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Paperboy, Journal girl

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Yesterday afternoon and this morning I wasn’t feeling well, so I took to bed and when I was awake, I read Paperboy. Sometimes I’m grateful for feeling under the weather because it seems to be the only time I can get some reading done. I have a goal this year to read one book a month. I didn’t read one in January (I did finish Aunt Sass, which I started reading aloud in December–a tiny book that I was determined to finish!), so I have been really hungry to read a book. A good book.

I found Paperboy at BYU Bookstore and gave it to Peter for Christmas. He read it and really liked it. I wanted to find out what it was about, and I did. Here’s what I want to say: it contains some beautiful messages, but it is NOT a children’s book. The story is about an 11-year old boy who takes over his friend’s paper route for one month in Memphis, TN, in 1959. The boy is an excellent pitcher in baseball, so he loves throwing the papers onto customer’s porches. But when it comes time to collect the money on Friday nights, his stuttering problem makes life harder. Even more challenging than stuttering comes the added relationship development with people on his route, including an alcoholic woman, a retired scholar/seaman, a deaf boy who stares at the TV every day, and a homeless junk collector. His African-American nanny, Mam, helps him navigate these challenges, but much of his character development occurs internally. There are references to abuse, murder (and other violence), infidelity, racism, and birth out-of-wedlock. There is some swearing. Paperboy‘s story is told via his typewriter, a tool to relay the words that otherwise do not come, as Shakespeare would have said, “trippingly on the tongue.” (What an irony with that word!)

Here are some quotes I loved (note that there are not commas in his sentences because he didn’t like commas–you’ll have to read it to understand why):

“I know a kid is supposed to respect grown-ups who make the rules and also respect God who knows how everything is supposed to work but I could get over the feeling that neither one of them was doing a very good job… Thinking about somebody hurting Mam and then remembering all the stupid rules that Mam had to live by just because of her color made going to sleep a hard job. I guess I had a Vengeful Heart because I could feel it busting like when the stuffing came out of an old baseball “ (p.140-1).

I like these lines because it reminds me how hard it is for a child (or an adult!) to reconcile un-Christlike behavior with what his heart tells him is right. As children, we certainly have a feeling of what is supposed to be. We know people should be nice to each other. It feels right. When we see injustices such as abuse or racism or a multitude of other situations, it really hurts. It can be easy to blame God for other’s wrong choices on earth. I think it’s important to remember that. As adults, it’s important to be able to see a situation from a child’s eyes, especially if we ever hope to bring comfort to a child who is confused or in pain.

“My father on the birth certificate might have been Unknown but the tall man throwing ball with me in his white shirt with his necktie stuffed between the buttons was my father as far as I was concerned. He got his shiny dress shoes muddy when he stepped in the flower beds to get a ball. He always tried to do about everything in the world for me and he didn’t even have to if you wanted to be official about it” (p.211).

Being adopted certainly poses some challenges for relationship building when a child is old enough to understand about being adopted. I really admire children and parents whose hearts are open and willing to love one another across blood lines. It is certainly a terrible injustice in life to feel that you are an unwanted child.  Every child needs a parent who will love them as honestly and deeply as they would if they were genetically theirs or not. I love the line from TFPTTW: ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny… Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

“I thought about TV Boy as I walked from house to house and felt bad about getting mad at him the week before. Just like I couldn’t help it that I stuttered it wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t hear or talk. Being able to hear is nice but I wanted to tell him that he wasn’t missing anything by not being able to talk.

“I decided TV Boy would make a good friend. He wouldn’t have to hear my bad talking and he could teach me how to say things with my hands instead of my mouth. I was pretty sure I would be good at that kind of talking because my baseball coach always said I had good hands.”

When Paperboy (aka Victor)  sees TV Boy sitting with his eyes glued to the screen week after week, he makes a judgment call that he rescinds when he learns that he is deaf and practicing lip reading. I love how he describes that transformation from judgment to mercy. Haven’t we all had an experience like that? I especially love his empathetic expressions and how he turns from anger to friendship. I’ve had experiences like that. If we look at others with a heart that wants to understand, we discover that we each have a story, and we can find empathy for people that we might otherwise not want to know.

There were a lot of great places in this story, but one I really love in the author’s note:

Paperboy quote

I didn’t know James Earl Jones had dealt with the challenge of stuttering! Wow! His words spoke to me on another level, too. This morning in my scripture study, I read this from the Sunday School Book of Mormon Class Member Study Guide: “Encourage family members to frequently write about their feelings” (Lesson 7: I Know in Whom I Have Trusted). I was reminded of how many times growing up I poured out my feelings in my journals. When you can’t say what’s in your heart, it helps to be able to write it down. It was one of the ways I dealt with the challenges that I faced. I have many journals! It can be so therapeutic to write. A friend of mine shared with me how she was able to work through dealing with an abusive situation by writing down her feelings and what she would like to say if she could. Writing helps! I’m sooooooooo grateful I can write.

I also loved discovering (in the author’s note) that the story is the author’s memoir! Vince Vawter has dealt with stuttering his entire life. What a wonderful gift for him to share his story with the world!

One thing I’m grappling with right now is foul language in books. I don’t like to read cuss words in a good book. I wish authors would just leave them out! Sometimes there is a book that is outstanding, such as Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers, in which I can understand why the author included the language in context. When Little Britches  became a “cow poke” (when he was 10!)  he was around a lot of swearing. He said, “Father never swore, and I know I wouldn’t have ever have said it out loud, but before I really knew what I was thinking, ‘[–]’ went through my head. (p.204)….It seemed like everything around the place started  off with ‘[–].’ I told myself I wasn’t even going to think it, and then I’d be sure I didn’t say it sometime when I wasn’t thinking” (p.207).

This reminds me of a story I heard once during Sarah’s harp lesson era. Someone recounted a story of practicing with a young woman who swore every time she made a mistake. She didn’t even realize she was doing it, as it happened with such frequency over time. When she was in a competition and performing and made a mistake, out came the swear word. She wasn’t able to help it because it was simply a habit.

I go through my books and cross out the swear words so that my children can enjoy the book without the words being repeated in their minds. But I weigh carefully whether or not the book is really worth reading if it has more than a couple of profane expressions. I’ll add that is growing more challenging as people add more inappropriate language–not just swear words, but also crude language. And I don’t want a lot of garbage in my children’s heads while they are on my watch. I’m praying for authors today who will choose not to include foul language in their stories, to help the rising generation (and those who love a good book, like me!) to be able to enjoy their work without profanity.

 

 

 

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This is my final post for Nate’s mission archive!

Sunday was Nate’s homecoming. This means that he gave a talk in church sharing some of the experiences from his mission.

And can you believe I didn’t take a single photo on this day?

As always, there was some humor. I enjoyed his opening: “Howard W. Hunter, 14th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, once gave a talk called, ‘The God that Doest Wonders.’ He spoke of the many miracles that Jesus performed and the evidence they give of His divine nature. It’s a powerful talk, and you can feel the Spirit of the Lord testify of Christ as you listen to it. But it’s better remembered as the talk where he randomly fell backwards while speaking. I’m getting pretty good with crutches, but I’m still pretty scared of repeating history. You might need to catch me, Beth Ann [a friend of his who was also giving her homecoming talk that day].”

Nate shared briefly about the geography, weather, languages, and traditions of his mission and then said that he wasn’t going to say that his mission was the best mission in the world or the best two years of his life. “That doesn’t mean that my mission wasn’t wonderful, that I didn’t love it, that it wasn’t important. It was hard, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. I don’t want kids going out on their mission thinking that it’s easy, that it’s all fun and baptisms and Mexican food every day. Serving a mission is hard.”

He continued that his motto during the mission was, “The right isn’t always easy, but it’s always right.” Then he shared some experiences illustrating that the blessings of the gospel come from doing what’s right, whether or not the outcome you are looking for is realised.

He shared about some of the people he taught who were baptized, one who didn’t stay active, one who did, and one who he got to hear bear her testimony over a year later when he returned with his mission president to her town and attended church there. I especially appreciated this story about hot chocolate. One very long, cold, rainy day when they were working in Cerro de Pasco, they were welcomed into a home. They were cold and hungry. The mother went into the kitchen and came back with two cups of hot chocolate. “We knew how good that hot chocolate would be at the end of the day” and how kind and generous the family was in offering it to them. But they had a mission rule that they were not allowed to eat anything that wasn’t prepared by their pensionista or that came from a package because of health safety reasons. Nate said, “I knew what was right. Though my companion protested a little, I explained to the family that as missionaries our success depended on our obedience, and that we had rules. Long story short, we did not drink the hot chocolate. We did teach a lesson that day, but I left the area [was transferred] the next day and didnt’ see them again.” He talked about how he never knew how that experience affected the family, but he knew how it affected him, and how he learned “that the most important thing I learned on my mission [was to]…recognize the right and then do it. And I think that’s the most important thing in life. It doesn’t matter how much we know, it doesn’t matter how much we do. If we don’t know what’s right and we don’t do it, it doesn’t help us at all. The Gospel is true, and I know it. I want everyone to find out for themselves the same truth. It has blessed my life, and will bless yours. The right wasn’t always easy, but it’s always right.”

He ended his talk with his testimony in Quechua, which he didn’t learn to speak very much of, but he tried to study the Book of Mormon in Quechua (and in French, I learned from another missionary that was at our home Sunday) and heard it quite a bit in some of the areas where he worked, so he tried to see what he could learn.’

That is the end of the full-time mission experience! Of course, Nate will always be a missionary, just like me and his dad and everyone else who loves the gospel and hopes to share it with those who are looking for it. I am so thankful that he had this experience. I wish more mothers knew how awesome it is to get to have a child have this experience. I know it is unique in what you learn as it is an individually-tailored experience, straight from heaven with challenges that bless us and prepare us for the challenges and blessings that wait for us. I love how he grew to know and love the Book of Mormon and the Lord more. I feel so thankful that Nate was able and willing to go, and that I had the privilege of helping him prepare and fulfill his mission.

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The big 2-0!

Nate 1 year old birthday

It’s kind of crazy to think how quickly the last 20 years have passed. That little one year old Nathan in the photo is now moving into the third decade of life on earth. He is home from his mission and enrolled at college beginning May! So life moves forward, and all of those wakeful nights and sleepy days of reading to and feeding and playing with and loving this little boy were so worth it. I don’t regret a single day of love and service I gave. I am so grateful Nate came to our family!

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Each his own flavor

grocery store variety

I was at the grocery store not long ago.IMG_4798

I marvelled at the variety of fruits I saw.IMG_4797

It reminded me of being at a market in Jamaica and feasting my eyes on the color, texture, size, and certainly flavor (although I didn’t sample everything) of the fresh produce I saw. God has made such a huge variety of fruit in this world…IMG_4796

…that seeing this reminded me to celebrate how unique he made each of his children! Every child has their own “flavor,” and I have especially love having Nate back home, where we can enjoy his particularly delightful sense of humor, his inclusiveness, his kindness, and his love for his family. I am SO grateful to be back together again!

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Homecoming

Welcome Home Nate table

While it’s already been two weeks and a day since Nate came home, I am so excited to share about this incredible day!

Three weeks ago, Lane received word from Nate’s mission president that Nate might have to come home early because of his injury on Dec.28 (from landing wrong while playing basketball on preparation day). I could hardly believe my ears when I heard this, and I was at first ecstatic to think that I might see our son in less than a week! Then I got very concerned about how he might be feeling. Was he worried about coming home early? Feeling guilty? Not wanting to come home yet? I prayed for help.

The answer came the next day, and I felt peace. After that answer and accompanying peaceful calm, I got really excited and started taking immediate action to get things ready for his return. We cleaned the house, cleaned out Pete and Nate’s room, washed sheets, washed windows, dusted, and vacuumed. We pulled down the tubs of stuff that we had packed up in a hurry before and right after he left. I shopped for some clothing that I thought he might need immediately, and I made a doctor’s appointment with the same sports doctor he had seen with his rugby injuries.

There was one tendermercy that I’d like to share. Before I even had a chance to call this doctor, I received a photo from a family in Peru of Nate’s foot, and I forwarded it to a good friend of Nate’s, who happened to see that same doctor that day, so he (the doctor) was totally aware of the situation before I even called. Sounds trivial, but it happened in such a way that I was reminded of how Heavenly Father is aware of our needs at every level.

We continued to make arrangements for his return, and before we knew it, it was Tuesday morning. One of the greatest concerns we had was that Lane wouldn’t be at the airport when Nate got in. He had a meeting in another state with other people who had also already purchased non-refundable airplane tickets. He had to show up. He was, however, able to get his nonrefundable, nonchangeable flight changed to an earlier return. That was another tendermercy. So we prayed that everything would work out, and that Nate would feel OK about things since we weren’t able to reach him to tell him about it.

We got everyone out the door to go to the airport, and one cousin, but we had to stop and pick up Sarah from a hospital in Salt Lake where she was job shadowing. We got some inaccurate info from a flight tracking phone app, saying that the flight was delayed a little. So we weren’t rushing until we got to the airport and saw that his flight was on time and landed! Then we started running. I got mixed up about the terminals, so we went to the place where we thought he would be coming out.

airport Nate homecoming

And we waited.

IMG_5541There were three other families waiting for missionaries. We watched the missionaries arrive and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

“Where is Elder Livi?” We wondered, anxiously. I was DYING!

Then my phone rang. I almost didn’t answer it, but had the thought that maybe Nate was calling from someone else’s phone. Rebecca answered it. IT WAS NATE! He said he had been waiting and where were we? We figured out that we were in the WRONG TERMINAL! We started running back to the other terminal. Sarah, who had worn heels, couldn’t run very fast. I was dying. I slowed down for a little while until everyone had mostly caught up, and then I ran again. When I saw him, I just ran fast until I could give him a hug! I couldn’t help the tears. I simply cannot describe how wonderful it was to hug my son again after 22 months (to the day), to feel him and see him in person.

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And then everyone else got turns hugging him. We all had tears of happiness in our eyes this time.

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We felt so thankful for the nice guy who had wheeled Nate to the baggage claim.

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Nate was totally OK about Lane not being able to be there. So gracious and understanding! Why had I worried?

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After only a few minutes of being together, it felt as if he had hardly been gone for so long. How does that happen?

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Of course he wanted to take a selfie to post on Insta! haha

We arrived home to be greeted by some of the best neighbors and friends in the whole world! They had made a fabulous poster and brought balloons and tied bows around all of the our trees. Our neighbors who own a sign company had made an amazing sign for us that we had hung over the front entry. It was a very warm welcome on a freezing cold January 12 day!

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The first thing he did when he got home was to drink clean water out of the kitchen faucet. Clean water. Such a gift!

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Then came some playing piano. Rebecca played a song she had learned for him that he loved. We played a violin/piano duet that she had me learn for Nate.

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Elder Livi (I keep calling him Nate, but he actually wasn’t released yet, so he was still Elder Livi) pulled out a few items to share from his suitcase. And then came the phone call we were waiting for: Lane was on his way home from the airport. We jumped into the car to meet him at a special restaurant. There we had to cry again for joy when he and his dad embraced. I can’t put that moment into words.
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And then dinner time!

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Nate was in heaven!

Then off to the Stake Center (church building) to meet with the Stake President so he could be released. That was a very special experience that I’ll save in my heart forever. We got to share our testimonies and hear his. Can’t put that into words either. The Stake President had me and Lane remove his tags. Nate took his photo off the wall. It was amazing to see how many of his friends are serving missions!

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And then we were home, jiggety-jig.

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Grandma came over and there was another joyful reunion. After some friends stopped by, a very tired and uncomplaining Nate unwrapped his foot and we saw this:IMG_5637

It looked worse in real life! Red and so swollen and bruised. We couldn’t imagine this was all just from a sprain two plus weeks before!

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We had a little Christmas breakfast the next morning and gave him a stocking with some fun gifts, including cologne samples! Time to move forward with college…and dating!

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The xrays at the doctor’s later that morning were inconclusive, so an MRI was scheduled for the next day.

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An amazing fruit basket from his grandpa sure made his afternoon!

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The MRI the next day helped us find out what was really going on in his foot: a broken ankle (compression fracture) and a torn ligament. We got the cast on the next day, and his foot has been feeling SO much better ever since.

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He never complained once. Not one single complaint. Amazing.

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Having cousins and friends drop by has been the best!

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He’s enjoying the puppy, who licks his toes. He gave us all special gifts, some of which he picked up in Lima on his way home–where he ran into one of his best friends again who is serving in one of the Lima missions!
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Look at the artwork on this tiny mate (“mah-tay”).

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Having him home is as good as it gets. I am more thankful than ever that he served a mission and super grateful to have him back!

 

 

 

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Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

peanut butter choc chip cookiesI really like cookies, but I don’t make them very often.  I have a household of people who love to make cookies, so it works out.

Today, though, it was like magic: I had an afternoon with no obligations, and the kitchen was clean and the laundry done (!!!). So when the children came home from school, I told them to hold off on other snacks because I was going to make cookies.

cookie dough

Soon the kitchen was smelling of baking peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. It was hard to keep the fingers out of the dough, so we didn’t worry about that.  Oh, my! I do believe there must be cookies in heaven. This recipe from The Food Nanny might just be there! While her recipe calls for chocolate kisses or peanut butter cups, I just added a cup of chocolate chips instead. They were SO good!

red bitten spatulaAnd don’t you love Salmiakki’s touch to the spatula? She took a bite out of that when the dishwasher was open just long enough for her to climb up and start licking–and biting!–the silverware. Ha! Makes me laugh every time I use it. I had a spatula similar to it a long time ago that one of my children took a bite out of when they were little. Gotta watch those teething toddlers and puppies… :)

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Alive and posting!

Salmiakki 10 weeksWow, the last month has been crazy, and the last two weeks in particular have been amazing! Having a puppy has been in many ways like having a baby around. And then Nate came home, and it has been heavenly to have him around and be a complete family again. I absolutely love it!

I wish I had time to write about it all right now, but it will have to wait a little longer. I just want to say that we are loving having a puppy–as much as it has been quite an adjustment–and that she is a blessing to our family. Everyone loves having her here! She is 10 weeks old and slept through the night 5 out of the last 6 nights. She was up very early, but those long stretches of sleep have made a big difference to our night troopers over here!

cousin dinner

We had a very fun cousin dinner last night. I love having family (and some “adopted” family) over to eat all together. It makes for an evening of a house full of good food, great conversation, and happy laughter. A little slice of heaven. (You can see that Nate is enjoying himself!)

More news to come!

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Say love

So much has happened in the last 10 days! Nate came back home! I am happy as I could be to see our son again, and to see him doing so well.

I will post about that all soon. Today I just wanted to share a song by Hilary Weeks whose message is so good for me to hear tonight. I’m grateful for positive music that helps me remember what is most important.

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It’s a wrap!

We got a photo on Thursday (that won’t upload–not sure why) that showed Elder Livi with his foot wrapped from toe to knee! I’d say that’s a wrap!

In just a couple of days, we will get to see that leg for ourselves as Elder Livi is wrapping up his mission and heading home.

Tonight Sarah is playing the piano, and I’m just basking in the reverie of such lovely, soothing music. I recognized the song she was just playing as one my mom played when I was young. I love it. I asked her the name: “Chanson de l’adieu” (“Goodbye Song”) by Chopin, and I thought how wonderfully appropriate! On the night when Elder Livingston is saying “adieu” (literally, “To God”–what you might say when bidding farewell to someone that you aren’t sure you may see again) to so many people he has grown to love in Peru.

Just thought I’d share this song with you. Wish I had a video of Sarah playing it! I loved her phrasing even more :).

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Elder Livi Update: Surprise early return!

Little Pete with Big Bro Nate

Little Pete and Big Bro Nate about 8 years ago.

This little brother (and all of his siblings and parents) were SO excited yesterday to hear from Elder Livi’s mission president that because of this recent P-day foot injury and the needed recuperation time (he’s not supposed to be up and around for 10 more days), he is coming home early! Next week! We are looking forward to a joyful reunion! Our countdown suddenly went from 48 days to 6!

We would appreciate your prayers as the trip will be long and challenging to travel through several airports with an injured foot. Thank you to each of you who has prayed for him his whole mission!

As I drove home this morning from an errand, I was thinking about a text one of my mission companions sent me this morning.  Her text helped me remember how, just a few short years ago, Sarah’s double-wrist injury–the day before she was supposed to play the harp at her grandfather’s funeral, and a week or so before she was supposed to audition to be a harp major–helped change the course of her life. Quite literally. God is a genius at knowing how changes in our lives will affect us and helps us adjust.

This fall I bought maybe 80 (?) tulip, galanthus, and allium bulbs to plant in my flower garden. But because of choices, schedule, health, and weather, I didn’t get them in the ground as I normally do. Yesterday, with the rain that melted the snow and the few hours of warmer temperatures, I went out with the puppy and dug up the ground. It was soft and easy. I planted those bulbs! I felt so excited that it might not be too late to still enjoy the bulbs I had chosen. I was so grateful for that window of time–a tendermercy in the beginning of January!–because not too long after I went inside, the weather changed, rain started up and snow was falling at nightfall. But my bulbs are in the ground.

Events big and small that we think can be a hardship (and are) can turn out to be blessings in the long run. God helps us out with all of them, doesn’t he? He is always there for the early and late moments. Knowing this, we are really looking ahead with optimism and lots of gratitude that we will get to see Elder Livi all the sooner!

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