Monday, December 31, 2007

Enjoying the gifts

Checking it twice (There are advantages to having Santa visit the house)

The stockings were hung ------ Before the carnage

I Win: A few years ago, I put a board game "Wise and Otherwise" on my Amazon wish list. And there it stayed. Given that a hefty portion of my Christmas this year was going to be spent on practical gifts for being on the job market, we put a bunch of games from my list on Joy's so we could get them. Well, Joy managed to get us this one, plus Apples to Apples, Guillotine, and Pass the Pigs (between her birthday, a baby shower, and Christmas).
The way you play is that you draw a card with the first half of several ancient sayings from different cultures on it. You pick one to read to the assembled players. Each person then writes down an ending to the phrase while the reader writes down the correct answer. All the answers are read, and people vote for which one they think is the real phrase. I seem to be very good at getting multiple people to believe my endings. We've played it a few times now and I've won 3/4 times. I got all the women to vote for my ending to an old Yiddish phrase, "The smaller the gathering, the greater the gossip." (The correct ending was the greater the joy.) An old Bedoin saying tells people to "Entertain a stranger 3 days before asking any questions." We voted Joy an extra couple points for a terrible pun on a saying I think was Slovenian: "Though the dog has no work, he does his business often." It's a great game.

Lookin sharp: My big Christmas gift was two new suits for the job market this week. One was a gift from me while Grammy gave me the other one, plus some new white shirts and ties. For the first time, I really don't like the ties she picked out. I love nearly all the ties she's ever picked out for me, but not these ones. So I had a fashion show for the family yesterday, trying on the different suit combinations to get some input on which ties looked best with which suits. One of the new ties won widespread approval for each suit, but the the standby favorites I brought with also scored well. I really like the suits and they should help me feel more confident as I face Judgment Week in New Orleans.

Most Played With, but why?: Steve and Emmy (SnM) got "Animal Crossing" for the Gamecube. They got an old cube from a couple of their friends who from the sound of things have more games and game systems than they know what to do with. Animal Crossing is a bit like Joy's favorite game "Harvest Moon," and it's done by the same people, only it's targeted at younger audiences and has less of a point. In Harvest Moon you're a farmer, fisher, miner, and try to win friends and influence people. In Animal Crossing, you run around running errands for people (every single errand is "Groucho has never returned my camera. Go get it for me.") and chat with them or send them letters to be friends. Some of the characters are even really rude. I'm not entirely certain why this game has so addicted them. But they were very eager for Joy and me to join them in Watsonia, so we did. I learned online that the game only does a spell check on your letters, and if you spell everything right they like it. So on the one letter I sent, I was fairly rude and signed Steve's name, but the game knew the letter was from me and the person loved it. It was very thoughtful, they thought. This prompted Steve to start sending letters to people from "The Secret Police" which they all think are charming and sweet.

Christmas theme: Aside from the job market stuff I got, there was a definite theme to my gifts this year. I got a VeggieTales video collection plus their Silly Song collection, Ratatouille, and the second season of Fraggle Rock. A bunch of kid/cartoon movies for Daddy Derrill to enjoy! I'm honestly pretty happy about getting them, especially Fraggle Rock. We have determined that intelligently done little kid stuff heals my soul. There were other gifts too, like Star Trek: First Contact, a fatherhood shirt, and some M.C. Escher art/postcards. Joy also crocheted me a hat following a Russian pattern and gave me a small drill to pre-drill holes.

Family Movies: Given that all three Watson families got Ratatouille this year, we watched it together. It's a wonderful movie I watched with Joy for a date sometime this semester. I appreciate that it addresses a number of themes well. It's not just about "finding out who I am" or about "honesty" or "prejudice," but does a decent job addressing all of them and several more. The artistry is well done, the actors do a fine job, and the comedy is quite good.
We convinced Mom and Dad to get The Nativity last year too, but they hadn't seen it yet. So after SnM took a nap, we watched it with them. One of the things I appreciate most about it is their interpretation of Joseph, particularly that he had to stretch out on his own faith and mercy before he could receive the reassuring and instructing vision of the angel. I'm impressed over and over again in it of how good a man and father Joseph was, and hope that I can learn to be a father to Hyrum like Joseph. Joy and I are also quite partial to the wise men who do comic relief, and occasionally quote from them in daily life.
After SnM woke up, Joy recommended we all watch one of our Christmas Carols. Dad naturally chose the Albert Finney musical Scrooge. I prefer George C. Scott and Patrick Stewart's versions myself, but Finney and Rich Little are always fun. Joy really doesn't like ghosts, though, so she didn't watch it with us. But it was very nice of her to suggest it.
Joy and I also watched Work and the Glory III some late night when neither of us could sleep for Joy's allergies, and she and I also watched The Star of Christmas, one of my Veggie Tales movies.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas with my family. Joy and I introduced a new tradition to the larger family. We don't know that it will stick, but we did it this year. When Joy and I have celebrated by ourselves, we pause after we each open a gift to share a spiritual thought about Jesus or the gospel. This Christmas, after everyone had opened a present, we shared testimony about how God had blessed our lives this year, or things we were thankful for. Some of us were really touched by it, and Mom cried while sharing hers. It was nice.

Here are a few fun pictures from our time together: me, Joy, my brother Steve and his wife, Emmy.

Joy agreed to let me have my chin back this week for my interviews in New Orleans week, but also really wanted a good shot of the goatee I grew for her. There's a mustache somewhere in there too, but it's slow growing. Personally, I think I look evil in a goat, but Joy, Mom, and even our stake patriarch like it.

Most successful present given: When Joy unwrapped the present, she found our laptop. Turning it on, she found a series of poems, pictures, and videos showing my big project while we were apart: preparing the Baby Room. She loved it.

Biggest surprise: 20 cookie cutters from Grammy. She had a difficult time finding any, and here were 20. She went through and celebrated each one. (The big box she's opening there had some flippers because she and Steve like to go scuba diving.

Most unusual present: I gave Steve a rubber chicken that squeaks when its head wobbles. There's also an egg inside that will come out the bottom if you squeeze hard enough. Unfortunately, he also managed to break the egg, so the rubber chicken is currently sitting in a cup, waiting for magic to fix her....
Mom and Dad wanted to make sure he would ... Believe in Steve.

Best Christmas quote from this year:
Steve was getting ready for lunch, but the frozen tamales didn't have any directions. So he had the following conversation with my literal wife who deadpanned this completely.
Steve: Joy, how long should I cook the tamales in the freezer?
Joy: I don't know. I've never tried cooking them in the freezer.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Flying Under the Radar

It's good to be home and to spend time again with my home ward at church. There are more and more people each Christmas I don't recognize, but it's good to catch up with old friends. Joy and I spent a an enjoyable couple hours last night with a couple I knew as high school sweethearts, now married, graduated, employed, with two cute kids.

The funny thing about coming home is how easily everyone forgets I'm a visitor. In our church we have three meetings on Sunday, to which anyone is happily invited to come: the main Sacrament meeting most Christians would recognize as "church," Sunday School where we discuss the scriptures, and then a third hour (Priesthood/Relief Society) where we discuss teachings of modern church leaders, coordinate service projects, and so on. During both Sunday School and P/RS they look around to identify visitors and invite them to introduce themselves. It has always been very amusing, how I manage to avoid being recognized as a visitor even the first week I'm in town.

You see, I used to be the organist and choir accompanist around here. By some strange coincidence, whenever I would come home for Christmas or at random points during a summer vacation, the regular organist would learn I was in town and decide to leave town for a vacation, or a wedding, or for illness knowing I would be more than happy to fill in. I've also regularly filled in at a moment's notice for the choir's Christmas performance, and for 9 of the last 11 years, I've gotten to play Handel's Hallelujah Chorus for them. (That at least is always planned.)

So the long-time members of the ward, and there are still many, are rather accustomed to seeing me at the organ. This year was no different, and this time I even had advance notice that I would also be accompanying the choir for a performance, so I was able to practice the music ahead of time. The fellow who plays for priesthood also grabbed me my first week back to ask if I could fill in for him. So after playing for Sacrament and priesthood, they looked around to see if there were any visitors, and decided that no, we didn't have any.

Sometimes, the best way to fly under the radar is to sit on the antenna.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Third Trimester - Take Two

Our blog thus far has been bereft of pictures, so today we are repenting. For your viewing pleasure: Joy, the Amazing Pregnant Lady! We try to take a picture each month, but missed the last month since we were apart. Here we will be comparing Joy at 17 weeks and now at 28:

We went to visit an elderly lady at the hospital this week. There was also a young mother there, a sweet little, tiny lady with a three-month old. Because she herself was so small and her baby was commensurately small, she asked if Joy was having twins.

Nope. It's just one baby Hyrum. He does a pretty good job of kicking Daddy when I come listen in to see if he wants to talk to me. He tries to get out. He likes to stay pretty low in the womb. Joy thinks he knows the way out and is looking forward to it. He's always pounding down there, trying to get out. This means Joy needs to be extra strong. This is a picture of my strong woman:

"Tough as nails ... except when I'm pregnant." Joy's symptoms have been pretty killer this week. It has not been an easy week for her. But there are only about 12 more of them to go, and then her allergies can calm down again.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Travel to San Fransisco: Not

So when we got back from St. George and Las Vegas (mom, dad, and I), were holding our breaths to see if there would be a working toilet down stairs.

Some weeks ago mom and dad Watson found that their down stairs bathrooms were suffering from mold take over. Out of the mercy of their hearts they didn't want their allergic daughter to have to be around so much mold, so in November they started a major rehaul and remodel of their bathrooms (there being a half bath and a full bath which they wanted to connect). The hope was that the remodel would take place and be completed before family (me being the first) came to visit for Christmas.

This goal may have been achieved if their first chosen contractor had not fallen through. Dad being out of town all week most weeks could only meet with someone on the weekend an all meetings with the first contractor fell through and he did not estimate accurately the time that he had available for the project. Therefore a new contractor was chosen but a precious two weeks had lapsed making it seem probable that the project would not be done before company arrived.

So back to our arrival and the hope of a working bathroom, they remodelers had to gut the whole bathroom area and redo the plumbing which had originally been done with only thick cardboard piping. When we arrived there was not a toilet down stairs. So we stayed in the house for the weekend, then mom and dad decided that we would spend the week leisurely making our way to San Fransisco where he would be speaking on Friday.

The plan began very well, and was fun for mom and I too. Our first night Monday was spent in Salvang, a cute little community with some windmills and quaint shops. The day after we stayed there, mom and I went shopping. We found some delicious fudge first, then we found a game for mom, a couple of outfits for Hyrum (our baby on the way) and I found an adorable felt advent calendar that I can make for next year. It was a relaxing time and good company. The next two nights were to be spent in Maddona Inn in San Lois Obisbo (SLO). This place was very grand. Our ROOM consisted of two floors with 4 beds on the top level (two rooms) and a master bed room with very large living room on the first floor. The ROOM was easily larger than our current apartment in NY. We spent our first night there and dad had a webcast in the morning. Then after the webcast mom and I went maternity clothes shopping. She told me that Grammy would love to get me clothes for Christmas and anyway I could use the clothes for my other anticipated pregnancies since this is our first child. That shopping took most of the day and then we had dinner with dad at the Maddona Inn restaurant. It was a fun time and I really enjoyed some of dad's prime rib (a new thing since I can't eat much meat-taste bud change for pregnancy).

Well, that night our luck began to change. Dad was sick all night with bad flu simptoms. In the morning I found out that we would not be going to San Fransisco because dad was too sick to do his presentation. We made a bed for dad in the van and mom drove us home. This was Thursday. Thursday when we got home there was not a running toilet down stairs, but Friday night there was. Dad is feeling better now, he has been out of town working this week (this story takes place last week). The bathrooms are also done now except for the jetted tub that will be put in when it arrives :D. It was a sad way to end the week but the week was a fun besides dad getting sick.

(The bathrooms are now done, and here are a couple pics just before they finished of the two new bathrooms. A shot of the new tub will be forthcoming.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Was Healthy in St. George

I had a great time in St. George taking care of Grandma Straw. I am so glad that Mom and Dad Watson let me help with her knee surgery recovery. I was the last person to stay with her. Mom stayed with her for the first month. I helped grandma get her exercises organized and then helped her get on her own with driving and exercises. Grandma had all the time in the world to visit and I enjoyed having the company.

My allergies were very minimal in St. George so I was almost a completely healthy pregnant lady there (for the first time in my pregnancy). My allergies have just been 3 times worse since I got pregnant. I survive just fine, but it was nice to feel so healthy for a couple of weeks.

Being at Grandma Straws we don't go many places, but Harmon's, and the bank :D. Grandma likes to watch the news while she eats, so I saw more news those two weeks than I have seen in my lifetime, only having turned on the TV once in my life to see news on purpose myself (the day of 9/11)

It was a delightful time and I was very happy to give mom a break. One of the best things for me was the feeling of being able to contribute to a loving family who has already given me so much I can never figure out to repay, but I am learning that is what it is to be family -- giving and being there for each other. I love you all

P.S. I am now is California for Christmas. I am so excited to see Derrill today

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Case of the Missing Wife: CLOSED

(Note: the following post is excessively long because I'm summarizing pretty much the last month. It's equal parts romance and economics, and you don't usually see those two things together much unless you're in Dr. McDonald's econometrics courses at BYU.)

Tomorrow I get to fly out to Santa Barbara to rejoin Joy. This is a very happy thing.

The first time we had to be apart was for Joy's grandmother's funeral. By the nature of such things, it came on us quite unexpectedly, and Joy was gone for two weeks to spend some time with family she doesn't get to see much. Though she enjoyed it - as much as she could given the reason for the trip - it was a pretty miserable experience for me, and we were both quite concerned this month apart might end up like this. But this time I had time to prepare and psych myself up for it.

Chief in the process of psyching myself up for this month was the accumulation of way more to do than could possibly be done. Joy (the nationally certified Master of Career Counseling) and I had spent nearly all our time the month before working on the job market: identifying schools, preparing packets, preparing my job market paper, and so forth. She left just as we got out the first big shipment of them out. That meant there was a month worth of various things that needed to be done that neither of us had had time to do.

More urgent than them, though, was the preparation for the Cornell/U.N. Symposium on hunger in Africa on Nov 13 and 15. It's official title is The African Food System and its Interactions With Health and Nutrition. A lot of people had a lot of work to put it together, including in particular my adviser, Prof. Per Pinstrup-Andersen. He contacted me one night to inform me that one of the first speakers had had to cancel, and that meant that Per needed to fill in for that key presentation. He indicated that as he thought about what was needed, he realized that this was precisely the information I had been working with for my dissertation, and asked if I would be willing to work on this with him.

As I looked over the program outline, which included a number of very influential and accomplished researchers, U.N. leaders, and a vice-president of Uganda getting her Ph.D., I realized that the first speech he was talking about really set the stage for the other presentations. Its purpose was to describe the current state of hunger and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, what the recent trends have been, and what progress has been made in accomplishing the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goals on hunger alleviation. And yes, it's exactly the information that forms the backbone of my dissertation. Each of the next presentations then dealt with specific elements of the food and health systems in SSA, proposing specific policy or research actions that need to be taken in order to reduce hunger.

So I happily signed on. Before Joy left and immediately after, most of my time was spent preparing the hunger presentation and paper. The U.N. has already posted the video of it, so anyone interested could watch it here. Cornell is expecting to upload their video too, and since that's the one where I presented our work, I'll be sure to put in a link in a future post once it's up.

After I got back from NYC and the first part of the symposium at the UN, I finally got that head cold that had been threatening the last couple weeks. That was just in time for my turn to present our paper at the Cornell part of the Symposium on Thursday, Nov 15. I asked some priesthood holders who live nearby for a blessing, where I was told my head and voice would be clear enough to be understood and do the work I had come to do. The blessing also mentioned something that made me think of the presentation in an entirely different light, so I adjusted how I planned my closing remarks. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I think it generated a lot of thought and discussion, and helped more people realize the situation there.

It was actually quite thrilling to be working that closely with Per and moving an important piece of research forward that quickly. It provided some strong momentum to get other research and projects moving forward much more rapidly, and since they'd all been on the back burner for the last 6 weeks, they were overripe and begging to be picked. So by the time we were done with the presentations and I was done with the cold, half the time had already flown by!

The upshot is that the time apart has been infinitely easier than the last time because of how focused I could be on my work. This does not mean I haven't missed her, just that I haven't allowed myself to wallow in how much I miss her. It was a new testimony to me of Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley's advice of the importance of work to help you get through trying times, which he most recently stressed at the passing of his own companion of some 60 years.

The one exception, oddly enough, was at the church Christmas party last Saturday. They tell you that you should make sure you're not alone to prevent feeling lonely. Being alone with a lot of other couples may not be what they had in mind, though. When the first few people asked me how I was doing without Joy, I responded fairly "upbeatedly". By the time the 12th person had asked, however, my hand ached to hold hers and I left fairly depressed and missed her horribly. Thankfully (?), she was missing me very much that night too, so we talked a very long time on the phone after that and were able to put each other back together again.

At the party, someone asked if being apart had helped me realize how much I need her. I responded that the word "realize" presupposed that I didn't know before, but that, yes, we were both appreciating new ways in which we have grown to need each other. I was very gratified when the person acknowledged that I was one of the few husbands she knew who seemed to understand. It's a nice reputation to have. Actually, that reminds me that someone had gone to my website to get my bio for the Africa symposium, and when she met me for the first time commented that it was obvious how much I loved my wife. *chuckle* There are many worse things to be known for, than as someone who deeply loves his sweetheart.

And tomorrow, I will be with her again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

30 Months of Matrimony: A Conversation

D: Today we are celebrating our 30-month anniversary. We have been married for 2.5 years or 915 days today.
J: Wonderful years.
D: Since we are so far apart, we were having a hard time deciding how we should celebrate, so we're going to talk about how great it is to be married on our blog together.
J: Derrill is the most thoughtful man I've ever known. And he always finds a way to show me that he loves me.
D: Yesterday at the temple, I was thinking a lot about Joy's smile and how much I like to see her smiling at me. I decided way back when that I wanted to find someone who had a great smile because I would want to do a lot of things to make my wife happy just so she would smile at me. It seemed like good synergy.
J: I wear a locket that Derrill gave me with his picture in it while I'm away so I can have him with me all the time. And 2.5 years later, I still feel that marrying Derrill was the best thing to do in the world.
D: I think one of the things we have improved on most in the last couple years has been our communication. We have learned better how to encourage each other and to communicate needs.
J: And we've learned how to plan together better and to work together better.
D: That's been particularly true this semester as Joy put in full time effort (more than 12 hours a day often) in helping me with the job market. I couldn't be where I am now without her help.
J: Yay!
D: It's been a great time for us to work together.
J: I'm thankful that we had some time together before we got pregnant, even though waiting to get pregnant is not easy. Then I didn't have to be all that emotional pregnant self right after we got married. ... I could just be my emotional other self! Haha!
D: The thing I like best about being married is how complete I feel. I have always really needed someone who loved me and would accept my love, someone I could be all of myself with. And Joy loves me despite all my flaws and weaknesses, and she loves me despite all my gifts and successes, and she strives always to let me be one with her.
J: I like best about being married because I have someone to talk to. *chuckle* Why are you not surprised?
D: *lol* We were talking recently about an old mission companion of mine who talked constantly, sometimes even in his sleep. I was amazed at how well we got along. I had been under the impression before that I wouldn't want to be married to a woman who talked a lot ...
J: hehehe
D: But I discovered that the difference between Elder Andrews and the talkative girls I had known was that he kept changing topics. Most of the very talkative girls I knew only talked about 5-6 things and then they started repeating themselves to the point where I could chime in and finish their sentences or stories. So working with Elder Andrews taught me I could get along with and be friends with a very talkative person.
J: hehehe
D: Joy may say "hehehe" at all these, but I really don't feel like she's too talkative. She's my Goldilocks juuuuuuust right.
J: And it is more than amazing to me to find a man who likes me with all of my flaws. And he still likes me after 2.5 years. Isn't that great?!
J: It's nice to have a husband that you can be safe with.
D: Oh, and we should announce that in just one or two days, we will enter the third trimester! *trumpet fanfare*
J: Yeah, for little Hyrum.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

This life is a test

I'm actually creating this account mostly so I can make comments on the blogs of some of our dear friends who recently let us in on theirs. But I'll probably end up recording some of our happy information here for their benefit as well. It's been a very happy thing, being able to be part of friends' lives even when we're far apart. This will make the communication a bit more two-way.

For those random surfers who just happened to find us, you have reached the blog of Derrill and Joy Watson, two newlyweds (a mere 911 days thus far - a blissful drop in the bucket of Heaven) out in Ithaca, NY. Derrill goes to Cornell, and should be graduating with a Phud in development Economics this year. Joy goes to his head, and should be delivered of a baby boy, Hyrum Spencer, sometime in early/mid March. She is currently vacationing with my parents in Santa Barbara, CA, after spending two weeks caring for my grandmother in St. George, UT. The picture was taken at my parents' house when we were there last Christmas. It'll be another two weeks until we're together, and we miss each other with great pinings.

Hmmm, this is starting to look like a real posting. I'd better cut it out now before it does and the habit is firmly entrenched. (Oh, but it wants to be entrenched, my precious.)