Monthly Archives: November 2008

Snickers and an ipod

There are ipod vending machines in the Dallas Fort Worth airport. 

If you have several hundred dollars in your pocket and you're standing around craving a Snickers and some tunes, well, there you are. ipods in all their varieties. There are more ipod options than candy options. Also the Sony PSP. And games.
No, children, I did not buy you one.
By the way. 
Are you brushing your teeth?
Saying your prayers?
Have you been flushing the toilet on a regular basis?
Have you tried on the $8 jeans we bought that bizarre Black Friday Morning? 
Turns out it was worth staying up for, by the way. I got to SeaTac airport Saturday morning only to discover my jeans had lost three tiny little teeth–just enough to permit the zipper head to pop off the track. You would think the button would be enough to hold them up, but you'd be mistaken. I made it through Security, etc, without actually losing the jeans, but had a few close calls. And the new jeans were right there, in the top of my carry on.

My bro-in law enjoys freaking the security guys out with his bullet proof dialysis thingy that looks like a briefcase. They pick it up and go, wow, this is really heavy. Then they put it through the x-ray machine and eyes about pop out of heads.  Sometimes expletives out of mouths. It shows up as a large bag of fluid and lots of wires.  Bombish.

Seattle to Dallas was pretty uneventful. I was sitting between a seven foot black man and a 6'2" white man. I tried unsuccessfully to reach a book in the bag between my feet, but range of motion is fairly limited when your elbows have become fused to your ribs. Fortunately the white man was friendly, and didn't mind a bit of jabbing. 
Dallas to Tampa, on the other hand, was pretty bumpy. Cap'n kept trying to find smoother air, and I concentrated on not losing my lunch. Ginger had Gravol–pour les enfants so I told myself it was okay. Drugs for kids, how bad can that be?

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Sleep?

Debating.

Should I go to bed and stay there for a good, oh, five hours or so?

Should I go to bed and wake up in an hour to go get that thing for you know who that's on extra super duper black Friday sale at Wal-mart?

Should I just stay up, blog for an hour and then go?

I think that might be easier.

I didn't realize it would take me five hours to pack my suitcase . Especially seeing as how my sister already packed it for me once. But there was this, and there was that, and there was laundry and M's clothes, and write the notes for kids to get off at a different bus stop all week and email the teachers and etc, etc. But now it's all packed. I think I have remembered everything.

Except the travel sized bottle of contact lens solution, which I will need to pick up at Wal-mart. See. I have to go to Wal-mart. Yes, I'd love to patronize any number of other retailers, but we live in small town America and the only other option is Safeway and nobody can afford toiletries at Safeway. Well. Maybe, if you're desperate. Yeah, you know who you are, and no, I don't resent the seven dollars.

So.

I'm leaving. Hasn't quite set in yet.  

The plan is that I post all sorts of information and photos on here and save myself sending a lot of individual emails to my kids, parents, etc, since we do pay by the minute for internet out there on the boat. So if I don't post again in the next ten days, the wireless network is down. Or the whole boat even. Wayyyyy down at the bottom of the sea. 

Don't read that out loud to the kids.  

 

 

 

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Again

How many times can you have the same conversation before it is no longer necessary to have that conversation? Again. Again and again and again until the space between your collarbones aches like a marble swallowed whole and you'd rather walk in front of a bus than have that conversation. Again.

Sometimes I decide that I'm not. I'm going to do my thing, and you can all do your thing, and maybe in the absence of conversation, you'll figure things out. Because obviously we need to have a different conversation that I don't know the script to. You'll wake up one day  and you'll say hey, did you see, did you hear, did you want to know what I think, and we'll have a real conversation about real things and we won't have to have the conversation that always leads back in a perfect, excruciating circle right where it began. Again.  

But I'm impatient. I am mother incarnate. I want to fix not only your collar but your vision. (Beam, what beam?) I don't want to worry myself sleepless that your discomfort is my fault. And so I watch for the quiet moment and I sit you down and we talk our way through it until we can bury the conversation down in the dust and we walk around like it isn't there for a while. But the process and agitation of our days always work it back to the surface. Again.

I see it there reluctantly, gleaming and honed by years of use and I want to take its place in the dust. I wonder how many more times we will have the strength to heft it. I wonder, if by sheer force of will, I could tear a breach in it somewhere, straighten the blasted thing out and we could follow it to some other place. Any other place than this one that we keep coming back to. 

 

 

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Gratitude, Ignorance, and Glory

Gratitude can be a sort of self-centered thing, can't it? I am pleased with something, and so I am feeling grateful. I send a thank you note or smile at you because I am pleased.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, originated as something deeper. A speaker pointed out, Sunday, that the French word for gratitude is reconnaissance which quite literally means to recognize, and this is exactly what George Washington was talking about in his declaration that Thursday the 26th of November 1789 be a national day of Thanksgiving.  

The President today could write the same declaration and it would be relevant—Washington speaks of peaceable government, protection in war, plenty; he even thanks God for “the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge”.  Almost sounds like Washington had the Internet . . .

Anyway, point being. This definition caught my attention. To recognize. This is the gratitude I want to teach my children. I want them to recognize not only their day-to-day conveniences but the blessings of freedom and peace and knowledge that are the foundation of life as we know it. I want them to recognize the infinite cost of those blessings. The blood and sweat of their forefathers. The mercy of God and the life of his Son.

Thanksgiving is part of what makes a nation Zion, according to Isaiah. "Joy and gladness shall be found therein, Thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." Can you imagine the thanksgiving we will raise when the day comes that we live in a Zion society, when we are of “one heart and of one mind and there are no poor among [us]” and we understand the road it took to get there?

I read CS Lewis’ “The Weight of Glory” today for the first time. (Seriously! I have to admit I’m feeling a little shortchanged here—how, in seventeen years of schooling have I never before come across this?) I’m reading it thinking, YES, that’s exactly right! If I had read this three months ago I wouldn’t have had to write that Lucinda post—I could have just posted a link to Lewis because he says the same thing, only with infinitely more eloquence and clarity.

And I’m thinking what else is out there? There have been and are so many great thinkers and writers that even with all the reading I do, I could overlook something like the “The Weight of Glory” and never know it.  

Forget glory! I am bowed double under the weight of my own ignorance—by the price of my naïve twenty-first century existence!

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Sisters

On Friday, my sister invited me over to help pack my suitcase. Or more accurately her suitcase, as I don't have one. Hers have funky little bouquets of ribbons attached to the handles–the better to identify them at baggage claim apparently. She knows these things. She knows about Gold Bond medicated powder and Downy Wrinkle Release and three ounce bottles for shampoo. She travels.  Her suitcase expands even. Wheels, just the right size not to incur airline fees.

She also knows me well enough to know that I don't have a makeup bag, and that when I showed up at her door with everything I had to contribute to the packing, I would be empty handed. I don't own summer clothes–I stay inside when it gets hot. I definitely don't have evening wear. Unless you count my flannel pj's. She told me to come over anyway, and she would go through her skinny clothes. She's the Clothing Queen, so I believed her when she said she'd have something to fit.

What I didn't know was that when she suggested we have a suitcase packing party, she meant a suitcase packing party. As in decorate your house like Martha Stewart–skip that, you are way better than Martha–bake a caramelized apple cake, pull out the goblets, the Italian sodas and invite the girls over. And tell them to bring clothing.

When I arrived, her bathroom was filled with clothing. Women arrived with arm loads of laundry–not all of it laundered–one of my favorite people in the world is this woman who can show up with a pile of clothes and admit she didn't have time to wash them, but she did spray them with perfume. I love that. Would you admit you'd done that? I'd probably show up empty handed. And can I just say her jeans were to die for?

So I start trying clothes on. I can hear them in the kitchen laughing and eating and when I come out with an outfit that works they all ooh and ahh, and make suggestions. One of them helps me get a stubborn zipper up. Nobody is offended if I don't pick their clothes. They offer me shoulder bags and books.  

By the end of the night I have tried on clothes I wouldn't take a second look at in the store. I am surprised to like many of the things I like. I'm wearing jewelry. Me. High heels. I have so many outfits to choose from I have to leave some of them behind.  One woman runs home three times to get the perfect little black dress, her tote of swimwear or just the right top.

I am overwhelmed by their generosity. Which means, being me, of course, I say very little. I talk about other things, far away from what I am feeling. I can't believe they are letting me take their sandals and their jewelry and the stunning scarf bought in London. London.

I finally get at least one utterance out. I say, "I can't believe you're letting me take your clothes." 

"But that's what sisters do!" This from the RS president. My neighbor. The woman with the swimsuits and the killer scarf. And that skirt

Sisters. That's what we do. Blood relations and neighbors and women I have never even met but who must have hips formed in the same mold as I and who shop at way smarter places than I do, apparently.

I am overwhelmed. I am grateful. I'm definitely going to abandon my original plan which involved a length of no-iron percale. It isn't that I couldn't have done this on my own. I could have stayed up late after Thanksgiving dinner and packed a duffle bag. I could have gone to the mall in Tampa and found some black heels. I could have done that. But now.

Now I am going on vacation and the only thing in my bag that belongs to me are the ones I wear right next to my skin. After that it's piece by precious piece of other women. I have so many options I'm even wearing their clothes to the airport. Dress great, right from the start, they tell me–as soon as you leave your door. They tell me what to do about my legs that haven't seen sun since 1994, and how to prevent sea sickness and what to wear to dinner. My little sister, who has spent all day preparing for this event–all week probably–and will stay up into the wee hours cleaning up the disaster in her bathroom, kneels on the floor to roll each item and packs it precisely. I joke that this way, when the ship goes down, there will be lots of mourners, as I take their favorite peices down to the bottom of the Carribbean with me. The next day she shows up at my door with a shopping bag full of items I might need. Dramamine. Sleeping pills (my sister the pharmacist). Mexican money even. Travel sized toothpaste. The bag is so full I haven't got to the bottom of it yet. I trust her that I'll need whatever it is that's in there.

Sisters.

Does it get more Zion than that?   

 

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How do you spell house?

Mom, are dinner and supper the same thing?

Yeah.

When will I turn six?

First it has to be Thanksgiving and Christmas and my birthday—we have to turn the calendar page four times, and then it’s almost your birthday.

How do you spell house?

H-O-U-S-E

I don’t want you to leave on an airplane.

His eyes tear up and he’s got them wide open, looking up and off to the side.

Why? You think nobody will help you get the milk?

Nobody will!

Grandma will help you.  You’ll wake up here and there won’t be even one daycare kid and Grandma will fix you breakfast, and you’ll get on the bus and then Grandma will pick you up in her red car and you can play at her house, and she’ll make you snacks and dinner, and you can jump on the trampoline and then she’ll bring you home and Grandma and Grandpa will stay here all night with you.

What if you aren't here for  my birthday?

Oh, I’ll be back before your birthday. Before Christmas even. I’m only going to be gone for one week.

What if you die?

His question hits me like a slug in the chest. I’m not going to die; of course I’m not going to die—but can I make a promise like that to a five year old boy? What if I do die—his last memory of me will be this lie!

I’m not going to die.

What if someone shoots your airplane out of the sky?

Nobody shoots airplanes out of the sky.

He just looks at me. Even he knows this is a lie.

They don’t shoot airplanes with people on them out of the sky—they just shoot other airplanes that shoot them—airplanes with guns.

What if they can’t find any airplanes with guns and so they shoot your airplane instead?

Nobody is going to shoot my airplane.

M thinks I should have told him we’re more likely to sink in the boat than get shot out of the sky.

Can't he just throw a tantrum as I'm on my way out the door? Scream and cry and cling to my leg so we have to peel him off, one fingertip at a time? How come I can't have kids like that?

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About that Trust thing

Still on agitate, and here’s the thing! All evidence contradicts the idea that I distrust my maker. We’re on pretty good terms, God and I. I talk, he listens. Frequently he answers. Unfailingly, he answers. I know in whom I have trusted.

So why the undiligence and discontent?

It might be more accurate to say I distrust the divine within my own soul and the souls of the people I interact with than to say I don’t trust God.

Which would explain the strange item I’ve wrangled out of the depths in the last few months and haven’t had the courage to unfurl.  It’s this trust issue, and it has nothing to do with God. I think. 

It takes a bit of history.

I married young—let’s just lay that out there. I married young and I had lots of little kids and I was so grateful I didn’t have to put them in daycare. I was a proper stay-at-home mom, mom, mom, MOM, MOM, MOM!!!! And I was okay with that, frayed nerve endings and all. I was more than okay with that, and today I am profoundly grateful for it in a way I couldn’t have been then.

Then, I strained at the constraints of my dependency. I didn’t have a checkbook, a credit card or a bank account. When I needed a toothbrush or a pair of nylons or a shoelace, I made do as long as I possibly could and it was humiliating to have to ask.

Fast forward.

I start earning money. I put it in “my” bank account and M doesn’t want any part of it. He doesn’t want me to cover the bills or buy the groceries or pay the taxes. This is my money.

I become the only breadwinner. I cover all the expenses. I strain at the role. I don’t like this responsibility.  I don’t like trying to figure out how much to save for taxes or how much is in the bank before I get to the checkout or keeping track of the checks clients hand me when there are ten kids milling about my feet and two in my arms. I don’t have time to run to the bank before closing time.

I assign M this job. I hand him the deposit slip, the money, and send him down to WAMU.

I run out of preprinted deposit slips.  For a few weeks I fill out the generic kind with my account number, name, and totals. I don’t have time for this. I start handing him a stack of checks and tell him to put it in his own account; I’ll transfer it later online into my own account.

But I don’t.

I can’t do it.

I can’t get past the mental block of taking money out of “his” account. Which, by the way is named “Family Checking” and my name is right there below his, and that is still, technically, the same money.

What is that?

I wait until the last possible day to pay the credit card bill, and then I don’t tell him until a week later that I transferred money out of his account.  I tell him I transferred $1000  to the savings account, and I writhe in guilt when I instead put $600 down on the van.

Does he complain when I make a transfer? Does he even spend any of the money sitting there, untouched, in his account? NO!

What is wrong with me?

The thing is, I don’t think he ever cared. My discontent and agony over every purchase were a product of my own inability to trust his generosity and goodness. My distrust.

If he slams a door, my heart races. I run down the list of possible offenses I might have made to fuel his ire. Never mind that he’s got four gallons of milk in each hand and he shut the door with his foot.

I have done this my whole life. When I was living with relatives during college, if “Mom” ever looked like she had been crying or upset, I would spend the entire next day scouring the linoleum and dusting the plants, certain that somehow I was the cause. I do not trust your goodness or compassion. And so I am miserable—not because of you, but because of me.

Am I really that self-obsessed that I believe everything everyone feels must somehow revolve around me? Really? That I cannot comprehend the divine nature and inherent goodness in the people around me?

Just make the transfer already!

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Another Invisible Gorilla

This morning I thought I’d write a really meaningful blog. One that hits you right there, you know?

I’m not going to gripe about the child who is pushing the limits of my sanity this week, or relate certain ridiculous interactions with other members of the community. Mental Maytag—that’s what we’ve got here, right? A cleaning out of my own personal mess, not an airing of someone else’s. I am above that, after all. (Today, at any rate.)

Which pretty much leaves me with this verse that keeps coming to mind

 “If ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.”

What is that?

I’ve stared at it for hours now. Even looked it up to make sure I’ve quoted it correctly; all those commas really are in the text, by the way.  

But for me, what is it? Why today?

It does occur to me that this promise was made to a people who desperately wanted a specific blessing. And the means by which they were to attain the desired blessing were these two things: turning to God with “full purpose of heart” and serving Him with “all diligence of mind”.

Diligence. That’s not something I’m good at. I’m more of a cut out the quilt squares and store them in a box for ten years sort of person. But diligence of mind.  In my mind, I’m a diligent sort of person. Tell me that counts for something.

Full purpose of heart. Turn to God with my heart so full of purpose—all the way, brimming with desire for this one thing (what do I want that fully?) that it leaves no room for any other desires? If I turn to him—meaning I look to no other source for bestowal or healing—and I serve him with all diligence of mind. . . ………..alright, alright, let’s just admit right now that I’m not getting it. Something fundamental is eluding me.

Because I already believe He is the fount of all blessings. I believe the Atonement was, is, whole and complete and can save even me from my own self. But I continue to be a pathetic version of me–that diligent, glowingly-countenanced person in my mind.  No matter how hard I try. And I read this promise and I feel like the answer is in there somewhere but I can’t shake it out and make it ring true.

I can say “if I desire nothing else, and serve God diligently, he will bless me.” Voila. Two plus Two equals four. But it is nothing I did not already know or believe; it is not revelation, but repetition of truth.

Hmmm. Here’s something. When the promise was fulfilled in this nation’s history, it was not through their own power. When it came right down to it, there was nothing they could do as a nation or as individuals to deliver themselves from the brutal reality of political, bodily bondage to a foreign nation. They could pray in the darkness of the night and treat their wives and families with courtesy, and bow in meekness before their foreign masters. They could be honest and upright and cheerful even, but none of that effected deliverance.

Maybe we despair of real effort to change because we think, hey, nothing I do is going to change x, y, or z. No matter how well I make these bricks or pray, the big guy with the whip isn’t going to cut me any breaks. And so we slog through our slavery, doing the minimum to survive. When really, the order of the day isn’t to change the situation or anyone else mixed up in the middle of it, but to change ourselves.

Although.  

I don’t actually think I’m guilty of trying to change anyone else—because intellectually I already know I’m supposed to change myself first. Beam before mote, and all.  Quite simply, I cannot get myself to be the person I want to be. I can’t. The blasted beam is jammed in there so tight it’s fused to the back of my skull.

But maybe that’s my own personal brand of bondage and I’m mistakenly trying to effect an escape from something only God deliver me from. But if my own faulty nature is the bondage what then does God require of me?

Some 2200 years ago these people were brought into bondage because they turned their backs on God. What have I done, or not done, to bring myself into this place of bondage? I’m not talking about all my annoying personality traits or even my faults. I’m talking about the fundamental source of my greatest sorrows. What have I done to bring myself to this place, and is there anything God would have me do before he will see fit “according to his will and pleasure” to deliver me out of it? I have been mulling this over. Hours. All day.

And you know what it I think it all comes down to? When I consider those things I don’t want to consider, those characteristics that I shy away from examining? It is a fundamental suspicion of God’s goodness. Me. I don’t trust the God who has created, kept and preserved me from day to day, by lending me breath that I might live and move and do according to my own will— even supporting me from one moment to another. I don’t trust him? 

Think about it! Every major sin, the blackest faults—they all have their root in this lack of trust. If I trusted Him, I would give freely, everything in my power, every time, knowing that He who has poured out the greatest blessings, every blessing, in my life is surely going to continue to pour them out, and that by sharing I need not fear then to lack time or money or energy. 

Would anyone steal or work too many hours or cheat on their taxes if they believed God would provide honest ways to meet their needs? Would anyone marry for the wrong reasons or work a job that violated their moral sense if they believed God had a plan for their lives and could wait patiently for it?

Hello!

How did I miss that little nugget nestled there in the middle?!“Turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind” Look. There it is, right there in that same verse I have been puzzling over all day, but could not see.  I let the middle drop out of three essential statements. I saw the doing part—turn to God, serve him.  Skipped right over the trust.

I don’t trust Him.

Who’d have thought. This one is going to need another spin cycle.

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Swaddling Clothes

In one week, I probably should have my bags packed.

Come to think of it, I should probably have bags to pack.

And yet here I sit. I think that deep down, I'm hoping for some sort of magic to happen. Which it may, in the form of my little sister who knows me all too well and thinks we should have a suitcase-packing party this week. She has been known to take charge like that. And obviously I haven't.

When it came time to bring my firstborn home from the hospital, the nurse stripped her down and looked at me expectantly. Like I should have something to put on this child. Some sweet sort of nighty or footed pajama even. I had a blanket in the truck. The kind you keep under the seat just in case. They did let me keep the diaper.

Yes, my dear, you were brought home in swaddling clothes.

Now there's an idea–how does management on the Legend feel about swaddling clothes? Some kind of all-purpose romanesque mumu? I could tuck that into my purse. Rinse it out in the Caribbean and let it dry at night while we cruise, port to port. Ha! All you poor, wardrobe hampered travelers, dragging your luggage half-way around the globe, ironing your slacks–a fashion revolution has begun.

Now I just need a length of cloth. A no-iron percale perhaps. Come to think of it . . . I might have some under the seat of my van . . .

 

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It’s a Wonderful Life

I find it intriguing that the acting in "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) is more believable than many of the films made today. Really–I think this every time I see it. 

And why do I keep seeing it?

I think it's George Bailey. An imperfect man with perfect morals trying to do the right thing and not even doing it always with a smile. I get that.

It has taken me three hours to write three paragraphs.

But it is a wonderful life, isn't it? Feeling a bit manic the last few days, which is good, considering the number of incidents involving flying dinner ware and/or bodily fluids/excretions I've had to clean up.

Bring it on, boys! I'm ready for anything this week.

 

 

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