Tuesday, April 28, 2009

L.A. Kids

Aiden brought a friend home from school today, his best friend Zack, who's here several times each week. They were excited about an upcoming field trip. To the grocery store.

"Von's?" I asked. "You're going to Von's for a field trip?"

"Yeah! And we get to go backstage!" says Zack.

"Backstage? It's the grocery store."

"Yeah, backstage, where all the boxes and produce are!"

Oh my gosh! What will you wear?

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Carbon is the backbone of all life on earth. One little element, capable of hooking itself up with a small group of other heavy-hitters, in millions of combinations that result in living organisms. I cracked open my science text yesterday and started studying saturated hydrocarbons, when I got a text message.

My cousin, Melissa, had given birth to her first child, a darling and perfect little boy, pink-faced, squinting, and still smeared with just a touch of vernix. An email was sent shortly following with the pictures, and I got all teary-eyed, remembering moments, four times over, when new life was placed in my arms, and I thought to myself, 'I did this?' No doubt of the power of the electron bonding between new mother and child. Strong as steel. I mean, carbon.

Only hours later I received a call that someone very, very dear to me had been admitted to the hospital after a nearly-successful suicide attempt. My world started spinning. My heart started pounding. Tears streamed forth, vastly different tears. One carbon-based organism trying fervently to reach across state lines through heart strings to bond with another carbon-based organism who desperately needs a positive charge.

Now what?

My soul alternates between celebration and mourning. Between life and the threat of death.

This is hard. So hard.

New life fizzing over. Tired life gone flat.

How do I re-carbonate a flat life?

Something about those bonds. . .covalent bonds, where electrons are shared, not given up. I have to somehow share this burden and in doing so, offer something where there is currently not enough.

My electrons, all of them, are hers for the taking.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hygiene Kits

One of my goals in 2009 is to have fully equipped 72 hour kits for each family member, as well as a Family Kit that would hold all extras needed to survive should an emergency arise that would force us from our home. I lived through a week-long evacuation during the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire in 2002, and I now live in an earthquake zone, so I am under no delusions that such situations 'could never happen to me'. And while I pray that they don't, I feel much more peace knowing that come what may, I am prepared. Should an earthquake, fire, or other natural disaster occur, I do not want to have to look my children in the eyes and see their fear, knowing that I could have helped make such a time easier and more comfortable for them.

I've read several great survival/preparedness handbooks recently and have made a list of everything I'd like us to have ready. Slowly, but surely, I've been adding to our supply and crossing things off the list. I'll post more about that another time, but today I wanted to share the Hygiene Kits that the kids and I assembled over Spring Break.

We went to Target and stocked up on travel-sized products. I'd been collecting toothbrushes that I'd either gotten for free with coupons, or for $.25 or .50 over the months. Then I added a washcloth. I realize I could have saved some money buying one large bottle of shampoo/conditioner, one tube of toothpaste, etc, but my goal is to have each kit be fairly self-sufficient, should for some unforeseen reason the family become separated.

We brought home the loot from Target (which, in making 8 kits, was quite a pile) and Aiden and Dylan organized it all into categories for our assembly line. I used gallon-sized Zip-locs, with the names written on them, and Conor was our helper in dropping each item into each bag.

Everyone has the basics, but the kits are a little personalized: the girls have conditioner in addition to shampoo, and Adam has shaving cream. The girls and I have razors and sanitary needs, and Conor has special baby lotion and baby sunblock since his skin is more sensitive. He also has baby toothpaste and a toddler toothbrush. I have a small sewing kit in mine, just in case. The only thing I haven't added to the hygiene kits yet is a comb or brush, but that's coming. Also, Lyns and I want mascara in our kits. If our house falls down around us, mascara can make the difference between forced cheerfulness and complete despair. I'm not kidding. This kit will be tucked into the backpacks that contain the food/water/clothing and other supplies.

It was a fun family project, and it's amazing how involved the kids got. Several of them commented on how good they felt having these kits ready, and how thankful they were that we were making sure to be prepared. My plan is to give them their backpack 72 hour kits when they leave home, so they'll always have them.

What's in our kits:

bar of soap
extra ziploc to hold a wet washcloth
small first aid kit (larger more complete one will be in the Family Kit)
shaving cream (for the men)
hand sanitizer
Baby kit has powder, diapers, wipes, baby sunblock, baby lotion, and baby shampoo, and toddler toothpaste/toothbrush. The girls have sanitary needs.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Marley and NOT Me

I don't consider myself a dog person. In fact, I've always identified myself as a cat person, and I've always had a cat. It isn't that I don't appreciate dogs, because I do. I've even felt affection for a few, owned by others. I have seen the bond that dogs and their masters have, and it warms me. Dogs are like people, almost. I get that. But they smell. Although puppies are about the cutest things ever, puppy breath is not cute. While I appreciate the sentiment, the thought of a dog licking my face makes me want to hurl. I hate that their fur smells greasy and dog-like, even after a bath. I hate that I can't pet a dog and not smell my hands, and then not wash my hands. I hate that they chew everything and have to be walked and have to be socialized, and then you have to pick up their poop. I have enough poop to clean up. And they bark. And they scare people. And you have to do so much for them and with them. And you know how the more you do, the more you love? I know what would happen.

But I think the real reason I cannot be a dog person is evident after watching Marley and Me last night. I cannot love a dog, because a dog will die. And I cannot handle that.

It's hard enough when cats die, or even the hamster, for heaven's sake. I get so attached to animals, to pets. They are a part of the family and they should live forever. But imagining the bond that I would share with a dog, that is so much more interactive and human-like than a cat? I might never recover. I started crying during the movie at Marley's first sign of sickness. I knew what was coming, and it was just too much. When they said their goodbyes? Please. I was sobbing. Sobbing! And I cried for a good thirty minutes after the movie ended, and it wasn't even my dog, and I'm not even a dog person!

My first Christmas being married (the first time), my sweet husband surprised me. He took me to a house to "pick something up" and when he came out, he walked over to my side of the Jeep and unveiled from beneath his bulky green Gap sweatshirt was a white ball of fluff. A Persian kitten with blue eyes that we named Corey. I loved that kitty. He lived with us for seven years, and loved on two of our children, and then one night, at 2am, a knock on the door.

"Your cat's been attacked by three dogs," the neighbor reported, and pointed to a white pile in the middle of the street where Corey lay.

Adam went and scooped him up and wrapped him in a towel and laid him on the porch before me. I was shaking and sobbing. Lyndsay and Dylan were still sleeping, thank goodness. My sister, Abby, lived with us, and was up too. Corey was still alive, but in bad shape. His back was probably broken and he was matted with blood and dog spit. He lay motionless and just looked at me. I petted him and whispered of my love for him. Adam said, "We have to, Jenna," and I knew what he meant. "I know," I said.

That act, one of the hardest of my life, was done purely out of love. Adam got his gun, and took Corey out back. I went inside, absolutely a mess, and sat on Abby's bed holding on to her, trying my best to not throw up while I waited in agony for that shot to be fired. When it did, it about killed me too. Poor Adam. He was deeply affected by having to help our kitty, and let him rest. He brought me in Corey's blue collar, with the jingle bell, and we sat and both of us just balled.

The next day I went out in the yard and gathered up a piece of his fur and the bullet casing. I still keep them in a drawer in my jewelry box with his collar. The children were broken-hearted in the morning (though they weren't told for years how Corey actually died), and for about a week tears flowed freely. Every picture, random memories, it all just flooded through our family.

That was a horrible time.

And now, we have another cat. And he better never die. Or the bunny. It's just too much. I grieve too hard. Even when our family cat, Sassy, passed away, after 17 years and long after I'd moved out of the house, it was a dark day in my heart. I miss her.

So, I loved the movie. I cannot read the book, because I can't go there again. It's just too emotional, and it will only confirm to me why I can never have a dog. The dog I would want would be big and fluffy and smart and part of the family. And I just can't risk him dying.

No thank you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Builders of a Woman

The woman I am today I owe to many people. I don't just mean the person I am, which I owe to many others, but I mean specifically, the woman I am. I have evolved, and am ever-evolving, trying to refine some things about my character, kick others out, and add elements that will enhance the sum of the woman of my dreams, the woman I hope to one day become.

My mother, of course, deserves mighty thanks. She was my very first role model. From her I have my yearnings to write. From her I have contentment creating home. From her I have those oft-ridiculed desires of the "Perfect Mormon Mommy"~ you know, the cute Family Home Evening lessons, the homemade dresses, the homecooked meals, a year's supply of food, much of it home-canned, the elaborate birthday cakes, all the must-do holiday traditions. The list could go on. I am so grateful that my mother was content to be a mother and a homemaker. Because of her, I have wanted nothing more, and have not been disillusioned or disappointed with the reality. In fact, I love it.

But there are other women to whom I owe debts of gratitude. I have watched them quietly since I was a girl, and I have carefully observed them in action in their lives, and I feel that I carry little bits of them in the quilt of my heart. Some of these will seem silly or trite, and others more profound, but they all resonate with me.

My Grandmother Van Sciver is always in the kitchen. I've blogged about her candy and confection store previously, and it wasn't until I was an adult and she came to Utah to visit me before my second wedding that this really made an impact on me. She serves others by cooking for them, feeding them. She asks us what we want to eat, she makes her list, she shops ever so frugally, and then she gets to work. She gets up in the morning and cooks a big meal. She starts dinner shortly after, and throughout the day, she alternates between her crossword puzzles, card games, reading, and cooking. And she has no problem with 60 or 70 people coming for dinner, either. The more the merrier. Whenever I am feeling grumbly about having to cook meal, I think of her. She doesn't just want people to eat, and she never takes the easy way (Aunt Lori, has the woman ever cooked a box of macaroni and cheese?) She wants them to be nourished.

My Grandmother Baker is crafty like my mom, and I loved the homemade gifts she would send. She took pride in the things she created with her hands. When I was 7, she sent my sister Amanda and me matching pink patchwork quilts edged in eyelet, with three coordinating throw pillows for our twin beds. I loved them. I felt pretty and feminine in my bed. But the very first thing I remember about her was that she always had painted toenails back then. Her feet always looked pretty. I asked her once, when I was a little girl and in Arizona to visit her, why her toes were painted but not her fingernails, and she said that fingernails were too much trouble because the polish always came off while doing dishes. Seemed logical. I determined that I wanted to have polished toenails like my Grandmom.

My friend Lisa's mom, Donna, always prepared a sit-down lunch for her family. I was often there at lunchtime and was included at the table. Usually we had salami sandwiches on white bread (mine with mustard), some potato chips, and milk. Lisa's dad worked at home, and her maternal grandparents lived with them too, so it was a full gathering at the table, and I always thought that was nice. When we're all home, or mostly home, I try to gather us together in the middle of the day too.

My Young Women's leader then, and friend now, Beverly, taught me not to expect perfection in marriage, oddly enough, and that worthwhile marriages were not without flaw. Also, she taught me to keep developing myself, as she spent years and years going to school at night while her children were young, finally earning her Masters in Social Work. I am so proud of her, and I still admire so many things about her. Whenever I teach a YW lesson, I always think of how she made her lessons so personal for us, and I try to make an impact like she made on me.

My friend Aymee's mom, and Seminary teacher, taught me to love quotes and beautiful words. She kept a file box of index cards on which she wrote poems, quotes, and scriptures that held special meaning for her. She encouraged us to memorize beautiful poems and quotes. And I did. I have. In her Sunday School class I memorized the "Vice is a monster of so frightful mien. . ." quote and still to this day I think of the truth of it, and of her every time I hear or recite it. I also remember her telling us to memorize Winston Churchill's "Never, never, never give up." That was a lasting gift she gave to me.

Sister Seraydarian hosted a bunch of us for a night during Youth Conference when I was a junior or senior in high school. We got there late at night after our activities, and were only going to sleep, eat breakfast the next morning, and then return to the planned events for the day. When we woke up to alarms, it being much earlier than we would have desired, and came downstairs, the table was spread with a lace cloth, the best china and silver, crystal goblets, and a lovely breakfast spread. It made such an impression on me that this woman, busy with her own brood of children, would prepare such a delicately lovely setting for us to begin our day. She thought we were a special enough occasion to bring out the best. I've never forgotten it. Her daughter, Rebecca, recently found me on Facebook, and I shared that memory of her mother with her. She said that was just like her mom, and when she passed the memory on to her mom, her mother cried. So often she felt that her life wasn't big enough, as just a mom, and that she didn't really have any special gifts that would ever really make an impact. How wrong she was. That one memory inspires me to set a beautiful table whenever I can, to let my family know that they are the special occasion.

There are so many others. Women who have inspired in me the desire to look beautiful for my husband, to take care of my body, to seek out learning, to desire personal growth, to want a temple-home, to take better care of the earth, to be a more conscious human-being, to have connected relationships with my children, and on and on. Many of these women are still dear friends of mine now that I am an adult. I think it's important and valuable to gather what we can from worthwhile sources all around us. I hope that I can be a source for someone else too, in a way of giving back. I hope that what I am not able to give my daughter, she is able to recognize and glean in another trusted woman placed in her life.

I am grateful to be a woman, in progress. A crowning creation, and happy creator.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sending Them Back

The alarm went off at 5:48am this morning. And after having a week of no alarms going off, it was disheartening for a moment. Spring Break is officially over.

Here we go again, I thought. Back in the saddle.

I realized this morning as I walked down the stairs trying to orient myself for the coming week, that this was probably the only Spring Break I'll ever have with all my kids. Ever. I mentioned how this was my first one in about 6 years. The kids are court-ordered to spend school breaks with their Dad, and it was just sort of serendipitous that this year the cards fell. . .in my lap. And that will most likely never happen again. It may not seem like a big deal, but my motherhood is mostly filled with duties. I get the routines, the structure, the school, scouts, work, sports, feed 'em, teach 'em, clean 'em sort of stuff. Their dad gets the play, the trips, the vacations. Whenever school is on break, most often the kids head off to spend time with him. And that's wonderful. But when they come home, it's back to the grindstone for me, and we don't often get much down time together. It's just the way it is. And so, when I realized what a blessing this last week was, it kind of choked me up. I may never have a Spring Break with all my kids together again. sigh.

We did have lots of fun, though. Outings and activities, and just hanging out at home, something the kids rarely get to do, and miss. Lyndsay even had two days off of work. They all managed their time fairly well, spreading homework out over the break so that nobody was crying on Sunday night with stress. Lyns got to eat dinner with us almost every night, which never happens save for weekends, because of her work hours. She eats home cooked Thai food every night at work, which she loves, but it was nice to have her at the table. We did a lot of cooking. We feasted. It was wonderful. She and I in the kitchen have great synchronicity.

We did some shopping. We did some organizing around the house. We watched some movies. We made frosted sugar cookies. We went for walks. We did Easter.

About Easter~ poor Adam had to work all day. He didn't even get to come to Church with us. But the kids successfully found their hidden baskets and ate chocolate to their little hearts' content, and then dressed in their Sunday best and off we went.

As a sidenote, Dylan ran 22 miles on Saturday for his marathon training, and now his knee is killing him. During church it started to swell, so I took him home to get it elevated and iced. I started the dough for the rolls, and ran back for the rest of the meetings. Poor Dylan hobbles. He'll be okay. I cannot believe he ran 22 miles. Good night. The qualifying race for the marathon is this weekend coming up.

Anyway, after Church we worked together on our Easter Feast. Glazed ham, cheesy potatoes, creamy fruit salad, Lion House rolls with homemade honey butter, sweet carrots, and white cupcakes with coconut buttercream for dessert. It was all delicious. After cleaning up, we piled onto my bed and watched episodes from the first season of 7th Heaven, the new show we're going to get into, now that we're waiting on LOST.

On Thursday somehow I pulled a muscle in my neck. The same area that has given me pain, trouble, and migraines since a car accident I had when I was 18. Oh, man does it hurt. I have spent the last several days just trying to manage pain without much success. There is not enough ibuprofen in the world, and I don't want to completely destroy my stomach lining or liver, but I'm really struggling. That pain put a bit of a damper on my cheerfulness at the end of the week (because you know how even when Mom's hurt or sick, the show must go on!), but the kids were great about pitching in to help.

And then this morning, as we were sitting down for scripture study, we noticed that the cat's neck was covered in blood, and upon investigation, he has a gouge about half a centimeter in diameter on the bottom of his chin. The flesh is just gone. I have no idea what he could have done to inflict that injury, as he's an inside cat and the wound is fresh. He either jumped up on something or down on something, but he did a number. Poor kitty can't even meow because his is a quiet breed, so he suffers in silence. I washed what I could and applied some Neosporin. We'll see how it progresses. Weird.

So, now the kids are back at school. They are recharged and ready to finish out this last push of the school year and give it all they've got. When I packed their lunches this morning, and wrote their little love notes to them, I wrote,

"I LOVE having you home. Please promise that no matter how old you get, you'll always come home. I love you so much. Love, Mom."

That's what I hope. That no matter what age, distance, or circumstances, my children will always want to be home. It sure feels good.

Just before I moved out of the house, my mom cross stitched a pattern for me, that still hangs in my kitchen. It reads, "Wherever you wander, wherever you roam, be happy and healthy and glad to come home."

I know what she means more than ever now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring Break

The kids are home! I'm in heaven! This is the first time in about 6 years that I've had my kids home for Spring Break. They usually go to their dad's for every school vacation, but this year, plans changed, and the kids are home with me. I'm loving it.

On Saturday we packed a fabulous picnic lunch and took all the kids (minus Caitlin who was out of town with a friend) to the beach. The weather was perfect. Upper 60's, sunny. Lyns and I hung out on blankets in the sun eating to our hearts' content, and the boys dug holes and played in the water. Adam did a little of both. Great vibes, happy times, and the perfect amount of beach. You know how too much beach can wipe you out. . .it was just right this time. We had to head home after about 2 hours so Adam and Dylan could attend the Priesthood session of General Conference. But, no beach pictures because the camera's batteries were dead. Oh well. We're hoping to go back this weekend.

Monday morning, after Conor's speech therapy, we headed to the Los Angeles Zoo. We wanted to take Caitlin with us, and as it turned out, her mom and brother were going on Monday too, so we made a date, Ashlie and me, with all the kids. Adam stayed behind to work. Kind of weird, hanging out with your husband's ex-wife, but not so much for us. We get along well, and have a mutual respect for each other.

This was Conor's first trip to the zoo, and he was so excited. He talked about it for days, and mostly wanted to see a gorilla. The petting zoo was fun, and the lioness stood up and stared at Conor, but the gorillas were napping out of sight.

After a lunch break with a picnic near the monkeys, we headed back to the gorillas, and we were lucky enough to get a great performance! One walked right toward the glass and Conor was thrilled.

We headed home so I could teach piano lessons, and then that evening, Adam and I took Lyns, Caitlin, and Aiden to the Hannah Montana movie premiere. We were given the tickets from a friend who was told that they were the red carpet premiere tickets, with all the stars, and so we dressed up and headed downtown to the El Capitan theater. When we got there, the red carpet and the lights and limos and crowds were across the street at the Chinese theater. There was another movie premiere there, and apparently the one we were attending was the junket premiere, not the red carpet, which had taken place last Thursday. BUMMER. The girls were so excited to see Miley Cyrus. After we got over our initial disappointment, we decided to still have a great time seeing a fun movie (for free!) that nobody else in the world gets to see till Friday. And, it was great. I actually loved it. The story was cute, the music was catchy and fun (especially that line dance. . .must learn), and Hannah dressed modestly. All very good. We had a great time. And thank you to Genevieve for the tickets!

Now we're catching up on LOST, hanging out and having fun, and getting ready for Easter weekend. We're planning an Easter Feast with recipes from my new favorite food blog, Real Mom Kitchen.

Tonight? Test on Plato's Republic. Crossing fingers, saying prayers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Tower of Strength

You know the saying 'Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.' It's like we have two versions of our lives: the one we want and plan for, and the one that happens. And sometimes, boy does it happen.

I have a lot of compassion for those whose hearts break. I understand the fortitude it takes to sweep shattered shards of heartstrings into a corner of your soul and gather up your skirts to keep going for the sake of the children. I know how hard it is to hold back tears until a time when no one else will see you cry. I know what it means to do the best you can with what you've been given and still have others (who are supposed to love you) disapprove and condemn. I know how it feels to be an outsider, the 'new girl', and the one with 'a story'. I know how it feels to finally feel as though things might just start looking up in life, only to have a different corner come crashing down.

I feel like I know Tabitha.

Tabitha is one of the 'towers of strength' from Annette Lyon's enthralling newly-released novel, delicately set against the backdrop of the construction of the Manti Temple. She was a very young bride, to an older man whose mother never approved of their marriage to begin with. To make matters worse, Tabitha's husband dies tragically in a mining accident on the very day he comes to work with news that they are expecting their first child together. She has no choice but to carry on, despite her young age and her inexperience. And carry on she does. She goes to school, she makes a living for herself and her little boy, and then an opportunity presents itself to move back to the town she and her husband came from, the town where her deceased husband's mother still lives. And that is both a blessing and a curse. For sure, it is a test.

Tabitha is faced with many choices: should she move back home? Should she take over the town's cherished newspaper, even though she's a woman and might not be accepted? Should she tell the truth when the truth needs to be told? Should she open her heart again to possible loss?

These are difficult questions to answer in real life, but in the pages of a novel, they require excessive care. Those who have endured such losses and setbacks in life can see right through phony conflict and condescending resolution. An author must be careful with such emotionally charged issues so as not to lose the reader's trust. An author must speak to the reader's heart, while still preserving the integrity of the characters' turmoil. Annette accomplished this balance beautifully, and I commend her. Tabitha's struggle was true-to-life, and I also appreciated the humanity of the "bad" characters. Annette was able to present hardened hearts and critical voices for what they are: hurting individuals. Even mean people have soft spots, and life is really one giant symbiotic relationship. We all have an opportunity, every day, to help another rise from personal despair.

And of course, the heroic men of the story, past and present, were wonderfully crafted, dreamy, and just-right rugged. I know that Annette has herself a fine husband, and that's got to be how she knows what a good one should look like to the reader.

Being asked to read and review Tower of Strength for Annette was indeed a rare privilege for me. Annette is my friend through Blog Land, though we haven't had the chance to meet in person yet. She is accomplished as a mother, wife, knitter, chocolate connoisseur, and writer. Everything she does, she does with class and style. She was awarded Utah's Best in State Fiction in 2007 and was also a Whitney Award finalist for her 5th novel, Spires of Stone. It's really no wonder.

I was swept along in Tower of Strength. Fans of Lund's The Work and the Glory series will appreciate this novel, as will, I dare say, fans of Little House on the Prairie. It's a great love story, and a story of courage. Anyone interested in the early days of the Latter-day Saint Church or the construction of the first temples will appreciate the historical backdrop, though I was relieved to find it as only a subtle, natural backdrop, and not a preachy or overtly "Mormon" book. I have to say, LDS fiction has come a long way. And I would bet that Annette is leading the way.

Know what you should do?

Buy it. Read it.

Annette, well done. Feel free to write more about Tabitha's story any time you want.

*If you're still not convinced, you can go here to read the Prologue and first two chapters of Tower of Strength. And add Annette's blog to your must-read list too! You can buy the book directly from her website through Deseret Book.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Quest for an A

My Humanities professor is an interesting man. I love to listen to him. He's probably in his late 50's, maybe early 60's. He looks like a cross between Tony Bennett and the Godfather, an Italian from Detroit. Sometimes I am distracted by the hair growing on his ears, or that one tooth in the back that is longer than all the rest, but besides that, even with the late hour, and the calm and even tone of his voice, he keeps my attention easily. He is very intellectual, no doubt about it, and he has a searching heart, as well. He reads voraciously, the kinds of books most people have to be forced to read. Intense books. Heavy reads. He wants to know. But sometimes he thinks he knows it all.

We took our test on Aeschylus' The Oresteia last week. About 70% of the class failed it. (Don't worry, I got an A, but I read that book twice along with every footnote, translator's note and critical essay I could find online.) After the results, he sat back perplexed. He said there was absolutely no excuse for not reading the book. We've known for almost a month that the test would be given on this date and on this book. The only way to fail, he said, was to not read the book. Then he told a story.

When he was in graduate school, for his PhD (in what exactly, I don't remember, he has several graduate degrees), he knew he would have to take 27 classes. He set a goal to get an A in all 27 of them. He hoped he learned something too, but above all, he really wanted A's on his record. One of the classes he was required to take was in Economics. Most of the students in the class were graduate students in Economics, and he was not. He was simply required to take this class. After the first class period, he was lost. He approached one of the other students and asked him, "What do I need to read to understand this class?" The student wrote down the names of five books. My professor immediately went to the bookstore and bought these five books and went home to read them.

But he couldn't understand a single thing. The books were written at a level of understanding beyond his, and they weren't doing him any good. So he went back to the bookstore and bought the textbooks for Econ 101 and 120. He stayed up for three days straight, without sleep, reading those textbooks, and then he went back to the five meaty books and read those. When he went back to class, he could understand! But what an incredible effort to get there. He earned his A, and 26 others.

He has talked somewhat of his quest for spiritual enlightenment as well. He has traveled the world, read many ancient texts, and studied with spiritual teachers. He practiced Buddhism for many years, but recently converted to Islam. When one student asked him why, he said, "Because the most recent revelations are found in Islam."


I wanted to jump out of my chair! No! There are far more recent revelations! Keep looking! And there will be some more, this weekend!

How blessed I feel to have truth in my life. To be guided by a living prophet, to have direction specifically for my life, in this world now, from a God who never stopped loving His children, and still speaks to them.

Then my professor took another interesting direction. He spoke with some sentimentality of how he wishes he'd known when he was 30, what he knows now. How different the world looks from where he now stands, how certain things don't matter that then did, and how other things do matter that he'd never considered previously. He feels like there are some subjects that he has gained mastery over, and how sad it is that the mastery comes so late in life. He also told the story of his last visit with his father before he died in his 80's, and how his father expressed the same feelings. How he'd worked and studied his whole life and he knows so much now, and it's all a waste because he's now about to die.

That is sad to me. How hopeless!

No, again! I wanted to shout. That doesn't even make any sense!

Doesn't God (Allah) love you? Doesn't he want you to strive to be like Him? Then why on earth would He tease you along and then have it all come to a screeching halt? What would be the purpose in progressing in intelligence and knowledge and gaining mastery, if you just die and it's all wasted?

Tell your dad he gets to take it with him. That was the plea from my heart. You too.

Because very modern revelation says, "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19)

That's the whole point. That's why it's worth it.

There's a more important A to earn.