General Conference Eve in Seven Steps

The most exciting thing about today is that tomorrow is April first, the first (full*) day of the Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

General Conference is Christmas, Easter, and the Superbowl at our house. It’s a glorious time when sitting in front of a screen for 8-10 hours in a weekend is not only justifiable, but hands down the best way we could be using our time.

The refreshment and renewal we get in this weekend is unmatched by any vacation, any inspirational or motivational retreat you could throw at us.

Since lists are all the rage, here is my list of ways to get the most out of conference:

  1. Pray for the speakers to say what they need to say.
  2. Pray that I’ll hear what I need to hear (because 1)teaching and learning are interdependent processes, and 2)being interrupted and distracted by child needs is an inevitable part of our participation in conference)
  3. Take stock of questions I have, areas of my own character that need to improve, people I want to help but don’t know how, current concerns in child rearing that don’t have obvious solutions. Write them all down to keep in mind during conference.
  4. Ask for my heart to be prepared to understand what it needs to.
  5. Remind the kids that conference is coming, review steps 1-4 with them, and gear up the enthusiasm! (our kids are always excited for conference. It may be the outpouring of spiritual gifts and learning, or it may be all the treats they get to eat conference weekend. One way or the other, we all like conference.)
  6. Print off Conference Packets and activities for the children. It’s possible that toilet paper prophets are blasphemous, but by golly, they keep the littler people occupied so we can learn from prophets how to be better people, and therefore better parents.
  7. Draw up menu and grocery list for the tailgate conference party of the year! At least the first half of the year…I’m so glad we get to do this twice annually

 

*It started earlier, with the Women’s Session of Conference. Which is the best women’s conference in the world. And totally free.

Advertisements

The Sunday We Conquered the World and Survived the Apocalypse

Here’s what we did a few Sundays ago:

Made cinnamon rolls:

IMG_20170305_085845057

Attended Stake Conference :

(No picture. Just a lot of wonderful learning from a lot of wonderful people. It’s possible that I spent part of it in the mother’s room chatting it up with a Sister in Zion-cum-beauty pageant winner about the plight of young refugee mothers and how she can help them as part of her platform. Yes, it’s wonderful and exciting stuff).

Made a carnal mess in the kitchen with beets and boiled bones:

IMG_20170305_192540168

Conquered the world:

IMG_20170305_191904391

Built shelters in the backyard, proving the offspring are ready for the apocalypse:

IMG_20170225_171003507.jpg

Yep. We do love our sabbath.

The End.

 

Portrait of our Morning

Taken at approximately 9:25 am:

Jane the Austen:

IMG_20170227_084548809
She practice for 30-45 minutes each morning, often in her bathrobe because it’s cold in the wilds of Connecticut.

Clive the Staples:

IMG_20170227_084423220
While J the A practices violin, Clive the Staples and Mr. the Rogers cuddle me on the couch. We alternate who is getting in their reading with me, and who is practicing math and writing. At the moment, it’s Clive the Staple’s turn to read. He’s a major fan of Frog and Toad. Note Lucy the Maude’s hair in the corner.

Mr. the Rogers:

IMG_20170227_084417838
Mr. the Rogers found new passion for writing today, due to the content.

Katherine the Great:

IMG_20170227_084436427
K the G sleeps in. Being a toddler, we let her. So on this morning, as on many mornings besides, she breakfasts while the rest of the children are already at their lessons.

Lucy the Maude:

img_20170223_163726091
L the M spends her mornings on my lap. But I didn’t photograph her this morning, so here we are on the Fancypants University Shuttle, doing what we always do: imitating kangaroo and joey.

In conclusion:

I love my children.  9:25 am is usually our most glorious time of day.

A Few of My Favorite Things:Family Home Evening Chart

On Sunday afternoons, I try to sit down with each of my children for at least 30 minutes each, doing something with only that one child, hopefully inducing meaningful conversation.

Because, you know, relationships and whatnot.

The child gets to pick the activity.

Jane the Austen likes to write or read, discuss her favorite books, and geek out over musicals and 19th century history together.

Clive the Staples likes back rubs and feet rubs, cuddles, and drawing.

Mister the Rogers likes to make treats with me, particularly cookies or caramels.

Katherine the Great likes dramatic nonsensical conversations, singing, and dancing.

Lucy the Maude generally likes to nurse, and doesn’t really get formal one on one time. She gets her loving in by default. Thank the stars for breastfeeding, snuggles, and infantile unwavering delightful sociability.

 

One Sunday afternoon, Clive the Staples decided we needed to make a family home evening chart together. So we toddled on down to the basement, found an old 2X4, and set to work with a skilsaw, sander, woodburning pen, and drill.

And my oh my, did we ever make a family home evening chart!

Towards the end, Husband the Man busted out the router, because he’s the only one who really knows how to work that baby, and gave it a fancy beveled edge.

The tags are flipped backwards, because, you know, privacy, but you get the idea.

Now, every week as we rotate everyone’s tag to a new job, I am reminded of my sweet secondborn, and how terribly fast he’s growing up.

 

The End.

Not NieNie Dialogues

Jane the Austen (upon seeing me start a blog): A blog? That’s so cool, Mom! You should make it like NieNie Dialogues.

Me: Her blog is lovely, my dear, but we don’t have enough* Anthropologie in our house to make a NieNie Dialogues sort of blog. Also, I am taking all my photos with my phone, not a nice camera.

Jane the Austen: Well, you can make your version of NieNie Dialogues.

Me: Good Idea.

IMG_20170222_082610330.jpg

So here’s my version. It includes my kitchen window, complete with overflowing compost receptacles. Behind them there’s a lovely view of the corner liquor store.

 

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except for maybe emptying the compost, because my kitchen is starting to smell like old cabbage.

You’re welcome.

 

*read: any

The Drug of Pathos

I am left handed. Learning to use scissors in kindergarten was hard. Even when they had accommodations for my special needs, the lefty scissors were loosely connected, wobbly tools with bare metal fingerholds that dug uncomfortably. I probably shortened my baseball coach’s lifespan during his attempts to teach me to bat left handed. Our relationship was strained over my “otherness.”

The mouse is always on the right side of the computer, the gear shift is always on the right side of the car, the microwave and fridge handles are always on the left side of the appliance (better for righties), even our English writing system is discriminatory to people like me, because of its left to right dictates. I spent my grammar school years with graphite and pen ink all over the side of my hand. I’ll probably get cancer from it and die an untimely death.

You want to talk about systematic, institutional oppression? I’ll show you what it looks like up the side of my left hand.

Science is against me.  Left handed people have all sorts of studies suggesting that they’re a higher risk group for all sorts of things, including substance abuse and, you know, untimely death.

Religion is against me. Where do the righteous end up? On the right hand of God.

Society is against me. We shake hands and eat finger foods with the right hand. The left hand is for…Toileting. The left hand is unclean, less than.

History is against me-left handedness was long seen as a sign of moral and intellectual backwardness, it was a flaw to be corrected. And we suffered for it.

I am a victim.

What can I do with this victimhood?

I can make it a platform. Bring awareness to the issue. I can unite with my lefties the world over on websites and forums, telling my woes and drinking up their rage on my behalf like a sweet wine. I can listen to others, even more downtrodden in their tales of lefty discrimination, and let their stories of gross injustice fuel my own rage against the oppressive reign of right handedness that fails to make space for us, to appreciate our differences and accommodate us in our victimhood.

I can lobby Congress, march in parades, make my primal, anguished cry heard the world over. My pain, and the pain of my people, are real!

I can do all of this and more.

These are not necessarily the worst ways to go about being left handed, and in seeking out equality for myself and other left handed people. But in choosing this path, I find a lot of gnarled roots waiting to trip me up.

The biggest trap awaiting me is an emotional addiction to pathos.

Under the banner of love for lefties, I risk building a festering animosity to the oppressive other 90% of the population, even those righties who call themselves my allies. And the ignorant, hateful ones who aren’t my allies? I cannot tolerate them. They need to be sanctioned, silenced, contained, reformed.

I risk developing a habit of exhausting my emotional strength without even leaving the comfort of my home, without my eyes leaving the entrancing glow of my phone, without even saving anywhere near enough of that emotional wherewithal for my family, my community. It’s spent, spent on having Feelings. I’m not saying these feelings are silly. They’re big, real, legitimate Feelings, about my very real struggles, and the struggles of my people. But they’re still feelings, and they’re taking up room. How much room?  What’s more, in light of real people in my life, how much room do these feelings deserve?

My outrage, and perhaps even my social media posts on this grievous injustice are not as world changing as if I had spent that energy on my left handed (and maybe even my right handed) family and friends. Or on celebrating the accomplishments of left handed people who have long gone unrecognized. Or on improving my left handed batting skills. Or in volunteering at a non profit left handed scissors factory.

I run the risk of becoming a slave, and not to righties. Addicted to pathos as I am, anyone with the right rhetorical inclination, anyone who can get me high on pathos will own me, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. I may even elect them president.

My experience as a lefty is real. My pain as a lefty is real. But what I do with that pain matters.   I can put it into the internet emotional bank and hungrily, habitually let it accumulate compound hurt-feelings interest. I can become self righteously, wantonly addicted to the emotional high that comes with reading other’s stories of oppression, and reflecting on my own pain, revisiting all the old wounds and picking them raw, over and over for the familiar, addictive sting.

Raw, live, and wriggling, my pain will eventually become more powerful than me. It will enslave me, control me, all while convincing me that these outraged highs are in my best interest, for my own empowerment, for my truest showing of compassion for the oppressed.

I will come to love this high, love this outrage so much that little else can make me happy. The pathos high doesn’t make me really happy either, but it HURTS SO GOOD. So I keep going there. I feed it with op-eds and tears and clenched jaws and furrowed brows.

It can drive so deep into my soul that it can drive a wedge in my friendships, in my family relationships. Even those who say they understand or care don’t, not really. No matter how good their intentions, they’re lefty haters on the inside. Even if they’re lefties, this is the case. The special name for that is internalized leftyhatership.

I do not want this addiction. I care, I care deeply about the plight of the left handed, but the path of caring has turned into a straight and narrow sideroad to zealothood and misery. How can I care without being addicted to the pain that comes with caring? How can I care without creating more negativity?

Or perhaps, I can take my pain and bury it, let it compost in the ground. This is not a burial to deny the pain, or to say it is not legitimate, but a burial to make it into something useful. Buried and rotted, mixing with the elements, it becomes useful and fertile and quietly alive, changed in a way that all the sharpened teeth and primal rage in the world cannot understand.

I don’t want to be a slave and therefore I must become master of my pain. When I bury it, it is no longer nagging me, pulling at my sleeve every time I scroll through my phone, compelling me to read another story clamoring and wailing the sadness I already know, compounding my own anger and driving it deeper into my heart. No, buried pain is still there, but it is now my tool, not my master. I can feel its pulse below ground, and I stop to listen on occasion. I didn’t bury it to forget or erase it. I buried it so I can make it work with me, for me.

I buried it because I have faith that once it has mellowed and cooled, once its hot-blooded pulse has calmed to the quiet yet thoroughly intense work of decomposition, it will become something tempered, even, something rich in kindness and understanding, not only for my comrades in victimhood, but for the whole human race. Real understanding, not check-your-privilege understanding or you-poor-thing understanding. Just plain, simple, you’re-a-person-and-so-am-I understanding.

Terrible-things-happened-but-we’re-all-going-to-be-OK/healed/forgiven/redeemed understanding.

This understanding is not something that slows the work of social justice; it’s the something that make the changes I want sustainable in the long term.

Composted pain, I come to find, makes excellent soil for compassion vineyards.

And compassion, real compassion,  will grant us recognition, will set the stage for real and genuine parity.

Isn’t that what we wanted and needed all along?

 

The End

(NOTE: my beta reader was concerned this exposition on left handedness may either be taken seriously, or worse, be seen as a way to make light of people facing even greater difficulty. To avoid confusion, please note that it is neither meant to solicit pity or activism for us lefties, or to make light of even more difficult circumstances, but to serve as a framework for an idea. If I had more patience, I’d figure out how to work this in to the actual blog post less explicitly. Are there so many, bigger things to worry about than left handed discrimination? Oh yes. Do they effect you? Yep. Do they effect me? Yep. But whether it’s an issue of race or gender or identity of any sort, this is applicable. Which is why I wrote it.)

 

On Self-Cannibalism

One of the scriptures that always intrigued and disturbed me was this one:

And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. -1 Nephi 21:26

Forced self-cannibalism from the Savior of the world? I know. I know.

But like so many other things, trusting in God eventually lends itself to a better explanation than judging and dismissing does. So I trusted.

And one day, I was listening to the sacrament prayer and something clicked.

When we take the sacrament (communion in most faiths) what are we doing? We are eating the body and blood of Jesus Christ. His flesh and blood.

We’re not a faith that believes in transubstantiation, so for me, consuming the bread and water offered every Sunday is not a literal practice of cannibalism. But it is a literal saving ordinance.

My guess is that this scripture is not threatening to literally feed people on their own flesh and blood, but is speaking to something just as devastating and real.

What do we do when we take the sacrament? We are offering up our sins and shortcomings. We are offering up our pride and our need to be right, the faults we wish we didn’t have and the faults that we may cherish. We know we aren’t enough, that we’re completely inadequate to sustain ourselves. We are acknowledging that on our own, we will most surely die.

Without food, our bodies die. Without Christ, our souls die.

We need Him like we need bread and water. The act of eating and drinking in remembrance of Jesus Christ is the act of inviting Christ to come inside us, to sustain us and fill us, to provide us with the nutrients necessary to keep our souls functioning down the cellular level (do souls have cells? I don’t know).

The things we eat and drink become the matter that composes our bodies. The blood in our veins was once tap water, the calcium in our bones was once milk and spinach and oranges. Our food becomes our body.

As our souls continually eat and drink Jesus Christ, He becomes part of us. His Spirit, His Atonement, begins to inhabit us, becomes a part of our spiritual make up in the same way that the food and water we drink becomes our own bones and blood.

In the same way that our bodies cannot survive without food, our souls will not survive without Jesus Christ. If we reject Him, from whence can we be nourished, sustained, redeemed, and ultimately transformed?

We need His Love and Law and Atonement. It feeds us, sustains us, and, when accepted again and again and again, it ultimately becomes the stuff that every particle of our soul is made of. We become part of Him, and He becomes part of us, and His Grace is big enough to support and sustain us, and our growth, indefinitely.

The God of all creation has offered us literally everything. He has offered us His Son. If we reject that, what does God have left to give us? He’s already given us everything, and so by definition, there’s nothing left to give. We are left to ourselves for sustenance.

If we look to ourselves for morality, forgiveness, redemption, we shrink. We are too small, too inadequate, to feed ourselves. Dictating our own right and wrong, passing justice and defining mercy for ourselves, we will shrink. There is not enough of me to sustain me, to justify me, to redeem me.

Drawing from my own intellect for righteous law, drawing from my own mercy for redemption, drawing from my own love for my pain, is ultimately as futile a practice as drawing from my own blood to alleviate my thirst, or drawing from my own flesh to sate my hunger. It’s perfectly and utterly self defeating. It’s completely unsustainable.

When we reject the Savior, what do we have left? Ourselves. We are remarkable, wonderful, and worthwhile beings, but we are not spiritually self-sustainable. We are dependent, feckless creatures, and in choosing the Savior, in choosing and applying the atonement, we may slowly come to understand just how much has been done for us (and the rest of the human race), how much is being done for us (and the rest of the human race), and how much will be done for us (and the rest of the human race). We can’t outgrow our smallness if we don’t even realize we’re small. We cannot overcome our own helplessness when we don’t accept the help and tutelage on offer.

We are living in famine, but there is a table spread before us, with an invitation to take as much as we want; the offering is infinite.

So let’s eat.