Monthly Archives: January 2012

Arctic Tundra Sunset

Extremely cold and incredibly beautiful

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I went home for Christmas, begrudgingly. I tried to talk myself out of it this year, for several reasons: plane tickets are a few hundred dollars more now that we live in Rhode Island; my husband is quite possibly going to a really expensive grad school someday so I might as well not buy anything for the next five years; we just saw everyone in August when all seven of us crammed into our one-bedroom house in Utah for two weeks while we prepared for my sister’s wedding.

“I do not need to go home,” I told myself. “It’s too far away, too cold, too dark. It’s Kotzebue, Alaska.” Continue reading

PRELUDE TO A KISS AT MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (MUSINGS ON LONGING)

I recently watched two movies (not at the same time.) One was an older film called “Prelude to a Kiss” with Meg Ryan and a young (cute!) Alec Baldwin, which involved an old man kissing a bride on her wedding day and the two exchanging souls/bodies–a sort of prelude to “Freaky Friday.”  The young bride, fearful of life, just wants to be nearer the end, looking back on her life. The old guy, on the other hand, longs for youth.

The other film was the new Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris”, which I did not expect to like, not being a fan of Woody Allen, nor of the movie’s star, Owen Wilson. But in fact, I loved the movie, in which the OW character hops a Peugeot between present day Paris and the Paris of the 1920′s where he hobnobs with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and the Fitzgeralds. It’s a film about nostalgia. About longing. About the illusions we harbor that a life other than our own, a time other than now, might be–surely would be–better. Continue reading

Home Sweet Home

Every day one of my children comes rushing in the door and heads straight to the bathroom. We’ve talked repeatedly about the physical issues that can come up from holding it in all day, but she refuses to listen to reason and only uses the bathroom in public when the situation becomes absolutely unavoidable. As much as I give her a hard time about it, I can understand her feelings because I was the same way as a child (and young adult). Something about institutional, public settings made it nearly impossible for me to relax. I didn’t really get over my discomfort with public restrooms until I got to the MTC and realized that I would be living in a dorm and sharing a not-so-cozy public bathroom with a number of other people for eight weeks. I could either adapt or make myself sick, so I adapted. Continue reading

The Battle in our Brains

Several months ago I attended the Mormon Women Project Salon Event, at which I heard Tina Peterson speak. The title for her breakout session was, “Becoming a Deliberate Student of the Gospel.” Tina has a degree in Near Eastern Studies and has studied the Old and New Testament in their original languages from multiple sources including the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“That’s where you need to be,” I said to myself. So I chose her class. And by the end of the evening, it was Tina’s words that stayed with me most. They hung in my mind for weeks. She so revolutionized my study and thinking that, with her permission, I share what she taught here.

Tina first talked about the mechanics of effective scripture study. They were the standard “should-dos” until she got to #4.

  1. Pray before you begin.
  2. Read, cross-reference, immerse yourself in the texts.
  3. Keep a notepad and pencil near you. Write down every impression that comes to you, without dismissing thoughts that may seem random or out of context.
  4. Over time, look back at what you have written and search for patterns. Trends and themes will emerge. You will see what the Holy Ghost is trying to teach you.
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Wow, I thought. I jot down notes, scribble in the margins, underline in various colors, but looking for patterns, themes, and messages over time? That hadn’t occurred to me.

Then Tina got serious, because we were short on time, and she said, “Now I’m going to tell you what I feel strongly you need to hear.” We were listening. Continue reading

If You Just [Insert Stupid and/or Unhelpful Here]

“Hey Kel, I know this really nice guy – “

“No thanks.”

“But I haven’t said anything about him!”

“You said you know a guy.”

“I do!”

“You said ‘nice’”

“So?”

“You’re trying to set me up.”

“Um, yeah?”

“No thanks.”

I do not need a husband. I’ve had one and frankly the model I chose required significant work and then developed fatal safety flaws which broke my family into pieces. I’m reluctant to get another one. There’s too much hassle, too many unknown variables, and that’s just getting to the abandoned car yard of Single Adult activities. I’m quite happy just looking at the top models (thinking David Tennant, Jason Statham, John Scalzi, Stephen Fry and The-Rock-Whatever-His-Real-Name-Is here) and cruising along in my one-adult-two-kid jalopy. Continue reading

“Is Not This the Fast that I Have Chosen?”

Like most of you, I’m guessing, I haven’t always understood or relished the law of the fast. On Fast Sundays as a young girl I hated that hollow, gnawing feeling in my stomach and I passed the time in Sunday school fantasizing about my favorite treats—custard tarts, vanilla slices, lamingtons—always resolving to buy two of each at school the next day. After church, while waiting in the car for my parents to finish talking and drive us home, I’d lie on the backseat, moaning, my fingers pressed against my protruding ribs, absolutely certain that once we got home I’d be too weak to walk into the house and I would be left to starve to death in the car. One Fast Sunday I found my brother, Todd, outside in the backyard, standing underneath our mulberry tree, his lips stained with berry juice. Mulberries aren’t particularly tasty, but they are a food source for starving children, as Todd—who was normally a fruit hater—discovered, and soon we were all asking to go outside and play on Fast Sundays. Continue reading

Bread

Last Sunday, as I was sliding into a pew in time for sacrament meeting, one of the ward leaders motioned me over. Did I have any bread at home? Well, do they say ya’ll in Texas? Of course I did, I always do. There was no bread for the sacrament, and could I run home and get some? I did. I rushed home, grabbed the loaf in the cupboard and got back to the church with my bread. That loaf was one of my prized recipes, a 100% whole wheat loaf made with wheat that I ground and buttermilk I cultured myself. And because I don’t have a grinder, I am currently using my blender and sieve; it takes a little extra time, but how else am I to use the small silo of wheat in my house? It is good bread. And good bread is worth it to me. And oh, I do so love good bread. The crackly crust and chewy crumb of a perfect loaf is heaven to me.

I can’t extend that same love to all bread. It may seem sacrilege that even think of it, but the often cheap, plastic-sleeved bread typically brought in each week for the sacrament at church is hard for me to swallow. The token to remember Christ is most often chemically preserved, bleached and bromated bread, and a bit of a distraction for me. I have to choose to stop thinking about it—is that bad? I know what D&C 27:2 says, but I still feel that when it is something that has substance in my life, shouldn’t the bread that symbolized it have some as well? Should the bread we use for the sacrament matter; or am I overthinking this one? Continue reading

The Art of Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at 7:45 a.m. the eyes and ears of many in the world of children’s literature will be on Dallas. That’s where and when the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association) will announce the winner of the 2012 Randolph Caldecott Award. The award, named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott, is awarded annually “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” Continue reading

Perfect People Not Allowed

A few weeks before Christmas I drove past a cozy-looking Protestant church in my neighborhood. I noticed a colorful banner staked into the ground — “Perfect people not allowed!” it read — and I felt a yearning tug in my heart. It had been a tiring month, emotionally and physically, and the idea of walking into a church so cheerfully opposed to perfection seemed like just the ticket. I imagined padding in wearing tennis shoes, jeans and a sweatshirt. Soothing music would be playing. Perhaps someone would give me a mug of hot cocoa. I wouldn’t have to say anything, or do anything — just sit with all the other rumply, exhausted, not-perfect people and rest.

(I realize that people probably don’t often give you mugs of hot cocoa at Protestant church services, at least not until you’re done sitting in hard chairs and listening to the sermon. I also realize that what I’ve described above doesn’t approximate a church service of any kind, really, but more closely approaches going to a spa. But this is my fantasy, mmkay, so let’s go with it.) Continue reading

On not being boring

An old friend joined FB this week. I’m a little bit addicted to FB, and so when I saw his name pop up on another friend’s wall, I sent him a friend request. His response was polite but the message was clear–he was glad I was doing well, but we were not going to be FB friends.

I shot a message to a mutual friend about it, basically shrugging and saying, ‘I tried’, and this friend said something along the lines of, “That’s okay. He’s boring. We’re more fun anyways”.

And I wondered. Am I? Fun, I mean? Or am I just a cliche? Continue reading

Speaking in Tongues

I’m in the process of trying to go back to school. One of the new (well, new since I went to college) requirements is to have intermediate proficiency in a foreign language. I enrolled in a Spanish class and went last week for the first time. It was, in a word, bewildering. I was lost–completely clueless as to where one word ended and another began, struggling to hear anything even remotely familiar. But it was also exciting to think that maybe someday that jumble of sounds might make sense to me.

Thirty-eight is not exactly the ideal age for language acquisition. One teacher I’ve had recently referred to the phenomenon of brain fossilization, where the language synapses in the brain are so deeply engrained that it’s extremely difficult to break out of them. That’s where I’m at. And yet I love the feeling of pushing beyond those grooves, trying to hear (and produce!) words and even sounds (will I ever be able to roll my r’s? it doesn’t seem likely) in a new way.

One of the first things they taught us was phrases we can use in prayer (this is BYU). And as I was practicing a few days ago, somehow the practice actually turned into prayer and tears flowed. I don’t think I’ve prayed vocally for years, and somehow the physical act of talking to God in a way I never had before made me crumble.

I’m interested in your experiences with languages–if you know one other than your native, how and when you learned it, and what it means to you to be able to speak another way.

Turn the other cheek

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Elementary school can be a tough gig.

Early in September, my little Mary sobbed into my arms, “Alice told everyone not to play with me at recess. She says I’m mean.”

“And what did you do?” I asked, my mother heart constricting.

“I just walked away,” little Mary replied, “and found some friends who like me.”

Hugging my little sprite, I told her, “Walk away every time. No matter what Alice says, don’t get mad, because then you’ll turn into a mean girl.” Continue reading

The Turning

January is such a hard month for so many people. I wanted to find something light and entertaining to say, something else, but instead this topic tugs and nudges at me today.

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…
In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
~W.H. Auden

I woke up to such sad news a year ago this week: the loss of a dear aunt, one of my mom’s younger sisters. While it’s taken me this year to post about it here, I’ve been thinking of her often—of her hilarious laugh and great humor, her devotion to family traditions and good food, her brilliant mind, her compassion, her long and valiant efforts to stay aloft before deciding she couldn’t go on any more.

Suicide leaves its own mark on grief, I’ve noticed. I couldn’t stop thinking of this Brueghel painting, the Auden poem, and Icarus’s unnoticed plight. There is that Auden-like knowledge that, at the same moment someone you love was struggling so profoundly, you were peeling potatoes in your kitchen, wondering whether you had enough milk for tomorrow. How everything turns away, oblivious.  Continue reading

On Being Ordinary

 

I know T.S. Eliot famously claimed that “April is the cruelest month,” but I think January could challenge April for the title.

Like its Roman namesake, Janus, January is definitely two-faced. It’s a time of endings and beginnings, of looking forward and looking back. It combines the promise of a new year with the distinct after-Christmas boredom and return to routine. And in January, it always feels like winter will never end.

I always find January a hard month to get through.

This year, in particular, I’m having a hard time confronting January. A big part of is because my birthday is next week. I’m going to be 35. I have to confront the fact that I’m not exactly “young” anymore. (I’m technically old enough to be the mother to my freshmen students). Continue reading

Singleminded

My oldest son loves video games. He loves them so much that he turned his sixth-grade geography project from “Japan” to “The History of Video Games in Japan.” We’ll sweep his room for his DS and iPod before he goes to bed, but often still find him in the morning with the handheld game clutched to his chest (yes, we need to be more creative about hiding places). A few days ago my husband was studying vocabulary words with him. “What’s an estate?” he asked. My son looked at him blankly. My husband gave an example to help him out, “Luigi’s Mansion” is an estate– a big house with lots of land.” Pretty soon they were relating every vocabulary word on the list to some aspect of Super Mario Bros. and within ten minutes my previously reluctant kid had the words memorized and could use them all in sentences. Continue reading

Coming of Age in a Maasai Boma

Our Dalton turned 16 last week.
Like some of his former birthdays, this one could have been given short shrift, being squished, as it is, between Christmas, our wedding anniversary, and New Year’s.
But this was The Big 1-6, and for months Dalton had been counting down the days. So we promised we’d really mark it this time. We’d holler to the heavens for joy at the marvel of our son’s life. We’d dance and sing and generally jubilate about life.
Vividly.
How?
Well, for starters, we’d invite the whole tribe.
Literally.

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Singing My Praises

I don’t sing in the ward choir. I don’t even sing particularly loud during sacrament meeting. I was blessed with a good ear for music—I can tell when something is off-key and not right. When it’s my children playing the piano while I make dinner, I can easily call out from the kitchen and direct them to the right note. But I was not blessed with a good voice to match that ear. So when I sing, I can tell that I sound horrible, but I don’t know how to make it right.

Even though I have foregone loud public singing and could not be paid to sing a solo in public, I can’t say the same for my actions in my home. Every night when I tuck my children in bed, I sing them a hymn. Continue reading

Jennie, the Not-so-Powerful

I kind of don’t like the start of a New Year. It seems so open, so white, so overwhelming. I’m more of a baby step person. I like the idea of taking things a bit at a time. Which is why I dislike New Year’s resolutions. Most years I don’t even bother because I flop somewhere between January 2nd and the 15th.   This last year, though, I discovered something incredible; something that probably everyone except me has already learned: The Lord will help us keep our goals.  I mean, I’ve heard people say that with God, nothing is impossible. I’ve heard that a million times. And it’s not like I didn’t believe it. I just never really noticed how it worked in my life.

There was that one time I prayed when I was ten years old with every ounce of belief in my body that Heavenly Father would make me magic like Samantha on Bewitched. Surprisingly that prayer wasn’t answered.  Since then I just got the idea that Heavenly Father wants us to muddle through the best we can and pray for help when we need a little extra boost.

Earlier this year I need some help overcoming some emotional issues. Issues that there would be no way to resolve except through sheer willpower. I am not the best when it comes to willpower. Like, I have none.  It got bad enough that I knew I needed major help. My own strength was getting me nowhere. I needed something more: power, might, determination. Continue reading

Putting some heart in it

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I am a personal person. I REALLY like personal things. I like giving little bits of myself to other people, and I love when other people give parts of themselves to me. I love things that are homemade. This takes on a lot of forms. I have one friend who brings me after-church treats. As I load my kids in the car for the 25 min drive home, after wrestling 3 boys through the 3-hour block alone as my husband is off on assignment somewhere in the state, I would probably sell my first born for a cookie. She knows this and passes me off a slice of key lime pie, a mini loaf of chocolate chip pumpkin bread and makes my day. Continue reading