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Everything's hard until it becomes easy

Anne Waddoups

Hello, anybody there? I've been lax in my posting here lately and I miss it! I always enjoyed my friend Michelle's posts to her missionary son so I think I'll do a bit of that here occasionally, hoping to keep up with a record of our doings and thoughts and not forget our days here. 

Dear Lauren girl,

Hi! How are you? Did you finally get our Valentine package(s)? I kept getting notifications that the things were shipping separately and then delayed because of the weather. I was thinking it was going to be the most anti-climatic experience opening an Amazon box and revealing....just a Reese's chocolate heart inside, haha. But hopefully you got everything and had a lovely week. I saw that you (or at least the state of Georgia) had snow and ice and earthquakes (oh, my!) this week. You're in quite the hot spot! 

I'm sure you're feeling a different kind of L O V E this Valentines week and understanding it in new ways. I think I mentioned I've been really trying to use love as a very real solution to little things (and big); when I'm irritated or afraid or down, trying to identify the reason, trying to actually and physically soften my heart, and then replacing those negative feelings with love is so powerful. Really really difficult but powerful. And I've noticed how many of those irritations come from my own insecurity and fear. (How fascinating! as dad would say.)

For instance, we did New Beginnings combined with another ward this year. Before I left for Christmas, we exchanged emails about possible ideas for themes for the night and then agreed to get together to plan it out when we all got back from holiday. When I was on my layover flying back, I got an email from the other ward: they had met and decided our theme! My first reaction was irritation--um what about the plan?! Was I going to be left utterly out of decision making?! (And you probably know I really like plans and control, haha). But I couldn't email back right then so I had the long plane ride to think about it. By the time I got to Australia, I decided to try to switch out my negative response with love.

First of all, they had done a lot of work. They didn't mean to step on any toes; they were trying to help and were probably feeling the crunch of time while I was out of town enjoying the holidays. Also this really wasn't about me (though admittedly my initial response was only about me)--this was about putting together a lovely evening for the girls. And--bonus--now we didn't have to worry about that first decision and we could go on to the next stage of prep. I saw that I could decide to love them for all of that and forget about the irritation. [And let me be clear, the irritation was my business, not their fault! They had done the right thing, I just needed to catch up to understanding that.] As it eventually unfolded, the NB night went really, really well. I'm glad I didn't email back right away with righteous indignation because it would have really colored the way we worked together for the rest of it. A totally silly example but it's all in the small moments where I'm getting practice with this love experiment. 

We had a good week here. I had a really productive phone meeting with two of my dissertation advisors and am feeling so on track and excited to keep going. I will need to fly to Boston at the end of March to have an in-person meeting with my committee and then do a whole lot more work--coding and writing-- but I'm trying to treat it like a semi-full-time job and just put in the time every day. Some days it works better than others but you know how that goes.

We had stake conference to re-organize the stake.  It was all good but I especially LOVED Saturday's session of stake conference; the talks were really fantastic and motivating. I love those kind of spiritual vitamin boosts. One visiting leader talked about missionary work and this statement stuck with me: "I know it's hard. But everything's hard until it becomes easy." I'm hoping you're beginning to see some of the easy(easier) side of things. 

Maddy went to Melbourne over the weekend (she'll probably tell you about that herself) for a youth leadership conference for an anti-poverty advocacy group. (It'll be part of her IB community service project and you know how Maddy loves a good civic leadership cause.) She flew there with one of her friends from school and the conference put everyone up in a hostel during the three-day training bootcamp. She had a grand time. We were driving home from the airport and noticed this fantastic combined rainbow and sunset so I had to pull over to take a picture (of course). It really deserved a standing ovation, don't you think?

sunset rainbow.jpg

Things I love right now: love, YOU, Dad, Maddy, Sam, all-other-family-members, blue sky, bright pink lipstick, dresses, air conditioning, yellow flowers on my desk, reading, edamame (for snacking), sparkling water with lime (gave up diet coke, mostly), blue and white together, goofy kangaroos boxing each other, morning sunrise walks, Sam's very deep voice (he spoke in church last week and it struck me (a) how low his voice is and (b) that he has a bit of an Aussie lilt in his public speaking), creative + authentic people.

Love you dearly,

The sea is so wide and my boat is so small

Anne Waddoups

Sam's school had a Remembrance Day concert on Sunday afternoon and one of the pieces they performed just dove in and nestled somewhere in me. So (as I'm well known to do) I came home and did a little obsessive research burrowing and listening. It's a fairly rare piece, a composition for harp and choir by the Danish composer (& also jazz trumpeter) Palle Mikkelborg, based on the text by Francis of Assisi:

Dear God, be good to me
The sea is so wide
And my boat is so small
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

This recording is of the choir a while back (it's a combined choir for both the girls' and boys' schools). It's not this Sunday's performance but it gives you a good idea:

(There's another performance of the piece here, by the Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir)

I'm consistently impressed with and grateful for the music program here. Since students narrow down their courses and choose their future career paths in Year 11 here, many of the kids already know they're heading to study music at uni and will head to future music careers; it shows. (Also, interesting fact: students typically take individual music lessons at school during the school day through independent music teachers and miss a portion of class to do so. They take place on a rotating basis to make sure they don't always miss the same subject. Sam does voice lessons this way and really likes it.) I love that Sam's found his voice as a musician--literally his voice in the concert choir, chapel choir and motet choirs there--and that he's learning to express himself through his voice and the piano. 

And I'm convinced that music itself is a merciful gift that answers Assisi's Prayer; the experience of joining with others in that unique, visceral, deep-rooted way makes the sea is less wide and our boats feel less small. 

"I know, O Lord, that thou has all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea" (Book of Mormon; Ether 3:4).

when I grow up


I continue to be amazed that "when I grow up" is now.

In my early 20s I put together a list (of course, inveterate list maker I was and am).  On it I put things I expected or hoped for the next 5, 10, 15, 25 years.  G helped.  We had an awesome list.  I wish I could find it.

I do remember penciling in "have babies" at different intervals on our plan and wondering what our children would look like, be like. (Now I know. They're lovely and each has their own blend of the particular DNA recipe we passed along. I love and like them to an astonishing degree I could never have anticipated with my listmaking).

And we wondered where we'd live (now I know that too: SLC, Boston, Washington DC, Boston, Australia. Australia! Dear 22-year-old Annie, you will live in AUSTRALIA.)

We thought a lot about adventure, exploring, seeing the world and showing it to our kids.  Making our mark.  

I remember we decided to emphasize experiences over things (check.) 

Except one thing I wanted was a cabin. I think, because Wildwood is such a touchstone of a place for me--it's the essence of our Paxman family made manifest in a timber structure--I put "build a cabin" on the list scheduled to happen around year 15 so we could have the same sense of place and family geography. Ha!, the audacity of hope, to build a second home by our 15th anniversary. Maybe someday. Or not ever? But I do have a flourishing pinterest board dedicated to cabins just in case. Does that count?

Looking ahead to when I'm really grown up, I think our next 5, 10, 15 years will be less about going out and exploring, more about coming back. The experiences I want are less about novelty, more about connection with people I love. It reminds me of a favorite Robert Frost quote:

"The most exciting movement in nature is not progress, advance, but expansion and contraction, the opening and shutting of an eye, the heart, the mind. We throw our arms wide with a gesture of religion to the universe; we close them around a person. We explore and adventure for a while and then draw in to consolidate our gains...the breathless swing is between subject matter and form."  

I think I've almost reached the end of my adventure pendulum (or at least will have, in three or so years) and will be ready to swing back toward home, gathering, closeness, proximity. To close my arms around my people more often. We'll see.

A cabin would still be nice for all those future grandkids, though. 

And who shall say

Anne Waddoups


"And who shall say – whatever disenchantment follows – that we ever forget magic, or that we can ever betray, on this leaden earth, the apple tree, the singing, and the gold?"

- Thomas Wolfe

 . . .

- Photo from our trip to Melbourne in July before Lauren left. I love it when I rediscover a photo in my reject file that ends up being a treasure. Dearly missing her & this version of us this week.

- Listening to 
Jerusalem (Matisyahu)
 See the World (Gomes)
 Spiegel im spiegel (Arvo Part)  
& Maddy's current favorite Falling Faster Than You Can Run (Nathaniel Rateliff)

- Reading Enzio Busche's spiritual biography Yearning for the Living God & (still, I'm stuck!) The Signature of All Things (Elizabeth Gilbert).  

- Thinking about making Thanksgiving plans, teen parent home visiting programs (for my dissertation lit review), learning scandinavian embroidery, and these words from a Mary Oliver interview: "My work is loving the world." And "write for whatever holy thing you believe in."


Anne Waddoups

Driving to school one morning, a radio ad announces that there will be 100 harlequins (?!) at an upcoming weekend event. 

We drive a couple of blocks in silence. 

Then Maddy pipes up "Um, what's a harlequin anyway?"

"I think it's like one of those french clowns in puffy clothes with diamond shapes on it and maybe a mask. Kind of like a mime." 

"Huh," says Maddy. "I always thought it was a cross between a mannequin and...a ...harlot." 

Cracked us all up. 

Good thing we got that squared away before she goes out into the world!