Friday, January 17, 2020

This Is All of Us

Recognize this picture? This used to be my blog header. 
The original Dentons and our first in-law.

Now look at us.

All 22 of us.

I had big plans for a great family picture just before Thanksgiving dinner this year, but I forgot to charge my camera battery, and we only got a few mediocre shots.

But look at all these people that I love.

I'm so blessed in my life. That's the truth. Can you identify everyone from their Memoji?

Look out, 2020. Here comes everyone from the Denton Sanatorium!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Little Sightseeing

I spent all of last week in Richmond, VA, researching my master's thesis. While I did spend eight hours a day deep in the Library of Virginia's belly, I was able to carve out a few hours Sunday afternoon and an hour Saturday afternoon before my flight adventure I talked about yesterday.

I spent over an hour wandering through the Hollywood Cemetery. My mom instilled in me a love of cemeteries, and as I wander around, I wonder what stories the stones hide. Each was someone loved. Each was part of a family. Each has a story.

Guess that's why I'm a historian . . .

Jefferson Davis, only president of the Confederate States, is buried here. Look how beautiful this location is--overlooking the James River.
It was so beautiful that day. Look at that sky.
An entire section of the cemetery is dedicated to Civil War soldiers--18,000 of them in this cemetery alone. Much of the Civil War's fighting took place in Virginia, and the state experienced battle of some kind virtually every day for four years. It sobers me every time I think about it (and that's been much of the time lately, since my thesis centers around poetry published in Richmond's papers during the war).
If you ignore the slavery issue (and I know that's a pretty big elephant in the room), the Civil War was much more complicated and less clear cut than most Americans realize. And whether your family was blue or gray, your men still bled red and died far from home. Almost 700,000 of them, depending on which statistic you use. Think of the impact on society. On families. On politics. On the workforce. And for a few generations after as well. It boggles me.
I didn't understand the dates on this flag at first, but then I realized these flags posted on Confederate graves record the two dates Virginia "seceded"--the first from England, and the second from the US. I hadn't ever put the two dates as mirror images of each other. Southern mindset is so different from what I have always known, and I'm loving the opportunity my research affords me to learn more about it.
On Saturday, I wandered the Tredegar ironworks factory turned Civil War museum.
It has incredible artifacts that I've dreamed of seeing for much of my life, like this Sherman screw. From a distance, I thought it was a piece of machinery, but up close I realized it is a railroad rail. Sherman's troops would heat them until they were pliable, then wrap them around trees or posts so the South couldn't rebuild their railroads when the Union army left the area.
The museum must have the biggest (if not the biggest, then the most important pieces) collection of Robert E. Lee memorabilia anywhere. He probably rode Traveler to Appomattox Courthouse sitting on this saddle.
It's always surreal for me to walk where these figures of history walked. To sit where they sat. To ponder what momentous days and acts transpired on the spot where I now stand.

While I don't anticipate returning to Richmond (and there were many more sights to see, unfortunately), I left overwhelmed by the history of it all.

There is so much to see in this world. I'll never see everything I want to see . . . 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Maybe the Biggest Small Miracle of All

I spent most of my trip to Virginia in the library researching my master's thesis. By Saturday, not only was I ready to escape the academic cloister, but I was ready to be home.
I arrived at the airport earlier than necessary, turned in my rental car, checked my bag, then ate a late, leisurely lunch.

It was still 90 minutes from my scheduled departure when I got to the gate, happy to know that nine hours from that moment, I would be home.
I was wrong.

I updated my email and saw a notification from Delta that they were rebooking my flight.


I knew there was a severe weather system in the South (I was connecting through Atlanta), but I didn't think much more about it. The gate agent informed me that our departure from Richmond would be delayed about an hour to allow the storm to pass over and not strand our plane in the air. I asked about my connecting flight, and we agreed that since my landing would be delayed, takeoff of my flight to Phoenix would certainly also be delayed. Although most people on my Richmond flight opted for other routes that night, I decided to stay with my original plan, since I was already booked on the final flight to Phoenix that night anyway.

It got later and later, and we finally boarded the plane about an hour later than scheduled. The pilot informed us that he would take a circuitous route to Atlanta, west over West Virginia then south over Nashville before approaching Atlanta from the west instead of the usual north. I relaxed into my completely empty row with Better Homes and Gardens, and I watched Richmond disappear below the clouds.

Ninety minutes into the flight, I asked a flight attendant to compare our arrival time and gate with my departure time and gate. Atlanta's airport is huge, and I knew a few factors had to line up for me to make my flight. We were scheduled to land at 7:55 pm at gate B7, and my outgoing flight was delayed to 8:24 at gate B24, so in theory, I could make it if I hurried.

And then

It was 8 pm and the pilot still hadn't announced descent protocol.

That's when I realized I wouldn't make my flight.

When we touched down at 8:10, I hurriedly checked my Delta app. It said the flight was boarding. I was going to be stuck in Atlanta, and I knew it.
I wanted to be HOME. I was done with traveling and the whole mess, but this was going to be fine. I guess.

I refreshed my app at 8:15 and it still said they were boarding. And we were getting closer to the gate. I said a quick prayer. "Heavenly Father, I want to be home. I want to go to church tomorrow with my family. I want to see my kids and be the mom. If you delay that flight another 20 minutes, I can make it. Please."

Ten seconds later, when I refreshed my Delta app, the screen indicated that the flight was still boarding, but the departure time changed--to 8:36. I had been gifted fifteen minutes. "Ok, God. I'll make fifteen minutes work. Thank you."

I was the first person off the plane, sprinting towards the door, when the gate agent chastised me and warned me I'd set off an alarm if I went through the door before her. "Please hurry! My flight is boarding and leaving in five minutes!" She rolled her eyes and said, "If it's leaving in five, they've already given away your seat." And she continued to saunter up the jetway.

I ignored her, pushing my way through the gaggle of people waiting in the concourse. I ran as fast as I could for as far as I could, repeating over and over under my breath, "Please. Please. Please. Please. Please" until I no longer had breath and had to slow to a brisk walk. People stared and parted to let the crazed lady in the brown hat through. I refreshed the app at my walking pace and it indicated the flight was still boarding.

Was this going to happen? Was I going to make it home tonight?

When the waiting area at B24 came into my view, it was empty. Not a soul but the gate agent.

But the door was still open to the jetway.

I ran the last few yards, plopped panting self in front of her, and asked if the door to the plane was closed yet.

"I already surrendered your seat. You're late."

I begged and begged as I gulped air and the last few breaths of hope.

A few clicks on her computer, a quick scan of my phone

and I was on the plane.

I made it.
I paused at the entrance to the plane, panting and happy. I made it.

I made it onto the plane, but my bag didn't. I didn't even care.

And after all that excitement, I landed in Phoenix only an hour later than scheduled.

Fifteen minutes--the biggest small miracle of all. God is mindful of us. Sometimes it all falls into place and we get the minutes we need to get home.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Research Miracle in Richmond

As I approach the finish line for my master's, I'm spending less time in class and more time buried in books and documents--a place I frankly love to be. When I narrowed my topic to poetry published in Richmond's Civil War newspapers, I knew I would need to spend a sizable chunk of time in Virginia.

And I was excited. Richmond, VA--here I come!
A week in the South? Yes!
Six days in a row in the gorgeous Library of Virginia? Yes!
 Eight hours every day to dive into microfilm and original documents? Yes!

It was hard. Much harder than I ever anticipated. In fact, after one day of researching, the sheer magnitude of my project swamped me. I wasn't finding what I needed--teeny, tiny needles in enormous haystacks--and sifting through it all was taking much, much longer than I had initially predicted. After one full day in the library, I had finished less than half of one newspaper--and I needed to look at . . . seventeen. How was I going to do this?

I called Brad in tears. Was this project even realistic? Could any single human do what I'd set my sights on? As much as I'd looked forward to this trip, I wasn't loving it. I didn't have time to see much of the historical city since the library was only open 9-5 and the sun sets around 5 in the winter.  I was discouraged.

But he gave me some great advice--go to sleep and things will look better in the morning.

So I took a shower then pulled out my scriptures to read before bed. I happened to be in 1 Nephi 3, since I'm following the Come, Follow Me assignments, and as I read the most famous of Nephi's words in verse 7, something new hit me. And hit me hard. "the Lord giveth no commandments . . . save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing that he commandeth them."

Wow. I wrote in the margin of my book, "Please prepare a way for me to accomplish my research." I articulated this same desire in my prayer, then went to bed.

The next morning I walked into the library, threaded the next microfilm on the reader, and that's when the really small but really big miracle happened. 

Suddenly the work thinned out. I could see the information I needed better. It began to make more sense to me.

And I knew in that moment that my prayer had been answered.

I had gone and done, and God prepared a way so I could accomplish my work.

Other small miracles happened along the way that week, including my keys not getting locked in my rental car and my flash drive with over 500 files of data not getting lost and the librarian showing me the scanner and granting me permission to scan the whole book (against library protocol), but the final miracle occurred in the last hour I was researching. The library isn't a very busy place (which astounded me, since it houses some of the coolest stuff ever and I'd wished I'd had more time to peruse their collection), and by the end of the week, all the librarians and archivists knew me by name. I approached the archivist in charge of inter-library material loans, asking what they had available to loan out of the final two papers I needed to search. Instead of me looking into it, Dave figured it all out for me. Copes of both papers (full collections) are available for inter-library loan--which means I will not have to plan another trip to Richmond, away from my family, in order to complete my data collection.

This all may not seem like much, but to me, it was everything. I knew the Lord's hand was in my study, in my experience, and in my life. I knew He was mindful of my struggle and what was important to me at the moment. It wasn't a big thing like buying a house or sending someone off to war, but it mattered to me--and thus mattered to Him.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Eve Hits Double Digits

My baby is ten.
 She was so happy for this big day. And a sequin-covered mini-backpack is just what she wanted!
 My Eve plays teacher all the time, talks about school and what she's going to teach "her kids," and even creates her own homework packets.

She was excited when she opened her very own lesson plan book!
 And no matter how I tried to trick her, she knew her last present was the watch she'd been begging for.
 My kids are allowed one "fancy" party, and Eve did hers this year at Jake's Unlimited.

 Since it was a Wednesday night, the kids mostly had the place to themselves. They ran from one thing to the next.
 Annie was so excited that she got included with the big kids.

 I went on one ride with her, but I was so sick after spinning that I didn't want to chance my old grandma body after that. But I did help her play a driving game that her legs were just too short for.
 Hyrum's impressive bowling strategy.

 They all played a game of laser tag as a team. This was the only thing they all did together, and they were looking forward to beating each other. At the last minute, a big group of drunk adults got in line, and the battle was so unfair.
 Look at the rankings (Annie was #21). The worker felt bad for the kids, and she helped Hyrum so that he could win. The adult who lost to him came out of the room mad that he hadn't won. Seriously, dude? They're LITTLE kids!

 After two hours of all-you-can-eat buffet pizza, soda, ice cream (and SALAD!), they weren't that hungry for birthday cake, but we still had to do candles.
 She's growing up, my baby.

 They went back to do a few games and a couple kids left.

As we were preparing to leave, I decided a free-for-all on the cake would be a great idea.
 They didn't disagree.
 Even after she got home and had homework, she still enjoyed her birthday--wearing her new pink headphones although they weren't plugged into anything.

Ten years since this girl was my last baby. She's so amazing, and I can't wait to see where life takes this girl!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Boston, Part 4

All of them had been looking forward to the Museum of Science, and I saved it for the last day. We were really slow getting out the door on Wednesday (and it was raining and cold), which meant we didn’t have time to see the USS Constitution or the Boston Tea Party Museum. I don’t think they even cared, and by this point, all I wanted was for them to have good experiences. I realized I’d expected too much from them and I was fine to spend the day at the museum.

We rushed into the IMAX theater for “Great Barrier Reef,” and that theater was unlike any IMAX I’d ever seen. It was HUGE with 180-degree views. It was too big, in my opinion, and I couldn’t ever see everything that was going on. The movie was good and got the kids excited to see more, but we first needed some lunch.

Sidenote: Ever since Micah broke his collar bone, his appetite has disappeared. Walking 14,000+ steps a day brought it back in spades. I can’t believe how much he ate on this trip. And let it be known, he likes ice cream just as much as his dad.

After lunch, we wandered through the exhibition halls, but the boys quickly realized that this museum is geared to 3-6 graders. Eve loved it. They barely tolerated it. By the time we realized it wasn’t what everyone wanted to do, it was too late to go see anything else, including travel time. Eve was a little disappointed, but I dropped them off at the apartment around 4 with some movies, promising to be back around 6 to make dinner. I rented another blue bike and squeezed in 90 bonus minutes of research on a volume that can’t leave Widener Library. I’m finding some great information, and I’m hopeful I will have everything together by the November 1 deadline to apply for the next class.
Fancy macaroni and cheese dinner (yeah, not fancy), more conference, then Survivor, and everyone was hammered and ready to sleep.
 Cambridge Common--I never tire of this park. I mean, WASHINGTON STOOD HERE, PEOPLE!

I wanted one last run through the fall weather, but the forecast predicted lots of rain Thursday morning. I didn’t care, and I set the alarm early (6:45—not early!) and headed out. It was cool and sprinkling but it was gorgeous. The colors. The temperature. The surroundings. I’ve fallen in love with Cambridge, and I’m so happy I got to spend almost an entire week enjoying it in the best season of the year. Before 7 am, I got a notification that our flight was already delayed an hour (not a good sign), and we had to be out by 10 am. What to do? The kids were split about going straight to the airport or finding something to do, but in the end we ran for the bus to get on the train for the airport. And Mom miscalculated again—missing the bus by less than a minute. By this time, Eve was a grumpy mess from pulling her suitcase along the bumpy sidewalk and ti was raining, so I called an Uber to take us to the train station. While we rode our (supposedly) last train ride, Eve realized, through a flood of tears, that she’d left her souvenir knitting set on the nightstand of the bedroom. (She found it buried in her backpack two days later, but these were some real, serious tears.)

Something needed to be done, fast. So I called an audible, and we got off the train at Boston Common for one final (our third) round of Dunkin’. There were only a dozen to choose from! Instead, the kids chose McDonald’s breakfast right next door, and everyone was happy once more. We walked across the street to the Common, down to the train station, used our train passes for (supposedly) the last time, and waited two minutes for the train. Just as we were ready to board, Micah panicked. “I left my backpack in McDonald’s!” Off he ran, and in less than three minutes he was back. That really was the last time we used our train passes. Two transfers later (and a flight update that moved our flight up half an hour!), we were at the airport and heading home.

What a great trip. I hope my kids have forever memories of the time we spent together in Boston. Nothing profound or extremely exciting or noteworthy, but it was a fun way to spend Fall Break. The little AirBnB where they slept and watched movies and played Nintendo Switch (thanks for sneaking that on the trip, Rum!). The changing leaves and “hardcore Parkour” in the park. Their first subway rides. Harvard—which may not mean much to them but was thrilling for me to share. History and science and aquatic life and rain and sunshine and fish and ice cream. I love these kids. I loved spending a week with them. I’m so glad they’re mine.

Goodbye, Boston. I’ll see you on Sunday, but this time I’ll be flying solo.