Saturday
Jul202019

Finale

Today is the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon. I know this happened in 1969 because my mom talked about it happening when she was a senior and in 1989 I attended her 20-year reunion and can still picture all the "Class of 1969" shirts with peace signs in the circles of the 9s and 6s. 1969. Moon. Got it.

It’s also the 2-year anniversary of moving, or in moon lingo: ONE GIANT LEAP TO DRAPER, MANY SMALL STEPS TO SETTLING IN. Two years ago, I was eating Jen Vawdrey’s salmon on a paper plate in my old house’s empty kitchen, sweaty, wondering how I’d become a hoarder, and unaware that our mattress had just caught bedbugs from the moving company’s blankets. (Just another bullet on the long list of skin ailments I’ve personally suffered from. Once the culprit behind my welts was discovered, our brand spanking new house was exterminated on Friday, October 13. How superstitious is that?)

I’m thankful I’ve only moved twice as a married adult. I’m not the made-for-moving type. I have a wispy and delicate root system. And just for saying this I’ll probably move twenty more times before I die.

Moving was ______________. Fill in any word and it fits. Awesome, awful, regenerating, exhausting, fresh, dirty, strengthening, achy. It was every phase from whole to hollow but the little saying in the polaroid above is true; life goes on no matter how much you’ve got, and no matter how much you’ve got it's still a life!

Tonight we doubled with Frenchie and Matt to Gourmandise. (Frenchie's shirt said bon jour and she purchased macarons. Oui, the nickname suits her!) After they left, I went out on the deck to watch the twinkles and the neon circle of a ferris wheel bubbling up from Art Dye’s darkness. Pops, whistles, flashes, flickers. The trance of the Steel Days finale was suddenly before me. I love fireworks. They relax me. Every burst is like seeing for the first time; I'm a mesmerized kid all over again.

It was unplanned but lovely to realize even though moving felt like landing on the moon—foreign, slow motion strides—much of the light in my life still comes from American Fork. And just like that a fleeting, soothing bouquet of fiery flowers was my perfect ending. I think I’m finally done talking about, thinking about, and writing about moving. It has passed through me.*

Little black dress. Evening look eyes and lips. Sequinned clutch. I’m arriving fashionably late to the closure party (did I even RSVP?) but celebrating anyway. I feel good. *pulls the string on a party popper*

 

 

Photo image of a card from the Project Life by Becky Higgins set Steph gave me for my birthday.

Sad moon facts I learned from reading to Archer: There is no air on the moon to scatter the sunlight, so even in daytime the sky is pitch black and filled with stars. With no air, there is no sound on the moon. With no air, there is no wind to stir the rock dust that lies thickly on the plains. The moon is a still, silent, barren, lifeless gray rock that has no light of its own and merely glows because it reflects the light of the sun. The moon is nothing without the sun. There's a metaphor! Also, this commercial is superb.

* "Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us and do so in ways which sanctify these experiences for our good." -Elder Neal A. Maxwell

selenophile: a person who loves the moon

Tuesday
Jul092019

Silver Plated

Oh, Girls’ Camp. The stars were aligned this year. Perfect weather, no drama, five-star food, a zip line over the lake, a slightly deflated air mattress (it can’t be super full or it hurts), and a very chill schedule. Breakfast at 7? How about 9:30 after we all sleep in? And can we skip the hike since we don’t have certification anymore and just make more rock rings and Jedi braids? Yes. Yes we can. The leaders outlasted the girls and giggled in the big tent well past 2. The eight weeks leading up to Camp prematurely aged me a decade, but three days at Camp erased it all.

Everyone knows the best part of camp (besides the showers you need flip-flops for) is the testimony meeting around the campfire. It has to be dark, too. Ain’t no testimonies being borne without the cover of night as a security blanket.

I heard so many sweet and sincere things that night, but I can’t stop thinking about the two “silver testimonies”.

A pint-sized 11-year old said, “I guess what I’ve learned this year is even if you keep all the commandments and are super good, life doesn’t get served to you on a silver platter.” Such a reality didn’t seem age-appropriate but it was heartfelt; perhaps the recent divorce taught her as much.

Then our camp chef stood and said she believed in silver linings; that silver linings were Heavenly Father’s way of reminding us He knows what’s really going on.

I think they are both right. I also think they go together. I believe Heavenly Father serves us silver linings on a silver platter as often as we need but especially on the neediest of days. I think the silver lining is a godly love note to an individual and the silver platter is the custom translation. The scriptures confirm that God speaks to men according to their language and understanding.* I’ve often felt this explained why I could see God’s hand or feel truths in ways that other people might not. We all speak our own spiritual language; mine is easily communicated at a printing press, on the periodic table, or when I see daffodils.

I’ve always loved daffodils. I wait for them all winter and pop! suddenly there’s hope smiling brightly before me. Daffodils beam at the bottom of Harry Anderson’s resurrection painting. Kristin Bradburn/Crystal Lund’s front bed housed the first openers of 680 West. Spring’s highlighter, daffodils naturally trumpet BE OF GOOD CHEER from their middle megaphone. I’ve said thankful prayers for daffodils. Honestly, daffodils are a sign between me and Heavenly Father. 

Earlier this “spring” (aka the lame duck term of Worst Winter in 15 Years) there was nada as far as color went on the mountain, just seven-foot heaps of snow around every driveway. I'll admit that moving caused an irregular sadness in me—it ebbs and flows—but on a particularly emotional day I backed out of my personal fort of isolation and slid down the mountain to go shopping. The snowless valley was a pastel vision of warming. As I pulled out of Costco, autopilot took over and before I knew it I'd turned right on 700 North and was driving through my old neighborhood. It was a frenzy of energy: birds were chirping, runners were running, dogs were being walked, bikes were in motion, Fishy Park was teeming with tots. My old house had a movie effect sunbeam shining down on it and as I looped back on 900 West I didn’t even make it past the equestrian park before I broke in half. If I’m being honest, it was a metaphor for how I was feeling: Blooming in American Fork was effortless. Blooming in Suncrest seems impossible.

I pulled over and called Michelle. Blessed day, she was driving home from a Kevy haircut and had 20 uninterrupted minutes to talk. She’d heard it all before from her calls to me after she moved. No explanation necessary. She understood nothing was wrong and no one was mean but occasionally it hurt so bad. I sniffled about the golden days, when all the mommies postponed dinner prep to talk on a single front lawn. She assured me that no one from the Lawn Club was doing that anymore, that life’s pace had changed from KILLING TIME to WOULD KILL FOR TIME. She bandaged me up, hung up, and I drove from Sunnyvale back to Siberia.

Days passed and brought me to the eve of Spring Break's flight. I can vouch there are two days a year I’m guaranteed to be a total witch: the day before vacation and the day of family pictures. (Truly, our smiley gallery wall could be renamed "The Wall of Hypocrisy".) Greg came home to chaos and urged me to attend the Relief Society activity at church. I told him I was not feeling social and pointed to the house to prove I had no time to party. And then, due to Pre-Vacation Witch Mode, I warned his life would be in danger if he threw in a personal load of laundry. (History proves the night before we fly anywhere—after I’ve washed, folded, and packed clothes for 14 straight hours and the suitcases are zipped—he starts washing the two items he’s wearing because he wants them for the trip.) I ended up going to church, mostly because my negative blood sugar needed homemade Café Rio but also so I wouldn’t hear Greg starting the washer, which he did after I left.

The ironic theme of the evening was “Bloom Where You’re Planted” and Linda Christensen, resident gardener, confessed how hard it was for her to live here since Suncrest doesn’t have a spring, and we all know that spring is the most beautiful season. Amen, sister. This place stinks. Good thing one can still force bulbs indoors, right? Hold up. Isn’t is a blessing that we can grow no matter what season it is outside? I can force blooming? I can force blooming! Of course! Happiness is always up to me! The very realization induced thawing and I felt a significant reduction in my witchiness.

After dinner there were three breakout sessions. I went with my group to the homemade sushi class, quickly remembered I’d never had sushi, politely escaped, and snuck in late to the landscaping class. I was given a numbered ticket to hold on to for a raffle. I’m not sure what I heard in the class—something about metal edging and that I should have fire and water in my yard because they are primal—but I do remember having a little heart to heart with the Lord inside my head, telling Him I would try harder to be optimistic if He could please just make it hurt less when I drove through American Fork.

Suddenly it was raffle time and ladies were winning sun hats, shovels, deer-proof filler for rock walls, and outdoor thermometers. There was one prize left and it was a forced, potted daffodil. During the brief pause before the ticket number was read I knew

because of the aching,

and the faking,

and the trying,

and the crying,

and my previous gratitude for the world's most glorious flower,

it would be mine. Yes, I won, and the ticket is stuck to my desk so I won't forget it. I won a lithe but sturdy answer to a prayer. I won an exhibit of remembrance; an unlikely "widow of Nain" mountaintop delivery. Do you need a reminder that I'm here and that I love you? I won a yellow silver lining that cued the end of a very long winter.

That night my silver platter was heaped high with Michelle's empathy, Linda's perfect message, an actual daffodil, and a husband who still loved his good witch. 

 

 

2 Nephi 31:3 For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.

Daffodils vs. Jonquils vs. Narcissus 


Saturday
Jun082019

Ghostwriter

Never was there a quote that described my RE more. I put it on a poster and taped 14 first day of school porch photos under it. Fourteen years, twelve backpacks, no ugly duckling phases. She graduated and I didn’t cry. The next morning, however, she flew to Missouri to see my parents for five days, or "practice college" as we called it. Greg got home from dropping her off and I cried a little in his ear as we hugged because the house already felt hollow.

The next day I was desperate for any shred of RE in my life so I played Bien’s “Confetti” on YouTube. It started the chain reaction of RE tunes I’m used to hearing when she’s unloading or making cookies. I mean, if you can’t have your daughter in the house you can have her substitute hologram playlist avatar, right? Later that night she called and we talked for 97 minutes while I worked on the James Christensen fairytale puzzle in the dining room.

Five days felt like forever but we’ve resumed breakfasting around the sunny kitchen table. My house is back to its usual happy temperature. Nothing is better than normal. And even though she runs in the morning, works all day, and is sometimes gone at night, she still ends up under my roof. Normal.

The thought of RE leaving has always hurt a little but college became the dreaded milestone once the boys fell in love with her. I promise I’m not as sad for myself as I am for them. But she needs to go. She deserves to leave and find herself and stay up way too late her first semester and get mono and blow her savings account on Winchell's donuts and junk at the BYU Bookstore. (autobiographical run-on)

It didn’t help when I asked Archer, Who's your favorite mom? and he replied, RE. Or when he heard me talking to Greg about the recent helicopter crash above Horsetail Falls and wanted clarification. Archer, a helicopter crashed. Some kids lost their mommy and their daddy. *thinking brow* Well, do they have an RE? It also doesn't help when I can hear heaven itself by eavesdropping on all three kids at bedtime via the baby monitor.

My full house and full heart have led me into a bit of a faith crisis concerning my little family. I generated one type of faith for years to get all my kids here. It is requiring a different kind of faith to let one of them go. This is my rock and my hard place: I trusted Heavenly Father’s timing for baby arrivals; I’m not as trusting with His timing for trio-splitting departures. Our Golden Age has to last more than three years!

I want to know how we’ll bridge the 15-year gap as well as the roof to roof gap. I want a clear, rosy vision of my family in the future but all I see in my head are nebulous blurs and shadow fuzz. The prayer in my heart the last several months: This is your timing, so it must be right, but I don’t feel right. I want more time together. Assure me this will pan out. Teach me how to make it work. Help us all survive the day our sunshine leaves.

So far, I’ve read two answers and felt a third:

1. “In our pursuit of me and mine, have we forgotten Thee and Thine?” 

2. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, God’s work in your life is bigger than the story you’d like that life to tell. His life is bigger than your plans, goals, or fears. To save your life, you’ll have to lay down your stories and, minute by minute, day by day, give your life back to him.” (This got my attention since I secretly consider myself a writer.)

3. I was brought to a remembrance of the night of our failed IVF. (It’s becoming very obvious to me that night was a defining moment in my life. So many things stem from that night.) We were so sad but we bought a Christmas tree and had FHE anyway. I had a sure, heart-piercing witness I would yet bring a baby into this world. Heavenly Father had watched me wrestle with closed wings inside my infertility cocoon long enough; He re-promised me Archer and the assurance alone set me free. I think He must have been smiling as I flew because He had Archer cradled in his right arm and Everett in his left. There’s your mama. She’s been waiting and is ready for you, Archer. But she has no idea you’re coming, Everett. Not a clue. We’re going to teach her a surprise lesson about possibility.

I think I had this memory because the Lord wanted to remind me that, beyond the peace and freedom I felt that heavy year, things turned out better than I ever could have imagined. Twice as good, actually. I’ve also been reminded that eternal families are His aim and reason for every order in the universe.

So what to do with my misty head but certain heart? The only thing I can do: bank on the Lord’s top priority as well as His pattern of exceeding my wildest expectations. I'm planning on possibility, on being happily surprised as I read the next chapter of our family’s life—the chapter I’m conceding, in good faith, to a wiser writer.

 

 

1. "Truly Good and Without Guile", Elder Michael T. Ringwood.

2. Letters to a Young Mormon, Adam S. Miller.

RE's Playlist:

Bien "Confetti"

Dagny "Love You Like That"

Sigrid "High Five" (Plus all other Sigrid songs. She's adorable.)

Haim "I Want You Back"

Matt Simons "Catch and Release"

Elenyi "Grow as We Go" (a cover of Ben Platt's original...I love his version, too)

First Aid Kit "Fireworks"

Friday
Jun072019

Supernova

 

What happens when a starry-eyed goal setter hitches too many wagons to too many stars? They all crash and explode. Like a supernova.

I thought I would be awesome at Come, Follow Me. And while I was being awesome, I’d lessen our family’s screen time, stick to better bedtimes, and prioritize all my other time. After healing young brains with the absence of YouTube, I’d up the ante with healthier meals, healthier bodies, and healthier relationships. Of course, I was only going to create that change after I worked out for an hour before the boys woke up. That didn’t leave much time to do my clean sweep (clean grout, clean dishes, clean clothes, clean sheets) and when everything wasn’t clean I kinda fizzled on finding the bottom of my piles and catching up general. At which point my old habits seemed just fine, so I bought a bag of those dream-crushing dark chocolate pretzel Snapper thingies from Costco and curled up with them on the nice couch after sending my kids to bed without brushing their teeth. Me, the daughter of a dentist. And just like the balloon in Good Night, Gorilla, my high hopes vanished into the atmosphere.

*exploding stars*

*wagon shards falling from the sky*

This is when it’s important to keep going.

Pay that fiery hullabaloo no mind.

Just restart.

 

Photo illustration by Red Nose Studio, used with permission. Photo quote by Barbara B. Smith, 10th general president of the Relief Society.

Sunday
May192019

Self-Checkout

I can only share this because my mom was the saintliest of 1980s mothers. She was almost impossible to provoke, seldom said an unkind word, never cussed, and was generally as relaxed as her culottes. (Truth: she only cussed once and it was during a heated game of Monopoly at a family reunion gone awry. I think the only reason we kids remember is because it was so out of character. Love you, Mom! You’re still a saint in my book! Now pass GO and collect $200!)

I said almost impossible. Occasionally, my siblings and I would push our mother to her breaking point and subsequently unleash her strong voice. As luck would have it, the phone always managed to ring right in the middle of her soliloquy and she would stop yelling, pick up the almond beige receiver attached to the 6-foot-but-the-darn-kids-stretched-it-12-feet-just-to-talk-alone-in-the-pantry curly cord, and say in her most loving, fairy godmother voice, “Helloooooo?” It just killed me. I wanted to shout from afar, “Don’t be fooled! My mom isn’t even nice! In fact, she was just screaming at us!”

I vowed I would never do the hypocritical phone answer. (I also remember telling my pregnant self I would never bribe my future child with candy. Please mark a second tally under "LOSSES".)

Earlier this week I did two things:

  1. Typed all my notes from a Stake Leadership Training I attended last September with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
  2. Bought my fourth computer in five weeks. Crooked base, faulty wi-fi card, don’t even ask. But if you saw Mad Madam Mim opening a computer in Costco’s food court and putting a pocket level on the monitor you saw correctly. Which means I’ve installed, uninstalled, returned, repurchased, and reinstalled more than I’d care to. Thursday morning I lost my marbles, won the Oscar for Best Nonsensical Rant to Innocent Onlookers, snatched my purse and phone, and shrieked to my wide-eyed family members, “I will be back in one hour! I am going to Best Buy to buy YET another computer!”

*door slam*

Steering through the roundabout like Cruella de Vil I remembered I had a quart of abhorrent Seventh Generation counter spray I needed to return at Walmart, however, I’d been postponing said return because I had no receipt, no original credit card, and not enough dignity to ask for my $2.77 back. Lucky day, I was just riled up enough to stand firm in the face of violated store policy. I steamed into Walmart with that spray (that does not smell like citrus or lemongrass but rather oregano, tar, and possibly anthrax) and the second I saw the sweet girl in a wheelchair welcoming me to the store I heard myself say, “Paris? What a lovely name. You’re as pretty as the city. You have a wonderful day now!”

As I walked toward Customer Service I recalled something I typed in the Elder Holland notes. A direct quote from Elder Holland, actually:

We are under covenant to treat our families better than we treat people at the grocery store.

And then I realized I inherited my mother’s special skill set but with greeting strangers instead of answering the phone.

I drove home $2.77 richer with my tail between my legs, corralled Greg and RE into the same room, told them all of this, and asked for their forgiveness.

Since then the fourth computer has performed splendidly and so have I.

Our families deserve our best.

 

Photo quote by Corrie ten Boom. Jenn FNDN, yes, the Harbor Freight mini shopping cart I bought because of you still lives on. Best kid toy ever!