Thursday, May 28, 2009

Must be from Utah...

I was reading a Church News here the other day and caught on to something that made my eyes roll. Now, for those of you who don't know, the Church News is a weekly publication The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints puts out through Deseret News in Salt Lake City. It contains a variety of inspirational material and news related to the Church from around the world. For the most part I find it very informative and interesting, though this recent article, like I said, had me shaking my head. It appeared in the May 16th issue, page 3, in an article about the upcoming Oquirrh (pronounced OAK er) Mountain Temple open house, scheduled to begin June 1 in South Jordan, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. Once opened, the Oquirrh Mountain Temple (pictured left) will be the 4th temple in the Salt Lake Valley (which only goes as far north as the city of North Salt Lake) and the second in the city of South Jordan, making it the only city in the world to have two LDS temples. The quote is as follows: "Following the 1893 dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, members waited almost a century for a second temple - the Jordan River Temple - to be opened in the Salt Lake Valley. Almost three decades passed before the Draper Utah Temple became number three."

First, those who aren't LDS should understand that temples are very important to Latter-day Saints. They are different from a standard church meetinghouse where we have our regular Sunday services and weekly activities. Temples are used during the week and involve very sacred and important ordinances that members of the Church feel are an important and vital part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For most of the world, going to the temple is something that is done a few times a year or even less. In Utah and many western states, where there are more temples, members of the Church can go to the temple quite often. While most don't go daily, it is not uncommon to see people go weekly or even more than once in a week. Going to the temple is a very spiritual and uplifting experience, so it's something members of the Church like having close by so they can experience more often. Here in Ohio, our nearest temple is in Columbus, which is a two hour drive, so it's not something that can be done quite so often. While it sure beats the 6 hour drives to the Toronto and Washington, DC temples we took before Columbus was built, it still isn't quite close enough to be considered "convenient."On a side note, when the Washington, DC Temple opened in 1974, it was the only temple in the US east of Salt Lake City. It served members in the entire eastern part of North America.

Now that said, reading the beginning of the article, entitled "Unique blessing in rich temple history," I just had to exclaim, "Oh cry me a river!" It makes it sound like members in the Salt Lake Valley had to endure some kind of hardship waiting "almost a century" for a second temple and then "almost three decades" for a third, like it's some kind of right for them to get temples and that they were ever really that far from the Salt Lake Temple or another temple. Not only will the Salt Lake Valley soon have 4 temples, but within an hour both north and south are 4 additional temples; Bountiful (which is practically in the Salt Lake Valley) and Ogden to the north and Mount Timpanogos and Provo to the south. Never mind the fact that it took 100 years for the Valley to grow so that people actually lived in the areas getting temples. I'm not opposed to the Salt Lake Valley getting more temples; if the existing ones are being used at or near full capacity and there is a need, why not? But don't make it sound like it was some huge burden for the poor members there to have to go "all the way" to Salt Lake, Bountiful, or Jordan River before the Draper and Oquirrh Mountain temples were built. For those of us who have to take a day or more to attend the temple, we have no sympathy for your "hardship." It reminded me when the Rexburg Idaho Temple was announced in 2003 and I read quotes like "now we won't have to go all the way to Idaho Falls." Idaho Falls is not even 30 minutes from Rexburg (I made the trip many times). Here in northeast Ohio, the first LDS temple was built way back in 1836 in Kirtland (pictured above right), but this temple is no longer owned by the Church and had a different purpose anyway. We're still waiting for our first temple here. As my mom said, "they (many members out west) just don't get it." Amen! There are many places still in the world where members of the Church can only go to the temple once in their lifetime if ever since the nearest one is so far away. Thankfully, that is becoming less and less common (the opening of the Oquirrh Mountain temple will make 130 temples in operation around the world), but it still not completely gone.

See also for more info on LDS temples or just ask!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lessons learned

Essentially, the whole moving crisis is over now, though I'd hardly say I am all settled and used to everything. I guess I'm lucky in a way my old neighborhood isn't right off the main road so I don't have to drive past the house and see it ever again if I don't want to. At this point I have no intention of doing so as it would hurt to much to see my house and my yard changed and in someone else's possession. I was reminded, though, on Friday when Mom and I were going to my piano lessons about what's going on there as she had to stop over there earlier in the day to look for some old books she left there. Apparently, our "poor" ex-neighbors who basically made it sound like they had to scrape together every last cent to buy our house for next-to-nothing, have enough money to replace such necessities as the back door, do work on the floors, and replace at least some appliances (all of our appliances were working...older yes, but hardly on their last leg). Call me stupid, but usually when you have just enough money you focus on absolute necessities like the roof getting fixed and such and maybe fixing the leaking basement?? She said they were "upset" that when I took the front porch flood light off I "left" the two wires touching and "could've burned the house down." Perhaps, but most likely it would've shorted out and tripped the circuit box IF they had turned on the switch, though turning it on would have been for no reason since there was no light in the other socket attached to that switch. They're just mad I took the light (and the garage light too). Honestly, at this point, if that house burns down or a tornado passes through it I wouldn't shed a tear because I totally feel like they'd deserve it. Call it revenge, call it anger, but it's how I feel. It would make me feel like "I'm glad we got out of there when we did." I didn't have any sympathy for their sob story to "save" the house from possibly being turned into a college rental (could've happened, but unlikely) and getting it for her poor son who lost his job. Cry me a river. And of course, the people who LIVED there (us) and had a high level of sentimental and practical attachment to the house had zero opportunity to buy it. We were non-important, powerless, virtually invisible spectators in the whole thing even though it affected us the most. No one cared what we thought or how this affected us in any way.

There are definitely some hard lessons I learned from this that I hope can benefit others who go through something similar or for those of you who know someone who goes through something similar. First, while our house was on the path to foreclosure, the bank (GMAC) put it on the market rather than letting it actually be foreclosed on. They started it out at its original appraised value and lowered it a few times after no one took it. Eventually it was sold for about $60,000, about half of it's appraisal value (which I think was too high anyway). So even if this foreclosure moratorium bill passes, people will still lose their homes if the bank simply sells the house since it won't be considered a foreclosure. Even selling our house for half of it's alleged worth got them more money than letting it be foreclosed and auctioned off. In the case where it's being marketed to be sold, make sure before it's listed that you specifically lay out what is yours-- what you intend on taking with you-- and what is part of the house. Once it's written in as part of the house, it's legally supposed to stay if it's sold. Such was the case with our relatively new garage door opener. I had hoped to sell it to make some money and spent a few hours taking it off the last day we were there. After all my work I come to find a few days later it was "part of the contract" and had to be returned, something I was pretty irritated about (I found out in the middle of Heather's graduation). They also tried to say the motion-sensor lights I had removed were "part of the contract" but I informed them that those were bought and installed by me and as such were not something the bank could write into a contract. Me putting them on the house did not make them property of the bank. I have plans to install them here anyway. So anyway, make sure you protect your property and know the difference between YOUR actual property and what the bank can claim as part of the house. The bank owns the house, but not necessarily everything attached to or in it.

The other thing I really learned about was how to handle help. We had to do the moving mostly ourselves; obviously we can't afford to save our house so we certainly couldn't afford to hire someone to move us or even rent a moving truck. Without the help of our friends and family I don't know what we would've done. First, I was a bit taken aback by the almost complete absence of my extended family; not just physical help but even seeing how we were doing. We all got together on Mother's Day (two days before we left the house for good) and only one of them asked if we were done moving (which we weren't). And no, I'm not talking about my extended family that lives in other states: I'm talking about the extended family that lives here in Kent and in the general area. It was like they didn't even know it was going on. I've noticed my Ridinger side tends to treat certain crises like they aren't happening; that's how they deal with them. That leads to the next lesson learned: offering help. The vast majority of the help we received was from members of our local ward (congregation) and even my friend Erica drove here all the way from Salem to lend her services and her truck. While this was all unfolding we definietly knew we needed help, but losing a home is such a traumatic and emotional experience, the last thing I wanted to do was inconvenience someone by asking them to come over for hours. On top of that, the stress with packing and sorting is so much (along with normal life still going on) you really don't want to take time to call a bunch of people nor do you even think about it. There's too much else to worry about. Sure we had a lot of people say "call if you need us" which I greatly appreciated, but in the end it wasn't really much help at all. I found the best way was to call us and see how we were doing and find out when we were planning on packing the car and possibly what else we needed. In other words, specifics rather than a general "call us if you need help" since we obviously DID need help. That's not to say I didn't appreciate the offers and recognize that people were aware and willing, but in the end it put another burden on us to go track them down and hope we didn't need help when it was inconvenient for them. The best service we got was having extra hands to load the cars and when people volunteered their truck, van, and/or trailer. It made such a difference in helping it go faster and allowing us to move larger things that we just couldn't fit in our car. But even more so, it was mentally uplifting to realize we weren't alone. So, call ahead, get specifics, and let them know when you can be there rather than a non-commital, general "call us if you need us." And for those of you who offered general help, please don't take offense or think we didn't appreciate the offers. But in retrospect and going through this from my end, I don't think we ever called anyone that offered general help because we just didn't have the time or energy (physical and mental!) to call. It was just one more thing to do on a loooooong list. I only see it this way after going through it.

So yeah, I definitely still harbor a lot of anger and frustration over the whole experiece; losing the house, how we were treated, the near lack of acknowledgement by my extended family this was even happening, and now the aftermath. It'll be awhile before I can truly say I've "moved on" and "gotten over it" and I'm definitely learning more about myself and the whole concept of forgiveness. And heaven help my ex-neighbors if I ever see them again. They will get an earful. At the same time, I am truly grateful for all the help we did receive from friends and family, particularly my Derby grandparents and the Robisons. Without the help there is NO way we would've been able to finish on time if at all and likely wouldn't have gotten any symphathy from our ex-neighbors and certainly none from GMAC (they originally wanted us out by like April 30 or some crazy day like that).

Saturday, May 23, 2009


This is one of those moments that bear repeating over and over and over. We don't seem to get them very often in Cleveland sports! For those who don't know, the Cavs nearly lost last night after leading by 23 points in the 2nd quarter. Much like game one, they built a huge lead only to have Orlando come back and take the lead late. But tonight, unlike Wednesday night, the last second shot went in! Only if the Cavs end up winning this series will this shot become one of the great moments of Cleveland sports. I sure hope it does! Go CAVS!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

My History Hobby

One of my favorite hobbies is studying history, but especially local history that I can go see for myself. The more I've studied the local history, the more I've come to learn what an interesting area I live in, Kent in particular. Today I took advantage of the beautiful weather and having WAAAY too much time off to go get some pictures of a piece of Kent history. Last July I blogged a little about what I thought was an aqueduct for the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal near Plum Creek Park in southern Kent. The P & O Canal was a significant canal in the development of this part of the country because it connected Pittsburgh to Cleveland in the era before the railroad. It ran right through Kent, but unlike the celebrated Ohio & Erie Canal and its many locks still standing, the P & O doesn't have many structures left to let people know it was even here. Turns out the bridge I took a picture of isn't the actual aqueduct, but rather an old railroad bridge over the same creek just south of the actual aqueduct that looks remarkably similar since it is also an arch. After seeing a sketch of the aqueduct and some pictures others had taken, I was pretty sure I had photographed the wrong structure, so today I set out to find the correct structure. While I proved successful in my endeavor, it was hardly an easy one!

On the left is the railroad bridge over Plum Creek I photographed last July thinking it was the old P & O aqueduct. On the right is the actual aqueduct just downstream. Can you see how I could confuse the two? Note the amount of brush and trees growing above the aqueduct. It's a good 5-6 feet below the top of the embankment those things are growing on and it's very steep. The picture at the top of the page is the opposite side of the aqueduct facing the Cuyahoga River. The photo below was taken from the new boardwalk along the river that passes Kent's water reclamation facility. The large railroad bridge is very close to the aqueduct. Just past it was where the construction was taking place on the trail and where there is a new bridge built specifically for the trail.

The actual aqueduct is just north of where I found the previous bridge and is now part of the new Portage Hike and Bike Trail which is slowly being built in several phases through Kent. The part over the aqueduct was just completed last year. The biggest problem for me was finding a way to access the trail without having to walk miles and miles to get to what I wanted. I finally parked at Tannery Park and picked up the current riverside trail there which connects to the Portage Hike & Bike. Of course, I walked all the way down there and right near where I needed to be, there is construction on the trail. I didn't go too close but it looked like they were laying gravel down. I may have been able to just walk around it, but I wasn't in the mood to have some random construction guys yell at me even though there were no signs posted that the trail was closed. I walked back and tried to find an alternate entry. Thanks to my superior geographic knowledge of Kent I was able to find an access point right near where I wanted albeit I had to technically trespass on an empty lot and over the railroad tracks to get there. Oh well! And as my luck would have it, I walked right over the aqueduct and didn't even notice it and walked quite a ways before turning around and finally finding it. The problem is the trail runs right through a large portion of the original canal bed, plainly visible as you are walking in it. The aqueduct is well below that level and the canal bed is totally full of trees, grass, and shrubs, so if you aren't looking for it, you miss it. After paying close attention, I finally noticed the creek below me and found what I was looking for. Of course, it wasn't that simple either as I mentioned: the canal bed is pretty high up, so I had to scale a pretty steep embankment on both sides to get to a point where I could photograph the structure. The south side of the aqueduct was the most challenging and I got some pretty good scrapes from thorns. The things I do for history! But seriously, if I hadn't known what to look for and had an interest, there's no way I'd even know it was there as there are no markers, no signs, no nothing. As far as most people assume, the trail passes through an area where it has embankments on each side, is elevated above the river, and has some sitting water next to the trail. As for the aqueduct, I am impressed how well it looks and how well it has held up. The canal opened in 1840, so this was built sometime in the late 1830's and is still here despite near complete neglect (though I think there was a restoration of it some time ago) and having no much growing above it. I was also surprised to see how long it was from end to end. The canal was 40 feet wide, so I'm assuming that's how long this is!

Walking along the parts of the trail today it was hard to believe I was in the middle of Kent sometimes. Much of the trail all you can see is the river and heavy foliage. There are some really nice boardwalks and bridges that have been built for the trail, not to mention some of the existing ones Kent built as part of the city park system. Kent has always had a great park system and really all that it's missing is a good recreation center. I kept thinking about what Kent is missing as a city and it's mostly that and some more jobs. Having the University here is great and has helped Kent be more recession resistant, but only so many people (and certain kinds) can work on campus. A lot of the area I passed today while walking and driving was Kent's old industrial area and there is a lot of old abandoned buildings there from the boom days of Kent industry. Not that we should go back to low-skill manufacturing, but we definitely need something there! Other than that, Kent is a community with great parks, great schools, an awesome library, and even a slowly emerging downtown scene (we have PLENTY of town!!). Sure, not the most entertaining place at times, but definitely a nice place to live. If only I could find my own job here (or nearby), but the more I think about it, the more it seems I'll have to leave again. I also noticed even more that I need a new camera! My little Kodak EasyShare has served me well, but it just isn't taking sharp pictures and really struggles in low light (and now even high light!).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Adjusting for now

Well, the latest chapter in my life has begun as we said goodbye to our home of 26 years last Thursday before heading down to Maryland for my sister in law's graduation. I think the lengthy nature of the move and having as much time as I did to get used to the idea made it less emotional to leave, but I think I'm more angry than I am sad. I'm angry how the whole thing has unfolded and how the people it affected the most- mom, Katie, and me- had absolutely no say in what happened. It's still weird thinking it's gone. I mean, I know the house is still there, but is now in the possession of someone else. For pretty much my entire life, that was my space, my refuge, and now someone else is changing it, doing whatever they want to it; essentially ruining it. It would be one thing if we had sold the house voluntarily, but having it ripped away like this at the most inopportune time? That has made it all the more difficult and stressful. It was surreal walking through the house one last time and it being virtually empty. Mom says one day we'll look back and be thankful we were freed from all the problems of the house. I want to believe that, but right now, despite all the problems the house had, there would be very little that could make me glad to be free of the house. Outside a natural disaster or fire where the house and yard are lost or damaged really bad I really can't see how anything will make me be OK with this other than getting the house back some day. Even if I finally get a job and get my own awesome house, there will always be a part that hurts because we lost this house.

Some pictures right before we left to unpack the last load (we came back one more time later that afternoon). On the left is the living room; the right the kitchen.

On the left is a view of the basement. We left a few empty boxes and some old books that were probably moldy anyway. On the right is me in my empty room right before we left for the last time.

For now I am staying at my Derby grandparents' house here in Kent. Yes, it could be a LOT worse considering I still have a roof over my head, family, and even Internet access here, but it's hardly a substitute for what I had living at home, not to mention having a lot less space. I don't want to sound ungrateful or anything, but at the same time I'm not exactly thrilled. This is a sacrifice for my grandparents as much as it is for us since we had to condense an entire house into two bedrooms, the basement, and the garage while my grandparents have to put up with two extra people and a lot of extra stuff in the house, not to mention not having any extra bedrooms. I'm hoping I can get a full-time job as soon as possible so I can get my own place and really settle in. I've gotten settled here in the meantime, but not as settled as I was back at home. While I have my furniture set up, the vast majority of even the things in my room before the move are still in boxes and I don't have any intention of unpacking them. Part of it is not wanting to have to pack them all again when I do move while the other part is simply not having anywhere to put the stuff. While I have about the same amount of space here as I did in my old room, I have far less shelf space here and much less closet space, so most of the stuff in the boxes consists of my shelf items. Being here reminds me a lot of when I would go to Idaho for the school year. I'd move into my apartment and get fairly settled, but not too much so and only brought what I felt were necessities. By the third time I trimmed back what were "necessities" and downsized a lot of things too (like my computer monitor and TV).

I'm really glad Mom and I were able to attend Heather's graduation in Baltimore. It was a welcome end to the bulk of all this moving and gave us both a chance to think about something else for a little while. Granted, the graduation itself had it's "moments", but being around Heather, Andy, and Heather's family was so much fun. I also think someone graduating from medical school is an incredible accomplishment, so having my own sister-in-law made it even cooler. I am sooooo proud of her!! Once I knew my graduation had been derailed and then found out that the POPs concert at Roosevelt was going to feature a whole bunch of alumni, making the decision to leave was easy. Really, the biggest inconvenience was having a few less hours to pack the house, but we made it OK I guess. As for the POPs concert, yeah, the thought of seeing all the people who got all the opportunities in high school get even more opportunities was something I didn't want. The last thing I wanted to do was relive a bunch of painful high school memories. Having Heather's graduation to attend was a welcome and preferred alternative!

Notes on the larger pictures: 1. The last picture of the three of us in front of the house before we left. 2. About the only picture of me and Heather while she had her robes on...her mom took a picture of all the Ridingers together at the barbecue we had at Grandma Robison's later that day.

Friday, May 8, 2009


As I'm writing this I'm wondering if it will be the last time I post in this house. The phone will be shut off on Wednesday the 13th (well, shut off here...we will still have the same phone number at my grandparents' house) so once that happens, I won't be able to get online here. I don't think it's hit me quite yet that after next Thursday I will never be allowed to come here anymore, even with most of our furniture already moved out. Really, all that's left here are 2 beds, the piano, the couch (getting picked up in an hour) and the washer and dryer. That's not to forget all the loose items that are still around that need to be packed or disposed of. It looks like our last night here will be Tuesday night to Wednesday as the utilities will be shut off on Wednesday or Thursday morning. Since we will be going to Heather's graduation in Baltimore on Thursday, we have to make sure everything is out before we leave that afternoon. Being a part of this is similar to waiting for someone to die. We know the end is coming and we hate to see them go, but it's to the point now where we are ready to move on. Granted, I'd much rather have this house than not, but since we have no choice in the matter, I just want the moving to be over.

As for graduation, I still need to turn in the application for graduation, but I still need to make sure my prospectus (a sheet that lists what classes I plan to take) is amended with the grad workshops I took in the Fall. Of course I can't do that myself; I have to hope my advisor takes care of it. As I expected, the School of Music was no help and in their infinite wisdom determined that it was all my fault despite the fact that the grade change was not submitted by my advisor until after the deadline (yeah, I'd like to know how that was my fault too!). As for not changing my prospectus, yeah I totally missed the ONE line in the letter back in February that simply said my advisor needed to send a memo about the classes I took to add to it. So yes, I dropped the ball on that one, but I find it somewhat disgusting that I pay how many thousands of dollars in tuition and fees and the University can't send me one more crummy letter or e-mail as a reminder that I have outstanding issues and that the deadline is approaching. They were certainly capable of sending me notice well AFTER I could do anything about it! And I wonder if my advisor was sent a copy of that same letter too. If she was, she certainly didn't do anything about it either or even ask me what it was referring to.

Oh I'm still not totally done with school yet either! While I still need to take the Praxis PLT in June, I also have a poster presentation this coming Tuesday. All that involves is a tri-fold poster that highlights the action research I did this semester in my 6th grade music class. I just need to print it off and put it together before then, which will be a bit more complicated such most things here are already at Derbys' or packed away in boxes here. For the last few days in the house, my desk will be gone (moving it tomorrow), so the computer will probably be on the floor. Lovely.