Category Archives: Slice of Life

Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

My husband came in to the office where I was again trying to help one of my high schoolers work on a project. “Christian fell asleep downstairs. I put him in his bed. I’m going to bed too. Goodnight.” He kissed me as quickly as the internal sigh behind those words and left the room.

Another night without reading and cuddles and family prayer. The end of the school year is hard and with a graduating Senior and two other teenagers, my ten-year old was suffering from my lack of attention. I felt the disconnect between us. He was spending too much time in the evening playing video games instead of playing with me. I call Christian my “gift from God.” He is peaceable, pure, tender, funny, and smart. Kindness runs through his veins as his life force. I went in to his dark bedroom lit only by the nightlight that makes blue stars on his ceiling. He was buried deep as a sleeping turtle under the three quilts that stay on his bed, no matter how warm it is in the house. I touched his cheeks and his hair and kissed him and said a prayer. “Lord, I need to connect with my son. I have no time with him anymore. Help me to figure out a way to do this and have some alone time with him.” It was succinct and sincere.

I went to bed late and woke up early. The morning scuffle began and I got them all off to school with hearty lunches packed. I had a busy day planned – exercise, shower, a morning appointment, a visit with my grandmother, a grocery store run, and hopefully squeezing in a half an hour of writing before the 2:00 pick up began. I had barely gotten through the first two when the dreaded phone call came from Christian, “Mom, I’m sick. I have a headache and I feel like I’m going to throw up.” It’s the phone call that shatters all your plans.

I rushed to the school and accessed the situation, “Are you sure you can’t stay?” I asked, hoping. He could not. As we drove, he leaned his seat back and the fresh air cooled his face. I’m always struck by the beauty of his freckles. Color was coming back. Then, it hit me. Amidst all my selfishness I hadn’t seen the tender mercy. God had answered my prayers immediately. I had time alone with my boy. Time I would never have had without this sickness. All of the other plans for that day seemed completely insignificant. We went on a long drive. Miraculously, he seemed to feel better within an hour. We went to lunch. We laughed. We went on another long drive where I got to tell him about the birds and bees. For months, I had been trying to find a time that was perfect. That day it was handed to me by God’s large hand – a day filled with the fleeting plumpness of Spring, heavy with lilacs, lush grass, and snow-tipped mountains. I savored every moment. When I finished explaining and answering all of his questions, Christian looked up toward heaven, raised both hands and courageously said, “Goodbye Childhood.”

Yes, childhood, goodbye.

What are the moments you’ve savored lately with your children?
IMG_5376 (3) our selfie after lunch

Shut Up and Learn Something

“Kel, sit down for a minute, I need to talk to you about something.”

I’ve never sat down after hearing a sentence like that with anything approaching excitement. Usually those words combust into a roil of foot-long worms in my belly, or start an acid burn in the back of my throat that drips and pools directly behind my breastbone. This specific time, just recently, I was looking at my beloved Mimi who smiled at me and patted my hand as I sat warily at my Nanna’s dining table.

I love my Mimi, Mim for short. She’s my aunt, barely a decade older than me, has a fantastic laugh, is allergic to stupidity, lives in a different state, and we only found ourselves in the same place due to my Nan’s ill-health.  I had no clue what Mim wanted to speak to me about – I didn’t have footlong worms happening, but Tabasco gummiworms were certainly making themselves at home.

“Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad,” she nodded as she patted my hand, “I just want to talk to you about something you put on Facebook.”

Instant movie-reel of recent ramblings whizz, and I am still baffled.

“You know, the one about finding out about your… um… ah… dad… Ken – what do you call him?”

I’m blinking repeatedly, processing this stealth bomb launched across the table. “Uh… Ken.  I call him Ken.”

“Ok. You know that post? When you were talking about how you finally found out about all that? And you said something like you couldn’t believe your family kept their mouths shut about it for so long.”

I’m sweating in the airconditioning, feeling my Mum’s concerned stare sunburning the side of my face, wondering if my Nan is paying this taboo conversation any heed. Thankfully the cricket’s on so she’s critiquing the umpire, oblivious, while I’m hyperaware of my breathing, Mum moving closer to the table to hear better, the shine in Mim’s eyes as she looks away blinking then back at me.

“Yes,” I tell Mim, swallowing hard, “I remember that post.”

FB 22nd Jan post

I can’t not remember that post. I can’t not remember that date – it’s the birthday of the woman I grew up believing to be my grandmother, and I was told the truth of my paternity on her birthday. I can’t not remember growing up knowing I was never going to please my Dad, of asking my family to tell me the truth that I was adopted, I can’t not remember the mess and burn of finding out, the ache and mess of finding that family again, the puzzle and mess of trying to piece together who I really was, after all.

Mim looked at me, her smile heartfelt and sliding slowly off her face. “That post hurt me Kel.”

We both swallowed, and I bit the spines of the words trying to fire from my mouth – hurt YOU? Some words hurt YOU?  – and kept the missiles to myself, steaming.

“It hurt me, darl, because I never wanted to lie to you.  Never.  All those years – what? twenty something? – years of knowing we weren’t to talk about it, not to say anything to you, it was so hard. It hurt me, darl, to not tell you truth. But I had to keep your mum’s wishes.”

Mim was staring at me, earnest and intent. “Then to see your post…” She tried smiling again, and a tear dashed away. “Don’t ever think that it was easy for us… easy for me, Kel. Not ever.  I love you. I hated it, all of it.  And I am so sorry for not saying anything.”

DEFCON minus 3697 engaged.  All spit and vinegar vapourised. Tissues were grabbed, destroyed, and hurts soothed and bandaged.  I am so impressed by Mim’s courage in speaking up about her feelings, about coming at the issue head on.  Looking back on that conversation, I’m also knee-wobblingly relieved that I kept my mouth shut long enough to learn something important. Something about my past, something about a beloved aunt, something about the difference between reacting and responding.

I love words, in creating beauty and warmth in the dance of meaning and syllable. I’m also guilty of using my mouth as a weapon.  I’ve used words to amuse, to entertain, to guide and show appreciation.  I’ve also used words to splinter, to burn, embarrass and belittle.  Sometimes I use my words wildly like throwing glitter and paint, and othertimes with savage, gutting precision.  Then there are the magnificent, painful and tongue-biting times when I don’t use my words, but listen while someone else shares theirs, and I learn.

Do you think before you speak? When is the last time you shut up and learnt something? How do you see your relationship with words affecting others you love?

Repelo Muggletum

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My 10-year-old daughter beamed as she jumped into the car after a playing at a friend’s house several months ago. “You know why Adam and I get along so well?” she asked. I shook my head. “It’s because we both like magic. Which is why we’re so excited for next year.” I had no idea what she was talking about and admitted it. “Hogwarts,” She replied, her voice implying I was not only an idiot but also unbelievalbly lame.

I was already a grown up with two babies when Harry Potter came out and I was the first of my friends to read it. I even remember one brave soul coming to the ward Halloween Party with glasses and a lightning scar on his forehead. When he walked by and I said, “hey, Harry Potter!” He look relieved and replied, “finally somebody knows who I am!”

I love to tell my kids that story; about a world when Harry Potter wasn’t a thing.

Today, though, my daughter turns 11. And as much as she knows magic isn’t real and Harry Potter would be closer to my age than hers if he really existed, I think maybe in the back of her mind she’s hoping an owl from Hogwarts will show up before the end of today. (Even though I explained that she wouldn’t get invited to Hogwarts in the first place because she isn’t British.) Continue reading Repelo Muggletum

Prayerful Wrangling with the Book Of Mormon

We are delighted to have McArthur Krishna guest posting all the way from India. McArthur and Bethany are the powerteam authoring the Girls Who Choose God series. If you haven’t discovered these books yet, please consider yourself invited to do so. They’re wonderful and deserve our support! If you’re stuck for ideas, may I suggest that Stories of Strong Women From The Book Of Mormon  would make an excellent Easter gift.
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GWCGBOM
I admit when Bethany and I set out to do Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon, we had mixed feelings.
On one hand, the Book of Mormon IS the keystone of our religion and so should be a highlight in our series.  On the flip-side, it often seemed a book full of war, fleeing to the wilderness, and a discouraging lack of women participants.
Now, after having spent a year prayerfully reading, wrangling, and writing our text, I can tell you we feel differently.  And, here’s the thing— this year we are going to officially study the Book of Mormon all year. Just considering the time investment we are all making, I thought I might share some of the realisations Bethany and I had along the way.
Let’s tackle the war angle first.  As there is plenty of war in this world, I found I often did not want to read about yet more conflict.  If anything, I wanted war to feel farther away… I could pray for those in Syria and Nigeria and Palestine but I didn’t want to have my spiritual study focused on war. However, I was able to reorient myself and see that discussions on war in the scriptures could be helpful even in my own life.
One realisation hit me— Life has plenty of conflict even when I am not personally in a war zone.  So, if you work outside the home or you have children or you have roommates or you simply just don’t live as a solo yogi in a cave, you experience conflict. (And perhaps the yogi does too— I can fight with myself!)
At a business conference on the east coast, I heard a motivational speaker once talk about how conflict is inherent in our lives and so we might as well get good at it.  (I don’t remember his name. If I did, I would credit him. I remember being surprised as he was from Park City and talked about remarrying into a lot of kids and his step-daughter’s hair blow drying blowing the circuit and how when he joined two sets of kids he had no idea how many plugs that would require.  Yes, all that— but not his name. Feel free to enlighten me if you know.) But I think he was smart— let’s get good at conflict.  Let’s learn how to be kind while having a difference of opinion. Learn to be honest… as in, say what we mean and mean what we say.  Learn to stay at the table.
I had a friend named Ike once say to me, “This appears to be a hard conversation we are about to have.  Let’s start hard and work ourselves to a more comfortable place.” That comment made me take a deep breath and then be able to do the hard work. The conversation was going to be rough but he made me trust that I was in a safe emotional place and we would get back to an easier understanding by the end. Expect that you are going to have conflict in your life, learn to be good at it, and work your way back.  The Book of Mormon can help as we read through and see how people weathered these times.  One big hint: turning to the Lord is always a good method.
Second realisation about war came while reading Alma 23:7. “For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God anymore, neither against any of their brethren (or sisters).” (Parenthesis added.  Obviously.) The scripture refers to people laying down real weapons such as swords and bows and pickaxes and whatever else they used. But I know over the years I have collected plenty of weapons in my own personal arsenal… sarcasm, snottiness, cold shoulder, the evil eye, poking, arrogance, quick rebuttal, and the list goes on. Reading this scripture made me realise that I needed to learn to lay down these weapons and not fight with God or anyone.  That can be hard.  I live in India and there is nothing that gets me snottier faster than a dishonest rickshaw driver. Just yesterday one quoted an almost triple the price and refused to use his meter.  My weapons kicked in and I was super snotty in response.  Why?  I could have just said no thank you and walked away… but I got mad. And so while he loses out on a fare, I lose out on a little shine on my sunny soul.  I’ve got to work harder to lay down my weapons.
Next, the fleeing to the wilderness angle.  As Bethany says, “Go camping. It solves most things.” And I think we can take every admonition about fleeing to the wilderness as a license to head for the hills and get some fresh air and god-made nature in our systems.  Just go.  And if camping is not your thing, pick something else.  Nature is good for us— in whatever form works for you.
Last, the discouraging lack of women.  And, to me, this is the most interesting thing we found. There are actually LOTS of women mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  Over 150 times, according to a talk back in 1977 by Marjorie Meads Spencer. (How come I never knew this?) And while some of those mentions are the merest of nods, others provide unexpected richness if we simply choose to pay attention. We can learn from Nephi’s wife who chose to do all she could and then turn to God in mighty prayer to protect her husband. We can learn from Nephi’s sisters who chose to break from false tradition and supported their younger brother as the prophet. We can learn from the women who choose to be baptised at the Waters of Mormon and, despite danger and hardship, chose to be believers.
I personally think this world needs more believers… people who believe in God, goodness, and each other. I think believing means we choose to be positive. My goal this year (and previous years, frankly) is to live with a more soft heart.  (This concept comes from the amazing Virginia Pearce via my amazing friend Mieka.)
Let’s try this year to read and learn from the Book of Mormon so that at the end of the year we can be stronger, humbler, softer-hearted people.

The Faiths Of My Family

Digital art by andy-pants
Digital art by andy-pants

“So, you know how we’re part Irish? So because Jesus married one of his disciples and escaped to Ireland and had a secret family there, we are probably related to Jesus!”

The two 14-year-old boys blinked hard, processing what their 8-year-old cousin just said, then burst out laughing.

“Uh, no, Abby,” I started, only to be interrupted by the two loons interrupting each other with “The secret life of Jesus – revealed!” “Wait, which disciple did Jesus marry?”

Abby was yelling back “THE GIRL DISCIPLE!… he did SO go to Ireland!” as my Mum shooed the teens away and curled my now pouting and offended niece in for a cuddle.

“But I learned it at church,” she said, confused and cranky, “and we are from Ireland in our family tree…”

Sometimes working out what to say is like trying to grab bouncing Skittles – there’s too many options and something’s going to get missed. Then when faith and the religious teachings and beliefs of others come into it? Carnage like playing Marco Polo in a minefield is one potential outcome, with “Married Irish Jesus” thankfully at the less lethal end of the scale. Continue reading The Faiths Of My Family