Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Reminder

To myself.

"Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts."
~Charles Dickens

"How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."

"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
~Jill Jackson

I love these three quotes. I have used them over and over and over again. Because this is what I want to be. Its who I too often fail to be. But I keep trying. I'll get there. I hope.


Can I just say something ('cause it really doesn't get said often enough)? I love this guy. Yesterday was his 60th birthday and even though he's spent most of his life in California he'd never been to Disneyland. Katy wanted to take him, and Doug and I have been listening to our little girl beg to go back since the last time we went 2 1/2 years ago, so we tagged along with the Keila Bug, and had a ball. (Though, unfortunately, Katy and I both had some trouble with our brains at 5am so even though between us we had 3 cameras, we had no camera batteries, so all my photos are with my iPhone). Chuck was about the best thing that could've happened to Katy for my sake (like how that ends up being about me?:) ). I love my in laws tremendously, but their personalities and manner of functioning, both independently and in relation to one another, was so foreign to the environment I was raised in and my own personality that he was a steadying influence for me right from the start as I adjusted to my new family. He is good natured and patient, low key with a remarkably long fuse. His personality and manner of dealing with life is pretty similar to my own (hilariously and frustratingly apparent in the ways our respective spouses--who are a lot like each other--get frustrated with us and in the things they appreciate about each of us). Of course, he's much more patient and low-key than I am, and that's why I love him. He just quietly gets things done and thinks about others without much thought for his own desires most of the time. You know what I love best about him, though? This:
He is a marvelous grandpa to my kids, who adore him. They call him Grandpa Chuck, or just Papa Chuck, and they love when he dances (don't we all, really?). He teases Keilana playfully and she does it right back. He's generous with his time and affection, and I love him immensely for that.

On a related note, Keilana was so great at Disneyland yesterday. She wanted to spend her time seeing Princesses and doing the little kid rides, of course, but we didn't actually spend much time on that (it was Grandpa's birthday, after all). But she went on the Matterhorn, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Haunted Mansion, and the Hollywood Tower Hotel, and the only one where she really freaked out was the Hollywood Tower, and that was before the ride. During the ride, she handled it quite well. She liked all the roller coasters better than I anticipated. The only thing she didn't like about the Matterhorn was the Sasquatch! But her favorite was Soarin' Over California (I think that was Grandpa's favorite too!), followed in a close second by the Teacups :)

We upgraded all three of our tickets into SoCal annual passports, so we will take her back at some point and do the Fantasyland/Princess/Pixar thing. She earned it!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spoiled little me

I got lucky with this one.  I've never had a difficult baby--no colicky screamers or general grump pots.  But certainly there have been challenges.  Keilana was one of the happiest babies I've ever known.  A very in-your-face kind of happy, much like she is now.  She's always had intense, over-the-top energy and emotions.  She was rarely upset, but when she did cry, boy did she make it count--that kid could shriek and wail like Armageddon was upon us (much like she does now).  The girl never slept.  I would read all these magazines and web sites that would say newborns mostly just sleep and eat, never really fully alert for more than 20 minutes or so.  Ha.  Keilana apparently didn't get that memo.  She would nap for 15-20 minutes and then be wide awake for a couple of hours.  Then repeat.  She didn't sleep well at night, either, but we couldn't sleep train her because we lived in an apartment complex and were sure the aforementioned shrieking would make all of our neighbors hate us.  She wanted to be held all the time--not so much for affection as because she just wanted to go, to be doing something all the time.  She still needs near constant stimulation/attention to be happy.  Intense, that little girl. Delightful, but intense.

Then came Dylan.  He slept so much that for the first week or so I was convinced something must be wrong.  He didn't move constantly.  He was strangely self-contained, right from the start.  His intensity is of a different sort altogether.  His ability to focus on something--for long periods of time--is uncanny.  By his first birthday, he would already entertain himself with one activity for literally hours at a time.  He has a will of steel.  Not in the tantrum-throwing dramatics of his sister's style, mind you.  No, Dylan simply will have his way.  He's going to be a great deal of trouble I'm afraid.  As a baby he was more "into everything" than average.  Everything was endlessly fascinating to him and he could not be distracted.  He has the kind of brooding, focused intensity that is reminiscent of his father.  They are a great deal a like.  Sometimes I have no idea how to deal with either one of them.  So often I just let them deal with each other.

And now we have Kylie.  I had a traditional epidural with her (yuck!) and so when I went to bed that night in the hospital I was fairly numb.  Not wanting to have to call in a nurse to get her from the bassinet for me if she awoke, I just brought her into bed with me to sleep.  And sleep she did.  They woke us up at 3am to give her a bath (if I had been in a clearer mental state, I would've asked that nurse to leave, or just slapped her in the face), and then she nursed and went back to sleep til about 6:30.  The first night home from the hospital she slept from midnight until 7.  The next night, she was fussing and having a hard time going to sleep;  my mom took her, sent me to bed and got the baby to sleep (have I mentioned that my mom is awesome?).  She's slept through the night pretty much every night since.  Oh sure, she's been a "restless sleeper" here and there at times you'd expect (learning new skills, teething, etc.), but less than half a dozen times in her 8 months have I actually been out of bed with a fussing baby during the night.  She is content and mellow during the day.  I rarely have to hold her or carry her around, because she is happy to explore on her own or play with her brother and sister.  I sometimes forget about her momentarily because she's so quiet.  And she's SO happy.  That great, big smile is something we see a whole lot of.

When Keilana was a baby I mentioned to my mother in law how nicely it worked out that she loved to "go", because we were so transient and traveling so often.  Katy said, "Well, the Lord sends you the ones you need when you need them."  Kylie has simply been further proof of that.  If I'd gotten another Keilana this time around, with such a high demand for attention and affection and stimulation and never, ever enough sleep with Doug gone so much and all the other things I've been (or should be) doing, I probably would've gone a little bonkers.  If I'd gotten a Dylan, with the need to be so extra vigilant lest he dismantle (or worse yet, try to construct) something he ought not, I'd be worn out.  But I got the sweet, mellow baby who's just happy to be here. I love all my kids, but I sure am grateful that they came in the order that they did!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

*contented sigh*

I love my husband.
I love my kids.
I'm really grateful that I got to have all of them all day today.
There just isn't enough of that around here.
I love my husband's job.
And some days, I hate myself for resenting it. . . .
but in the end, I'm always grateful he has it.
Now if I could just stop
being grumpy about the fact 
that tomorrow we have church
from 2-5 (is there a worse time for the age range of my family?)
in Porterville
and then I have to leave just after six
to go back to Porterville
to speak at a Single Adult fireside.
Can't say I'm exactly thrilled.
But I'm working on it. 
By tomorrow afternoon
I'll be ecstatic. 
Just wait and see.

Monday, August 17, 2009

First day and dual immersion thoughts

Keilana got out at 2:30.  She walked up and happily greeted me with a smile while declaring, "I didn't cry the whole time!"  True to Keilana style.  She's always been shy and afraid of new situations.  But she's always loved new situations and been a real trooper about pushing through the fear in order to find the fun.  When we got home she asked me if she could watch Spanish kids shows on Saturday.  She enjoyed recess, excitedly telling me she saw a few other kids she knew while they were outside today.  Her favorite part of the day seemed to be eating lunch in the cafeteria.  She's excited to go back tomorrow and very proud of herself for being a big, brave Kindergartener.  While I was reading to her this afternoon, she asked, "Mom, what's the Spanish word for book?"  Then, "What's the Spanish word for page?".  A few minutes later it was, "Mom, how do you say 'picture' in Spanish?"

I have mixed feelings to some degree about dual immersion programs and Becky asked some questions on my last post that were exactly my own worries about using the program.  Much of what I know is second hand from other parents, as this is my first experience with it.

I think its important to teach young children other languages.  Regardless of the specific language, learning additional languages early in life is a skill and ability too few children have the opportunity to acquire.   The "brain training" secondary languages require is useful for many things, throughout life.  Now, is a dual immersion program in school the best method for doing that?  I don't know.  Its certainly the most efficient way to make a child fluent in a second language, but how high a priority does fluency need to be at 5 or 6 years old?  Being in a community like Lindsay (more than 80% Latino, much of that population speaking primarily or only Spanish), it certainly moves it higher on the priority list than if you live in St. Ignatius, MT, but I still don't know that it needs to be a top concern.

My two primary concerns with a dual immersion program were my child feeling isolated in a community where she is already very noticeably in the minority, and falling behind in all-around academic skills as she focuses hard on trying to figure out what's going on by learning a hugely complex new skill--a second language.  Keilana has two of her friends from Church, who are also white and speak only English--a pretty big distinction from most of their peers in Lindsay--in her class at school.  The fact is, if that weren't the case (notwithstanding its many advantages), I don't know that we'd stick with the program for her.  Both Doug and myself have some pretty strong philosophical reasons why we think its important for our children to learn Spanish, but we both understand that this isn't the only way to do that and neither one of us is so stubborn that we would leave Keilana in if it got to be more of a burden than a blessing for her.  I started Kindergarten 20 years ago this week and I remember how scared I was--at a tiny school where I already knew most of my class, the school itself, the majority of the teachers and was going with my twin brother.  I can only imagine what it would be like for my shy little girl to know no one and understand nothing anyone was saying.  I think that's a bit much and I wouldn't ask that of her.

My other concern is, just starting to read and write and do math, are we going to have to play a lot of catch up since she's spending so much time focused on a foreign language?  I don't know exactly how they run this shindig, and still want some time to actually speak with the teacher.  I have been told they do 90% of the day in Spanish this year, 80% next year, 70% in second grade, etc.  I don't know how that actually breaks down in classroom time, and all the parents I know who have older kids that have gone through the program say that their children are doing just great on their English work and are scoring well during standardized testing.  I'll be anxious to get some time to actually talk to the teacher since that all sounds too goo to be true (maybe they don't do quite as much in Spanish on a daily basis as it sounds like).  What I do know is that I will continue to work with her at home (her reading is really coming along), as I have up to this point, and if it seems like dual immersion is having a negative impact on her overall academic development, we will definitely consider switching her to a regular classroom.  In the mean time, I'll keep y'all posted on how things go this year and any changing feelings.

Anyone who may be inclined to try and start a political debate here with me should probably be warned right up front that I won't engage it.  I will say that I am, on about 90% of issues, staunchly, unabashedly conservative.  I am very much of the opinion that if you choose to come to and live in America, you have a personal responsibility to learn English.  That being said, I have the good fortune of knowing many good people, who have come here legally and contributed in many positive ways to their community, who have struggled to learn English.  They are trying and they do want to and are getting there, but I see the hurdles in their path and am happy to be patient with the realities of that situation.  And, let's face it, we may as well deal with "the realities on the ground", so to speak.  I have been making a more concerted effort myself to learn better Spanish.  In where I have chosen to live, it will make me a better teacher and missionary and thus it becomes my obligation to do so.  I have found that trying to change people's behavior by telling them what to do doesn't generally work too well.  But more often than not if you put in the effort to truly reach out to people, sooner or later they'll start reaching back.

Just a taste. . .

First day of school.  Real school.  Seven hour day school.  Pretty excited before we took off this morning.  Then came the drop off.  Got to the classroom, had teacher introduce herself and start asking questions in Spanish.  Realized she understood nothing and had no idea what was going on or who anyone was.  Panic setting in.  A few tears (though, bless her heart, she agreed to be brave and started wiping them away and told me goodbye).  
Passed two of her friends on our way out who are also in her class, and who also speak only English.  Gave me hope--let me choke back my own tears (no, mine never surfaced).  Let you know how it went, and will post more photos, after I pick her up this afternoon.  Could be a long year (or two).  Pray for us.   Especially Keila bug.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rock concerts and bad dancing

So Thursday night Doug comes home at about 9:30 after going out with the missionaries and says, "You wanna go to a concert tomorrow night?"  So I ask who's playing and he say's, "Bob Dylan.  And Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp."

How can I not?

Wonderful to be without all three of our kids twice in one month.  The last time we were completely kid-free twice in the same month was more than two years ago.  Savor those moments.  Feel like husband and wife for a little while, not just mom and dad.  Sweethearts.  Oh yeah, look at that handsome, hilarious guy over there that I married.  Mmmmmm. . . .

I digress. 

Quick concert review:

Willie: stage cluttered.  Willie and band in jeans and tshirts (sleeveless, in the case of Mr. Nelson, of course).  Crowd wandering around Chukchansi Park almost too casually.  Felt like an afternoon jam session with a few thousand good friends.  Very low-key and delightful.

Mellencamp: Generic sounding rock songs sung by generic rock start, but with a really preachy socialist twist.  Fist pumping and camping for the crowd and lots of dramatic movement so that you know every second he is PLAYING.  THE.  GUITAR.   Not the worst time I've ever had, but 90 minutes of my life I wouldn't mind having back.

Dylan: everything you'd expect.  Great "show".  Dylan and band all in suits.  Dylan distinguishable by ridiculously awesome big white hat. (Plus, he's the one usually behind the keyboard, anyway).  Lots of new stuff, and a few old songs reworked so thoroughly that most of the crowd didn't recognize them til the chorus.  Obviously works to retain that Dylan mystique and was, of course, unintelligible for half the show.  Awesome.

Well worth the ticket price.  Fortunately, we didn't have to pay the ticket price.

You know what I love about concerts, though?  No where else do you get such a large collection of people who can't dance, but keep trying anyway, either unaware of how stupid they look or simply apathetic about it because it just feels so good to dance.  I was looking around and I couldn't help but smile--not in a derisively amused way, but in a joyful, appreciative way.  I was thinking to myself:

Go on and fly, half buzzed college guys doing "the airplane" on the grass.

Skip roll your way to ecstasy, super hairy overweight guy in oversized khaki shorts and bowling shirt.

Hop off beat til you can't hop any more, chick in micro mini and cowboy boots (who obviously isn't wearing an appropriate bra for hopping).

And middle-aged woman in peasant blouse and khaki capris, you go on and do that myoclonic twitch thing that seems to make you so happy.

As long as its a good crowd, I love concerts--the music, the atmosphere, the whole package.  It'd been a while since we'd been, and I almost forgot how much I loved it.

Never at any point, however, did I forget how much I hate the smell of weed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


[Just in case any one is wondering whether or not to call LDS family services and ask about a psychologist, that last post was not in reference to myself.  A loved one is going through a particularly lonesome time in life, and I was just expressing how hard Aloneness is.  All good with me.]

So I have this whole turtle thing.  I have an affinity for turtles, and have for a long time.  Lots of people have asked me about why.  Usually its something along the line of "Turtles?  Really?  I mean, like, horses or dogs or something I get, but turtles?"   Yes, turtles.  There are several reasons I like turtles.

First, and most obvious, the whole shell thing.  Turtles are quite soft and squishy and tender, really (it is my understanding that turtle meat tastes quite a bit like--you guessed it--chicken, albeit slightly fishy).  They carry that big ol' shell around for protection, and whip back up into it at the first sign of danger or trouble.  I am, in all honesty, a very emotional, sensitive and tenderhearted creature (if you have known me primarily through my blog, or from the age of  22 on, feel free to insert a giant "Duh!" here).  But I developed for myself quite a thick shell of detachment, sarcasm and silence.  And when there is the slightest whiff of emotional trouble or  emotional exposure, my first instinct is to immediately withdraw all exposed parts right back into that nice, safe shell.  I've worked pretty hard not to do that quite as often or as quickly, but I see a kindred spirit in the turtle in that respect.

Secondly, the turtle is often used as a sign of patience and persistence.  I struggle with these things in some respect, but those have frequently been my two strong points, personally as well as in my relationships with others.  My husband would be the first to say, I think, that a big part of the reason that our marriage works as well as it does is that generally I am quite patient with him and with the kids.  And I am actually often better at meeting long term goals than short term ones.  I do get frustrated and discouraged with feeling like I'm slow and plodding if I'm looking a few weeks or small tasks into the future, but when I keep the big picture in mind, with the end goal miles away down the road, I am pretty good at staying consistent and determined.

And lastly, and probably most importantly, have you ever watched a sea turtle (or even a little painted turtle) swim?  On land, turtles are very slow, awkward and lumbering creatures.  They look a little ridiculous.  But get them in the water and suddenly they are swift, agile, even graceful.  When you put them in their element, that which they were designed for, they practically become different animals.

There are so many ways and places in life in which I feel awkward.  I get frustrated and feel slow and clumsy.  But the Lord has given me a few wonderful gifts, and when I am using those gifts appropriately I sometimes catch a glimpse of my best self, the beautiful creature my Father designed me to be, and I am supremely grateful for that which He has given me.  Many of those gifts I didn't realize I even had, or that they were as strong as they are, until I was 18 or 20 years old.  I pray now that I will develop them as I ought and be worthy of them.  For its in those things that I feel the most alive and the most helpful to those around me.  
Being lonely sucks.

But you know what's 1,000 times worse?

Being all alone.

Being lonely=no one around to keep you company.

Being all alone=lots of people, lots of bodies, lots of "should be my friend"s, and still nobody to keep you company.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is it really August?

8 months old today!!!
Somewhere in the vicinity of 19 pounds and 26 inches.  Keilana's best buddy, recently the object of Dylan's tender affection, my delight.  Happy, easy-going, curious.  Daddy's biggest fan!  She hangs out with him quite a lot, and pretty happily.  And she loves the piano.  Its usually the surest bet for beating cranky boredom blues.  She's quite the little Mozart.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Indeed you are

So one of my great pet peeves in life is when people quote Cain by asking, "Am I my brother's keeper?" in a way that implies that they obviously feel that they are not their brother's keeper.

Here's the thing about that: Cain was doing the classic avoid-and-misdirect-because-of-guilt routine.  He had just murdered his brother.  Got that?  If you quote that line in agreement with it, you're quoting a murderer.  The whole point of the story is that Cain was wrong--not only should he not have killed his brother, but yes, he should've been his brother's keeper in a positive and edifying manner.

When we are baptized and confirmed, part of the covenant we make is that we will take care of each other.  We recognize that as children of God, we are all brothers and sisters and thus have a moral obligation to look out for each other.  As Paul put it, "Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."

One of the most frequently abused phrases in the English language (one I'm guilty of using more often than I'd care to admit), that just grates on me is "Not my problem".  Maybe not.  But perhaps it should be.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My heart

"The world is but a canvas to the imagination."
-Henry David Thoreau

I love this photograph.
Granted, the picture itself is no great work of art, 
but it just captures so well who my little girl is.
She has taken to reporting to me each morning
the dreams she had the night before
(a habit her Yaya would certainly approve of).
The plots change every night, 
but there is most always a princess (or two or three)
and if its a bad dream
often there's an evil knight
or a dragon.
Sometimes she's the princess.
Sometimes she's the good knight who rescues the princesses.
the ending is happy.
That's Keilana.
Full of fantastical flights of fancy,
always ready for some adventure
completely, actively "in the moment"
every moment
and yet still with her head in the clouds.
My little helper.
My little jewel.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Do you ever wish

that you were the woman your mother is? 

So a couple of days ago, I'm dragging my three wild monkeys through Target.  Dylan is the exactly wrong age to take shopping (or maybe he's not--Keilana already did quite well by 3 1/2--maybe its just him).  On top of that it was that afternoon laze time of day where if he took regular naps, he'd be napping.  On top of that, he has a cold (seriously?  Who gets colds in California in August? Honestly!)   He was a monster nearly the whole time.  On the way out to the car, he started digging through the bag of purchased items, asking frantically "Where's my robot?! Where's my robot?!" in reference to the small stuffed robot he'd been allowed to play with while we shopped.  When I explained that we did not buy the robot and that I don't get toys for little boys who don't listen to their mommies, the Ultimate Meltdown began.  By the time I got him buckled into his booster seat, I wanted to beat the child senseless.  I didn't, but by golly did I want to.

My mom had five kids.  She worked full time as a school teacher, in the same small school district where we were all enrolled (which worked out quite nicely for all us kids).  She also was an EMT on the local (and all volunteer) ambulance service, and probably went on more calls than anyone else.  She was a foster parent to dozens of kids who came through our home, giving many of them more structure, attention and affection than they probably had at any other point in their lives.  It seems like she took care of everybody.  I talked to my grandma last weekend (my dad's mom), and she mentioned that my mom stops by usually at least once a week to see how she's doing and then said, "My son did good picking that girl."  I have to agree.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, she taught us all to read and to garden.  I remember so frequently sitting on her lap or next to her on the couch and playing silly games when I was very little.  Even if she was doing something else, like grading papers, I never felt like she was just "nodding along" (even though I catch myself doing this with my own children even when I don't have anything else to do).  She helped put together PTA plays that became massive community programs.  She rehearsed lines with me for my plays when I was older.  She gave us great birthday parties and took us camping and huckleberrying.  She made it to nearly every volleyball game, softball tournament, track meet, academic bowl, play and 4H meeting.

And here's the kicker:  I don't ever remember her being crabby, or even tired (I'm sure she was tired, but I don't think this is just clueless youngest child syndrome--I'm pretty sure everyone that knows her would back me up on this).  I don't ever remember her simply losing her patience.  I have always been hyper sensitive to criticism, and my mom was one of the only people I ever allowed to teach me new skills, because I never felt like she was getting frustrated or impatient before I got it (never more true than when I was learning to drive!)  I can literally count on one hand the number of times in my life I remember her yelling or raising her voice.  And every single instance had something to do with the safety of children--hers or someone else's.  She didn't much put up with us whining about chores or anything else, but she left no room for us to complain, because she always worked right along side us (and, as an adult, I now realize of course that she worked 10 times harder than the rest of us). I don't ever remember her complaining about work that needed to be done.  It simply needed to be done, so she did it.  End of story.  

I've been trying to develop some of that inhuman patience she seems to have.  My grandma was so delightfully patient with kids, too.  Even though my kids may not be lucky enough to have the kind of mom I had, I'm glad that my mom will be around for a good, long time, so they at least have the kind of yaya I had.  I'm grateful for her example.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Some more awesome things about my grandma

My grandma got made fun of a lot in my house growing up.  All in good fun, of course (I'm pretty sure, anyway), as my family often shows affection through good natured ribbing.  Of course, sometimes we're just snotty but can claim it was that same old "affectionate teasing" routine.

But I digress. I was talking about Grandma.

You see, my grandma is, how shall I say this?  Quirky, perhaps?  She speaks very rapidly and doesn't enunciate terribly well.  While she is quite bright, she is not very well educated--or at least not very well rounded in her education.  She wears bright red Wet N Wild lipstick the way many people use Chapstick.  She makes rather severe snap judgments, and has been known to sometimes cling to them a bit too long.  She has the temper to match her auburn locks (which just started showing gray for the first time, really, a few years ago).  She had a difficult marriage, so I'm sure her children saw her often upset (and she is not one to quietly be the victim).  She's been an incredible grandparent, always full of fun conversation and some homemade treat, be it her delectable fudge, divinity, popcorn balls or a score of other sugary delights (is it any wonder the woman has diabetes?)  While I knew she was a great grandma, because of the ease of mocking all these other traits (and the joy my father, particularly, took in said teasing) there was something I missed about her for years:

She's incredible.

My grandma was raised by faithful LDS parents.  She was the baby of the family, and was treated accordingly.  She speaks of her mother with great affection and respect, as a quiet woman with an even temperament--as an adult I know this is partly out of gratitude, and partly out of wishing that she were more like her mother.  As a young woman, she fell in love with a handsome young man who was not LDS, but who was from a good, hard-working family that shared many of her values.  She chose a civil marriage.

Before I go any further, I must state that I love my grandfather and he was a good, kind and affectionate grandparent to his grandkids.  I didn't know him as well as I should've (particularly considering that he lived across the creek from my house for most of my childhood), but I will always cherish the memory of his wonderful story-telling ability and his utterly charming Ronald Reagan smile.

Now, that being said, my grandma was married to a man who was an alcoholic.  He was never, never, never physically abusive to her or the kids.  He treated a couple of them poorly, but for the most part his children remember him as a decent man, and I've heard the younger ones describe him as "a great dad" and "one of the sweetest men I've ever known".  More than anything, the problem was that as a husband, a father and a provider, he was simply unreliable in most every way.

My grandparents separated when I was about Dylan's age, and divorced shortly thereafter.  I have no memory of them as a couple.  When I was a tweenager and teenager, when my grandmother first started telling about their life together, what struck me was the very obvious, very conflicted presence of both a great deal of anger and a great deal of love.  Nine years ago, my grandmother married her current husband.  He joined the church a couple years later, and they are now sealed to each other.  The longer she was married to Clark, the less I heard the anger.  Just a couple of years ago she said of Clark, "He's my companion."  It was an odd combination of gratitude and sad disappointment.  I started to really understand how my grandma felt about Grandpa.  She had loved him--she didn't stay married to him for 37 years just out of stubbornness or not having anywhere else to go.  She loved him, and I really believe that if, at any point, he had shown any true interest in the church, she would've gone right back to him.  But though she loved him, and held onto hope for a long time, he was never a companion to her, not really.  

When I was preparing to get married the summer I turned 19, I was so excited.  But I was also a little sad, knowing that none of the people I loved would be in the temple with me.  A few friends were at the temple (Bret and Erica--what did I ever do to deserve them in my life?), and my grandma served as my escort.  The trip to California was too much for her, so she didn't make it to the wedding, but I knew she was with me in her heart.  I sat at her house talking with her and she started telling me about when she went through the temple for the first time as a middle aged woman.  She was full of joy and hope and gratitude.  Yet she was completely heart-broken, because she knew even though that step took her closer to her parents, her family, and the Lord--that it was the right thing and where she should be--it was taking her that much farther away from Lamar, and he didn't have any desire to follow her there.  

At that moment, I grew up a little.  For probably the first time in my life I looked across the table at this woman I had known my whole life and really saw her.  Not as grandma, not as Dad's mom, not as the family caricature we all had so much fun with, but as a woman, a fellow traveler.  I knew well the heartbreak of feeling like doing the right thing--specifically going through the temple--was taking you farther away from the people you loved.  How much more heartbroken would I feel, I thought, if it were my husband that taking that step moved me away from?

I have watched the transformation in my grandma the last decade.  Her temper (and general demeanor) has calmed.  She makes judgments a bit more slowly and reflectively.  She is good-humored about her own faults (which she is more aware of than most give her credit for).  Some probably write it off to the tempering of old age (she turned 80 last year).  But I am confident that much of it is having a companion who she feels cherished by.  Its that many more years to grow closer to the Savior (that's what the "tempering of old age" is for many people, after all).

It has been my privilege and delight to have many long, meaningful conversations with her  both in person and over the phone about the Gospel, family and everything that matters the last several years.  It continues to amaze me how much she understands and how well she understands it.  Because her grasp of eloquent language is lacking, because she doesn't have the ability to articulate things the way most of her kids can, I don't think she gets the credit she deserves for what she knows and understands.  But her grasp of eternal truths and principles is better than most I know.  Hopefully she has a good long time left here on this earth, but I will miss her when she's gone.  And when my own time comes to lay this mortal by, I will be proud to have her be one of those who comes to help guide me home.

An Oldie but a Goodie

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace, 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Little Moments

"All life's made
in these small hours
these little wonders
these twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
but these small hours,
these small hours
still remain. . .
I cannot forget the way I feel
right now
in these small hours,
these little wonders
these twist and turns
of fate"
~Rob Thomas

I've written before about my reason for naming my blog Hinges, about the small moments that are the sum of our lives.

Tonight I talked on the phone with my Grandma for about an hour.  Just about anyone who knows me can tell you of the great love and deep respect I have in my heart for both my grandmothers.  A couple of days ago, I came across these photos on Doug's phone--photos I didn't know existed, about small moments in my life that would seem quite inconsequential to anyone else.  But, having lost my other grandmother when Keilana was just a tiny baby, I know that a day will come when these pictures--my grandmother holding my baby--will be one of my most treasured possessions.  This is what life is all about--so much more than the grand histories or stirring philosophies I love to discuss.  Life is about these day to day moments where we talk about little things in our little lives and become, moment by moment, the people we are and make, moment by moment, the relationships that matter in our lives.

Why do these little moments--captured in honest photographs--become such tender memories in our hearts? Its because every human being, whether they ascribe to any particular religious philosophy or not, knows instinctively (in that most divine and wonderful part of them, with that measure of light with which they entered the world) that this is how things should be.  There ought to be a linking of generations, a promise of tender and meaningful connections continuing beyond the shadow of death.  That the image of my grandmother holding my baby is one I can hold onto not in mournful loss after she is gone, but rather in looking forward with hopefulness when the promise of that moment is fulfilled.  When they will grow to know and love each other completely, in an unending bond of eternal love, families linked together, husband to wife, father and mother to child, and then, of course, amazing grandmas to beautiful little great-granddaughters.  That's the promise of the sealing--the promise of forever.

I believe quite strongly that we glimpse eternity most strongly in the smallest moments, where we could almost miss it if we weren't paying close attention.  We stopped at Paul and Christa's the other night to pick up the baby and puppy that they had babysat for us and the sitcom they were watching was just ending.  The episode centered around a fictional 9-year-old rock star and in the closing scene, the show's star was playing a song with the little girl.  In the way he smiled at her I could see it and asked, "Is that his daughter in real life?"  Lo and behold, it was.  That look on a parent's face when they are "in the moment" with their child, their heart aflutter at the beauty and wonder of their own child, that's what eternity looks like.  Real joy is not found in status, wealth, toys, vacations or anything else of the sort.  Its in a Tuesday afternoon at Grandma's house, chatting about the comings and goings of those in our life that we love, eating a few sugar wafers or a handful of Trix and knowing that you are loved.