Thursday, September 25, 2008

Life? Meet My Day.

I woke up with three simple goals for today:

1. Work out. (This implies showering afterward.)
2. Finish a Design Project. (The client is waiting!)
3. Spiffy up the house. (Before the financial planner guy gets here at 7:30 p.m.)

Completely do-able. Right?
Here's what happened when my simple plan encountered real life:

1. Gym: Check. (shower pending)
2. Project: Under way
I ran up to the office and started working on the design project. Then the doorbell rang. Oops! I forgot I was going visiting teaching this morning. So I ran out the door, still in my workout clothes and messy hair, to see our friend Mary.

2. Project: Interrupted
Enter: Life
Despite my panic over my appearance, we had a fantastic visit, and talked all about discovering and pursuing our eternal potential. I brought up this favorite quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

– Nelson Mandela
1994 Inaugural Speech
2. Back to Project?
Enter: Life
Next my cute dad showed up -- it seemed like he just magically appeared in our driveway somehow. Actually he was magically delivered there by the GMC shuttle service. It turns out Dad had hit a deer with his car a couple of nights ago. He now has his car in the repair shop, and needed a ride back up the canyon to his house.

2. Project: On hold.
Enter: Life
I fixed Dad and me a quick lunch, and drove him home. AND we had a wonderful drive up the canyon, with the autumn leaves in full splendor -- to the point that they literally took my breath away -- all the wonderful reds, yellows, and oranges sprinkled among the varied greens -- it was a GORGEOUS drive, and my dad and I had a great talk. I love him! Days don't get much better than this.

2. Project in progress. Enter: Kids
And by mid-afternoon, sweats and messy hair are rapidly becoming the fashion statement du jour. BUT I'm feeling rejuvenated. And there's still plenty of time.
As soon as I get home I run back into the office. Start to crank on the project. Making good headway. But then, one by one, the kids all come home from school.

2. Office hours: Officially Over
Enter: Life
Now it's snack time and homework time around the kitchen table. Nothing like little microwave cakes as a study incentive! Just as Mr. Cool gets to the last math problem, the doorbell rings. I assume it's a neighbor dropping off something for church. I make a quick mental note of my progress.

1. Gym: Check. (shower deferred)
2. Project: Now relegated to graveyard shift.
3. House: Moderate Mess.
Enter: Life
At this point I probably smell even worse than I look. Hopefully Mr. Cool could just collect whatever it was at the door and I wouldn't have to show my face.... Instead it turned out to be an old friend from Pasadena. A really wonderful dear artist-friend who has been a mentor and father-figure for me for about the last ten years. Of course I dropped everything. And we had a fabulous visit together, a deep, connecting conversation on a wide range of topics. He showed me some of his recent work, and, knowing some of the brutal things they've been through in the past few years, I got all choked up and teary-eyed as I saw the amazing beauty that has emerged from those harrowing trials.

3. House: Not spiffy
Enter: Life
Then I scurry through the house frantically putting away anything out of place.
The phone rings -- another friend from out-of-town has just appeared in our driveway.
This was a short visit -- delivering a small carload of groceries from Trader Joe's. And can I just say? It's not your average friend who will go shopping for you, big time, and then entice her adorable husband to haul the loot across state lines! This is better than Christmas! More hugs, more chats, a wave goodbye--

3. House: Still not too spiffy
Enter: Kids
I contemplate unloading the dishwasher. Ah, but one kid just got home with a new computer that needs to be set up, another kid needs a ride to cub scouts...C'est la vie!

1. Throw in the towel on showering.
2. Graveyards are fun, right?
3. Time to shove everything else in the laundry room and close the door.
Enter: Life
And then the financial planner guy shows up. He seems not to mind the unkempt house or the unkempt person he's talking to. He's bright and engaging, pragmatic and straightforward, realistic yet optimistic...and I think everyone should have such an asset in their cadre of experts. There is now a semblance of order in one area of our lives.

At the end of the day it occurs to me that the things I had planned were important and good. But what was unexpectedly sent my way (you can just call me "Girl, Interrupted") was infinitely better and more rewarding than anything I had scheduled. It reminded me of this quote: "Life is what happens to you while you're planning something else." And especially this one:
Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. --Ezra Taft Benson
Rather than feeling frustrated, today showed me what can happen in just one day when I'm willing to choose the better part and turn my life over to Him. At the end of the day (even though we're still way behind on everything) I feel abundantly rich.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Friday Fragments: Whose Kids ARE These Anyway?

Our 9-year-old and two of his buddies mowed a guy’s lawn in the neighborhood and he stiffed them! You know, it’s one thing to take advantage of another adult, but to rip off three earnest, hard-working, (somewhat mercenary) little kids is criminal! So tonight we saw the guy pulling into his driveway and J5 confronted him...and was able to collect payment for himself and his two friends. Then on the way home he tells me, “Good thing he finally paid up. I was ready to take the weedwhacker and carve “You Suck” into his front lawn.” (We had a little chat about what might be a more appropriate response...after I stopped laughing.) :)

Our 13-year old daughter asked this brilliant question awhile ago:
What’s Mick Jagger’s first name? (Mick)
Well then what’s his last name? (Jagger)
Come on, really, what’s his whole name? (laughing, Mick. Jagger.)
No, really...
(We finally figured out that she thought his name was “McJagger” McDonalds, or Macgyver,, McStones?) Hahaha. (Her 17-year-old brother WILL NOT let her live this one down!)

Two nights ago I made the rounds to kiss everyone good night, and I walked in on the a black swimsuit and aviator sunglasses, pinning her hair up. “AHAHAHAH!” I burst into laughter. Her response: “Don’t blog about this, Mom.” Last night, I made my rounds again, and stopped in to kiss her good night, and she was standing in front of the mirror in full hippie regalia: A fluorescent paisley polyester one-piece pantsuit with huge bellbottoms, and a headband. “HAHAHAHAHAAH! *snort* HAHAHAHAHAAHAH!” I laughed all the way upstairs and coerced my hubby to go look in on her too. I’m dying over this new nightly dress-up ritual. It's like playing "mystery date" and seeing a new creature in odd get-up every time you open the door! She comes upstairs. “Mom, don’t blog about this. PLEASE? You better not be blogging about this!” (Who, me?) Haha! She knows me too well...*

I’m folding clothes in the laundry room and our 9-year-old walks in. “Mom?” he asks. I nod, not pausing to look up from the laundry. “What are the birds and the bees?” (Suddenly he has my rapt attention.) “Well, it’s about S-E-X. Actually, not so much about that. More about reproduction. How they make babies.” “Oh, does our family have talks about the birds and the bees?” “Yes, we do.” “What age do we have the birds and the bees talk in our family?” “We don’t have a set age, honey. It depends on the child, and when they’re ready. Why?” “Oh, because Colby’s family does it at age 10, and Isaac’s family does it after you turn 8.” “Hmmm...Do you think you’re ready for a talk like that?” “Me? Sick! No way! I was just wondering if we do those. I don’t want to hear about any of that stuff right now!” And he took off. I sighed. And grinned.

Friday Fragments?
. . . . .
*Of course I got her permission before posting this!
Friday Fragments is the brainchild of Mrs4444 over at Half Past Kissin' Time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years ago today...

Seven years ago today I was walking the streets of our gracious Pasadena neighborhood in the pre-dawn darkness. I was with a trusted friend and I felt safe, listened to, loved. There was a comfortable chill in the air, just the right temperature for our ritual three-mile stroll.

We walked the same route nearly every morning. All the houses were familiar, as were most of their gardens and pets. One morning on this same route we witnessed something completely outside the norm -- we saw a hawk swoop down, catching a white dove in mid-air, and devour it on someone's front lawn. We were horrified, and yet we couldn't tear ourselves away from the scene. We watched the dove flutter and flap, nearly escape, and then succumb. It was like feeling compelled to look at a car accident when you pass by on the freeway. Something in our psyche needed to take it all in. We'd seen creatures in the wild many times on the trails -- a huge rattlesnake ready to strike, a great blue heron perched on a rock, a black bear on the run -- but nothing felt like such an injustice, an invasion, as seeing this dove suffer under the powerful talons of the hawk. Finally we couldn't watch it any more. We tore ourselves away and moved on.

My lungs breathed in and out, a little harder as we crested the hill, then slowing again as we covered the downhill stretch toward home. Home, where my husband would be waking. Home, where the children were still sleeping. Home, our bastion of safekeeping. I crossed the front lawn, stopping to marvel at the hydrangeas -- still blooming, changing color -- and noticed that the plants on the big wraparound porch were looking parched.

I walked upstairs and heard the radio abuzz with tension and static. When I got close enough to make out the actual words, I heard something almost as bizarre and unthinkable as H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds". A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, causing a gaping hole, flames, and then the collapse of the entire tower. I couldn't take in the gravity of it all at once. A freak accident. But then there was another, and another. This had to be intentional. An attack in mid-air. Master-minded by terrorists.

Over and over again we watched it on the news: The crash, the wreckage, the slow-motion collapse. We watched until we. Could. Not. Watch. Any. More.

My in-laws called from Newport where they were vacationing. They couldn't get a flight out. So they wanted to camp at our house. I was grateful and relieved. There was something so reassuring about their wisdom, their stability, their companionship. Family. I secretly hoped they'd never leave.

The hardest thing I had to do was send our children off to school. The sky was falling. The world was collapsing around us. Our sense of safety had vanished forever.
I didn't want my little hatchlings to leave our nest that day. But it was expected, required. As I pondered my total inability to protect them once they left my grasp, it occurred to me that the only thing I did have a direct influence on their spiritual safety. So that morning, as if their very lives depended on it, we dressed them in a full suit of armor, a piece at a time: The shield of faith. The helmet of salvation. The sword of the spirit. Right down to the feet shod in the gospel of peace, placed there by the angels themselves. Then, and only then, did we let them venture out into the world.

We followed the same pattern for weeks and months afterward, carefully reading each verse with the children as we symbolically draped them in the armor of God.

And then we started getting comfortable again. Terrorism didn't seem like such an immediate threat any more. The crisis was averted. Traveling was inconvenient. But our homes were safe.
--Or were they?

I love the lessons I learned on September 11, 2001. That no one is really ever safe. That family matters more than anything else on earth. And that there is incredible peace in knowing that our children have been taught of the Lord. That our only real safety is in the hands of the Savior. That His is the only real peace.

I am ashamed that I don't send the children out into the world EVERY day as prepared as I did that morning. But when I'm reminded of 9/11 I feel a renewed sense of urgency. I remember how that day, when I felt powerless and weak, suddenly I became strong. And I recommit myself to arming our children, and safe-guarding our home from dangerous influences. Because I want that kind of strength every day, for them and for me.

"Take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day...that ye may be able to stand...Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."