Thursday, May 24, 2007


(~there is silence)

Silence. I've been thinking of this word a lot lately. How I crave it at times in my own life and, how the world so desperately needs it. My husband and I are working on a problem in our marriage. He is an insomniac and he's turning me into one against my will. I was single for four years after my divorce, and one of the things that I missed so much was company in bed. When my first husband left, one of the unexpected side effects was how cold I was at night. I literally would shiver all night long without his body heat next to me. I had grown so used to his warmth. So, when I remarried, I looked very forward to things like talking late into the night, and spooning as we slept.

The problem is that my husband can't sleep. At least at night, anyway. So, I would try to drift off to sleep and he would stay awake watching television in bed until he fell asleep around 2am, or 3am, or 4am... or I would wake up and find him asleep but the TV still on. Or, he will sit in the bed next to me with his laptop and play video games with his headphones on. These things went on throughout my sleep-deprived pregnancy, and throughout my sleep-deprived baby months. I was getting resentful that his sleeping issues were becoming my problems. I have no problems sleeping under normal conditions, but the flashing lights of the television and computer screen and the constant background noise were making it really hard for me to sleep well. And then while he could go on sleeping through the morning, I was the one getting up with the kids and feigning alertness despite my heavy lids and oh, so tired mind. I didn't know what to do. It was his room too, but I came to the conclusion that the purpose of the bedroom must be honored, and those who can sleep, deserve to. I sweated the conversation though.

I kindly explained that for the last two years I have been dying for a good night's sleep and that the constant TV and computer screen made it really hard for me. I wondered if after about 10pm or so, when I was ready to go to sleep, and he was still not, if he would mind going downstairs until he was tired enough to sleep. "Sure," he said. "No problem." That was it? I had been preparing my defense all afternoon, ready to plead my case. (BTW, I've told him many times that I believe part of his sleep problems are precisely the things he uses to fall asleep...and the caffeine he drinks all blessed day, but he's not quite there yet.) And that was that. This brings up the new problem in our marriage: How do I get my husband back into bed with me? Now he takes a pillow and blanket downstairs and falls asleep to the television in the livingroom only to come back up when the kids wake him up in the morning getting ready for school.

So, why does my dear husband cling so vehemently to his electronic teddy bear? Because the silence drives him crazy. His mind starts seeping into such realms as bills, family relationships, sins, pressures, and other various stresses. In an attempt to steer clear of these thoughts, he allows himself very little complete silence. And I think he is not alone. I remember a psychologist once telling me that many people keep their lives noisy because the silence makes them uncomfortable, or rather, what they would hear or feel in the silence. These are the people that must fall asleep to the television, must have loud music on in the car, or in lieu of anything else to do, find themselves constantly on the phone. I used to be in this category. Sometimes I still slide on over, but for the most part, I just want some silence.

I recently heard a speaker address this very same issue from a spiritual standpoint. His name is Richard Holzapfel, a professor at BYU. He illustrated three main things that the ancients had that we are hard-pressed to find in our post-modern world: an absence of artificial light (they could actually see billions of stars, whereas we only hear about them), an abundance of silence, and personal solitude. These three factors in their environment made great thought and revelation possible. We are constantly distracted, by no small accident, by the lights and the sounds of this world. We have an adversary who would rather that our minds be filled with the messages of the ungodly. We have an enemy who strives to keep our minds noisy because then he keeps us from hearing that still small voice. That voice that teaches us, inspires us, and moves us to repentance. In the silence we feel uncomfortable things at times. We think about uncomfortable things, and we are forced to reckon with them. But that which is uncomfortable is also that which brings about mighty change.

I love silence. It can be a rare commodity in my busy life, but it is a soothing salve to my soul. I am okay to drive in silence, or with peaceful music quietly playing. I like the silence around me while I busy my hands in housework, and I like to turn off the television at night and let the silence direct my thoughts before sleep. It is during that time that I have had most flashes of inspiration or revelation in my life. It is during that time that I have felt comforted and known above and, ironically, it is in the silence that I feel most connected to life.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Alma Mater

(~Nurturing Mother)

The above photo is my favorite picture of my mom and me. She looks like she really adored me. There wasn't that much time in my life when it was just the two of us. She's probably already pregnant in that picture, but I love to imagine my mom loving on little chubby baby me. I know most of the feelings she probably had, because I've now had them myself for my little ones, and I love to think that my mom had those emotions for me.

My mom hated Mother's Day. She probably felt inadequate compared to the white apron-clad, perfectly coiffed mothers tending perfectly disciplined and squeaky-clean children spoken of in all the talks at church. Many Mother's Day's my mother was in tears. She probably had her self-preservating cynicism on full volume in her head. Perfect mothers don't exist, and perfect Mother's Day's don't either. Mother's Day was never a treat for her, I don't think. And it hasn't really been for me either, and yet I love Mother's Day.

My children made me their typical handmade gifts this year (though as they get older, the artwork sure gets better!) I was surprised in bed (but not very) with a big MOM balloon (I hate balloons), two DVD's (previously viewed from Blockbuster, with the stickers peeled off but the sticky remaining), and a bag of candy purchased at Walgreen's (and still in the Walgreen's plastic bag). Aiden offered to bring me breakfast in bed, but he can't cook, so he brought me a bowl of Special K. I mention these things not because I'm complaining, because I'm not. I mention these things because they are part of the reason why I love Mother's Day.

I love mothers. I love my mother, I love being a mother, I love all things motherhood. I love that a whole day is dedicated to honoring mothers, and I'm tickled that none of the seven other people in this house who live with me day in and day out know that the way to my heart is through a NAP, not a MOM balloon and a box of Red Vines. But their efforts are treasured, and I save every single handmade card.

Why is Mother's Day so depressing to so many mothers? This, I don't get. To me, Mother's Day is a shot in the arm. I think I'm a fairly decent, and fairly decently flawed mother. I'm really on-target in some areas, and really slacking in many others. But Mother's Day, and especially Mother's Day talks, stories, and poems encourage me! They don't make me feel inadequate, they fill my well with inspiration and the umph to keep on going. Mother's Day is to my motherhood what Monday is to a dieter. And so, here is what I will more consciously do:

1. Smile every single time one of my children walks into the room, or I do.
2. Pay a conscious effort to saying more positive things to each of them than negative.
3. Kiss each of them before bed and tell them, while looking into their eyes, that I love them.
4. Have more water fights. (and win)
5. Give them time to just talk to me, while I just listen.

And, let me also let the world know that I love my mother. She and I are very different women, but many of the same threads that run through her heart hold mine together too. I love her for too many reasons to count, but especially because though we are divided on many issues, she has always given me freedom to be who I need to be, and then still admired me. I am a mother because she made me want to be.

It's a glorious privilege to be a mother, and I try to never take it for granted. My most tender feelings are evoked in images and expressions of mothering. Since she always says it better than I, here's some Carol Lynn Pearson:

The Mother the Harbor

These little boats
Came by currents
I may never know
From oceans I cannot see
Even from my highest hill.
I cherish the cargo
Bless the sea
And thank the eternal itinerary
That harbored them awhile
In me.

Happy Mother's Day. I'm doing just fine, and so are you. Here's to the journey.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Felis mysterium

(~Cat mystery)

We read about Joseph in Egypt this morning, and how he was able, through the Spirit, to translate the dreams of first the butler and baker in prison, and then later the Pharaoh. We talked about Joseph's remarkable ability to keep bitterness from entering his heart even though so many others in his situation would focus on their victimization. It was a simple discussion, but one rich with 'ponderables', before I went into the kitchen to cook oatmeal for breakfast. Then I heard:

"Can I go get the baby up? And why is the cat orange?"

(Have you ever considered recording all of the things that are actually said in your house and cataloging them according to ridiculousness?)

The cat is orange? Well, he has this orange highlight across one side of him, and under his chin. The kids are all too old to paint him, and it is such an odd color anyway, that I ruled out fairly quickly any cat-grafitti. It wasn't sticky. It had no odor. I thought maybe he brushed up against a candle and scorched his fur, but no. It's still as smooth as ever. So, why is our cat orange? I'll get back to that one.

I just celebrated my 34th birthday on Sunday. Being broker than broke, I didn't expect any hoop-la, but once again, my tricky husband and children managed to sneak something under my nose. The kids came into our bedroom early in the morning and sang 'Happy Birthday' to me, my mom and my dad called and also sang. My oldest childhood friend called and sang into the answering machine. My little Aiden gave me a handmade card telling me that I was the best mom in the world and that he loves me very much. I threw enchiladas into the crockpot to cook so dinner would be easy later that evening. We all went to church and things seemed normal. I dealt with tired Conor through most of Sacrament Meeting in the hallway, I taught the Primary kids a Mother's Day song to perform next week, and I went into Young Women's and began teaching them a new arrangement of 'Sweet Hour of Prayer' by my pal, Hilary Weeks. The YW President asked if I could stay afterwards for a very short meeting. She said to go ahead and send my family home, she would give me a ride. But a half hour later when I walked through the front door, I was greeted with "SURPRISE!!!" and a chorus of party poppers exploding all around me. There were balloons and streamers everywhere, a big bouquet of lilies and Gerbera daisies adorned with ribbon, and a pile of my favorite candybars. And everything had been provided courtesy of the children's pooled resources. Apparently, Adam had taken the girls home with him during the second hour of church to decorate (which is why he balked just a little when I asked him to take the baby so I could teach Primary) and he had even let the bishop know that he would be breaking the Sabbath to go pick up the helium balloons, and the YW meeting afterwards was a sham, and I fell for the whole thing. Sometimes it's okay to be the fool. We had angel food cake with strawberries, whipped cream, and cream cheese frosting and we ate our crock pot enchiladas (really, really yummy). I put the bouquet in a vase of water and set it on the kitchen counter.

Later that day, I relocated the cat's food and water dishes because the baby emptied them for the umpteenth time. Poor kitty was thirsty. Ever since that baby came to stay, he's been a lot thirstier. Well, this explains why the kitty was uncharacteristically up on the kitchen counter looking for dripping water from the sink. And this is where he was when he stopped to smell the lilies, and rub on the lilies, and this is why the cat is orange. He's covered in pollen from his love affair with the lilies. It was no easy task solving this one. And so, yes, the entire family managed to arrange my affairs all day long so as to work on their undercover party scheme without my knowledge, and no, I never caught on. But I did figure out why the cat is orange, so there is some degree of redemption of my detective prowess.