Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I heard today that my application to spend six months in Melbourne has been approved.  We plan to go there next January, when it is summer time, and stay until the depths of winter, at which point we will return to summer time here.

Jonathan is not pleased.  He is upset about the idea of leaving his friends, making new friends, and then leaving those friends, too.  All in one year.  We tried to explain that his friends here will still be here when we get back, and making new friends is a good thing.  Hopefully he warms up to the idea with nearly a year to think about it.

Tim is not completely pleased either.  He is upset about the idea of working on a schedule 18 hours ahead of his coworkers, and getting set up to work remotely from a new location.  With the 18 hour time difference to California, he may have to work Saturdays.

But I'm excited!  Now that I have approval, I can start contacting people and figuring out things like nice neighborhoods, good schools, when and how to get the appropriate visa, and so on.  If you know anyone in Melbourne who could help me out with that process, please let me know!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


My mother's siblings have always been a tight group.  There were six of them growing up, and over the years those six married and became twelve.  Wednesday morning, the first of the twelve passed from this life into the next.  He was too young for death, but the cancer had been eating his body for more than a year, and he and his wife had known that his time was short.  In the last few weeks, his daughters were able to return from around the country to tell him goodbye.

The house where he and his wife have lived for twelve years is only a few houses away from ours, but we see them rarely.  The ward boundaries separating their church from ours run down the street between us.  And otherwise our lives roll along on parallel trajectories, non-intersecting lines close enough to touch when we think to.

I've watched the sidewalks near our houses through January.  The ice is sharp and cold in the mornings, my breath a cloud against the winter inversion.  As we trudge through identical mornings of cold monotony, taking Jonathan to school, I glance toward their house and think about my uncle.  This gray, this winter, this is the weather of the last days of his life.

In the evenings, as the sun sets, the ice stretches again across the slush on the sidewalks, forming sharp edges.  I pull my scarf tighter against my chin.  Tim has had the flu.  Jonathan has a bad cold.  We shouldn't visit, to risk passing infection to a cancer-weakened immune system.  And his daughters have come.  Would we be in the way?  We would probably be in the way.  How does one live a life, when four houses away an uncle is dying?  His family fills our prayers, because prayer is the only gift we know how to offer.

Wednesday morning I wake, shower, walk Jonathan to school in the cold, and then head to work.  My brother sends the news of my uncle's passing as I am meeting with a student.  My mother drives down to help organize the obituary, the funeral.  They visit my aunt and send us messages, but leave before we see them, our lives passing in parallel lines, non-intersecting, but close enough to almost touch.

That afternoon, I volunteer at Jonathan's school.  We color triangles and build fractals, and smile and laugh with the children.  Not until we arrive at home do I tell Jonathan the news.  My uncle is gone.  Our prayers change, refocusing on the family left behind, prayer still the only gift that we know how to offer.

At the cemetery today, watching the snow fall silently on the flag draped over the casket, a uniformed trumpeter playing a goodbye, the winter tightens again, like the ice on the sidewalks in the evening.  The patches of flattened brown grass showing through thawed snow are slowly covered by the new flakes, falling slowly but relentlessly.  The flag is folded and given to my aunt.  She thanks them, gracious in the February cold.

February will end.  The ice will melt, freeze again, and melt again, until somewhere in March or April or maybe even June, it will stay melted.

Earlier, in the church, Jonathan had asked, peering at the body, "why doesn't it look like him?"  Our neighbor?  Our uncle?  "Because it isn't him.  It's just his body."  First of the twelve, he has crossed over, in dignity and grace.  Is it his end?  I cannot believe it is.  It is only February.

And I will try so hard to be close enough, just four houses away, to reach out from the trajectory of my own life to the life of my aunt.  And also to reach out to the lives of my parents, my sisters and brothers, while they still run parallel to mine.  Non-intersecting, but close enough to touch.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Be strong

I decided last week that I needed to get into better shape.  Fourteen years ago I had a couple of workouts, each 20 minutes only, which strengthened arms and legs, alternating.  I decided I should pull those out and work them into my schedule again, so that I can be strong.  Looking at my schedule, I decided that I could spend the 20 minutes around 5:30 that I typically spent catching up on facebook.  Just 20 minutes each day, and I would be in super great shape within 10 weeks!  So one week ago, I started out with my awesome leg workout.  And then the arm workout.  And I started a little slow, because I knew it was pretty intense.  And within two days I could no longer walk, stand up, sit down, reach across the dinner table to pass the milk.  Ouch.  Super sore muscles.

But I kept it up.  All week.  20 minutes each day.  And let me tell you, it was the worst 20 minutes of the day by far.  But I did it.  I did it!  And today, I am still a little sore, but I can walk, stand up, sit down.  Most of the time.

Only 9 weeks to go until I am in shape!  And only 20 minutes each day of torture.