Sunday, August 24, 2014

How We Spent Our Summer Vacation

Remember when I used to keep a blog? 
 I begin posts
of questionable importance and then I get interrupted 
and they are left to hang out in the archives gathering dust...

Here's one:
We went to Disney World.
This was a long over-due promise kept.
When Shane and Sam were wee young-uns, we planned a family vacation to Disney World.
A few months before, we were at the Oregon coast on a very busy holiday week-end at a very crowded beach and Sam decided to find his own way to the restroom. 
(We had been momentarily distracted by Seth on a beach bike, running
 into a poor, defenseless elderly lady.) 
Sam, being the independent three-year-old that he was, didn't feel any need to ask for adult supervision to negotiate the crowd and made his way alone to the bathrooms far, far away.
Just as I was in full hysteria and Andy had recruited the life-guard to help us look for him, Sam came sauntering nonchalantly across the sand..
That was the moment I realized I could not handle eight children in a crowded amusement park.
But six seemed doable.
So, for their safety and my sanity, we got an awesome babysitter to spend the week with the little boys. And we  promised  we would take them when they were a little older. 

So, fifteen years later, promise fulfilled.


Anywho, we tagged along with Scott, Nicole and those adorable little granddaughters.
We enjoyed all of the Disney fun in varying groups and worked the Fastpass system with
great precision thanks to the Gale Force Logic Team.

The little girls did the Princess Tour

I think my princesses are pretty sweet!

It was a real Princess Palooza! 

Their Daddy was cast in the role of Palace Guard during
 the theatrical performance of
Enchanted Tales With Belle--
he was a good sport and quite the actor:

And Bailey had a starring role as Belle's father.
She gave a stunning performance--shivering in prison.

Sam and Shane's childhood Dream-come-true
(If you wish upon a star...makes no difference who you are!)
Getting a hug from Tigger!

And we conclude this post with a cute picture of the ever-adorable
Sitting in a Dinosaur Restaurant.
In Disney World.
With a dinosaur hat on her head.
Good times.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nest Obsessed

Here's what is going on at the moment here in our neck of the woods:

I noticed that this poor, dehydrated plant needed a drink. 
So I grabbed a pitcher and stretched up to pour
some water into it.
As I tipped the pitcher into the plant, a bird flew out!
Then another bird...
I was so stunned I just stood there and tried
to make sense of what would draw a bird to that
sad, droopy hanging plant.

I thought maybe there were some bugs or seeds of some sort in there.
I grabbed a stepladder and climbed up to take a look.

I was amazed to see this beautiful little nest
nestled into the neglected petunia plant.
The "Robin's Egg Blue" of Robins' eggs is
just so beautiful--it makes my heart sing
with joy just looking at those eggs.
I am an unabashed fan of the beauties of the earth and
I am constantly amazed and awed by the 
variety of creation we are privileged to enjoy!

I have been so obsessed with the nest that
I set up a spy station in the garage. 
I can stand on a ladder and see through the window without
disturbing the Robin parents as they keep careful watch over
their little Robin embryos. 
Luckily I missed the eggs when I watered the plant and the birds
came back to their little hanging love nest.

Of course I had to research everything I could find on the life and times of 
the industrious and cheerful Robin:

(This one has recordings of their Dawn Song and their other calls!)

The eggs need 12 to 14 days of incubation before they hatch. Since I had
neglected my petunia plant for so long, I'm not sure when the eggs were laid.
But don't worry, I will be checking regularly from my spy post in the garage for the 
baby Robins' big debut!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reflecting on a Jar of Costco Pickles

Gentle Reader,
To say that life has been hectic would be an understatement. So much to blog about, so little time. Add to that the complete meltdown of my old faithful laptop. The one I held onto even when I got a new one for Christmas. I liked blogging on it because I knew exactly how to do everything on it. I'm an old dog who is slow to learn new tricks. It had a major overheating problem but I had learned to work around it. Until one Sunday morning when I printed off something for church and left it open and running without propping it up for air to circulate under it. I came home from church to find it cold and unresponsive. Since my in-house IT Support is on a mission, I was left to stare at it in shock and disbelief. How could I have been so careless?

So I am forced to stop living in the past and get on board with the new technology--which of course will be obsolete in a few months. I may even update my iPhone. Sam will be so proud. It's just that I like things the way they are. I am resistant to change. Which is probably why I keep getting forced opportunities to experience change and deal with it.

Life goes on as they say and I am adjusting to relocating (again) at the same time I am adjusting to the shift in my family dynamics. For so long I have enjoyed the happy chaos of a full house. For years it has been my daily routine to do three loads of laundry (minimum) and cook large quantities of food. I did not know the meaning of peace and quiet and couldn't imagine "alone time". I rarely had the luxury of thinking an uninterrupted thought and anytime I needed to talk on the phone, it turned into a game of hide and seek while I tried to find a quiet place as my children followed me from room to room and closet to closet with their loud insistence that I was desperately needed. I was up early with seminary goers and up late for heart-to-heart discussions and then on call through the night for nursings, bad dreams, sniffles, tummy aches or sometimes just that unnerving stare from a child standing by my bed that would startle me out of slumber.

It was my life and I wholly embraced it. It was my work and my glory to bring to pass the mortality and daily sustenance of those souls I had been entrusted with and I  was determined to give it my all.  I knew that one day these amazing people would grow up and go out on their own. Some days it didn't seem to be happening fast enough...but then Scott went off to BYU and suddenly it was like someone hit the fast forward and  he was on a mission and Siara was at BYU then Shanna followed her. And on it went one after the other until we were down to Sam and Shane, collectively known as the "little boys". Not so little any more.

So that brings us to now.  Our refrigerator/freezer got zapped by a power surge during a lightening storm while we happened to be out of town. We came home to the stench of rotting food and had to throw it all out and start over. I headed to Costco to replenish our food supply and began the familiar trek up and down the aisles. I came to the pickles and  looked at the gigantic jar of delicious kosher dills. I started to reach for it and then stopped as I was flooded with the realization that since Andy is working in California and Sam would be leaving in a few days for his mission, it would just be me and Shane. My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of all the giant jars of pickles we had consumed. Including many jars of pickles we canned from the cucumbers we grew in our garden. I thought of our food storage in Camas with its shelves and shelves of food staples including a shelf of pickles. I was blinking back tears and trying to remain composed as I drew back my hand. I would need to buy a small jar of pickles at the Big Y on my way home. Although the shrinking of our household happened gradually, suddenly my realization of it came in a cosmic shift. Standing in front of the pickles in my local Costco.

 I pondered this as I drove home--I was alone in the car and free to think uninterrupted thoughts! The truth is although the household is shrinking, our family--like the universe,is expanding. It has grown with the addition of spouses and grandchildren. I can accept the changes that keep coming because I know one thing that does not change: our family is eternal. And some of them  don't even like pickles.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Here We Go Again

The Gale Academy of Classical Education is on hiatus for the week so here is an opportunity to do some catching up. 
A list of recent happenings:

We found out that we have a couple of more Gale grandbabies on the way. 
Always joyous news! The Seth and Taylor Gale family have officially announced. That sweet little blessing is due in September. 
That is all I am authorized to say. 

Sam is almost finished with his freshman year at BYU. We got this notice in the mail:

He was invited into BYU's honor society due to his
"...early academic achievement at Brigham Young University"
He joins Siara who also earned that prestigious honor. 

He received his mission call to the California, Los Angeles (Spanish speaking) Mission. He reports to the Mexico City MTC June 11th. 

Spencer will be graduating from BYU next week.

 We are heading out to Utah for graduation and during our whirlwind trip, Andy will ordain Sam an Elder and we will all go to the temple with him to receive his endowment. So, overlapping happy family milestones! 
Spencer has earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and he and Adrianna will be heading out to Wisconsin to begin gainful employment right after graduation. Well done! Graduation and a real job! 

Also, this happened:
General Conference with CONFERENCE BINGO!
They ate all the Skittles right away so coloring was a fun way to fill in the squares.

Scott and Nicole and fam were here for Conference livening
things up for us.

I got to spend a week with these two princesses.
There was a lot of Frozen going on around here--
including some fun braided hairstyles.

Norah made the crown and dubbed herself
"Queen Norah"
She also planned a party. When she read the announcement and invitation she was
so cute, Shane and I laughed. She became quite indignant 
and decreed:
"No laughing at Norah! No laughing at the party!"
It was hard not to defy her Royal Decree!

This was the creative party favor she came up with.

These two loved sleeping in the "Big pretty bed" and were
merciful on their old Nana and slept really well. Bailey had some
growing pains the last night so I moved Norah to another room and laid down beside Bailey to rub her feet and her leg. At one point she was crying and I felt so
bad for her. I asked her if she wanted to say a prayer and she wailed,
"Nana, I can only do one thing at a time and I am crying right now!"

And, in conclusion,  you may already know that this is also going on around here:
Another move...
Clear back across the continent to
Deja vu. 

Another job lured Andy away and he started there last Monday. 
Shane and I shall hold down the fort here until someone buys the fort.
I am in denial--the first step in the mourning process. 
Although I have done a lot of packing in spite of my delusional thinking.
I will let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, we have  been blessed beyond measure in so many ways I am going to trust that we will be where we need to be and our family will continue to grow and progress in all the ways we need to.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Heart Will Go On

I'm sure you have all been waiting on the edge of your seats to get the heart diagnosis and since I am officially an old lady, my birthday is a perfect day to bore you with riveting stories of my health.

So, after an echo-cardiogram and stress test I sat down with my cardiologist to discuss some matters of the heart. Just a side note, watching the live video of my heart beating and the valves opening and closing was pretty fascinating. I wish I could get a copy of the video for my blog. It would make a great anniversary post "My heart beats for you dear..." 

 But I digress. 

Oh wait, one more thing. My cardiologist looks like this guy:
The actor William Daniels  who won two Emmy awards playing Dr. Craig on a series called St. Elsewhere which I used to watch on Tuesdays while I was waiting for the hubs to get home from his MBA night class back in our trailer house/early poverty days. (That show also starred Denzel Washington and Howie Mandel. Oh the early 80's....)

 And I did it again--off on another tangent! That's what happens when you get old. Bear with me here, I will get to the point eventually.

Where was I? Oh! The diagnosis. 
Left Ventricular Hypertrophy

Let's read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about it:

Left ventricular hypertrophy is enlargement (hypertrophy) of the muscle tissue that makes up the wall of your heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle).
Left ventricular hypertrophy develops in response to some factor, such as high blood pressure, that requires the left ventricle to work harder. As the workload increases, the walls of the chamber grow thicker, lose elasticity and eventually may fail to pump with as much force as that of a healthy heart.

This explains a few things. Such as, why I feel like I am going to suffocate if I try to run uphill. The left ventricle takes the oxygenated blood from the lungs to send it off through the arteries to bring that life-giving oxygen to the rest of the body. So less oxygenated blood moving means less oxygen means suffocation.  I have trained my heart out (bad pun) and still could not build the stamina for a real long-distance or strenuous run. I can walk all day and hike 'til the cows come home. I just can't do that at a running pace. It turns out my body requires large amounts of oxygen to run like that and my poor heart was working hard but falling short in the oxygen delivery department. 

I come by my heart damage through high blood pressure and I come by my high blood pressure thanks to the genetic lottery of having both parents with it. As I have said before, when it comes to genetics, you win some, you lose some. At this point I suppose I would trade a few gray hairs for lower blood pressure. But I didn't get to choose, so with what I am saving on hair dye I can now spend on blood pressure medication.

The good news: it's reversible. I am on blood pressure medication and in a desperate effort to avoid a second medication, I am following this eating plan:

 Not that I was a slothful glutton as it was, but there is definitely room for improvement. Here's a good place for a shout-out for the

My cardiologist pointed out that the reason my heart is doing so well under such adverse conditions is because of my lifetime of no smoking, no drinking, no coffee, no caffeine (I KNOW THAT'S NOT IN THE WORD OF WISDOM AND THE BRETHREN OK'd ALL THAT DEVIL DRINK LIKE COKE AND WHAT NOT BUT IT'S IN MY OWN PERSONAL WORD OF WISDOM SO... CARRY ON).
 As for that promise of "Run and not be weary" my promise is really "Run and not drop dead" which, you know, works for me. Or maybe "Walk at a vigorous pace but slow down on the hills and not be weary."
 Hopefully my enlarged, overworked heart will shrink three sizes (a reverse Grinch--ha!) and maybe learn to work smarter not harder. 

In the meantime, I won't be running any marathons and that's fine by me. I think I was meant for walking and hiking at a pace that allows for taking in the vistas and the scenery. It seems my heart is telling me to stop and smell the roses. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mom's Magical, Mystical Tour: An even longer over-due update

I seem to be falling behind here in Blogland.  I looked through my archives and found some unfinished posts from the somewhat recent past. This is from last August and it is way too long--usually I edit and pare down before I post. I don't like to bore you with my EVERY thought--just a select few thoughts. I tried to tie this together with all of the happy little lucky things that happened on this trip but I think I got carried away...

Gentle Reader,
I just returned from Utah where I settled our seventh child into his new life as a college student. I know you get this a lot here, but WHERE DID THE TIME GO?! It doesn't help that Sam skipped his last year at home and jumped into college a year early. Good preparation for mission and life and all but not enough time for Mom to take in the reality of another fledgling leaving the nest. I have a firm grip on the reality that my job is to work myself out of a job. I want my kids to learn and grow into upstanding, independent, hard-working, mature, useful adults so I can't complain when that is what they actually do. But I can complain that it happens too fast.

I took Sam out to Utah a few days early so we could take in Education Week. It has been a dream of mine for lo these many years to go to Education Week but it never seemed to work out with the constant scheduling complications of a big family, not to mention the moves from one state to the next--and one coast to the other. So, this year all of the planets aligned and even my frequent flier miles added up to allow the luxury of some Mom-time basking in the hallowed halls of learning at BYU. 

You may have gathered from my blog that I am a bit of a Pollyanna--an annoying optimist--but even I was surprised at the many ways this trip seemed especially blessed. It started when I checked in for our flight. I saw that we were seated in first class. Of course this had to be a mistake! I had paid with frequent flier miles and I was lucky to get a flight that was coming and going at the time I needed to come and go.Usually there are so many restrictions I'm lucky to leave within a month of my hoped for travel. I worried that I had clicked on an upgrade and would be charged an arm and a leg for my mistake. I checked my account and saw that I had only been charged the $5.00 fee per flight as expected--I would get to keep my arms and my legs. I printed off the receipt just in case there was any doubt about Sam and I having a seat on the plane--let alone a seat in first class! I have flown first class before but that was back in the days of Andy's premiere, business, special super duper traveler status. 

So then, as I was packing. I pulled down a bin of summer clothes I hadn't looked at for a few years. I pulled out a pair of capris and tried them on and felt something in the pocket. I knew it was money and figured it was a couple of bucks. But when I pulled it out, I was pretty happy to see two twenties. I'm thrilled if I find a quarter so I was feeling a little giddy--although I had to wonder how I had managed to pocket 40 bucks and forget about it--that's a concern all of its own! 

We got up the morning of our trip well before the crack of dawn to  beat the morning commute traffic to JFK. Sam had packed everything he owns into our biggest suitcase and we didn't have time to weigh it. According to my serendipitous first class accommodations, we each got two free checked bags. But that would only be IF those cushy accommodations were ours for real. And there was still a weight limit of 70 pounds. Even if you are fancy enough to travel first class, they still have some limitations on the pounds of belongings you can haul on your trip with you.So, you know, maybe you can only take five gold bars instead of ten.  We got to the airport an hour early and got in the special line for awesome first class people. 

I was  holding my breath hoping that my first class tickets would be legit. As we stepped up to the counter, I handed our boarding passes to the airline employee. She glanced at them and told Sam to put his suitcase on the scale. 76.6. Oops....too heavy. She looked at the flashing number and said, "This is way over. I don't have time to deal with it. Just go." So we went. We got to the gate just as they were boarding first class so we found our comfy accommodations and settled in for the flight. Sam fell asleep immediately. It was nice that he had room to stretch out his long legs and get some real sleep. I could have used some shut-eye myself but I didn't want to miss a thing: Juice in real glasses. A delicious breakfast served on real dishes with real silverware--we were even entrusted with a butter knife! Seriously! The omelet and biscuit were tasty and the fruit was ripe and sweet. Then, the warm towel. Such a civilized way to travel. 

After landing in Salt Lake City, we were fortunate to have Spencer and Adrianna there to pick us up. We enjoyed the drive to Provo visiting with them. After a quick stop for lunch, we drove to Siara and Tyler's house--our hosts for the week. Just as we were turning onto Siara's street, the car began to sputter and gave out right in front their house. Don't worry-- they were able to get it going again later--but thankfully it didn't sputter out on the freeway. Imagine hauling Sam's 76.6 pound suitcase down the road, hitching a ride.

One of my all-time favorite authors is H.Wallace Goddard. He is an author of some very helpful books and he writes for Meridian Magazine. I was pretty thrilled to see that he was speaking at Education Week. One more unexpected blessing this week! After our long day of travel across the country and in spite of the time change and jet-lag, I marched up to campus that evening and attended his class. I have given his book "Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage" to each of our children when they got married. They may not realize it is the best gift they got until that nice mixer wears out and the pretty towels are threadbare. About that time marriage begins to require some soul refining and humility and charity. And about that time, this book will be waiting.  But I digress, the man knows what he is talking about and he brought the Spirit and I was scribbling notes as quickly as possible to keep from missing any of his pearls of wisdom. 'Twas a beautiful beginning to a wonderful week of learning.

A few days before I left for Utah I got an email from my FAVORITE Institute teachers from our California days. Becky Davies and Lesley Meacham. They were a last minute addition to the Education Week schedule. So glad I am still on the mailing list for the Poway Institute! Another bonus: I got to bask in the glory of their amazing insight into the scriptures and enjoy a reunion with many dear friends from our old Poway Stake. It was heavenly. Sam even rolled out of bed and joined me for their classes. 

One of the many insights they taught on symbolism in the scriptures.

Then, I happened to find my favorite ice cream in the little kiosk at the Cougareat one day after lunch (Cherry Vanilla, thanks for asking). And as I was strolling through the Wilkinson Center enjoying that, I ran into these guys:

I just wanted a quick picture of them to prove that I actually saw them,
but they insisted that I get in the picture. So there I am awkwardly
trying to shrink down so as not to tower over Stacy and Mallory and also
keep a grip on my ice cream and my book bag. 
And the guy taking the picture insisted on his expertise at phone photography and
they all endorsed him--but the picture is blurry!
But, you know, it's still Studio C so hey!

And, as if that weren't enough, one day while I was on campus, I came across an exhibit in the Joseph Fielding Smith building. It was all about the history of BYU as well as education in the church.

I read every plaque and soaked up all of the pictures and artifacts. So much of what I was learning about the
importance of education and the importance of learning by study and also by faith, fit my personal philosophy as a mom teaching and guiding learners in our home for so many years. 
A much needed reminder of why I do what I do. 
And why it matters. 

This has turned into a novel--let me find a conclusion here somewhere...

Sunday Dinner at Siara and Tyler's
She is the hostess with the mostest!

The main serendipity was family time with Seth and Taylor, Spencer and Adrianna, Siara and Tyler.
 With Sam there now, half of our children are in Utah Valley!
Since they are all gainfully employed and/or going to school,
we were somewhat limited in times that we
could all be at the same place at the same time.
But we did our best.
It's always fun to catch up with all of them. 
Did I take pictures of all of us together? 
No...I tend to be in the moment when we are all together.

I did take this one of Siara cutting her little brother's hair:

And Sam and Wolfie cat-napping

Is this post ever going to end?

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Heartfelt Anniversary Post

Gentle Reader,

Well, the anniversary came and went in the usual ebb and flow of the beautiful chaos that is our life. We celebrated our 31 years of marriage by going to dinner on a Tuesday. A rather unassuming way to celebrate what has been a heartstopping yet very strengthening year for The Andy and JoAnna Gale Covenant Commitment and Marriage for Time and All Eternity. We seem to be entering that stage of life where youth and indestructibility give way to age and deterioration. We have to face what we have known all along: we aren't going to live forever in the mortal sense. All the more reason to expand our horizons into the Eternity aspect of this union and focus less on the daily ups and downs of the Time aspect.

Andy suffered through months of pain and several wrong guesses at the reason for the pain, before they discovered it was an infection in a disc in his back. The recovery was slow and painful. A few months later, I went in for a routine diagnostic colonoscopy (something to look forward to when you turn 50!) and my blood pressure went sky high and scared the anesthesiologist when IV meds didn't bring it down. That led to an immediate trip to the doctor and an EKG to check for heart issues. When an abnormality showed up--the Doctor said, "It looks like you have had a small heart attack." I just about had a heart attack. (ha) That meant a trip to the cardiologist and some various and sundry poking and prodding and my usual explanations as to why I would have eight children and how I don't look old enough to be a grandmother (small consolation--but duly appreciated nonetheless) and who in their right mind would homeschool and so on and so forth.

As I was having my heart examined, I did my own examining of  this old heart.
My diagnosis:
 It is very heartwarming to have a loving husband who is so concerned about my health. He looked after me and drove me here and there for the Dr. appointment and he picked up my prescription and then tucked me in and took care of things so I could rest. My heart is full of gratitude for all of the ways he takes care of me and us. The us includes an amazing family -- our eight children and their spouses and children. My heart swells with love and pride in the way they are living their lives sweetly entwined in the gospel plan.

I can see how life's experiences thus far have helped to soften my heart. As I realize my shortcomings and look at myself honestly and without excuses, I see so many things I need to work on. That makes me realize how reliant I am on the grace and mercy of the Savior and the Atonement means everything to me. That same process has been working on Andy and we have come to a new level of understanding with each other that is supportive rather than critical. Merciful rather than punishing. Peaceful rather than contentious.

 Becoming one heart takes a lot of humility and repentance and forgiveness. It requires us to set aside selfishness and look to the other's needs and wants. We are very blessed to have the same eternal goals and strength of conviction in spiritual matters. That is the key to our marriage lasting through the heart-wrenching earthly lessons that make or break us. That won't happen with hardened hearts, in fact, it requires a broken heart along with a contrite spirit.

So, maybe I have a heart condition, I don't have the final diagnosis on that yet. The bigger question is: What is the condition of my heart?

I just have one last thing to say to wrap up this hearty anniversary post: