Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Older Brother

Once when I was about 10 years old, living in Michigan, I went on a bike ride with my older brother and one of my sisters. To get to our destination we had to cross a two-lane highway that had no median. Since there was nowhere to stop halfway across the road, crossing it required careful timing. We had to watch for cars coming both ways, and dart across when there was a semi-lengthy break in the action.

This particular afternoon my brother and sister were watching the cars, and when there was a break they both yelled, "Okay! Now!" and took off across the highway. I also looked both ways, but hesitated a little because I could see cars in the distance, then finally took off after them. My hesitation cost me, though, because while they made it safely across, by the time I got to the middle of the road the cars were nearly upon me and I couldn't complete the crossing. I could only turn my bike sideways so that I was straddling the middle line, and then I sat, pretty much paralyzed with fear, while the traffic whizzed by me on both sides.

Every time there was a break in the traffic, my siblings would yell, "Cross, Lecia! Come on!" But I was too scared to move, so I just sat there, tears running down my face.

Then, like I knew he would, my brother came for me. He left his bike on the side of the road and ran out to the middle, where he took my handle bars and guided me safely to the other side.

How grateful I was that day to have an older brother to save me. I was hopelessly stuck, unable to move, afraid, crying, but my brother made it all okay again.

Today my older brother is the one hurting, and I would run head-on into ten tons of traffic to save him if I could, but I can't. I just hope he knows how much I love him, and that I'm on the lookout for our Older Brother to come and save him...I'm pretty sure He's on His way, or maybe that He's already here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In Defense of Saying Yes

I should be in a bubble bath commercial. I know I could pull off the look of the frazzled woman who’s been run ragged all day. The one whose life is chaos until the magic of Calgon blissfully takes her away.

Truly, I’m the poster child for all of those magazine articles you read entitled, “Feeling Overwhelmed? Learn to Take Time for Yourself.” With two jobs, four kids, and involvement with church, school, community and extended family, you could say that I’m busy. Add to that a husband with chronic health issues, which is one way of saying that not only am I chief cook and bottle washer, but also head tree trimmer, spider squasher and pinewood derby car carver - roles I’ve learned to handle, if not well.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no supermom. I know supermom, she’s my neighbor around the corner, and trust me, I’m not her. My kids pack their own lunches and accept bribes to splash in the tub with the little one so I won’t have to bathe her. Sunday dinner is pancakes and eggs, not roast and potatoes. Would supermom serve breakfast for dinner every Sunday? Not likely.

Still, I do think that putting yourself first is a little overrated. Not because I think I should be alphabetizing my cupboards instead of reading a magazine, but for reasons that are more about old-fashioned values.

You’ve heard the advice that to forget your own troubles you should help someone else? That actually works. When you’re helping others, you get the feeling that what you’re doing in that moment is exactly right. That you’re doing just what you were meant to do that day, which is a wonderful, freeing kind of feeling.

I learned this lesson again early one Saturday morning. My littlest one sometimes sleeps in, but never on Saturday. It drives me crazy! Anyway, one Saturday she’d gotten out of bed around 6:30 a.m. and come into my room. I pulled her up into bed with me and tried to get her to go back to sleep, but she wasn’t interested. I felt myself getting frustrated and upset with her, and finally I decided to quit fighting it and just get up with her.

We went out to the family room and sat together in the rocking chair. She was smiley and happy as we sang quiet songs and talked about things that are important to her, like dolls and cereal. We had the house to ourselves, and that quiet time with her turned out to be a very precious experience. Putting my daughter first turned out to be the best thing for me, way better than a bubble bath, and a tiny bit better than sleeping in.

Not to say I don’t take the occasional sanity break. In fact, I just gave my two-weeks’ notice at my second job, precisely in the name of sanity. You can’t say yes to everything, but when you do, it sometimes works out just right. Does anyone want to put up my Christmas lights for me? (say yes)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Don't Do Centerpieces

Being a Relief Society teacher can be an intimidating calling. In addition to preparing your lesson, cultivating a spiritual atmosphere, and encouraging the sisters to contribute to the lesson, you are expected to create a breathtaking centerpiece. I have known many women who were born with exceptional centerpiece-making talents. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. Not only do I stink at centerpieces, but I also have questionable cooking skills, my daughter’s pigtails are never symmetrical, and I haven’t volunteered for a Mormon Handicraft project since the great quilting incident of ’98, when I somehow managed to tie my quilt into a figure eight. Apparently a large rectangle is the traditional shape for quilts, and more “creative” shapes are frowned upon.

I think it would help all of us artfully impaired individuals if the Relief Society manual came with centerpiece ideas and instructions to go with each lesson. Instead of Teachings of Presidents of the Church, the manual could be called Teachings and Fabulous Centerpiece Ideas of Presidents of the Church. But since we’ll probably never get such a manual, I’ve put together a few tips of my own, specifically geared to my sisters who don’t know the difference between chiffon and …see, I can’t even think of the name of another fabric to finish that sentence with.

Step One: Begin working on your centerpiece at least a month in advance. If possible, it’s recommended that you sit down and plan out a full year’s worth of centerpieces when you first receive your calling. In fact, consider adding “Centerpieces” to your list of things to accumulate for your year’s supply.

Step Two: Consider the theme of your lesson. The centerpiece MUST match the lesson, or you risk receiving an icy look from the pianist, who planned prelude music that matched the lesson 3 weeks ago. Sometimes this can be harder than others. For example, one lesson is entitled “The Dispensation of the Fullness of Times”. This is a hard one, because you don’t find too many porcelain figurines depicting the fullness of times at the LDS bookstore. So, my suggestion would be to display a photograph of yourself right after you’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner, because that suggests YOUR dispensation of fullness. Embellish the photo with a decorative swag, of course.

Step Two: Call around to find someone who owns a tablecloth that doesn’t suspiciously resemble the sheet set in your daughter’s bedroom.

Step Three: Figure out what types of flowers are in season. This can be accomplished by reading Martha Stewart magazines, calling your local nursery, or peering over your backyard fence to see what your neighbor has that she wouldn’t miss if a few happened to disappear.

Step Four: Display your wedding photo. I don’t care what the lesson’s about, the wedding photo can always be worked in. For example, the lesson “Journals: Of Far More Worth than Gold,” can easily be turned into a discussion of the time your husband (point to wedding photo here) found your old journal from high school and got upset about the 3 pages filled with "Mrs. Christian Slater". Hey, he was cute back then.

Finally, pull all the pieces together by wearing an outfit that matches your flower arrangement. This will allow you to blend in visually with your centerpiece so that you, and your lesson, won’t take away from the magnificence of your creation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Hate Dreams

Why do people think their dreams are interesting to others? People are always telling me about their dreams and, other than the “I ♥ Dreams” bumper sticker on my car, I can’t figure out why.
People always want to know what their dreams mean. So here, I'll tell you, and then you can quit bugging me.
The Dream About Teeth Falling Out: This dream typically means that one day all your teeth are going to fall out, and you should probably marry a dentist. If you are already married and can’t get out of it, you should commit your first born child to an arranged marriage with a dentist.
The Falling Dream: I often dream that I am falling. Dreams about falling indicate that you are a well-rounded, likeable individual whose charming personality and above-average talents mean that you will be a great success in life.
The Naked at School Dream: So-called “experts” in dream interpretation will tell you that dreaming about being naked in public is a sign of insecurity. This theory is, in professional terms, complete doo doo. More often, this type of dream is an indication that you have too many covers on, have started to sweat, and wish you were naked.
The Being Chased By Something Scary Dream: Dreams about being chased are really just repressed memories of 4th grade, when boys used to show that they liked you by chasing you, throwing lit firecrackers at you, beating you up after school and calling you four-eyed weirdo loser face. At least, my mom always told me it meant that they liked me. She was probably right. I mean, why else would the kids have done that?
If I haven't covered your specific type of dream here, then just interpret it yourself. Do this by listening to your gut. In fact, I once had a dream that I solved a world crisis by listening to my gut. See, this scary monster guy was chasing me down a dark alley…(see, right now your gut should be telling you to move on to the next blog.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Fight List

We’re all short of time. It’s sad, but the couples I know don’t even have the time to plan any really good fights anymore. They end up fighting over stupid things, like what time Target closes on Thursdays. That’s why I think every couple should have a fight list. A good fight list can help you plan for an organized and efficient life of marital discord. If you, too, are having trouble using your fight time wisely, you can follow this simple fight list:
The Early Years: Who’s The Better Driver - I think it’s important to fight about who’s the better driver early on in a marriage. Because this fight will never truly be resolved, it’s good to get an early start on it. On a personal note, I’d like to add that the spouse with the least amount of tickets is not necessarily the better driver. My spouse has asked that I insert here that getting lost is not a sign of bad driving, but rather the result of having a poor navigator in the passenger seat. See, the variations on this one are endless and will last you a lifetime.
The Early Years Part II: You Weren't Like This When We Were Dating – This one is a classic. As the flaws we so carefully hid during courtship become more glaring, we must take the time to communicate with each other about our feelings on the matter. Here is an example of what a healthy dialogue might sound like:
Her: Why do you always want to hang out at your brother’s on Saturdays? When we were dating you used to want to spend time with ME, remember?
Him: My brother has a cool workshop in his garage. You have toenail clippings on your nightstand. Who would you want to hang out with? By the way, I don’t remember you wearing those barf stained gray sweatpants when we were dating, either.
Her: Well, maybe if you didn’t spend so much money on your disgusting pork rinds habit I’d have some money to buy nice clothes with.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
The Young Children Years: It’s Your Turn to Get up With The Baby – The key to winning this fight is to get really good at pretending to be in such a sound sleep that you don’t even hear the baby crying. Insisting that you need earplugs to get to sleep because of those pesky crickets is also a good tool. Be careful about using the old “I have to get up early” defense though, as it may provoke the next fight in your relationship:
The Middle Years: Who Works Harder – Obviously, I do.
And finally, The Later Years: What Did You Do With My Glasses? – This is the age old question that is usually followed by a sarcastic remark such as, “Have you checked your face?” It’s unfortunate that I have hit this stage of fighting well before my time. The other day, I called hubby on my cell phone while I was walking out of a store, when I suddenly panicked, telling him I had to run back into the store because I couldn’t find my phone anywhere….Yeah, I’m losing this fight.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Having a Dilbert Day

I'm glad I work at home now. Offices are weird places. Here are some things I have learned at the office that I don't miss:

Things inside the copy machine labeled “Hot – Do Not Touch” are hot and should not be touched.

A fake anthrax letter, although funny, is not an appropriate gift for Bosses’ Day.

On a related note, the police really aren't into practical jokes.

Some of the fun is taken out of Xeroxing your backside when the copy machine prompts you to use the oversize paper in Tray 2 (So I've heard. I would never do this.)

When your boss asks you to come into his office and close the door, you should probably wait to see what he wants before you start explaining why you sincerely thought that you WERE an authorized signer on the company's checking account.

The question, “Does anyone have a problem with that?”, when posed by a supervisor, is generally rhetorical.

The office Christmas party is a good place to socialize, get to know your co-workers’ spouses, and reminisce about the past year. It is not a good place to try break dancing for the first time, or to unveil your semi-autobiographical novel entitled There Are Only 6 Bullets in my Gun and I Hate 12 of You.

When your Christmas bonus is a membership to the jelly of the month club, you’ll know that Mark in accounting actually went through with his embezzlement plans.

When you sneeze loudly and a co-worker says “God bless you” she really means “You’re disgusting and I hate sitting by you.”

To my current co-workers (yeah, right, like they read this blog): None of this is about any of you. You are, collectively, a joy to work with. I'm serious. I am.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Not Yet

At church our kids learn a song called "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam". Simple and sweet, the song's message is that we can all reflect the light of Christ to those around us. The grown-ups like the meaning behind the song. The kids like the time-honored tradition that says they get to jump out of their seats everytime they sing the word "Beam". It goes like this:

Jesus wants me for a sun-

BEAM! (manic jumping here)

When AJ was two she loved this song, but she loved jumping more. She could never wait for the beam. She jumped for every word. At home this was fine - jump away pumpkin. But at church I would try to restrain her to wait for the appropriate time. Usually it would involve me putting my arms around her in a gentle hold.

"Jesus (not yet) wants (no, wait) me for (don't jump) a sun (hang on sweetie) beam (Now! Jump!)"

AJ is a lot like me. Every thought that comes into my mind, I want to jump in right away and with full force. Sometimes, though, many times actually, I get the feeling that I'm being restrained. Or, sometimes things just don't seem to be falling into place for me the way I imagine they should. Do you ever have those conversations in your head?

"Jesus, I'd like to be a mother."
"Not yet."

Or "It's time for me to be married."
"Not yet."

Or how about, "Lord, I think it's time for this trial to be over."
"Hang on, sweetie."

Wait on Him. Jesus wants us always, but wait for the beam, that push from the Spirit that says, "Now. Jump. I've got my arms around you."

Saturday, November 1, 2008


My dad has taught me many things, but today I am thinking about rhubarb and passion flowers. Rhubarb, I learned from his example, is really only good if you steep it in sugar. Dad prefers rhubarb sauce, cooked thick and bubbly on the stove and served in a bowl, ice cream optional. I preferred to pick it, lick it and stick it straight in the sugar bowl. I think my mom knew I did this - all my brothers and sisters did it too. But I never got in trouble for it. I'm not sure if I've ever allowed my own children that kind of whirling freedom to just be a child. I hope I have. My parents laughed at the funny faces we made as bit into the tart stalks, and then made them right along with us.

Passion flowers are different. They are not for hearty consumption and sour faces. They are delicate - made of purple lace, really. They grow on a vine, and they entwined the front porch of my childhood home. Passion flowers, at least the variety we had, bloom for a single day. They blossom in the early morning hours, and if you don't look you will miss it. By evening it will be dead. My dad nurtured his vines all season long, watching, tending, watching. During blossoming season he would step out on the porch every morning before work to see if the miracle was happening. Usually it was not. Isn't that how it is with miracles? You watch for it every day. Usually you do not see it. You think it might not happen. Perhaps you weren't tender enough with the vine. Maybe the weather was not just right this year. It might not be enough.

Then one day Dad yells out from the porch, "Come here! Come here!" We all know what is happening, and we rush out as a group. And there it is. One violet, lacy flower, so delicate you don't want to breathe on it, but there it is. It happened, and it is beautiful. The beauty is more intense because of the scarcity of it. I go out to look at it several times that day.

The next day it is gone.

Thanks for showing me that, Dad.