Monthly Archives: October 2008

Divine Parenting Advice

I had this epiphany last night.

Maybe God is happy because God isn't in control. 

I don't know if he just chooses to step back and watch, or if there is some irrefutable eternal truth that even God has to live by, but God does not violate individual agency.

He lets bad things happen. A lot.

Because he knows how it's all going to turn out. And he knows that we need the pain and the stretching to grow.  He can "control," if that's what you want to call it,  the outcome of the entire human race experiment without violating individual agency because he can see the big picture.

He doesn't have to micromanage and agonize over all the things we do. He just reminds us of the parameters every once in a while.  And loves us.

"Therefore, let your hearts be comforted . . . for all flesh is in my hands; be still and know that I am God." 

Hold your children in your hands, but don't try to hold them. If that makes sense. 

Now that's some divine parenting advice.  

 

 

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Bags from Father

After my whining a few posts back, my mother emailed me a nice, well . . . motherly letter.

My father brought a set of three lingerie bags to my door. You know, the mesh things you put your unmentionables in so you don't have to hand wash them?

There you go. Comfort. Solution.

Don't I have great parents?

 

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Existence Non-negotiable

“Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.”

Thus reads the scripture.

And I’m pretty sure we’re not talking pint of Tillamook and a good book joy. We’re talking Hark the Herald trumpet-toting angel Joy to the World! Joy. In this crazy world joy.

President Uchtdorf says we can and should experience happiness in this life. The happiness of God, even. Who, I assume, is a pretty happy fellow. Being God and all.

Although.

When I contemplate being God, I think it could possibly be the most miserable, angst-filled job in the universe. I mean, really–I get frustrated beyond words when I tell a child fifteen times to do or not do something and they don't hear me, not even once. Or they hear me, and intentionally disobey. Or unintentionally, even.  Now imagine you had to witness the disobedience of billions of your children day after day. Never mind day after day–constant, unremitted suffering for thousands of years at a stretch. No exhausted falling into bed at the end of the day and waking up feeling a bit better, ready to face another. Constant. And to know the future–how much more cataclysmic human suffering is in store–how is God happy?

Is he?

Some people say, and some days the idea seems like a good one–that it would be better to die and cease to exist, than to continue on eternally–experiencing and then later witnessing this constant tension of opposites–good and bad, sorrow and joy.

Just poof, gone. You wouldn't know or care. Because you wouldn't be. Seems like a valid argument.

But then you would have to believe that the spirit and intelligence of man is nothing more than a life process, like a beating heart that can be stilled in an instant. Can you really believe that? I can't. I know I existed before this life. I know I will continue on after it. 

So the idea isn't even on the table.

Because non-existence isn't an option, I am faced with the question of how to best be happy.

The moments of real joy in my life have to do with family. Kneeling across the altar to be married. The baby at the end of the labor. Laughing when you don't even know what's funny, but just to agree with the toddler that does. That's joy as I know it. So God is happy because God loves so many of us?  

According to Uchtdorf we are the children of the most creative and compassionate Being in the universe, and as such, we have a heritage of happiness. Good talk. Link here if you want to read it.

Creativity and compassion he says. These are the keys to happiness. You create the babies, the families, the environment where a toddler can laugh hysterically for unknown reasons, and you love them. For unexplainable reasons.  And you are happy. He observes that we are born with the desire to create–to take unorganized matter into our hands or minds and form something beautiful from it.

I think I'd feel more balanced if I was doing just that. Creating, and not just muddling about in the elements. Maybe that's the reason for this bizarre blog. Silences the inner critic–because after all, this is off the cuff, right? Uncensored, unedited, rambling. It doesn't have to be good or perfect or profound. It just has to be. Like me. Existence non-negotiable.

 

  

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Unwanted Silicone

There's a silicone enhanced woman on the bottom of my blog. The top of her head and her lower body has been cut off. So there she is. In a bikini. Of sorts. I don't know if you noticed this. I certainly didn't. Apparently she's been hanging out there for a number of weeks. And, if I've got the facts right, there's nothing I can do about this!

The reasoning is that VOX can put whatever they want on my blog, because it's a free service, them hosting my mental dumping ground, as it were. Fair enough.  

Then again, Blogspot is free, too. Do they have ads like this? Maybe Nena will design me a really cool banner. I'll keep you posted.

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Letters from Mom

Okay.

So I'm debating this.

I think I should probably really get permission to do this first, but I think I need to.

Because my mother wrote me a letter that made me cry. (In a good way.) And usually I don't cry when I read my mother's letters. I'm one of those kids who when you tried to hug me, I tried to squirm away. I get really uncomfortable with shows of affection. With listening to you philosophize about my life or my thoughts. Just give me the facts and be quick about it. Then lets get back to work.

But the letter made me calm down today a bit more. Really think about the experience I'm giving these children in my care. It made a difference.

I think that by posting this, I'm saying thank you. For loving me enough.

Here's the letter.

If you really object, I'll make an exception to my no deleting allowed rule, and remove this post.

I asked David to read your blog today.  I got it up for him and noticed that you had written again.  Profound!  Perhaps all of us feel that way at times – that we are never good enough at anything and I always pray that my kids will be at least normal in spite of me.
 
But  I want to tell you that I what I see you doing is greater than any other thing you ever could do – to love not only your own sons and daughter but to extend that love and decency to so many others, whether in your callings or your profession. And what a blessing to so many of these children to see you and Marty doing this together; a man and a woman!  What a contrast to the way of the world with mothers and fathers being single, dating and committing fornication as the model for their children to assimilate.  What a blessing for many of them to be held on his lap and treated as a ‘child’ – by a man!  I hope he enjoys that.  That takes a real man to do that job – it is a job fewer and fewer men do even for their own children. 
 
This is greater than all those other things on your list.  And there is a time for all things.  When that time is I am not sure.  I have a few knots about some of that stuff and yet I have a core that knows who I am and what I really am and I have chosen to be what I am.  I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father, and he loves me.  I will stand as a witness of him and of his son, first to my own family and then to anyone else that will hear me. But the angst is still ever present. 
 
I have learned it a part of the opposition in all things, the bitter and the sweet.  Listen to that inner core that you hide deeply – the gut, the feelings of your heart. Trust that you are one of those noble and great ones the prophets have seen, it is within you.  Take stock once in a while and look carefully at yourself so you know yourself as a dear friend, and then be as kind as you would be to that dear friend.  Hug yourself a little, sometimes cry with yourself a little and then like the conference counseled – go out and do more and be more and have more blessings and more joy – and sing!  Be sure to sing (and/or play).  That alone will bring you comfort and direction and peace when there is naught of it anywhere to be found. 
 
I love you my dear and wonderful daughter and stand watching you be a miracle – you were a wonderful and amazing child and you have grown to be much more than a decent adult who knows how to love and forgive and love some more.  You are noble and upright like so many of your progenitors. As you climb the hills and mountains of adulthood breathe deeply and then keep moving forward with the faith you exert now in exhaustion just to exist some days and you will not only be great but you will find real joy and understanding of a magnitude you can not yet imagine. Loving and serving your own husband and children and then extending that same love to your extended families and church and community in the many ways you already do will bring that joy and understanding.  With these you will produce literary works that make Jane Eyre pale in magnitude.  I believe you may already have the seeds in place. 
 
Again I love you.  I am so proud of you and pleased to call you my daughter.  L Mmm

 

 

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My Sandy Children

As I  was reading my scriptures this morning (and can I just say that morning study rather than evening really does make for a better day? Can I learn that lesson ten more times in my life?) I come across the Isaiah chapter that talks about having "peace like a river". I always liked that. Never really connected it to the next verse that says that I might have also had seed like unto the sands of the ocean.

Isaiah and inspiration forgive me, but I had this image of children–particularly teens–like sand. And the analogy fit so well! Sand. Think about it. It gets into your personal belongings. Every one of them. Impossible ones. You can't get rid of it. Sometimes, if you aren't careful, years later, after it should have been gone, it's still lurking about in the corners. It has no self-motivation. No momentum. To get it to move you have to physically pick it up and hurl it down the beach. Where it skids to a stop and just lays there. And you know what the authorities say when you start chucking sand. Can't do it. 

Yeah, I could really go places with this analogy today. 

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One Thing

So here is the thing. The one, unmentionable thing I have managed to liberate from its tortured fellows and hold up for scrutiny. (If you're confused, read "Mental Maytag, a few posts down) The thing  starts with teenage me. The 14 to 16 year old me who goes to school, spends a few volunteer hours at the hospital, then comes home to housework and church work and French verbs and instead of going to bed when that is all passably done, stays up all night finishing Jane Eyre, or The Screwtape Letters. Or maybe even just Freckle Juice.  And the next day she gets up at five groggy—if ever she went to bed—and starts the whole cycle over again.

The teen me thought that when I went off to college and no longer shared a house and laundry with eight people, somehow I'd have more time. I wouldn't be scrubbing toilets, folding Mt. Everests of laundry and washing interminable amounts of dishes. I'd eat better. I'd sleep longer.  I wouldn't be bone weary and scrambling my whole life.

So I went to college. I got a job that started at 4 in the morning. I went to class, I taught Relief Society Sundays and planned service projects as the Activity Chairman for young adults in our Stake. And, being as omniscient as only a seventeen-almost-eighteen year old can be, I got married.  We both went off to college in an even bigger town. Truly, I had little in the way of housework to occupy me. We went to campus at six am, and got back 12 hours later. We sprawled out on the floor and did homework. I didn't even cook. We ate baked beans and rice and bread in the kitchen of a four-plex with so little furniture that when the landlord sold the place and the workers came to gut it, they didn't notice that anyone still lived there. We bought cutlery and plates for two at the local DI, and ate around the open oven door to warm our ears and feet. We slept side by side on a twin-sized mattress and kept our clothes in apple boxes.

Ten months and two apartments later, we had a baby. I use the term we loosely. He would be working sixteen and eighteen hours a day for the next seven years. When he was home he was exhausted. I was exhausted. I dropped out of school two weeks into my fifth college semester, and just tried to stay awake. She was born old—never slept more than seven hours a day in her life—counting all the twenty minute catnaps she took during the day. That left long hours of moonlight pacing, wearing a track in the dirt around the Chapman house, just trying to keep her from waking up Marty, and all the neighbors who too, were exhausted, straining at the restrictions of a 24 hour day, jobs, new spouses and grad school.

A baby boy 15 months later. Then four more babies in a whirlwind of diapers, cross-country moves and garden variety cross-town moves, sewing, cooking, mending penny-pinching, day-consuming economies of use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without that dropped me into bed in the wee hours still bone weary, and of course thinking, "one day, it won't be like this." Broken bones, leaking pipes, mice, bugs, mortgage. Back to school, Bachelors Degree, rub-a-dub-dub six kids in a tub, depression, recession, eclipse. Terrorists, Wall Street trembles, please don't ask to use my bathroom today. Please God, just not today.

They were good years, really. We were poor, but we were improving. We bought some land. We built a house. I raised my kids and all the sleepless nights and zombie days were okay because at my core, I still thought I was someone—somewhere, someday, I would be someone. I would get enough sleep, and I would be able to connect words into logical sentences, gripping sentences even, maybe write the next Jane Eyre. The chaotic days and nights were broken up by weeks, months of calm, where my house was organized, my children clean, scrapbooks up to date. One brilliant year I even went walking every morning, wrote a novel, and somehow taught myself to read Spanish. Spanish.

Then I become Teacher. Miss Kimber. Kammer. Mimi. Immoh. Mimmer. Mom still, and wife. I work 24 hours a day, six days a week and sleepwalk through Sunday. Babies day and night.  I tell myself, one day it won't be like this. One day I will bake again and sew and read. I will take pictures. Write.  Tomorrow. Next week. I will get up earlier starting Monday. I will get this house so organized it takes care of itself.  I will walk and shower and welcome you at the door, any time of day and night sporting clean linen and smooth hair.

18 months later, I realize I can't. I'm dying a slow death. I'm done. When I drop from the roll everyone who doesn't pay or stays after 8 pm or arrives before 6 am I feel a huge relief. I tell people, yes, it's so nice, yes, you can't imagine the relief. Finances are a little tighter, but nothing catastrophic.  

But I'm terrified. I'm not just hunched over the Maytag, peering into the depths, scraping my knuckles on the machinery and yanking at the tangled questions there. I'm hogtied inside it.  I'm terrified.

Scared that this is who I really am. The mediocre teenager, the harried young mother–that wasn't a season–that was me. The crazy woman down the street with twelve grimy kids in the front yard, and dried vomit on her shoulder.  But less than that. That I am the artist who shows you sketches and you say wow! you drew that? But secretly you think it's barely mediocre. The singer we all endure, trying not to cringe, trying not to meet the eyes of anyone else in the congregation lest we see one another's littleness of soul–our petty distain for the off-tune, but wholly honest singer.  The actor who never got a role. The writer who never wrote a book. The mother who never loved. Not enough.

What if I am that person? Even if I quit childcare altogether; done. Even if I tell Marty, hey, it's your turn again. Find a job, any job, and trust God that ends will somehow meet. What if I have whole days and nights to myself, and what if nothing changes? What if I'm still bone weary and disheveled when you come to my door? What if all this, all this busyness has nothing to do with seasons of life and necessity and this too shall pass? What if I just manufacture all of this to conceal the me that will never be great, will never succeed because at my core I'm not great? And so I stay in the rapids, barely  keeping my head above water, refusing rescue because I'm afraid to stand on the shore and take that next solid step. Maybe I have been treading water for so long I'm afraid that's all I will ever be good at.

Then again.

Maybe it takes more than two weeks to catch up on fifteen years of lost sleep. Maybe I will write again. Maybe I will make Sunday dinners and write captions under snapshots and hang curtains. Maybe by some miracle my children will figure out that I loved them and they will grow up and be decent adults who know how to love and be loved and throw back their shoulders on the shores of adulthood and breathe deeply and be great.

And lest you think me self-obsessed. That would be enough. To see them be great. I can hunker down on the shore, in my mediocre house, writing my mediocre thoughts, praying to a merciful God if only He will let my children be great. Striding across the landscape, into the sunset, great. They don't even have to look back and wave. They don't even have to remember me. God only knows how much I hope they forget.  Just be great, deep down, at the core, in spite of your mother and father and all the generations before and maybe somehow because of them, great.

This is the thing I have untangled.

Pretty? No. Ridiculous, yes. Drip drying and maybe some day returning to a logical shape, I can only hope.  

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