Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sunday ‘Round the Table

“Mom!” Anders calls from the floor above me. “It was just an accident!”

“What honey? What did you say?”

“It was just an accident, Mom.”

“Anders, but what did you do?”

(Pause.) “I didn't do anything.”



We are sitting around the Sunday dinner table. Everyone is being silly and ridiculous and loud. I am trying to reign it in – trying to veer things toward some amount of real family conversation despite Mike's absence. “What did you guys learn at church today?” I ask.

“We learned about honesty,” Penny contributes.

Good. We are on the right track. “That's good, Penny. Jesse told me they learned about that too! What else did you guys learn?” I encourage.

“Well,” Abe smiles, “I'll tell you what I did in church today.”

I'm all ears. Tell on Abe.

“So,” Abe begins, “we sometimes call Jared (a friend from church) 'Jare-Bear'; so, every Sunday, I draw a Jare-Bear on the chalkboard.”

“What does a 'Jare-Bear' look like?” I ask.

“A bear's head on a deacon's body,” Abe explains.


“Or, sometimes a missionary's body so he can have a little name-tag that says, 'Elder Jare-Bear'.”

More laughter.

“Anyway, my drawing today was particularly good with his tie like blowing in the wind and stuff.”

I can see this probably isn't leading towards the meaningful family chit-chat I was after. . . .

“And then sometimes the creepier ones are like Care Bears, and they have tattoos on their stomachs that shoot out rainbows.”

The riotous laughs from his audience sparks a further memory. “Oh yah!” Abe chuckles. “So awhile ago, we had a lesson on dating. There was a stick figure on the board of a girl and then some stick figures of her different dating options, and one of her options was a Jare-Bear. Oh, and a robot was another one of her options. The Jare-Bear actually turned out to be a pretty good option though. The robot had like anger issues and spent his money poorly.”

Eventually I turn the discussion away from the nonsense and on to something that seems to be sticking.

“I've decided I'm going to start quizzing you guys on who all your cousins are,” I inform them.

“How can you quiz us on something we don't even know?” someone asks.

(I am the tenth in a family of eleven children. Because some live out of state and some have children who already have children of their own, it hasn't been easy for my kids to keep track of all their aunts, uncles and cousins.)

“Well, that's why I'm going to teach you first. Then I'll quiz you,” I respond. “I mean, you ought to know who all your cousins are, don't you think? Doesn't it seem weird to think of say . . . Abe's kids and Anders’ kids not even knowing each other?”

“Well, I know all our cousins,” Abe defends. “I just don't like . . . know all those older ones' names and stuff.”

“That's the same thing,” I insist.

At last everyone agrees that it does indeed seem odd not to know your own cousins, and we start. Initially I simply quiz them on my siblings.

Once they stumblingly make a list of all of my siblings (in a terribly wrong order I might add) we begin by going over my oldest brother and his kids.

“So,” I begin. “Your Uncle Mark is actually really impressive. He was the chief trial judge for the entire US Air Force. He's a Colonel, and a Colonel is only a step below a . . .”

Before I can say, “General” Abe chimes in with, “A Colonel is only a step below a cob.” And it's all back to laughter and nonsense again.
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Monday, September 1, 2014

Unmade Beds

Do you know what this is? Photo Aug 29, 7 11 44 PM

It’s an unmade bed. My unmade bed. And I know, I know, some of you are thinking, “Big deal that your bed isn’t made. I never get my bed made.” That may be, . . . but, there are things you do do; things that, through habit or perceived importance, you do get done every day – your children’s hair, books read, dinner, a load of laundry. Something.

There are many things I don’t do daily . . . things I would be embarrassed to admit I don’t do even monthly (good heaven’s above . . . please oh please never ask me how often I clean my showers), but, my bed? I always make my bed. I wake up. I whip the bed into shape. Then I go about my day accomplishing, or not accomplishing (as the case may be), but, with a made bed.

If my bed is unmade, you can be rather sure that life is not flowing along in a seamless fashion.

It occurs to me that using an “unmade bed” as a lovely (if somewhat ridiculous) little metaphor, makes it easy to nod knowingly and, from a place of experience and proper perspective, say, “Ah yes. The unmade beds of life. I know all about those.”

But . . . when you are living with an unmade bed, it doesn’t feel literary or poetic. It just feels . . . hard. (And, somehow, admitting that makes me feel, ridiculously, like a failure – like the people who are living lives full of calmness and ease are doing life admirably better. It makes me feel like I’ve just traded respect  for pity.)

(Heaven forbid.)

This whole training ground of life though? It often makes me feel like a circus performer; like I’ve just been taught some important new skill – say . . . tightrope walking. I’ve finally mastered it. I’m up high – completely exhilarated because I can’t believe I’m really doing it (when initially it seemed utterly impossible); but I am! I’ve actually got it! I balance like a pro. I’m no longer afraid I’ll fall. I can walk across that rope without a moment’s hesitation. It’s amazing. And then . . . the trainer says, “OK, good job! I know you thought you were done – that walking the tightrope was it, but now we’re going to train you to do it in a windstorm!”

Each time I get confident up on that tightrope, it’s time to add another element.

“You’ve got it! Now let’s have you try it on a unicycle!”

“Good work with the unicycle. Can you believe it’s easy for you now? Bravo! Let’s try juggling at the same time.”

“How do you feel about blindfolded tightrope walking? We think you’re ready.”

But, I do recognize that life is supposed to be hard sometimes. Strangely, simply reminding myself of that helps. Reminding myself that it’s OK for life to feel difficult makes me feel less like struggling equals failing and more like I’m learning something good for me. It reminds me that finishing this life only having learned to walk across the tight rope would be totally lame when I had the potential to cross it while juggling flaming torches, swallowing swords and taming tigers.

In a few weeks I’ll be able to start working my little Summer into a predictable schedule. She won’t fall asleep only to immediately wake up crying. I won’t struggle to find five minutes when I am certain I can take a shower. I won’t have to figure in an extra 30 minutes for nursing while getting kids ready for school each morning. Every bit of cleaning and organizing won’t be done one-handed or in a mad rush when I have my arms free for a second. We’ll have a new rhythm, and I’ll be able to devote set chunks of time to things like – cooking dinner, bathing children, and . . . making beds.

In the meantime, I love that life doesn’t only hand us “hard”. I love that Heavenly Father simultaneously gives us gifts of “easy” and happiness.
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And, . . . I love that the very thing that is making life hard right now also happens to bring me utter joy; also happens to be one of my very favorite things in all of existence. You don’t get difficulties like that very often!
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(But geez, maybe take it easy on the metaphors next time, Nancy!)

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