Finding room for your burdens on my back

About a dozen years ago, my best friend went through a difficult time. It was actually more than just difficult; as the miscarriages added up, they seemed to obscure everything else and take over her life. We had lived together for several years in college, but we had graduated, gotten married, started our families, and now lived more than a thousand miles apart. We’d talk on the phone a couple of times a month, but I never knew what to say. I called because I loved her and I knew I needed to, but it always took a certain amount of pysching myself up to pick up the phone. She felt powerless. I felt helpless. I didn’t know whether to listen or to offer advice, and I was always sure I was going to stick my foot in my mouth. And then there was the fact that while we both had toddler sons, I had gone on to have a daughter as well. I think it was hard for both of us not to retreat from the friendship. When I got pregnant with my third child, telling her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

In the years since that time, I’ve talked with friends about their unhappy marriages, and given (probably bad) advice from the point of view of my own solid union. I’ve chatted online with a friend whose son was dying while my own houseful of sons created chaos at my feet. I’ve tried to listen sympathetically to unmarried friends, while staring at the diamond on my own ring finger. In each case, there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix the situation, and listening didn’t feel like enough.

Right now, someone I’m close to is going through a hard time financially. My own family enjoys enough affluence to be comfortable, but not enough to make their problems go away. And even the daily, easy interactions we used to have (“What did you do this weekend?”) feel charged (“Dinner and the Ira Glass concert, how about you?”). I think we’ve both retreated from our relationship, and I know that it’s hard for me because I just feel so darn guilty. In Mosiah 4 we learn that we’re supposed to impart our substance with those that need it, without judgment, and that makes me worry that we’re prioritizing piano lessons and date nights above the more serious needs of our friends.

How have you helped friends through difficult situations, especially when your own life seems relatively easy by comparison? How do you resist the urge to retreat and manage not to stick your foot in your mouth? How do you know how much to help? How do you know when you’re “mourning with those that mourn” and not just making things harder for them?

Parable of the Film Student

P1120986A young man wants to get a graduate degree in filmmaking. He plans to be a writer of screenplays for full length feature films for the entertainment industry. He hunts for film schools and is accepted to one. Then his girlfriend, in the last months of medical school, gets her dream assignment for her residency. But it’s in DC, states away from the man’s school of choice. They decide to get married rather than hassle with a long distance romance. The man hunts for a film program in DC. They launch their adventure and marriage with faith, love and rich lessons in compromise.

 The man finds a university which he describes as “the best film program in DC to go to when you wife just accepted a job there.” Not only is he accepted, he’s given a teaching assistantship and a scholarship. Things look rosy. The couple learns through give and take how to juggle their busy schedules and differing talents. They get a dog, make new friends, hold callings in their ward. They make it work.

 When the man – let’s call him Peter – signs up for this graduate program, he knows that it isn’t perfectly suited to the skills he wants to enhance. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this particular phrase, but it refers to when a person posts an old photo of themselves and others on Facebook.

I’ve talked before about how I’m a little bit addicted to Facebook, and TBT makes me smile every time I see a picture of somebody I know and love in a space and time different from now. When it’s an old friend, or somebody I have known for a while, often times I will think, “Oh, that’s how I see her in my mind!” or “That’s the guy I remember!” When it’s somebody I’ve met recently, the pictures make me smile to think of, for example, my movie star gorgeous girlfriend strutting 3 foot tall bushy 80′s bangs. (My sister called those bangs “Wall of China” bangs, and she coined it at a time when I distinctly remember being sad that my bangs were not high enough.) Continue reading

Whitney Finalists: Adult Speculative Round Up

Like the young adult speculative category, the adult speculative category this year leans toward dystopian and futuristic worlds. In fact, Amber Argyle’s Winter Queen is the only true fantasy candidate of the ten finalists in the two speculative categories. Two of the other finalists, C. J. Hill’s Echo in Time (Hill is also a finalist for YA speculative) and Stephanie Black’s The Witnesses, are set in futuristic worlds, though Black’s is more overtly dystopian. The remaining two finalists, Heather B. Moore’s The Heart of the Ocean and Jeffrey Savage’s Dark Memories, are both ghost stories, though their similarities end with that–Moore’s book is fairly romantic, and Savage’s book (which kept me up way past my bedtime) is horror, unusual for a Covenant published book. This is the first Whitney finalist nomination for Argyle, but the others are all familiar names in the Whitney circles.

Amber Argyle, Winter Queen

Winter Queen (Fairy Queens, #1)

There’s a lot to like about Argyle’s Winter Queen, starting with this gorgeous cover. I also enjoyed the strong heroine, Ilyenna, who leads the women of her clan and has a confidence most seventeen-year-olds would envy. But when Ilyenna’s clan is ruthlessly attacked and she and a friend are forced to defend themselves against their attackers, Ilyenna finds herself on the brink of death. The winter fairies bring her back to life, but for a price: they want her to be their queen, but to do so would mean abandoning her family and her humanity. Ilyenna refuses, and in consequence finds herself enslaved by the conquering tribe. As she struggles to keep the remnants of her clan together, she finds herself reconsidering the fairies’ offer. Continue reading

Open

imageWhen I lived in the city I was accustomed to the kaleidoscope of smashed glass caught in the cracks and rough patches of sidewalk and road. Beautiful, but terrifying trash. I’ve stepped on enough broken drinking glass shards to know to keep my feet covered when I stepped outside. The day I spied a man running down my Baltimore street without shoes I looked once to see him, again in unbelief, once more in disbelief and again because why would anyone in their right mind run down these glass glittered streets without proper footwear? But up the street he ran anyway, not stepping gingerly, but in stride and purpose. Open and free. I just thought he and anyone else reckless enough to attempt such a task was crazy. Then I met one. Continue reading