to finally be leaving on my mission and beginning my great adventure. After a few weeks within the confines of the MTC, it finally set in that I wasn’t going to see my family for eighteen months. And then I really missed them. I think perhaps I couldn’t leave them if I didn’t look ahead to what I was gaining. But I do always have to leave. There’s just something about me that always has to go and do. I tried to explain it to my mom once. It wasn’t that I wanted to leave my family or my home, I just had to go and see the world. I wasn’t trying to get away from anything, but I had to go.

I came home for a while after my mission, but that was hard on both me and my parents. When I left again, it was to Virginia. Somehow I had no fear, even though I’d never been there and did not know a soul. I still can’t believe I did it, but I had to go. As my parents drove me to the airport, my mom said again how sad she was that I was leaving. She said she thought I’d never be back. And I guess I never will, at least not to stay. But I never thought much about what I was leaving behind, only what I was gaining. And however many times I fly home for a visit and leave again, it’s always hard to go. But I just know that I have to go.

I love to be home. One of my favorite things in the world is Sunday dinner with my family, where we all just sit around the table and talk long after we’ve finished eating. I love to be with my family and in a familiar comfortable place. Nothing will ever be home in quite the way my mom and dad’s house is. And as much as I always leave, I will just as surely always come back. I depend upon that home being there for me, however far I may wander.

And my mom probably doesn’t realize that she is one of the ways I get my bearings. I’ll call her for a pep talk, or just a regular talk. I can remember several bad days when I’ve called her and just cried on the phone. She has no idea at all, but I just sit there and cry and listen to her tell me about whatever. I just need to hear her voice and have a piece of home.

This last move, to Madison, was the hardest ever. For the first time I had no reason to go, and I really didn’t want to. But, for very different reasons, I knew I had to go. This time the ties of my husband were pulling me away. So I got in the car and drove away. But for the first year I called home nearly every day, and I depended on my next visit coming. I longed to be there more than I can express. And I still often long to be nearer my family, even though I have found a wonderful home here. In some strange way, even though I'm always leaving, I'm simultaneously longing for home.

I depend upon my visits home, and upon my cell phone to keep me connected. And I still talk about living near family, because I can’t let go of the possibility yet. It’s hard to admit that I will probably never live close to my family again, to accept that reality that my mother articulated years ago. Now that I have a daugther, I’m even more sad that I will be so far from my family. I don’t know why I feel such a need to go off crusading around the world (as my mom calls it), but I do. I have to pursue the adventures that, I hope, will make my family proud and allow me to improve the world. But just as surely, I have to check in and go home as often as possible. I need my crusades, but not any more than I need my home.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 21: Your Favorite Television Program

Law & Order

I'm a person of limited interests. I don't actually like SVU much, just the original, but I still think this is hilarious, so I'll share.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 20: A Letter to Someone Who Has Changed Your Life

Dear Sir,

When I was a missionary in Verona, you happened into my life. It was pure chance, really. My beautiful companion, who really couldn't speak much Italian but smiled at everyone, met you on a bus. This was not uncommon. She seemed to have conversations with men of questionable intentions several times a day. I was continually explaining to men that we were essentially nuns, that she and I were always together and that if they tried to call her, I would inevitably answer the phone. But you were different. She told me you wanted to talk with us, and you really did. So we got off the bus at Porto Vescovo, we sat on a bench, and we talked.

We told you about God and how much he loves each of us. You told us about coming to Italy from Romania seeking a better life. You had come to Verona with a woman, but she recently took everything you owned, kicked you out and called you some not very nice things. So there you were, stuck in Verona without a friend in the city or a dime in your pocket. Our usual work was to see to the spiritual welfare of the people we met. We dealt very little in temporal needs. But without food or shelter, it's hard to worry about spiritual things. It's hard to do much of anything besides worry about surviving tomorrow. What you needed at that time was not God, though you found it interesting enough. You needed a job. None were available; this we had heard from everyone. I think you also needed someone to listen and someone to be sympathetic. You needed someone to understand that your circumstances were not entirely of your creation. And so we listened.

As we spoke, you told us of your brother in Torino, several hours away. He had a job for you, but you would have to get to Torino that week. You had a whole new life waiting, if only you could get there. And so, in the end, you asked us for train fare. It wasn't a whole lot, but it was enough that we didn't have the money on us. We explained that we're not allowed to give people money, though we would like to help. We offered to teach you more about God in the meantime, and you said you'd be happy to hear. But it was clear that what you really needed was the 23 Euros to get you to Torino. We exchanged phone numbers and parted ways. And I kept thinking.

I thought about your life and your story. I thought about Jesus and his life and his counsel. And I hoped and prayed that 23 Euros would never be the difference between hopelessness and a new life for me. I also prayed that you would somehow get the money. Unfortunately, everyone you knew was as poor as you and could barely buy food, let along loan someone 23 Euros.

Near our apartment there was a monastery where Franciscan Monks served breakfast to those in need every morning. At night the monks would lay out mattresses in front of their gates and we always passed men sleeping there, often smelling strongly of boxed wine and the need for a shower. But they had nowhere to go and no way to keep warm. As the crowd was gathering for breakfast the next morning, I looked out my window and thought I saw you in the line. I picked up our phone, watched you answer and asked you to meet us at the train station at three that afternoon. I could not bring myself to be the reason your hope slipped away. I felt it would not have been consistent with the name on my tag.

When we met at the station, I used my personal money for a ticket to Torino. All you had in the world was slung over your shoulder in a duffel bag. I doubt it took you fifteen minutes to gather your possessions and you were ready to go right then. We shook hands and you insisted that you would find a way to pay me back. I pointed to my tag and said you could always find a church with that name, and pay back whoever you found there. More than restitution, however, I hoped that someday, when your temporal needs were less, you would find that church and, knowing that those inside it were good people, be able to see to your spiritual poverty as well. I still think about you and hope that your life has changed for good.

While I can't remember your name anymore, I often think of you, particularly when I see men whose lives have not been what they hoped. I remember how much you needed someone to listen, someone to understand a little, and someone to give a little help to make such a great difference for you. More than a benefactor, you needed a friend. I hope I was and will continue to be that friend.

With regard,