Category Archives: Slice of Life

Mean Girls of Instagram

I’m a latecomer to the whole smartphone party; I got my first iphone just a couple of years ago. I have certainly made up for lost time, though. I especially love to keep track of friends (both real and virtual) through social media. I find it all harmless fun but I’ve been hearing more and more about the issues grown women are having with it. Both as a friend and as a Relief Society President I’m getting teary calls from women I know who feel bad about not being invited to a party or get-together that they’ve seen plastered all over Instagram and Facebook.

Not being invited to a party is a conundrum that has faced girls and women probably since Eve threw the first harvest celebration and forgot to include one of her granddaughters. I remember crying at being left out and the same thing happens to my daughters. Nobody wants to feel unpopular and not included. In the olden days when I was a girl, you’d hear about a birthday party you weren’t inveted to through the grapevine. Or maybe you wouldn’t. But now every lunch date and bunco party is documented for the world to see.

Part of me wants to tell women who call me with their feelings hurt that this is just part of life. We’ll never be invited to everything. Somebody will invariably get crossed off the guest list. It’s part of being the human beings that we are.

But then I stop to think about it and get angry. Why do some women feel the need to put pictures up knowing that other women, including their sisters in the gospel, will see them and feel bad? Are they ignorant? Do they not care? Do they just think, “be a big girl and deal with it! If you’re sad, that’s your problem.”

So in case you didn’t know this, let me enlighten you: when you put a picture up on Social Media that shows you and a few other people having fun, somebody will feel bad that they weren’t invited. For whatever reason, people will be sad that they weren’t there too. Take it as a compliment—people want to be with you!

If you want to brag (and let’s face it, a lot of the time it’s bragging) about the great meal you ate, how about just taking a picture of the food? Or a selfie with the restaurant sign in the background? Do you really have to prove to the world again and again that you are popular? (This isn’t high school!)

The thing we forget about social media is that there are so many opportunities to interact. No, we are not having deep conversations but there is an opportunity to build people up and there is an opportunity to tear people down. Even in one or two sentences.

Sometimes I look at Facebook in a bad mood and I feel like posting the responses to people that I really feel, “Your kids are ugly”, “you are such an idiot for voting the way you do” and “I hate dogs and they have certainly never left paw prints on my heart”. But I don’t. Because I want to be remembered as someone who had something kind or encouraging to say. (Although let’s face it, mostly I say snarky things but hopefully people will remember that I had a good sense of humor.)

My point is this: we are responsible for the things we say to others, and the feelings that we create by the pictures and updates we post. Do you teach your children to be kind and respect the feelings of other people, or do you tell them that how other kids feel is not their problem? I’m guessing that you teach your kids to consider the feelings of others; we should do the same. Yes, the reactions of other people are their own. We aren’t responsible for the feelings of the women around us; but I don’t want people to feel bad about themselves because of the things I post. Do you?

The Temptation of the Old Boyfriend

As my friend dropped her voice I leaned in, knowing she was about to spill some good gossip. “Shelley reconnected with her old boyfriend on Facebook.” Due to the clandestine overtones of this statement I guessed that this wasn’t a simple update on who Shelley has been friending lately. “They’ve been texting too. Her husband found out but she swears they’re completely platonic.” I groan. I don’t need to hear anything else to know exactly what’s going on.

Shelley is a friend I’ve known forever and a day. We used to be in the same stake and although we never hung out on a regular basis, we always hit it off and enjoyed each other immensely. She is—I assumed—pretty happily married with three youngish children. But the old boyfriend thing? That is a wedge that I’ve been seeing drive its way into marriages all over the place lately. And it’s the reason I won’t friend anyone on Facebook that I’ve ever kissed.

I’m not going to blame Facebook and turn this into a post about the evils of social media. This temptation-of-the-old-boyfriend business has been going on much, much longer than that. I remember as a young newlywed seeing a fellow young newlywed in our ward suddenly leave her husband and new baby for an old fiancé; only to return, sheepishly, a few months later. This was years before the internet was the hook-up place that it is now.

What is it about an old boyfriend? Is it a hope to recapture youth? Is it the wonder of what might have been? Is it like the old lipstick you threw in the back of the drawer because you didn’t like it, only to fish it out a year later and when you try it on you think, “wow! This looks great on me! Why did I ever get rid of it?” Or is it just the appeal of romance before there were diapers and weight gain and crows feet?

Continue reading

Mommy and E

Stand as Witnesses

Orlando is a great vacation destination, but its location at the lower east corner of the United States makes it difficult for the majority of my family and friends who live in the northwest U.S. and Canada to pop over for a quick visit.  My nearest and dearest knew about the difficult life of my son, Ethan, and although they knew and loved him from afar, very few had stepped inside my home.  In the nearly 10 years that we have lived in Orlando, my family has come to visit, but very few of my close friends.  In early 2013, all of that changed.  In January, to my delight, Justine and her family came to Orlando for her daughter’s 12th birthday.  We spent some time together at the temple, went to church, and had dinner in our home while they were here.  They stood at Ethan’s bedside, murmured loving phrases to him, and held his hand.

Andrea and Justine

Then in May, Julie came to visit on her way to Cuba via Miami.  She had known him in Sacramento when we lived there, but marveled at how he’d grown since she saw him last.

Andrea and Julie

A few weeks later, the delightfully saucy Kel messaged me and asked if she could spend a few days with us while on her whirlwind trip through the U.S. from Australia.  She brought the little boys gifts of boomerangs and Tim Tams and a kangaroo pelt for Ethan because he loved soft, fluffy things to touch.  Later, she told me this about meeting Ethan:

“I remember walking into his room behind you, checking out the equipment, and as I turned I saw your face as you straightened. I had yet to see you mother, to see you with your kids, and your face in that moment was so soft and fiery and devoted it choked me up. It was a moment of truth, and I realised again that just being in your house, being in Ethan’s room, was a gift, a vulnerability, and I loved you for it and felt honoured.

‘Hey, Ethan,’ you said, “this is my friend Kellie, she wants to meet you.’

My god, did I.”

Andrea and Kel 3

Heather was also able to make it down from South Carolina during Kel’s stay, and showered us with gifts and lively conversation.  I realized after they left that three of my beloved Segullah friends had met my son for the first time.

Andrea and Heather B

Later that year, as Ethan’s health began to decline, Heather and Nate, Brittney and Andy, and Aaron and Stina all were in Orlando and all visited my home.  These were dear friends, some of whom I had known since college, who stood at Ethan’s bedside, stroked his soft hair, held his hand, and kissed his cheek as he neared his last days on earth.

Andrea and Heather

Brit and Andy

Aaron and Stina

Mosiah 18:8 – 9 counsels us to “…bear one another’s burdens that they may be light…mourn with those that mourn…comfort those that stand in need of comfort… and stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places…”  It is not uncommon to feel helpless in the face of another person’s tragedy.  Death, divorce, disability – these things and more leave us groping for the right thing to say or do.  Our case was no exception.  Ethan’s disabilities were profound and his health was very fragile, and although my friends and ward members were willing, only a person with specialized training or a nursing degree could give me hands-on help with his day-to-day needs.  What meant more to me during that time in Ethan’s life were the people who came into my home, stood by his bedside, stroked his hair, held his hand, and bore witness to the life that he and our family lived.

Not all problems can be solved.  Not all hurts can be healed.  Not all losses can be restored.  Sometimes it is enough to stand as a witness.

A Joy and A Chore

Megan Goates is a Salt Lake City native with degrees in English, teaching, and writing. She blogs as a form of therapy at tooursurvival.com about raising boys. Two of her four sons have special needs; four of the four have lots of opinions. She likes it that way.

photoThat September morning, piles of dirty carpet and crumbling carpet pad overwhelmed my house. The combination of exposed tack strips and little bare feet turned the dreamy event of getting new flooring into kind of a nightmare.

As we watched for the bus and I kept my mentally disabled nine-year-old son Jack from menacing the tools which littered the floor, the carpet installer watched Jack with curiosity. He nodded and told him hello, then asked where he went to school.

After Jack left on his bus, the carpet man went to his truck and returned with a laminated obituary of a woman with special needs who had passed away a couple of years ago in her early fifties.

“That’s my little sister,” he said.

The high points of this woman’s life were written by someone who knew her well. Some of my favorite parts: she liked Big Red gum, Pepsi, eating out, singing duets with her brother (our carpet guy), and shopping at the dollar store. She had more friends than anyone else in her family and always had to have two dollars in her purse.

Her personality shone from the laminated newsprint.

Later, my toddler and I left for a walk and I considered the carpet man’s sister and her list of simple pleasures.

When we passed the school where the sixth-graders were wrapping up recess, I casually tried to spot my kid in the sea of navy and red polo shirts. I wanted a peek of my eldest in his element. Just before I rounded the bend in the path, half of the sixth grade spotted and recognized me, yelling, “Hi Henry’s mom!” Henry gave me a wave and a “Hi Mom!”

I decided that moment was worthy of a laminated obituary. My simple pleasure: being known as my kid’s mom by a happy crowd of sixth graders.

Before the walk and my celebrity moment by the school, when I finished reading the obituary of a woman I didn’t know, I thanked the carpet man for sharing it with me and handed it back to him.

You know.”  he said. “You understand.  She was a joy…….and a chore.”

At this statement my mind raced through myriad images of my family’s life, like the shuffling of a deck of cards.

I saw myself holding my redheaded baby as a geneticist diagnosed him with a rare syndrome.

I imagined every time a Code Brown covered the carpet, walls, and furniture and squashed my will to live.

I remembered feeling like I lived at Primary Children’s Hospital and at Early Intervention, or at least on the freeway which ran between them.

I recalled kneeling helplessly beside Jack’s toddler bed as he cried, listening when the Spirit whispered “Jack is a child of God.”

I pictured the after-bath miracle when three-year-old Jack, who had never before mimicked things we tried to teach him, imitated my husband opening and closing his mouth, saying “ah” to his hooded-towel clad reflection in the mirror.

I grimaced at the memory of ten years of difficult Sundays with Jack kicking me in the church foyer, screaming during the sacrament, and having no place to fit in during the two long remaining hours.

I tasted the sweetness of the evening two Christmases ago when my family sat together on the couch through an entire viewing of Fantastic Mr. Fox without a single person freaking out.

I swelled with emotion remembering when the bishop asked me at Jack’s eight-year-old interview if I believed Jack knows his Savior, and deeply knowing that he does, even though he can’t say it.

I recalled the recent day when my boys and I walked the long gray windowless hallway leading to the university behavioral health clinic, and I realized that place no longer holds any power over me. Victory and acceptance have replaced anxiety and despair.

I felt the lightness that accompanied a dream I had where a neighbor leaned over and whispered to me at church, “You don’t need to worry what people think about the challenges you have raising your children. You’re doing a good job,” and knowing it was actually God saying it to me.

On that September morning, my mind fanned through the everyday images of parenting a joy and a chore. I solemnly nodded at this knowing man stapling carpet to our stairs, who in five words summarized the essence of my life.

What things in your life are ‘a joy and a chore’?  Also, like “Big Red Gum,” and “being called my kid’s mom”, what are your simple pleasures?  How do life’s simple pleasures make the difficult parts more tolerable?

 

It’s Not A Vanilla Gospel

I stood up in front of over one hundred women, and started talking about my first contacts with the gospel and Church.

“I knew being baptised was the right thing to do, and I was prepared to do it. But the women in Relief Society? They terrified me.”

A laugh washed around the chapel, and I continued. I explained how the friendly women of my first ward loved to quilt, and craft, and had heaps of kids, and knew one hundred different things to do with potatoes but all told me they “didn’t have time to read”.

I looked out at the gathering of women, together to celebrate Relief Society, and told the truth. “I didn’t want that, didn’t understand that, and while I was certain the gospel was where I wanted to be, I was pretty sure there was no place in Relief Society for a freak like me.”

I saw a wave of heads nodding all over the room as I continued to specify my differences. That I would regularly choose to read a book instead of mop my floor – and still do. How, when I was called to be the “Enrichment” counsellor in Relief Society, I hot-glue-gunned two of my fingers together at the very first enrichment evening. That I don’t quilt, have never scrap-booked, and was a spectacular failure at being “a normal Latter-Day Saint woman.”

I laid it all out: my efforts to become a “proper” LDS woman, and the end result. “I… SUCKED… at being a Mormon women like the ones in my wards” I told the women sitting before me, only to wince realising the Stake President was sitting directly behind me on the stand. Eh, too late, and it’s true, right? “And the truth? I don’t want to be. And the bigger truth? The church, and God, and our wards don’t need us to be. They need us to be ourselves.”

Because one thing I’ve realised in the past fifteen years since being baptised is that this is not a vanilla gospel. This is a gospel with flavours and chunks nobody in their right mind would willingly choose – except that their personal favourite is right there as an option, even if it is sitting beside the tuna-enriched lime sorbet (which may very well be someone’s personal nirvana). There’s ice-cream, gelati, sorbet, ices, tofu-mousses and each in countless flavours and variations – exactly like us, our histories, preferences, fears, hopes and efforts. The gospel doesn’t demand everyone choose vanilla in and as their worship, though sometimes the people we know through church expect us to like their flavour, and to choose it as well. Continue reading