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Blog Segullah has been fortunate to have some excellent posts by Guest Authors.

Be Still

quiet-600x400Sherilyn appreciates stories in all forms, and is especially interested in how art reflects culture. She harbors an irrational fear of sharks and lives with her husband and four children in the beautiful, ocean-free community of South Ogden, Utah. She feels energized by people (especially teenagers) and dreads writing bios.

I’m a talker by nature and profession, and for a week I was entirely without a voice. I thought I had escaped the infections that manifested in my family members as nasty head colds, pink eye, and bronchitis, yet just as their coughing quieted and eyes brightened, my throat erupted in a fire all its own. Within hours, my volume dwindled to mute. The forced silence left me floundering at first. Continue reading

When It’s Raining in Your Kitchen, Part II

Angelica Hagman lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two young boys. Her blog, Feast on the Word, helps her keep herself spiritually nourished and is one way she puts her weaknesses to work by having them highlight God’s genius. She also writes Young Adult fiction and keeps a writing blog.

If you’ve followed the Segullah blog for a while, you may have read my recent post, When It’s Raining in Your Kitchen. In it, I recount the thrilling adventure my husband and I had the night following a grueling transatlantic flight. My account includes a water-spewing toilet and rain in our kitchen.

    Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you right here while you read it.

    You’re back? Good.

Now, fast-forward to a night not too long after Segullah published my blog post. It’s about eleven o’clock at night, and I’m in bed, waiting for sleep to envelop me in its beautiful, loving arms (no, our kids still don’t sleep through the night).

Then I hear a noise. A rushing-water noise.

I poke my husband. “Hear that?”

“Hmm?”

Already mourning the warmth under the covers, I scramble to the scene of the previous crime: our master bathroom. But this time, no water is spewing from the toilet water connector, or from anywhere else.

Thank goodness.

Still, my fear lingers. My husband seems a little too eager to drift off to Dreamland, so I poke him again.

“What if a pipe in the wall burst?” I say. “Go turn off the water main to see if the noise stops” (because I’m bossy like that).

We descend the stairs together (because I’m great at emotional support).

On our way to the garage, we hear a dripping sound from the kitchen. With the pure dread that can only follow the memory of past experiences, we flip on the lights.

Sure enough. Water seeps through the large rectangular light fixture in the middle of the room and a smaller light over the sink.

It’s raining in our kitchen. Again.

We hurry outside to turn off the water main – which we, because of the previous flooding incident, now actually know where to find – and soon after, the water stops rushing. Hallelujah! In my mind, I’m already drafting Part II of my Segullah blog post. Something about life preparing us for big emergencies by first sending us a smaller emergency that forces us to locate the figurative water main.

The next morning when I return from a quick shower-only visit to the gym (because asking the neighbors for shower access is awkward), I find my husband and the handyman below the kitchen light. I don’t know why the lack of water underneath their feet makes puddles of unease form in my stomach.

“We turned on the water main,” they explain. “And…nothing. The water works fine. No leaks. We have no idea what the issue is.”

One plus one equals fifty-four. That’s about how much sense this whole thing makes to me.

But this is good news, right? Sure, we have no clue what the issue was/is. And living in constant uncertainty stinks – do we turn off the water main every time we leave the house, so we don’t return to a flood?

Also, that Segullah blog post is slipping through my fingers like…well, water.

The day passes without incident, though, and as I’m drifting off to sleep under my warm covers, I’m beginning to wonder if such things as unicorns and self-healing pipes really do exist. But then…

Yup, you guessed it. That same rushing-water noise behind the wall.

We’re basically professionals by now, and the water main is off faster than you can say disaster. The rushing waters stop.

NOT.

And apparently, water is flowing down the outside wall of the house, too.

At this point, Confusion is King.

But it’s time to adapt, to enter survival-of-the-fittest mode. Too bad Charles Darwin would place me in the “headed for extinction” category.

There is no light on this side of the house, so after grabbing a flashlight, I inch forward on the cold and wet cement path on my bare feet (because I didn’t even think to grab shoes, which indicates Darwin would categorize me correctly).

The weak beam of light isn’t that helpful but after a few moments of considerable squinting, I get it.

The words automatic timer now threaten Confusion’s reign.

“It’s one of the neighbors’ sprinklers – it’s gone haywire!” I shield myself from the spray. “It must be shooting straight into the house somehow!”

“What?!”

What?! is right. There is just one second-floor window on this wall, and it’s firmly shut. The spray seems to reach higher anyway, maybe even to the roofline.

Instead of yanking our neighbors out of their carefree slumber to ask them to please shut off their sprinkler system, we decide to fight off the water until it stops automatically and approach them in the morning (because we’re cowards like that).

Dodging the water dripping from the light fixtures, we tear open the kitchen cupboards to look for something, anything with which to fight off the murderous sprinkler.

I hand my husband a cookie sheet. “Go for it” (because I’m chivalrous like that).

Maybe Darwin was wrong about me, after all.

Preparing for the shower ahead, my poor husband removes his t-shirt (too bad it was dark, right?). He pulls himself up the fence a bit and before I can wish him luck, water attacks the cookie sheet. The smattering makes me think of gunfire.

A knight in untraditional armor, my husband bravely fights the cold water in the not-so-warm night. Darwin would have been proud. He has to take a break or two, though: it’s surprisingly demanding work, battling sprinklers with cookie sheets. Who knew?

Finally, the sprinkler fizzles out, as if offended by our feeble efforts to fight it. We mop up the water in the kitchen. Again.

The next day, Confusion is finally dethroned.

This is what happened: The sprinkler spray did reach up to the roofline of our two-story house, burst through a small rectangular air vent panel, and then trickled down to produce rain in the kitchen.

What. Are. The. Odds?

Even as I pen this blog post, I’m not sure what lesson to draw from our experience. So I go for the obvious (because I’m lazy like that):

There are just some things life can’t completely prepare us for, because they are just too…random.  So life prepares us the best it can, pushing us to at least locate the figurative – or, in our case, literal – water main.

Knowing where the water main is located definitely helps. But much confusion may still follow, and plenty of creative thinking and Darwinian adaption may be required.

So, consider yourself warned:

At some point in the future, you may find yourself figuratively fighting a renegade water sprinkler with a cookie sheet (or, because you’re just as chivalrous as me, you volunteer someone else to do it for you).

And who knows – maybe your adaptation and survival skills will even make Charles Darwin proud.

How has life prepared you for unpredictable experiences? How do you adapt and employ creative thinking when life throws you curve balls?

The Sister, the Beast, and the Invitation to Love

Teresa Bruce TealAshes (1)Teresa Bruce edits and writes as a freelancer. For fun (and food) she gardens year-round in her chemical-free Florida backyard, yielding more produce divvied with uninvited critters than with neighbors and family. She’s proudest of raising three dynamic daughters—and taming the family’s odd (but beloved) shelter-rescued dog. Based on experiences of young widowhood, she shares “What to Say When Someone Dies” on her blog at TealAshes.com.

Be wary, I’d heard, when backing any wounded creature into a corner. Now I stood trapped at the Relief Society room exit, my hackles rising from crown to coccyx and my fingertips clawing crescents into clenched palms. Fight or flight? I’d have foamed at the mouth—if it hadn’t gone dry. My voice croaked, “No, thank you. I’m not coming.”

“Teresa, it’s your duty to support the activities. It’s not right to keep away.”

If I’d had enough saliva to spit venom, I might have used it. Instead, I bit my catty tongue. Give me credit, woman. I’m here now, aren’t I? For the first Sabbath in uncountable months (if not years), I’d remained at church from the Sacrament prelude through the end of RS. (Sure, I’d stalked through the foyer weeping through one talk, hibernated in the bathroom half of Sunday school, and played possum from the touchy third-hour topic by hunching over crosswords. But—today—I hadn’t burrowed into the car, migrated around the block, or gone home to roost during the entire three hours.) It was progress, and I’d been proud of myself—until now. I fervently wished I’d fled earlier.

“You should come! It’s been, what, a whole year?” She still impeded my departure. “You need to get out. Have fun.”

“I do. I did. Birthday. Last night.” Inside I snarled. Why am I defending myself? I’d laughed and sung during the all-women party (my first widowed foray into social fun for fun’s sake) with my dear evangelical friend’s close-knit sister-herd.

“There’s no excuse for you not to come this Thursday.”

Instinct demanded I bare my fangs. I shed the vestigial Sunday smile I’d evolved to camouflage me (from some fellow saints’ lectures on how my grieving disappointed their expectations). “I’m. Not. Going,” I hissed, drawing strength from my frustration. “I don’t want to hear about the history of Valentine’s Day, and I’m not making Valentine cards.”

“Why not? It’ll be fun.”

I gasped and retreated a step, but she closed the distance between predator and prey. Why not? My eyes felt feral boring into hers, and I growled. “My husband died. I have no Valentine.”

“You should come anyway. Make some for your girls.”

“HAH!” All pretense of tame communication stampeded. I swelled with unrighteous pleasure in the shock my bark drew from the woman—and from the heads swiveling our way. I knew Valentine’s Day was the last thing my daughters wanted acknowledged—Single Awareness Day, perhaps, but likely not even that. “No, they wouldn’t like Valentines. I’m not coming.”

 

I’d defended my territory and my cubs. Confident once more, I gripped my bag more tightly, preening to leave. Then the sister kicked me below the collar. “You’re not the only person who’s lost someone.”

I’d admit I agree—if you hadn’t knocked the wind from me.

“You should stop feeling sorry for yourself. I lost my mother! Do you know how hard that was?”

Yes, I do. I licked my wounds. Mine’s been gone longer. It still hurts.

“I miss her, but I keep going for my husband and family.”

Should I point out that your husband’s still here and your kids are all married?

“You have to start getting involved with life again.”

Sister, you have no idea how “involved” I am. Overwrought chameleon skin burned, frantically trying to mask my inabilities over the responsibilities of I’d all become “involved with” since his death: solo-parenting a grieving teenager and two college kids, earning a living, regularly attending professional organizations (and the soul-restoring book club that had kept me sane through his illness), tending my house, yard, and nonagenarian great-aunt . . .

“It’s selfish to just sit around crying—”

My creature self howled, then keened. You see me Sundays, and yes, I cry all through church—because I feel the Spirit closest here—except under attack like this! After decades attending services alongside my husband, you—accompanied by yours—cannot imagine the agony of his absence.

“—when you should be serving others.”

The latest blow cut my lament to a whimper so low I heard another voice. Turn away contention. Soft answer. Knows not what she says. I took a deep breath (and another sidestep), pulled a regenerated smile from my pouch, and fastened it in place. Alms in secret. Do thou likewise. I wouldn’t tell this sister how often prayers from despair’s deepest corners brought promptings to serve solitary souls in sweet, sacred anonymity.

“You really need to show up this time . . .”

Do unto others. Tamed into humility, I backed farther away, retreating to the room’s other exit. My voice almost purred as I turned toward the outdoor light of noon. “Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your husband. And have fun Thursday.”

Have whispered promptings to love tamed your raging beast?

Three Dollar Attribute

 

 

Segullah teresa hirstTeresa Hirst is the author of Twelve Stones to Remember Him: Building Memorials of Faith from Financial Crisis, an LDS inspirational book. Teresa was born in Big Spring, Texas, grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, studied journalism at Brigham Young University and graduated in 1994 with a bachelor of arts in communications. Today, she observes and tells insightful stories—both nonfiction and fiction—that characterize our emotional experience with life. Teresa lives in Minnesota with her husband and teenage children and serves as a volunteer in LDS public affairs in her stake. To learn more, visit www.teresahirst.com.

We took our IKEA gift card with us on date night to spend Christmas cash.

Ten years ago we’d most likely head for those bigger items, the things we wanted to accrue: the bookshelves, bedding, nightstands or decorative wall hangings.

This night we went straight to the bins of three-dollar items, the things we wanted to replace: measuring cups, potholders, spatulas, plastic dishes, and strainers.

segullah Three dollar measuring cups

Once home, my youngest daughter—who’d visualized us buying a new lamp for her room—unwrapped the bright red measuring cups with delight and volunteered to bake.

Three-dollar items that generally had not received our notice or resources for a long time became treasures of everyday life when they did.

My architect husband designed and built us a home—the big dream we had worked toward from early marriage. Then, in the economic climate of the recession, the construction industry halted.  Our income dropped suddenly by half and then again. For four years, any income we earned paid for necessities like the mortgage, utilities, food, and fuel for our vehicles.

My dream home with its convection oven and miles of quartz counter-top felt like a pieced-together home where adjustment meant much more than making do with broken or missing measuring cups.

Of course we sought answers to the big questions in prayer, in conversations as a couple, in the temple—like many do in a challenge. We expected big answers.

I scoffed at the small answers that came. Wait. Adapt. Be patient.

When we eat three times a day, the pantry depletes. Turning on the lights means an electricity bill is due once a month. And, the gas tank empties just from fulfilling the essential commitments.

Trying to meet basic needs without a normal income invited daily frustration and anxious motivation. We worked and worried for that big solution that didn’t appear.

However, waiting on the Lord is not a small answer. And, patience is not a three-dollar attribute.

But I valued these answers as such.  The only ones I cared to know—those I wanted to soothe my suffering—were how to fix it and when it would be over.

What now sounds like pride was really a desperate reaction. How could we replace, repair or maintain anything, whether it was $3 or $300?

I was coming unto Christ in all the ways I knew how. But my “natural man” method of coping included habits that actually took me away from His comfort and peace.

I believed that endless talk with (or at) my husband would uncover a solution. I responded to any bad news with the obvious negative emotional response, matching external circumstances with internal anxiety, fear and worry.  I trusted in the tangible versus that which cannot be seen.

How could patience help?

When I asked that question as a retort to answers received in the temple, my obvious defiance surprised me.  I had forgotten, even in that most sacred place, to always remember Him.

I almost missed seeing the quiet signs of divine love that in sum became the big answer. Little miracles or small gestures, which had initially looked like three-dollar evidences of care, continued to appear and became so much more in my heart.

Friends brought chicken for our freezer, multiple times, allowing me to also feed the missionaries in our far-flung ward. Gas cards from family took us to reunions, diminishing our isolation.  A job for me didn’t replace my husband’s income but provided sustenance and opportunities to give back. A homemade Valentine’s card from my husband meant more to me than a dozen roses.

Gratitude caused me to remember God. Then, He helped me replace my anxious reactions with patience until remembering became my first response.

In the economies of life, the apparent three-dollar answers build slowly and steadily into the solutions we seek.

In time, our big answer came, too.  We moved away from our big dream and toward smaller but sweeter joys like measuring sugar with one cup instead of three.


 

Turning Thirty: Terrifying and Terrific

Melanie 1

Melanie is a university career counselor, an avid reader, and a lover of deep, dark chocolate. In her after-work hours, she enjoys exploring national parks, watching the latest season of Masterpiece Mystery programs, and teaching people to appreciate Abstract Expressionism. She blogs at http://mel-bel.blogspot.com/.

Shortly after the meeting ended, Michelle leaned over the pew and said, “Don’t worry, it gets better.” Was it really that obvious? Did I look as traumatized as I felt? I’d been going to church my entire life, but this Sunday was different. I had left the warm familiarity of the singles congregation and was re-entering the family ward. It wasn’t an unwilling move. Over the past few months I had felt a desire to move on, but that first Sunday, sitting in the back of the chapel, it hit me: I’m here. I’m 31. I’m still single. My life looks nothing like what I had planned.

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