It's been a whole week since we rolled on in to North Carolina, and I thought I'd offer up some first love affairs and such.
Best thing so far that I didn't have in California: There's a radio station here that plays basically everything in my collection. It's dubbed the "feel good" station, and they'll honestly play Bobby Brown next to Def Leppard. Therefore, I am in heaven.
Worst thing so far besides leaving so many wonderful people behind: Bug bites, and lots of them. I was crossing my legs in church, but had to just use the heel of my shoe to scratch all the bites on the other leg. Bah!
And speaking of church, I had a WONDERFUL first Sunday in our new ward. I didn't expect it to be that good, but Sacrament meeting was so poignant and great that it had me on a high for the rest of the day. We have an organist who, granted, is no Janet, but who plays as well as possible on the electronic organ she has to work with. Fast and loud, and good hymns. I heard today she's also the ward choir director. More on that later. The chorister left something to be desired, but at least nothing was going at snail's pace, and who looks at the chorister anyway?
There were three speakers and the Primary sang after the first two. All three speakers had prepared fantastic talks, well-thought out, and touched on things I'd either been thinking about or praying about over the last several months. The Primary sang "I Love to See the Temple" and I was honestly looking for the kids from Pasadena up there (especially Rachel M, who I later spoke with that night and who told me, verbatim, "Interestingly enough, Allison, OUR Primary sang "I Love to See the Temple" in Sacrament Meeting today, too. Are you sure you weren't there?" She's 5.), and got all teary because that's the song I sang for Tessa to get her to sleep the night before. Later on that night (the night before church), I'd had a dream that there were specific people in our home and they were heading toward Tessa's room. In my dream, I knew they were there, but had no weapon since we were on the 3rd floor and she sleeps on the 2nd. It was so disturbing that I got up at 3:43am to check on her, and there she was, snoring away.
So the 3rd speaker got up to speak - a native North Carolinian, and told us how he's been able to cope over the last year since they found their only son dead in his bedroom one night in August last year. It struck a chord, and the tears flowed. He was a man who had been a member a long time, but had never been through the temple. He felt inspired to prepare to do so, and in doing so, his wife joined the Church back in April. The day before he spoke, he told us he was able to do the temple work for his son, father, and father-in-law, and that he had no idea that he would ever be able to be happy again after those awful days a year ago.
I've heard stories like this, how a person is strengthened by a power greater than him/herself, and that by exercising faith in that power, huge obstacles are overcome and great happiness is achieved. But there was something different about this one. He spoke calmly, with no tears, and humbly gave all credit to his Heavenly Father. I thought to myself several times just how strong he had become after his refiner's fire, and I desired very much to meet and know him. I didn't get the chance that day, but soon I will make it a point to speak to him.
The rest of the day was a little more typical of many great wards, where the Sunday School lesson on marriage was well-prepared and people spoke up and offered their wisdom for the rest of us, and there were so many women in RS who introduced themselves and showed an eagerness to be friendly and invite me to the several things going on. Our Stake Women's Conference is happening next month, and we were encouraged to register for it online that night (I did). I got on the website and there were no fewer than 40 classes offered over the course of 3 hours. You had to sign up and reserve a spot, pay fees if you were doing crafts, etc. The whole thing was highly organized, and it was evident someone went to a lot of trouble to make this as wonderful a day for as many women as possible. I'm really looking forward to it. I signed up for portrait photography and yoga, but I don't have a mat. Could I just use a towel? :)
I've already received several communications from my new ward here, including an invitation to go on a walk this morning with someone who says we met, but I couldn't remember her. I didn't care. I gladly joined her this morning at a nearby park, which happens to connect to a beautiful trail through the woods. This was the scenery:
It was lush, gorgeous, and 1.5 miles one way, so we went to the end and back, pushing our baby strollers and talking nonstop. Some of the first words out of my new friend's mouth were, "Now, I know a lot of women come here and say 'well, my husband is starting a program in...', but I don't care about that right now. I want to know about YOU." What the heck? How did this girl know how narcissistic I am? I would just LOVE to talk about myself! We had a jolly time, and though the humidity made me sweat before I was actually exerting myself, I told her I'd love to do it again, and soon. She's the one who informed me about the ward choir director, and then asked if I was going to join. I told her I was considering it, but that there's always a stigma that comes with "ward choir", and that's been true for just about every ward except Pasadena. And I say that because, of course, I directed it. And they were wonderful. She said the director is very professional and puts on a Christmas "extravaganza" which, rather than turned me off, attracted me to join this Sunday. I'll report on that as well, I'm sure.
In smaller news, it took us a few days to get ourselves a functioning kitchen, so combine that with our 10-day road trip plus a few days before the trip being laid up in bed with a bad back, and that makes for about 2 1/2 weeks eating fast food. I had never been so excited before to cook, and this was our first homemade meal in NC:
And 8 minutes later, this was Ted's plate:
That's what I like to see: nothing but the pit.
In the midst of unpacking one day last week, Ted offered to drive me to his campus. It was a gorgeous and green day (they've all been), not too hot, and we were trying to take care of administrative things he needed to do before the first day of school: parking, ID card, etc. Well, it's a large and beautiful campus, just sitting right there in the middle of a massive forest, brick and stone everywhere. It was a little hard to find the office that took care of ID cards, so we asked a couple people and they led us here:
I turned to Ted and said "I didn't know you got accepted to Hogwarts." There wasn't even a sign on the door! But go inside and it wasn't a cathedral or anything - just your run-of-the-mill student ID card office. Go figure. More pictures of the campus later, but I tell ya one thing: this is no byu campus. The architecture is old and stunning, trees choking everything, and we even got caught in the rain. NC's first impression of me turned out to be how hot I can look in a wet t-shirt. I think they might consider keeping me around for a while...