A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in the Saturday night session of Stake Conference, enjoying some quiet time away from the kiddies, when my husband’s phone vibrated. “It’s home,” he said, and slipped outside to take the call. We’d left our thirteen-year-old son in charge of himself and our ten-year-old daughter and our daughter’s friend, with instructions to call my husband’s cell phone if, heaven forbid, an emergency arose. The three kids were heading outside to play soccer in the twilight as we’d driven away and I was a little nervous about leaving them playing in the yard; so, while my husband was out in the hall on the phone, I felt a prickle of fear. Had the dog run away again? Had someone fallen out of a tree? I pictured skinned knees and bloody noses and broken arms. But then my husband didn’t come back, and, as the conference speaker droned on, I jumped from picturing possible mishaps to outright disasters. Had the call been so urgent that my husband had flung himself in the car and driven home? Was the house on fire? Had my daughter or her friend drowned in the river? I could almost hear the terrifying wail of sirens approaching my house as I worked myself up into full-blown panic mode. Continue reading
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I had a strange Sabbath. To put it bluntly, I wasn’t feeling the Spirit. I wish I could say that I have no one to blame but myself, but I am blaming others as well. Mea Culpa? You be the judge.
The first aggravation is that TPTB have put me as the Sunbeam teacher. The Sunbeams are all little gems to love, but this isn’t the cushy job of creating centerpieces for Enrichment, if you get my drift. After twenty-two blissful years in Relief Society, they decided to put me as the teacher to my own three-year old. Lucky me, you say? I DREAD IT! I love the Dickens (yes, as in Charles) out of him, but isn’t it enough that I have him all week, then wrestle with him in Sacrament, and now I have to deal with him for two whole more hours! That is laying the final straw on my sweet mother camel back.
Last summer I discovered a young bird hopping and hobbling around our patio. He had fallen out of the nest and didn’t yet have the flying skills to find his way home. He frantically tried to fly, but his body weight seemed too heavy for his wing span. He discovered the aspen trees near by, and I watched the mother bird arrive to cheer him on as he tried to hop higher and higher in the branches. Several times he lost his balance and tumbled to the ground, but he would awkwardly pick himself up and try again. The mother bird patiently chirped her approval of his efforts.
The frustration of the baby bird reminded me of my oldest son who had dropped out of the mission nest due to a debilitating knee injury when he still had nine months left to serve. Six weeks later he was feeling discouraged by his lack of progress and by the inability of doctors to magically heal all of our wounds. He had no desire to be nestled safely in the family nest, rather he yearned to be soaring with the rest of the missionary eagles.
My son felt like the awkward baby bird who wasn’t making much progress getting back to the nest. Lacking the patience of the mother bird, I felt frustrated by my inability to make everything better. When my children were little I could just apply a band-aid and a hug. As my children grew taller, their problems seemed to grow larger. Now I wanted to be more like the mother bird, blessed with innate cheerleading skills, to strengthen my son’s faith I told my son about the little bird and our battle cry for the rest of the week was, “Fly, Little Bird, Fly!”
There is a woman who walks into my house every morning at 7:00 am. Sometimes she goes into my kitchen and makes herself a cup of coffee. She uses my bathroom, helps herself to dishes in my kitchen, puts dirty laundry in my hamper, and pulls linens out of my linen closet. She reads the books on my book shelf. Occasionally she comments on the cleanliness of my house or on something clever one of my children says or does. She hears me yell at my kids, sees my bad moods, my messy kitchen, my pajama-wearing bra-lessness first thing in the morning, and I secretly believe she is tracking my menstrual cycle. She observes. She monitors. She records. She sits in my living room all day long.
Why do I put up with this? Continue reading
I’ve attended some doozie Enrichment meetings in my time. And some pretty ‘out-there’ Homemaking meetings before that. I’ve watched magicians, painted little bunnies, watched people teach me how to cook, clean, budget, crochet, sew, can, change the oil, change a filter, change a $20. I watched a speaker once do a ‘strip-tease’ as some warped sort of object lesson. I’ve done yoga, cropped pictures, pounded nails, pounded dough, snipped seams. I’ve fed the hungry, fed myself, and been fed up. Continue reading
Last week during a special time of the month for me I cried to my husband about what a horrible person I am. I don’t know if you do this, but I start to feel a bit like a big ball of flaws, with nothing good to offer to the world, no talents, no hope of ever changing or improving. Sometimes it’s worse than others; inevitably I figure out it’s hormonally induced and things get back into perspective. But often before balance returns I create a list of goals to work on (remember my lists?). I try to figure out what I’m doing wrong and set goals to do better. Though the emotions are cyclically disproportionate to the problems, generally the goals I set are things I really do need to work on. Continue reading
I was in New York City last week and you can’t spend more than an hour there without pondering the idea of coolness. Am I cool? Am I not? These are the kind of soul-searching questions I ask myself. And the conclusion I came to? I am, in fact, incredibly cool. Let’s look at the facts, though:
1. I am 38, which is middle-aged no matter how much I don’t want it to be.
2. I drive a minivan. It’s a joke on wheels. A minivan! Why don’t I just start wearing mom-jeans while I’m at it?
3. I live in the suburbs. Not only that but I live in a neighborhood where my house is one of ten floor plans that residents can choose. In other words, bland and ordinary.
I’m learning that the art in my home is a little…pedestrian.
It includes the usual suspects: boards with vinyl lettering (made by yours truly at an RS Enrichment night), twiggy wreaths, pictures of the kids.
And a Thomas Kinkade picture.
We bought it before we knew about Thomas’ unfortunate forays into the world of ceramics and other various “collectibles.” The painting was a limited edition. It was (and still is) the most expensive piece of artwork we have ever purchased. We had illusions of it increasing in value, of owning something special.
We were young. Continue reading
I was in a right hurry when I grabbed the receipt out of the cashier’s hand—on my way home from work to cook dinner for three waiting, gaping maws. Hooking my finger through the sack of produce, I barely glanced at the lady behind me as I walked towards the exit. Two steps away it hit me: the lovely middle-aged woman with silver temples against dark hair and a soft face was one of my Young Women leaders oh-so-many years ago. Did I stop? No. But I smiled to myself as I raced across the parking lot.
To put the finest point on it, this sister was one of the sweetest, most gentle women I’ve ever met; generous to a fault and truly kind. She also came up with some of the most hilarious and memorable object lessons I’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing in my entire life. Continue reading
Have you got it? Have you lost it? Are you still looking for it? Then we want to hear from you! Segullah is looking for submissions for our Spring 2010 issue themed, “Dating, Courtship, and Marriage.” Our mission is to highlight a variety of women’s perspectives within a framework of shared beliefs and values. So, whether you’re married, divorced, engaged, widowed, or navigating the single’s scene, here is your chance to tell us what you really think. Have you found a groovy kind of love? Is he killing you softly? Are you and your husband hopelessly devoted? Is he a mighty, mighty good man? Are you looking for some r-e-s-p-e-c-t? Are you a rock? Are you an island? Or is your heart all achy and breaky?
Submissions can be in the form of personal essay or poetry. Please see our submissions guidelines here. The deadline for submissions for the Spring 2010 issue is August 15th, 2009. Come on ladies! Tell us what you really, really want! There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but the ways to explore this theme are endless!
Please comment below if there are any particular topics you would like to see addressed in this issue.
Today’s post comes courtesy of the incomparable, Ellen Patton, raised in Van Nuys, California, she moved to Boston nearly twenty-one years ago, sight unseen. She enjoys baking, reading, sewing, quilting, antiquing, taking photos, decorating her condo (in a converted school), road tripping and blogging. Ellen works as an assistant to the President of MIT, and has word processing, photocard, and photography businesses on the side. She is a sister to three brothers, an aunt to eleven and friend to hundreds.
It has been ten and a half years since my brother Robes (Robert Pitchforth Patton) died of a brain tumor. I still count the years and months and miss him terribly. When “Robby” was thirteen months old, I was born; rocking his little world. A baby sister redheaded baby sister. And, on September 28, 1998, eighteen months and three days after his brain cancer diagnosis, Robes’ death rocked my world. I won’t ever forget it.
Staying up two entire nights, true vigils, watching over him as he slipped into a coma and then died. It wasn’t like the movies. The noises were strange. His vital signs raced and his organs shut down. His skin changed. He picked at his clothes. He became weaker and weaker. He was confused and he hallucinated. His body and mind failed him after a short thirty nine years. I have never felt sadness like I felt when it was clear that he was dying. I remember the steady stream of tears and the sick feeling in my stomach. We huddled around his hospital bed in their home; me, his wife Kim, her mother Ann, and his college friend Rick Egan. The three kids were still sleeping. We were watching and waiting. Whispering to each other about what was happening. Counting his pulse and respirations. The shock and disbelief that he was dying right in front of us. His strange gasps for breath that none of us anticipated. It was surreal. Robes died that Monday morning at 7:00am. A lover of gourmet food and an excellent cook—being spoon fed green jell-O. Bedridden for weeks—a man with a passion for travel. And, a writer by trade—robbed of his keen mind. How does that happen to a healthy young man? Why does that happen to a healthy young man? Continue reading
I recently finished a really lovely book–Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It’s a novel-in-stories—and yes, I’m partial to novels-in-stories—and as I was reading I kept finding myself thinking, “Daaaaaang, I wish I could write like Elizabeth Strout.”
But this post isn’t about my own author jealousy, or Elizabeth Strout’s prodigious talents, or even the merits of Olive Kitteridge. (Although you should read it—but there is some language, and it’s kinda sad in a weirdly hopeful way, and some of you might be bugged by the fact that it’s not a traditional novel and has all those annoying short stories in it—but if you’re okay with all of that, read it! And if you’re not okay with it, you don’t have to read it . . . and that’s okay, too.)
No, this post is about a killer passage from the end of the novel, and how it got me thinking. Here it is: Continue reading
Alright, I’m completely hijacking this blog to set up my own personal advice council. I’ll admit that I’m completely lazy, and in February, the Christmas wreath was still on the front door:
One day, in late February, we noticed some twigs and straw stuck in the wreath. Hmmmm, strange, how’d that get there? Oh, wait…It’s a bird’s nest!
But we did nothing about it, mostly because we liked the idea of a bird diving at our faces every time we walked toward the front door.
But now…just as I was finally getting around to taking the nest and the wreath down…
It seems I’m stuck. And soon, we’ll have a protective mother bird after us each time we open the front door. But I just can’t bring myself to kill the poor little babies!
What would you do?
I’m sitting here eating Easter candy for breakfast. Not just Easter candy, I made sure it’s part of a complete breakfast. I had two glasses of water, a small bowl of Kix with 1% milk, a slice of double fiber toast with a tsp. of butter. Post-morning workout I often feel energized and resolved to eat well and not undo the work I just did, generally that I’ve sacrificed sleep to do. Continue reading
In the spirit of all those Oscar articles right before the big night, I’d like to offer a few Whitney Award predictions. I had a great time being on the Whitney Academy this year. I have read all the finalists, and I was tickled to discover some fabulous writing that I would not have looked at before. I wish that I could attend the Whitney Awards Banquet, which will be held April 25th, but I have an unavoidable scheduling conflict. Sigh. I hope they do liveblogging again this year so I can read about it later.
Before I tell you my predictions, a bit of perspective on judging LDS fiction, and a disclaimer. Continue reading
In one of my favorite talks from this recent general conference (as though I could really pick a favorite), Elder Ballard talked about learning from mistakes of the past, and learning from the wisdom and experience of others.
I was sobered as he talked about learning from larger patterns, such as what is often called the pride cycle: “righteousness, followed by prosperity, followed by material comforts, followed by greed, followed by pride, followed by wickedness and a collapse of morality, until the people brought calamities upon themselves sufficient to stir them up to humility, repentance, and change.” Elder Ballard clearly noted that this classic historical cycle is emerging again in our society. He also was clear about how choices — at the individual and collective levels — can and do have spiritual consequences. Continue reading
I still remember when, shortly after moving into our ward, my good friend Melody was approached by a sister in the ward regarding some enrichment activity. Apparently the woman had mistaken her for another single sister who lived a few houses down the street. As Melody kindly straightened her out the woman abruptly said, “Oh. You’re the other one.” Continue reading
At 8pm on Tuesday, April 14th, the Howard University PBS station (WHUT) will air Margaret Young and Darius Gray’s documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. I’ve been interviewing Margaret for an upcoming issue of Segullah, and I know that she’s really excited about one of the nation’s premier historically black universities showing their work. It’s a really interesting, well-done and important film.
If you’re not in metro DC and still want to see the documentary, follow the link above for ordering instructions.
Outsourcing. As I listen to NPR driving about town, people talk about the future of American jobs, they fret over customer service call centers in India and the dangers of outsourcing, but lately it’s been a different form of domestic outsourcing I can’t get out of my head– outsourcing in our homes.
In business the commodity to be saved is money, but in the home it is convenience. As a part of our modern world, I feel the historical work of home life shifting away from me. I feel a constant battle between the cartoon angel (Leslie the Family Scientist) and devil (Just-Enjoy-Yourself Leslie) on my shoulder. Continue reading
I always look forward to the first weekends of April and October. In my mind, General Conference weekend is a time when I sleep in late, eat good food, get religious instruction from the comfort of my couch, doze between (but never during) sessions, take notes, wear pajamas instead of pantyhose, and end the weekend physically and spiritually fed and full of resolve to get me through the next six months.
It’s Sunday night now, and I feel more frazzled than fed. We tried our best to watch Conference, really we did. My kids are little (ages 8-2) so on Saturday I decided not to be too dictatorial about forcing them to watch. But we were all bathed and dressed and positioned in front of the television at 11am. The familiar strains of the organ filled the house and we listened eagerly as Neil Andersen was called to the Quorum of the Twelve. The positive streak lasted through talks by Elder Hales and Sister Lifferth, but 40 minutes was as long as we could sustain our run. Our toddler needed a nap, the big kids wanted lunch, we were out of milk, and I needed to make a trip to the bank before it closed. If I recorded the rest of the session and ran errands, I reasoned, I’d still have time to catch up before the afternoon session started. Continue reading
So what did you love about General Conference?
What filled your soul, prompted you toward change, strengthened or inspired you? What did the talks commit/recommit you to do? Do you have any plans to implement new things in your lives and homes?
Come discuss the richness! Share!
Today’s guest post comes from the endearing and committed, Jenny Whitcomb, a delightful Massachusetts-living mother of six, known for making sculptures out of her teenage son’s messy room and always infusing her mothering with humor and creativity. She enjoys life’s simple pleasures like grape laffy taffy and marathon soaks in the tub.
A week ago I attended a meeting where someone said, “We live in an age of entitlement.” That word, entitlement has since been reverberating in my head. It’s plinking around between my ears because the word itself has a bothersome connotation. In a world where instant gratification is an integral part of our routines, it’s hard to imagine that people would think about feeling entitled to live in a certain neighborhood, eat meals out, have a day at the spa, or wear specific brand labels. Please don’t misread. I’m all for betterment. It’s just that when working to make improvements turns into expecting upgrades, I get queasy, and wonder how our sense of stewardship has become distorted and provident living becomes a quaint idea of the past. I asked my kids if they knew what entitlement meant. I got puzzled looks. One wants new jeans, another a sweatshirt. The definitions they came up with were well-thought out— to give someone a title, among others— but none were correct. And even though my kids haven’t officially reached adulthood, the fact that they couldn’t put a finger on the meaning of a word that describes our day-to-day existence was troubling. Thus the question: If we live in an age where we feel we deserve so much, why don’t we recognize it?
I don’t usually have these moments, but lately they’ve come by the bucketful and I feel saturated and heavy by a type of inadequacy that leaves me lingering on one thought:
I am a bad mother.
The truth is that he is hard. He is five. He is a boy. He is a middle child. And oh, holy cow is he hard. (Wait, did I already say that?) Still, I wonder if it’s me.