Tuesday, January 27

The Red Shoes

The saga of the red shoes began in the days leading up to my trip to Florida. On the support group that I frequent, there was an entire discussion dedicated to this trip. As the temperatures plummeted in most regions of the country. the fervor and desire to be on the sunny beaches in the south reached a peak. One day, somebody posted a message on the board that said they wanted to be in Florida 'right now'. Somebody else suggested that they click their heels together, somebody else suggested some red shoes, and the whole unfortunate discussion got pinned on a gentleman named Jimmy who hails from Boston. The rest, as they say, is history. The shoes were packed, and the fun began on the second night of our visit.

First, it is necessary to introduce Sheila. Sheila is the owner of the red shoes. She found them online, and wears them with a costume. Sheila, who is a statuesque 6 feet tall, carried off the shoes with finesse.
See what I mean? On Sheila, the shoes are pure 'hot'.
Now, the razzing for Jimmy began. At first, our chances of actually getting him into the shoes seemed slim. Early in the evening, it appeared as though this would be the closest we got to getting Jimmy into those spectacular red platforms.
Soon, though, Don took the bait. Not afraid to show that he's a real manly man, he put them on right there in the tiki bar.
He even said that they weren't as uncomfortable as they looked.
After a few minutes, it even appeared as though he was enjoying the red shoes!

Yup, there is definitely a girly-man lurking in there somewhere. Nice gams, Don!

Once Don proved that real men wear platforms, it became much easier to egg Jimmy into trying them on. For this event, we moved outside the bar.
Sometimes it takes a little help from your friends to force 4 inch platforms that are two sizes too small onto your feet.
Jimmy showed us all up--he rocked the shoes too!

Once Jimmy and Don succumbed to the power of the shoes, it was only a matter of time until we infiltrated the ranks of the rest of the men. Here, Ed takes his shot.
Yeah, he'd definitely had a few by then. Goofy-drunk smile notwithstanding, he managed to carry off those tiny shoes with aplomb.
Totally sober, even I rocked the red shoes. They made me feel instantly sexy, even in sweatpants.
Therese needed a little help from her friends too.
I can't remember what she'd been drinking, but she rocked those shoes too. Friends stood at the ready to catch her if she stumbled.
The red shoes were the theme for our weekend in paradise. Who would have thought that a bunch of crazy widdas could also be cross-dressing crazy widdas? I miss Florida, in all it's red-shoe-wearing glamour.

Snow Day!

Our area got fairy dumped on last night, and it was just enough to cancel school for everyone in our family. We got up leisurely this morning, watched some cartoons, and enjoyed pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast. After more lounging around, a little bit of housework, lunch, and a nap for the baby, we all headed outside to play in the snow. After much bundling and giving thanks for warm snow pants and good boots, we headed out.

Brooklyn was thrilled with her gloves and hat, and the red cherry nose finished off the look quite nicely.
Jeremy got busy building a snow wall.

And Kadon discovered the perfect sledding hill.

He had a wonderful time sledding down
And then hauling the tube back up. After a few minutes, curiosity and a sense of adventure took over, and even Mom got into the act. I went down alone the first time, and then braved it twice with Brooklyn. She had a fabulous time and was begging for more, but by then her jeans were soaked through and so were mine. I left the more appropriately clad boys outside with a neighbor, and came inside to start the sodden clothes in the laundry. Thank goodness for snow days!

Monday, January 26


Last quarter was the first time I had attended school in a very, very long time. I went briefly right before Jeremy was born, and one year after high school, but neither experience was a positive one, and I was happy to leave my education days behind me. I have never been a stellar student, so I was extremely proud of myself last quarter when grades came out and I had made the deans list. In fact, I'm damn proud of myself, and I'm not afraid to toot my own horn about it. I think it's remarkable that I managed not only decent grades-but excellent grades-on top of the load on my shoulders. I took widowed parent and grieving wife, and added excellent student. I'm no fool, and I know that's something to be proud of. It gave me steam to do as well this quarter, and I'm grateful for that. Once the initial elation passed in December, though, I haven't thought that much more about it. Imagine my surprise then, this morning, when Jeremy brought in the mail from the weekend. Amongst the stack of magazines, tax notices, and junk mail, there was an official looking envelope from the college. I opened it up, and inside was a very official-looking certificate from the Dean, congratulating me on my 'outstanding academic achievement'. I was shocked at the wave of grief that accompanied this discovery.

The thing is, being proud of myself and my studies is completely wrapped up in my grief for Ammon. The last time anybody in this house was excited about grades, it was him. Ammon was an excellent student once he finally buckled down and studied, and every time I would gush over his achievements, he would tell me that he was only doing it for me and the kids, so we could have a better life. Today, I understand that better than I ever have before. I wish more than anything that today I could see the wide smile of pride etched into his face and the sparkle of his eyes as he looked at me-his smart wife-in adoration. Going forward in this new life, and excelling in my studies- seems in some ways to be a betrayal of him. I know that's not logical, but try to get my grief-addled brain to commit to logic these days, and you've solved many a crisis. I don't want to leave my old life behind. I don't want to excel at being a widow. I want to excel at being a wife, and this certificate today seemed a cruel irony. This should be a thrilling moment-and it is. It's just so damn wrapped up in everything that is WRONG with my life to look at it only as something RIGHT.

Now, there are tear stains on my certificate. It seems fitting somehow.

Sunday, January 25

How Firm a Foundation

In the group that I attend church with, commonly referred to as a ward, people are given jobs. They serve on a volunteer basis, and the jobs run anywhere from Bishop, which is the main clergyman in our group, to nursery worker, which is the person who teaches the children aged 18 months to 3 years. My job consists of playing the piano for the kids aged 3 years to 12 years. There is a portion every Sunday that the music leader spends just teaching the children songs. Some of them are silly, some of them are sacred, but every single one of them revolves around a basic teaching of the church and our gospel.

Today, in Primary, the music leader decided to teach the older kids a new song. I sat at my place behind the piano while she explained the lyrics to the kids and helped them learn the melody. While I was waiting for my turn to play the music, I started reading over the lyrics to the chosen song. This is a song that I have grown up singing. The three main verses I know almost by heart, and I can sing it without thinking about it much. In our Hymnal, some hymns have additional verses written in smaller print below the music, and they are considered optional when singing. Many songs have as many as 7-10 verses, and rarely do we sing past the first three or four. As a result, these verses go largely unnoticed by most of the members of our church. Today, I am grateful for the opportunity that I had to spend time studying this piece of music. Lately I have felt the foundation of my faith shudder. It has creaked, it has bent, and in places it has broken. I long to feel whole in the gospel again. I long to feel the love of my Savior as I go throughout every day. It's a struggle that is not new to me. I remember the dark months two summers ago, when I was pregnant with Brooklyn and it seemed like Ammon would never get a job. I am eternally grateful that his parents put up with us invading their home during those months, but I wanted to strike out on our own. I wanted my own home, and it seemed as though in the long months of waiting--we were being punished. One particular Sunday, I remember sitting in tears on the steps in their foyer. I felt weak. I felt small, insignificant. Most of all, I felt faithless. Ammon tried to talk to me, and I wept as he assured me that my faith was strong, and would see us through the trial of unemployment. I told him with great vehemence that I didn't FEEL the spirit with me. I didn't FEEL guidance, and I didn't FEEL comfort. How it hurt me.

Very, very soon after that, Ammon miraculously got a job. Brooklyn was born, we moved to Cincinnati, and life began anew. Briefly, after Ammon died, I turned my life over whole-heartedly to my Savior. I placed complete faith in his plan for me, and let His spirit guide my every action. Soon, the weight of grief began to weaken that bond. After a few weeks I stumbled, and then I fell. I have tried so many times since those first few months to draw myself back up, and to earn my right to have the spirit with me. Today, as I read the lyrics to this inspired hymn, I am once again feeling as though it might be possible. Once again, music has reached my heart in a way that nothing else can.

How Firm a Foundation

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials they pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Wednesday, January 21

Sun and Fun

I have much studying to do for the two tests I have this weekend, and Jeremy's birthday party to plan. I want to get some pictures up, but you'll have to excuse what will likely be the scant narration.

This is the view from our hotel balcony. I ducked under the barriers between rooms to get to the end of the building, and have a more uninterrupted view of the ocean for these pictures. It was chilly, but we couldn't wait to get outside!
It struck me right in that moment how amazing it was that I was standing on the balcony, overlooking the beach in the middle of January. A genuine thrill was present in my smile, and I've missed that.

The next morning, I skipped ducking underneath all the rails to get to the end of the building. This was directly outside the balcony door, at sunrise the first morning we were there.
Saturday morning my roomates, plus one, decided to go take an air boat ride on the Everglades. One of my roomies is a Florida native, and she recommended it highly. The Everglades were not at all what I pictured! I'm told the more cypress-tree-look that I was expecting is located on the western coast of Florida
Our crew, sitting on the front row of the airboat. From left: Laura, Me, Rachel, and Sheila.

One of the locals that visited us during our tour of the Everglades.

Rachel and Janine, our Kansas City crew.

I can't stress enough--these photos are NOT zoomed! He was actually just that close to the boat!
I forget the name of this bird. It was perched on the tree, looking for prey. While we were watching it broke into flight, and it was beautiful.

Rachel and Janine made friends with the local scenery.
This is Ray, who was telling a rather involved story of an over-zealous airport security screener. He lives in Northern Kentucky, and was at least partially responsible for organizing this huge event.
I offer no excuse for this photo. Therese and I were trying to squash each others heads. See what getting me away from my kids and totally relaxed does to me?
Jimmy, Danette, and Me at dinner Saturday night. Good food, even better company.
On the beach Saturday night, with (from left) Therese, Danette, Sheila, Me, and Jimmy.
Bosley sure looks happy!
Sunday morning was the formal remembrance ceremony. Ray gave a short speech about the waves of grief, and we each picked up a flower. One by one, we spread out and walked to the edge of the ocean. Tears were shed, prayers were uttered, and names were written in the sand. We each threw our single rose into the ocean, and hoped that the waves of grief wouldn't knock us down.
Each rose represents a loved one lost. It's sobering to stand on the perimeter of a room and see 45 smiling faces--each of the smiles hiding a grief that I understand only too well. It was sobering that morning on the beach to remember why each of us was there--and the bond that binds us all together. I found that it is all too easy to share the burden of my grief with these wonderful people--that I expected. What I didn't expect was the ease with which I could share the lightness of laughter. It was a pleasant surprise.
Sunday morning brunch at Shooters, a famous oceanfront restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale.
Sheila has a hot bod.
I have a hot bod.
So does Janine.
And Rachel also has a hot bod.
This boat was rockin'. We didn't go knockin'.

Sunday afternoon brought more lounging around the pool deck and tan lines. Thank goodness for tan lines.
Sunday night we had dinner at Aruba's, another restaurant right on the beach about a mile away from the hotel. Janine and Rachel picked up dresses in the gift shop, and Jimmy thought they looked HOT! (inside joke)
Sunday night the playoff games were somewhere near us, and the Goodyear blimp flew over and over again. I finally got exasperated enough to take a picture. It's loud when it flies overhead! Disturbs reading and sunbathing!
Monday morning, we all bid a sad farewell to the beach and sunshine. I squeezed in a final few hours in my bathing suit, and managed to perfect the tan lines I started on Sunday. From left: Me, Janine, Laura, and Rachel.
I am so grateful to have gone on this trip. I made lifelong friends, and beautiful memories. I can't wait for next year!