Newsy bits

Lauren and Patrick moved to Atlanta shortly after their wedding, driving across country as an extended honeymoon coda. P had an actuarial internship there over the summer and the move was intended to be temporary but he was offered a really great permanent position that they've decided to accept. They're in Utah this week picking up all of the gear and wedding gifts they left behind in April and are slowly furnishing their new apartment that replaces their temporary (and cockroach infested) one. Life is good in newlywedville. We're looking forward to seeing them at Christmas. And, of course, since we're moving to Virginia at the end of the year, we're excited to be in the same time zone and a day's drive away.

Maddy wrapped up a great first year at university and worked at two (paid, yay!) internships this summer: one as an economic development coordinator for a small municipality (think Parks & Rec) and one at a political consultancy/communications firm (think--what? Scandal? I don't know, I'll have to ask). She spent the summer shuttling between those two jobs, which were a couple of hours apart, and bunking with generous family members. She's excited to be able to stop living out of her car and move into her first genuine, non-dorm apartment this fall. She's got a lively, close group of friends and has been dating and attending missionary farewells and weddings all summer long. She's here in Australia this week for a quick visit and farewell tour before starting school in a couple of weeks. If we let her leave, that is.

Sam is smashing through all the milestones and rites of passage lately. He turned 18 this month, had his Eagle Scout Ceremony, was sustained to receive the Melchizedek priesthood last week at stake conference, has taken the ACT/SATs, is preparing and deciding on college applications, and completing the string of IB assessments and papers that this particular term in Year 12 demands. He's vice-captain of the school and has had a lot of growing opportunities--speaking at assemblies, helping with school-wide leadership and decisions as they transition to an all-boys school to a co-ed one. At some point he'll move up to full fledged driver from learning permit but he'll have to find three spare minutes to bundle together first. 

Greg has done some fun winter hikes and camps with Sam and the scouts, including a four-day snowshoeing + backpacking trip in Kosciuszko National Park. He is heroically straddling two jobs with one foot in his new role and one in his current job.  This will continue until we move in late November, with him rotating time in DC and here. They're both technically with the same company but very different roles and he's handling it like a champ. I marvel at the way he can be completely swamped & pressured at work but you'd never know it in his interactions with us at home, other than he's sometimes awake in the middle of the night with all the thoughts. There's never tension spillover--he can separate those things from his general outlook on life. With me you can always tell what's brewing: sometimes a stress stew, sometimes a bliss souffle, usually some kind of combo platter. But, oh, there's spillover. 

As for me?  I've gotten fairly hermit-y here in Australia winter lately but I'm still here! I'm prepping for the courses I'll be teaching in January, working on a social science research project here in Canberra, doing some long-distance house hunting and tackling the move to-do list in between. (The moving company comes next week to catalog our belongings and then will pack us up for the slow boat shipment next month!)  I got glasses. Two pairs that are hello-aging multifocals and a bunch of reading glasses (favorite blues pictured above) that are scattered on the flat surfaces and in drawers all over the house. I've become enamoured with bullet journaling (hat tip Sarah). I miss writing--I think I've had enough of a mental/creative hibernation season and am keen to create again. Times and seasons, they keep rolling by.


Listening:
 Your Best American Girl by Mitski
First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale
Cloves album Xiii

Reading:
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

Watching:
The Olympics,
old episodes of Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, &
we loved & binge-watched Stranger Things 

Joining in:
Ann Dee Ellis's memoir group with daily writing prompts  
 

Two daily questions

As I mentioned once before, when I was in Boston last year, it happened to be stake conference in my old stake (which is like a diocese or a regional organization of several local congregations). So I went. What I heard there gently changed my life.* I think it just hit me in the right time and place. The mission president of the Boston mission spoke about what he tells his returning missionaries, as they wonder and agonize about how to take the spirit of their missions into their lives. 

This was a fresh experience on my mind, having witnessed Lauren's transition from missionary life to regular life. I noticed that there was a very real grief process in giving up that full-time richness of inspiration and love and services so I tuned in especially closely to the talk with her in mind. But I quickly realized this was going to be applicable to me. For me.

photo via

photo via

There was one section that felt particularly relevant to me, practically a neon flashing sign:

The key, said President Packard, is to develop a personal daily ministry. He suggested asking yourself and God every morning, through prayer and meditation: "Who are my people?" "What do they need?"--taking note of ideas that come to mind and then committing yourself to act on the impressions when they come. Ask those two questions every day and then turn it all over to God. Ideas will flow and crystallize. You will refill with pure love every day and receive opportunities to share it with others. 

Second, he said, view your entire life as a holistic offering to God. You can be "on his errand" wherever you are--whatever you're doing, even if it doesn't seen conventionally religious or service-y. He wants us to thrive at home, in school, on the job, and have a joyful life and bring that joy into all life's facets. Under that mindset, there's no room for guilt that you're not Serving enough (or full time, as missionaries have) because the love you bring into every situation is enough. You're watering your own corner of the garden, your own section of the vineyard. You're hastening the work within yourself.

These simple, profound suggestions have transformed how I treat my spiritual life. Truly. Like many women I know, I have sometimes felt a low grade guilt of not measuring up--in my church assignments, roles at home and work and elsewhere. I tend to have a running list of should be/could be items that is way longer than the day would allow.  But when I have started the day with the question "who are my people and what do they need?" I have felt the freedom to consider every interaction in that day as worthwhile and part of my personal ministry--at appointments, in work meetings, with my kids and G, with neighbors and friends. Sending an email. Talking to a teacher at Sam's school. Doing research interviews. Teaching a class.  These are my people, my ministry. My task is simply to show up for them and connect and hopefully be a positive presence--a conduit for some bit of love that's tailored to them. This approach replaces my feelings of aspirational anxiety with a sense of peaceful partnership.  It feels beautifully zen, really, almost a Buddhist mindfulness practice. The Jesuits also have a defining phrase (and practice) for this: finding God in all things. I like that.  

Clearly (if you know me) this is an ideal, a blueprint that doesn't always show up in my daily interactions. But for me it has recentered my spiritual efforts, simplified to its essence what I think being a disciple is, and released me from a racing mind. Today: Who are my people? What do they need? Send them to me and me to them. Or, in other words, what is needful


*it was a double-header spiritual boost for me; it's where I heard this talk and had this experience as well.

 

The reception

       

The setting:

And the bridal party:

The program:

The first dance and cake cutting 

The friends, family, & festivities

It was magical. 


Reception venue: Springville Museum of Art
Photographer: Chelsie Starley Photography
Engagement photographer (photos on table): Michelle Lehnardt
Those amazing flowers: my friend Christianne Cox (Urban Flowers in SLC)
Food & Italian soda bar: Magelby's Catering
Wedding cheesecake (L&P don't like cake!): The Mighty Baker
Wedding dress and veil: Avenia Bridal

Next

We've been living in a state of betweenness for almost a year--more, really. We knew our time in Australia would be drawing to a close at the end of this year.   Sam will graduate from high school in November and G's contract here (along with our visas) will end mid-December. We're keen to enjoy everything about being here up until the moment we board the plane but what we haven't known is where that plane would be headed after our 4+ year stint here.  

It's a common pattern with me, wanting to know what's nextuncomfortable when there's a big question mark looming in our future. I thrive on making the plan! Mapping out the steps! Obsessively researching neighborhoods! Given the company's locations, the chances were high it would be either Boston or DC with smaller likelihoods (but still possibilities) of Texas, Arizona, and California and a very slim chance of Denver.

We're happy to say we finally know. A little bit of haze has cleared from our future view.

The short, Reader's Digest version:
We're headed to...drum roll, please...Washington, DC/Virginia! 

The extended dance mix version:
A while back G was offered a position at the practice where he's always wanted to go, the international office for his company (which is located in Washington DC). We love DC! We said yes.  Ever the inveterate planner-ahead (plan-aheader?) even though it was still early I started sending out feelers for jobs in the area and--this is crazy to write out--an opportunity to apply for a faculty position at Southern Virginia University suddenly materialized. I sent in my CV, basically just a test balloon checking to see if they were hiring someone in my field. They were in the final stages of the hiring process and kindly considered my candidacy just as the application door was swinging shut. By the end of that week I had lined up recommendations and written application essays and did a phone interview with the search committee. Two weeks after that they flew me to Virginia to do a job talk (essentially a research presentation) and a sample lecture.

It's amazing how when things start moving, the momentum increases and things really seem to fall into place. For those keeping score at home, this was the exact two-week time period I was ramping up to throw a wedding for my first born daughter (which, believe you me,  I am going to post about once we get the photos back from the wedding photographer).  It seemed crazy to try to put together two presentations the same week we were packing to go to Utah for the wedding. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? As Eleanor Roosevelt has reminded me several times on my Pinterest board, Do that thing you think you cannot do.  I sent out pleas of help & requests for advice to my network of colleagues who've recently landed academic jobs and they generously responded.

To make it work for everyone involved I had to fly out early in the week of Lauren's wedding (that's normal mother-of-the-bride behavior, right?) for the campus visit. Lauren and Patrick were still busy in the middle of finals so it was actually a great time to dash across country and back. After in-person interviews and a good visit there in Virginia, I returned to finish planning and celebrating Lauren and Patrick's nuptials (ha! that word gets me every time).

The day before the wedding they offered me the job, generously adjusting the start date to January 2017. I'm ecstatic! SVU really impressed me--its small liberal arts college approach to education, the friendly and interesting faculty, the lovely and engaged students, the beautiful campus and college-town setting. More and more I'm convinced that huge universities are not for everyone and that many (if not most) college undergraduates get a great education and thrive in a more intimate school setting with smaller class sizes, with the ability to form relationships with professors and still participate in a range of activities through the university years--things like athletics, music, drama. My desire to teach, mentor, and research (in that order) align really well with SVU's philosophy and priorities. And I just felt so good about it--peaceful, happy, and excited.  G and I talked a lot about it and decided to go for it, eyes wide open to the joys and challenges.

photo of SVU campus via Jordan Berrey (thanks, Jordan!)

photo of SVU campus via Jordan Berrey (thanks, Jordan!)

Okay, if you just ran a check on google maps you'll know that SVU (in Lexington, VA) and Washington DC are about three hours apart on a good travel day. We do have some logistics to sort out. Luckily the man I married is the type who says (and truly this is a crucial element to making this work) "that's such a fantastic opportunity for you and I know you've been working toward it for years. Look, you've adapted to my career demands and moves for years. Now it'll be my turn. We'll make it work."  We'll do a country mouse/city mouse situation for a while. I love that my job commitment is for eight months of the year, which builds in lots of possibilities to live out my ands: professor and wife and writer and mother and researcher and friend and daughter and even someday granna.  The rest we'll work out, faith-style, hoping that the solid ground will materialize as we step out into the unknown. 

p.s. I'm sad about no Boston. I really really love my people in Boston. As always, I have to go through a mourning process for the lost options, the roads not taken. The one predictable joy of living in between is being able to imagine us in every single location, living out every option. Come south, friends! Visit! Move! Send your children to SVU! I will keep a good eye on them. x