Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bonafide Iowans

The last box being unpacked, I am at last able to emerge from the cardboard time-warp in which I spent the last week, and tell you about our lives.

We're in Iowa! Isaac is getting his MBA here, so we're committed for two years.

Here's a general overview. Feel free to scroll through the headings if some of the topics seem boring.

New Couches and a Real Apartment

Our apartment has been a "real" apartment for over 40 years, but as we arrived without any furniture and lived that way for 5 days, then had 4 more days before our couches arrived and the last box was unpacked, our apartment felt more like a glorified camping spot than a civilized abode.

But no more! Here's proof:

Camber and Isaac on their brand-new couches. Well, brand-new on Friday. They've been sat on a few times at the time of this picture.

I include this picture only as a testament to my hardships of this week. Cabinet space in the kitchen is minimal, so getting almost every kitchen gadget and morsel of food into this room required several trips to Walmart, some black mold (ewwwww), a brief moment of crisis questioning modern prophets and their counsel to keep so much food storage, and several meltdowns (sorry, Isaac!).

Another view of our lovely front room (please note the natural lighting. We have sworn off basement apartments for life!)

Our office and the world's most complicated "some assembly required" desk. This took us about 5-6 man-hours to complete. (Let's call them gender-neutral hours, because I want a little credit in the assembly).

The adorable view out the back of our apartment. Iowa oozes green from every crevice. It's beautiful!

And last but not least, a tribute to my little brother: the very first decoration I put up. Justin, you are a handsome, handsome man.


I have a job! I start in two weeks, and will work on the cardiology and thoracic/vascular surgery floor at the hospital. For my non-medical readers, thoracic surgery basically involves anything in the chest--heart, lungs, esophagus, etc. Vascular surgery involves blood vessels--veins, arteries, stuff like that. I'll be taking care of patients after surgery and will get to learn a LOT.

A few weeks of unemployment gives a person time to reflect on the benefits of having a job. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I miss working!  I'm in a new place where I don't know very many people, being outside makes me sweat excessively, and touring the sights costs money or begs companionship. Even though I'll have unnatural hours (12 hour shifts, 2 weeks of nights every 6 weeks), I'm excited to come home feeling like I worked hard and accomplished something truly useful. I'm excited to have some structure to my week, and even a little sense of urgency to help me waste less time. I'm excited to feel like I'm progressing and learning new things--which is partly why I felt so attracted to the cardiology unit, even though it's a change from what I did before. And I have a sense of how profoundly difficult un-planned unemployment must be.

Iowa and all its quirks

-Everyone drives the speed limit. The speed LIMIT. Not five over, or 15 over like in Utah.

-90 degrees in Utah=a little on the warm side. Wear shorts if you want. 90 degrees in Iowa=Are girls allowed to sweat that much?

-Cicadas. Really loud background noise. All the time.

-Turns out that the old saying "when it rains, it pours" is not just figurative. I think it originated as a description of the weather patterns in Iowa.

-Carl's Jr. is "Hardee's," Dreyer's ice cream is "Edy's," and the local grocery store is called "HyVee". HyVee? Please tell me that's not named after a person...

-People are nice here! There are nice people outside of Utah!

-No Cafe Rio ANYWHERE. Chipotle, you're good, but you're not Cafe Rio. Panchero's, I haven't figured out what the difference between you and Chipotle is. Is life really worth living?

-Back to the HyVee--it has a large dining area and the most extensive deli and salad bar ever. If you want Chinese take-out or southern-fried chicken, it's all there. I think people actually go out to dinner at the grocery store. Huh.

-No sprinklers. Apparently grass just grows because it self-waters from the rain. I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around that concept.

The Verdict

Good. Very good.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Many Faces of Nebraska

Nebraska bears a poor reputation among travelers, who love to make disparaging comments about its lack of topographical variety.

Having driven through it myself, I beg to differ. I think the following landscape views will refute Nebraska's nay-sayers.

In this first picture, please notice the variety of colors: blue sky, green grass, even a small brown fence.

In this next piece, the number of clouds is increased, and you can see some trees against the horizon:

In this stunning piece, you'll notice rows of grain (corn perhaps) as a surprising change from the grass.

And here, I saved the best for last. Please note the gorgeous greenery strategically placed directly in the foreground of the photo. Even now it moves me to tears.

We are eager for the return trip, as you can well imagine.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Farewell, Dear Mountain Home

Out past the western prairies, and over a mountain range, you will find a small valley. On its eastern border are high mountain peaks, providing shadow and protection. They stand tall, pillars of God, snow-covered, and still. On its western border lies a calm lake. The valley is green, covered with trees, and yes – a river runs through it. And these peaks, these high mountains, this river and this lake, are beautiful beyond any singing of them.

Between this lake and the mountain cliffs is my home, and today is the first time I am truly leaving it – for I suppose you don't truly leave a place until you no longer know when or if you will return. As a missionary I left for two years, but always knowing that awaiting my return were my beautiful mountain peaks, my quiet and soft valley. But now, as I leave for school, there is no certainty in the future.

In our modern society, it seems that many have lost their attachment to place. They wander about, homeless in a way, without a place to call their own. But this place, these mountains, these hills, these rivers – they are, and always will be, uniquely mine. Why? Because it was here, under the mountain shadows, on the banks of the rivers, and on the valley hills, that I became me. The land is part of my personality, the hills pieces of my soul. And I will always cherish them.

There is a hymn in our hymnbook that is almost never sung, but which ends sweetly with these simple words:
Words cannot tell how well I love thee
Nor speak my longing when I roam.
My heart alone can cry to heaven,
“God bless my own dear mountain home.”

And so, as I leave, I'll say this silent prayer in my heart – a prayer for the mountains and hills, for the rivers and lakes, but also for the friends and family whom I will leave behind:

May God bless my own dear mountain home.