Thursday, November 30, 2006
This morning on the way to school, Jack and I watched the digital thermometer in our Jeep drop from the twenties as we pulled out of our garage to 14 degrees.
After I dropped him off, I headed to the grocery store and the thermometer dropped to 11 degrees. As I made my way to the store across the windy parking lot, I realized that I was whining to myself. What a wimp I am!
I'm so lucky I can shop for milk and eggs in a heated grocery store and drive them home in a heated car. I'm lucky that I can buy plenty and store them in a refrigerator so I don't have to do this again for another week! I'm lucky I got to sleep in until nearly 8:00 this morning. I wasn't up at 5:00 a.m. milking cows and feeding chickens! I'm lucky that I've only ever read about people doing things like that, curled up under warm blankets with books like Little House in the Big Woods!
As I drove home through the farmland south of us watching gusts blow snow from the fields across the road, the thermometer dropped to 5 degrees. I thought about the pioneers who settled the west and how they're probably looking down at whiners like me and laughing so hard they can't breathe.
I think I'll go toast Laura Ingalls Wilder with a cozy mug of cocoa.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Apparently I can no longer get a book finished before book club. All of a sudden it's midnight the day before Thanksgiving and I'm scrambling to get the house clean in order to host 22 for dinner. Stacks (of what?!) are accumulating on my desk. And don't even get me started on how easily things slip my mind these days.
It's all starting to hit the fan. I've got to get organized!
With Roger working, it's up to me to step up and get more things done around the house. Like changing lightbulbs and learning how to use the snowblower. And out of respect for him (and for the fact that he is working full time and going to graduate school and I'm doing neither of those things), I find myself wanting to make sure the house isn't a total mess when he gets home.
As of last Sunday, I've got a new job at church. No more teaching one lesson a month in Relief Society (the women's organization). A job, by the way, that I loved! I am now the secretary for the Primary (for children 18 months to 11 years). That involves keeping track of things on a regular basis. Which I'm fully capable of doing if I put my mind to it. I've just got to actually put my mind to it.
And a few days ago I got a call from a well known international company that is based here in Utah to ask me to bid on an editing project. If I get the job, I'll be absorbed in it for the next couple of months. Who knows, it might lead to more exciting things!
Yeah, I've got to get on top of things!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
I spent my days at the store having great conversations with so many interesting people, including our employees (who were all really friends first, employees second). Customers became friends. Friends from other parts of my life could drop in anytime, unannounced. And because the store created such a great social network for me (heck, we even had our own evening entertainment with our concerts!), I got terribly lazy about reaching out and planning ahead.
In the first couple of months after we closed the store, I really teetered on the edge of isolation. I did make a point of calling friends, making plans, doing lunch, sustaining at least some of the social momentum I had enjoyed through the store. But I also found myself not wanting to impose. You know, people are busy. And if I call any particular friend too often, she's going to start thinking I'm a little needy, or maybe a little nuts.
I think I have officially turned the corner on this whole issue the past few weeks. I suddenly feel well established in friendships that perhaps were based on the networks created by the bookstore, but now exist as entities in and of themselves. I have also found new and strengthened friendships in my neighborhood.
I am astounded by the opportunities I've had recently to connect on really meaningful levels with amazing women that I so enjoy. And this may sound a little corny, but it really reflects how I feel so I'm just going to say it. I have been reveling in this sisterhood. Absolutely reveling in it.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Some of the best casting ever. A buttoned-up Will Ferrell as an IRS agent, Maggie Gyllenhaal as his leftist baker love interest, Dustin Hoffman as a literature professor/lifeguard, Emma Thompson as a writer with decade-long writer's block and Queen Latifah as the "assistant" sent to Emma by her publisher to help her finish up her latest manuscript.
Some of the best lines ever. Dustin Hoffman (loosely), "It depends on the quality of life versus the quality of the pancakes." Okay, so maybe the line isn't so funny without the context and delivery. You just have to see it for yourself.
You rarely meet a comedy like this. There are so many quirky details and layers and symbols that made me laugh out loud. It's another Joe vs. the Volcano for me. And just as with Joe vs. the Volcano, I think that all of the reviewers who are panning Stranger Than Fiction because they think it's trite or predictable or that the humor fell flat really just didn't get it. They didn't get it at all. Maybe they don't read enough.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Among other things, I have some happy errands planned today.
First, I am going to take a book to my friend Angel, who is starting back at her job as an elementary school librarian. She's really, really hoping it won't be too much for her because she really loves it. But she is struggling with cancer and recovering from a stunningly invasive surgery. We became friends through the book store, and I don't want to lose touch with her. She has always been an amazing example to me of good karma--instinctively generous and enthusiastic in a way that creates a sense of abundance everywhere she goes. And getting sick doesn't seem to be getting in the way of that, which I have to believe bodes well for her future health.
Then I am going to go over to help my dear right-brained friend Tina tackle a project. She went through her whole house and organized everything. The problem is that anytime she couldn't figure out how to handle something, she just put it in their extra room. And now she has to face that room. I'm going to go give her some moral support, maybe a few ideas, and then treat her to lunch if she'll let me.
After Tina, I'm going to take a book to my friend Linda. She recently joined one (yes, I belong to more than one) of my book clubs and I'm so excited she's going to be a part of it. Linda was one of our very first and also one of our very favorite customers at the Read Leaf. Over the years we've weaseled our way into her family. We hired her daughter Shelley to work at the store (we actually plotted to hire her from the time she was 14 or 15 and did when she graduated from high school!). We hire her son Andy to babysit our Jack (they're serious soul mates). I consider Linda a friend for life. We just might have to change our last name to theirs to make the adoption final!
After visiting Linda, I'm going to go pay nearly $2,000 to get our Jeep, along with it's new transmission, out of the shop. Okay, maybe that errand isn't nearly so happy.
Here's to a brand new week bursting with plans!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Times when I have felt the part of me that yearns to connect to God. That the feeling is more than wishful thinking--it's deep and instinctual and I believe it is an integral part of my spirit.
Times when I have known that something more significant than coincidence or good fortune or anything I had control over was guiding events in my life. Adopting Jack--and I mean specifically Jack--was one of those times.
Times when I have been inspired to action and times when I have gained greater insight about something I haven't understood.
Times when I have been restless or angry or lost but chose to turn to God and as a result felt peace and comfort.
Believing in God can't be just an intellectual endeavor. It truly requires a leap of faith into the intangible realm of the spiritual.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
This is going to be one of my longest posts ever, but if it interests you I hope you’ll keep reading. I debated about separating it into multiple posts, but decided that the benefits of including it all in one shot outweigh the drawbacks of being longwinded. You can always read it in bits and pieces if you’d like.
So here it goes.
I spend a good portion of my time and energy focused on spirituality and religion. Which is funny, because I don’t really consider myself to be particularly inclined toward religion. But I was born to parents who are and so it naturally became a part of my life too. Specifically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS or Mormon Church). My parents joined when I was five.
Some of you are vaguely familiar with the LDS church and will read this because you know me and are interested in knowing me better. Some of you are members of the LDS church and will hopefully be buoyed up by the thoughts that I share here. Some of you are probably wondering why a seemingly intelligent person even believes in God, never mind a religion as wacky as Mormonism.
Over the years I have really grappled with the idea of God and a life that extends beyond death. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to live in a world that was created by a loving God and to believe that we are all here on purpose rather than the alternative. This may sound paradoxical, but the world—especially all of the ugliness—makes a lot more sense to me that way. I know that a lot of scary and just plain irritating things have happened in the name of God and religion. But I absolutely reject that as a reason to not believe.
I don’t come by my faith easily. I have very deliberately chosen to believe in God and to exercise faith accordingly. And I have found that as I exercise my faith, I understand more about spiritual things. It gives me a great sense of peace and hope.
Why have I stuck with the LDS Church? Without meaning any disrespect, I find all religions “wacky” in the sense that they all require a suspension of disbelief. Burning bushes? Being raised from the dead? The devil? But the more I learn about core LDS doctrines in plain terms, the more I get it. And I recognize that the narratives and symbols and ceremonies that can seem wacky on the surface are elements that help people connect to a spiritual dimension that we can scarcely conceive through earthly eyes or describe with our limited language.
Here are some of the LDS doctrines that appeal to me:
- Agency. No one can be compelled to believe in God and the gospel of Christ and follow its teachings. We must be able to choose our faith freely or it serves no meaningful purpose.
- Christ’s atonement. The “radical” interpretation that the LDS church teaches makes more sense to me than other interpretations I’ve heard. Our eternal life is dependent upon both the grace of Christ’s atonement and the way we move through this life (our works).
- A living, involved God. We believe in a living God and in living prophets and in a restored priesthood (the power to act with the authority of God through the inspiration of the spirit of God—a power used, by the way, to serve one another, not to exercise dominion over one another). We believe in personal revelation—we can ask God ourselves to help us find truth and direction. We can seek the companionship of his spirit.
- A literal Heavenly Father. We are spiritual children of God and we existed before we were born. We have been given our bodies so we can become more like him (we were, after all, created in his image). We are here on earth to tap into that part of us which is divine. Our job is to learn how to use and, yes, enjoy our bodies in a way that is integral with our spirits, our divine nature.
- The nature of sin and repentance. No matter how much we humans, including us Mormons, continually want to reduce it all to a list of objective and measurable dos and don’ts, we miss the point if that’s what we focus on. Commandments are there for our benefit, not God’s—they are designed to help us progress spiritually and to keep us from doing spiritual damage to ourselves and others. At the heart of it we need to understand on a very personal level what draws us closer to God and what puts space between us and God. We try to think and act in the ways that draw us closer to God, understanding that we will sometimes (often?) fail. And when we do, we choose to once again draw ourselves closer to God through repentance. It’s not about hellfire and damnation, rules for rules’ sake and God exercising stern judgment and power over us. It’s about our spirits growing up, gaining control over ourselves and fulfilling the measure of our creation.
- Eternal progression. Growing closer to and becoming more like God is not just a life-long process, but continues after death. While we take the spiritual state we’re in with us when we die, we are not stuck there for eternity.
- Opposition in all things. We must know darkness to know light. We must know sorrow to know joy. To progress we risk double-edge swords everywhere. For example, the agency that is fundamental to our progression can also be used to perpetrate great evil. You can’t have one side without the other.
- Harmony between science and religion. We believe that God is subject to natural laws and that he didn’t create the world out of nothing; rather, he organized existing matter. We also believe that we are meant to learn as much about the world around us as we can. We humans have figured out how to observe with our senses and we’ve developed scientific method. I think God’s pretty proud of us for figuring out as much as we have so far, but I also think we’ll be amazed at what we can learn if we don’t limit ourselves to our five physical senses. For example, I personally don’t see a conflict between the theory of evolution and creationism. I just don’t think we see the whole picture yet.
While I’m open to learning truth anywhere it can be found, I refuse to get caught up in worrying about the “dark side” of the LDS church. I believe Mormons are human beings with all that entails for good or bad. I’m also pretty skeptical of anything I can’t judge for myself (either by witnessing it or being able to judge a witness). Think how often you read something in the newspaper these days that you know to be patently untrue or skewed to achieve a particular agenda.
Church founder Joseph Smith never professed to be perfect and said that he wouldn’t believe his story if he hadn’t lived it himself. None of our leaders past or present claim infallibility nor do they claim constant, crystal clear communication from God on every little matter. And any church, especially a new church with a completely lay ministry, is going to draw its share of incompetents and nutcases who may well work their way up the ranks before anyone realizes what they’re dealing with. Even then, God loves and wants to include people no matter how incompetent or nutty they are.
I choose instead to focus on my own personal spiritual journey and being actively involved in the LDS church helps me to do that. While I am not privy to the inner workings of, say, exactly where our tithing money is spent, I daily witness the rubber hitting the road—neighbors helping, loving and praying for one another and meeting together to worship and learn in a building that can only exist because we have paid our tithing. We certainly aren’t perfect. In fact, even our chapel with its random heating and cooling system isn’t perfect. But the more of us are striving to become better people and to draw closer to God.
Our idea of spiritual progression involves a lot of struggle and learning one thing at a time. If all of the church’s leaders and members and policies and procedures were immediately and permanently made perfect the instant the church was organized, that would defeat the whole reason we’re here on earth.
And if my spiritual experiences have been imagined and none of it’s true? I’ll never know—I’ll just be dead. But in the meantime, I’m living a life in a way that makes sense and really matters to me.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Jack and I went to see Roger in his new office today. He started his job at the BYU library yesterday and, except for the part where he has to wear a tie (!), we're all really excited for him. Everyone we met this afternoon is very happy he's on board.
His office--a true office, not a cubicle--is in the library administration office suite where the director's office is. He's across the way from the accountant and the guy who schmoozes with big donors. And he's got windows that look out into the atrium. Even though he's a floor down from ground level, he gets natural light and a view of the mountain tops.
And a related sidenote on why good parenting is so very, very important:
On the way to BYU, I explained to Jack that we needed to hurry a bit in order to meet Dad's boss because she was leaving at 4:00.
"She?" said Jack. "You mean Dad's boss is a girl?"
"Sure she is."
"But boys are supposed to be bosses, not girls."
I'm sorry, what??? How on earth did Jack get an idea like that? Especially since his very own mother (who happens to be a girl), has pretty much been a boss his entire life? (Though in his defense, we never actually used the word "boss" at the Read Leaf.)
Needless to say, we had a good little conversation at that point.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I've put a link to her blog over there on the right hand side of the screen so we can all live vicariously through her.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Full disclosure before I offer two observations: I'm a somewhat cynical (but not irreversibly so) independent who doesn't believe either the Republicans or the Democrats have the corner on right thinking or moral high ground. I think it's dangerous to reduce virtually all issues to the liberal-conservative continuum--we seem to lose our humanity in the process. I'm all for taking the best that both parties have to offer to create solutions that will be good both in the short term and the long term. But of course, that requires thoughtful consideration and genuine discourse. It's sure easier to argue in sound bites and become increasingly polarized.
First, I am energized by the fact that the Democrats handily won the house and possibly the senate. I'm not sure much will actually change with the new balance between our executive and legislative branches (although who knows? Rumsfeld is a pretty significant casualty). But what thrills me is that maybe we've made progress in breaking the cycle of voter apathy. It feels as though voters really exercised their power in this election, and it hasn't felt that way in a long time.
Second, I am once again dismayed by the nearly complete lack of opposition to the Republican party here in Utah County. A majority of the local "races" consisted of Republican candidates who were running unopposed. And some of those Republican candidates were selected by a few hundred people at convention rather than facing off in primaries. It's scary living in a place where the two-party system is essentially defunct. Ah well, in Utah people can vote straight party at the beginning of the ballot, so maybe most of us didn't even notice.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
A little late, but here is Jack as Obi-Wan on Halloween. He was absolutely thrilled, if not a bit itchy, with this amazing Jedi robe with an amazing it-takes-a-village story behind it.
For weeks, it was a toss up between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan. Then Jack said he had decided, but I didn't know (or maybe hear or remember), which character he decided on. Every time I asked him, he was offended that I didn't know--"Mom, I already told you!"--and refused to tell me again.
The day before Halloween, I figured out a new tactic. "Jack, what do you need to have for your Halloween costume?"
"A brown robe." Ah, Obi-Wan. Yikes, a brown robe??
We checked a few stores. Not surprisingly, no luck. I called my sister-in-law Carol. She had a black robe. I called my friend Linda. She had a black robe, but if we had brown fabric she could easily make a brown robe (and I must say, easily is a very relative term!). I called Carol again. Yes, she had brown fabric. In fact, she had several brown fabrics Jack could pick from!
The instant Jack found out burlap was an option, he said that's exactly what he wanted. We took the burlap over to to Linda's house and spent the next couple of hours visiting with her while she fashioned a robe that totally hit the spot.
As we drove home to show the costume to Roger, Jack and I talked about how generous Carol and Linda were and how we'll need to look for opportunities to do good things for them. Or even better, for their children.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Roger was offered and accepted a job that he's really excited about. Starting Thursday, he'll be doing PR for the library at BYU, promoting special events and other projects the library is involved in. Basically his job is to celebrate all of the cool things the library does, especially for special collections. I think the library is very lucky to have him!
It will be an adjustment for our family after years of being our own boss, and Roger has a huge amount of work ahead of him with a masters program and a full-time job. It will be good for me to have a bit more pressure to step up and make sure that things are running smoothly here at home.
My trip to San Francisco--which included lots of good conversation with two friends (who I now consider to be two very dear friends), lots of good sea air and ocean views, lots of good food, and a good chance to connect with a cousin who lives there--represented an important turning point for me. I am choosing to make it the closing parenthesis on my post-Read-Leaf wallow.
I am now officially looking foward, not backward.