When we spent the Spring of 2002 in London with 50 BYU students we had a lot of incredible experiences. Lots of time in the West End at theaters, going to restaurants, doing some day trips. We discovered great markets and shopping, and loved hanging out with the students. Pretty fulfilling experience, all things considered. And then I met Janice Bailey.
Because there were about 50 of us from Utah transplanted there in London, the local LDS church leaders thought it might be a cool thing to spread us out around the different wards (congregations) in the south London area. The six of us in our family, along with a small handful of students, were to attend the Catford ward. It felt good to be around such warm and welcoming people, and even by that first Sunday we were in. On our second Sunday the ward was having a little pot luck lunch after the meetings as a chance for all of us to get to know each other better. As we loaded up our plates and began to mingle I looked across the room and saw a beautiful woman sitting with her husband and their pre-teen daughter. In this particular suburb of London there were many African people. This family was quite exotic looking, and I learned later that she was from the Carribean. So, I stood there looking at this woman. I knew her. I felt an immediate concern for her.
Within a matter of seconds Janice looked over at me and stood up. I walked over to her and introduced myself and we both started to cry, inexplicably. We had never met before, but we were somehow well-acquainted. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had. We would see the Baileys every week at church for the rest of our time there, and we even spent an afternoon in Greenwich together before we left to come home. Janice and I never had any earth-shattering revelations, we just connected somehow. And I was her sister, and she was mine.
One thing our family is known for is a love of all things Indian (as in Gandhi). It all started when my husband went to India in the Summer of 2004 to check on some BYU students doing field studies in various subjects. They were working on all kinds of projects ranging from anthropology to economics. Little did we know how life-changing his experience would be, mostly for him, but also for our whole family. Eight months later Geo was called as the bishop, and we both are convinced that these 40 days in India served as his own 40 days in the wilderness in preparation for his new responsibilities. As a matter of fact, when G stepped off the plane and was walking toward us in his white linen Indian tunic and his beard, 15 lbs lighter than when we last saw him, one of my sons said, "Daddy looks like Jesus." I am in no way saying he had become Jesus, only that he had suffered a bit and had seen very poor people that he had grown to love over the almost-six-weeks that he was gone. He had been incredibly humbled and changed, and had a difficult time speaking in specifics about certain experiences he had had, not necessarily because they were all depressing. Quite the contrary. He had seen extreme humility in conjunction with beautiful demonstrations of humanity. He was moved right down to the bottom of his sweet and sensitive soul. In another post I will write about some of these moments.
Since Geo's return we have been fans of that faraway place. We love Indian food, Indian people, Indian culture, and Indian films, often known as Bollywood movies. The clothing, the colors, the dancing. There is always dancing, whether it is a comedy, an action film, an historical piece. Somehow the characters always find a way to take a break from the storyline just long enough for a percussion-filled dance fest. It is fantastic! A celebration of life. And after watching a few of these films, and catching the bug, it seems completely normal to see a corrupt business man suddenly transported to a mountainside where he sings a song as beautiful women dance with him. You come to expect the dance scenes to sneak in at any moment, and they often do. It is such a cool phenomenon. So this week we have rewarded the kids. If they can be all the way ready for bed by 8ish then they get to watch some Bollywood with Dad before the final tuck in. You have never heard six boy feet move so fast up and down the stairs.
For our family time tonight we had some quiet journal writing time. As the younger boys were finishing up, my husband and I sat in a different room with my number 2 son and talked about upcoming short-term and long-term goals. He is 18 and preparing to graduate in May, and time is slipping by like an hourglass with a super-wide neck.
drivers license prom graduation summer job duty to god (church goals for the young men) housing for his one semester of college before leaving on a mission piano goals (getting a dozen or so hymns down really well) self-sufficiency goals (ability to cook a dozen meals on his own)
We get them. We do our best. We let them go.
From 6 to 5. Soon 5 to 4. I know they are still going to be mine. I believe in the eternal nature of families, it's just that the nature of my family is undergoing change.
It is strange to spend more and more time with myself. Sometimes I have these flashes of memories from my childhood with my parents and siblings, and then here I am, eons later, sending my own kids out with warm wishes and bottomless barrels of hope. It is a good experience, just a tender one. And sometimes I miss them before they even go.
So I am in that middle stage of motherhood, and I am doing my best to roll with it. I fly down the hill just fast enough to have the adrenaline swish through me, but slow enough to control the blur.
Here in Utah we like fences. It is kind of funny since we enjoy so much wide open space, but when you consider the people that settled here in the mid 1800s, and their struggles on the way, it is easier to understand. Property taken, rumors spread. We stake our own little claim and slam those posts in the ground to prove it. It is part of being a resident here.
view out my front door
The mountains are our fences also. They give us a feeling of security and also act as a compass. When I think of my family in Virginia I sometimes look eastward at the mountains, knowing that they are just over the top of them. I like these fences. They are fun to climb. They are comforting to look at. And when I see them covered in white icing against a clear blue sky I feel full.
I spent a few brainy hours with my friend Charrette last night where we attended a book launch at a museum and then enjoyed some uplifting conversation with each other. Food for the soul.
The author was reading a passage from his book and spoke about the way we are all naturally artistic. When someone asked him years ago about his abilities, he responded that nobody ever told him he wasn't an artist, so he went with it. I like this philosophy. We can until we start thinking we can't.
The blank slate theory doesn't allow for much of this idea. Is my slate blank or filled with chalk words listing what I am good at? Listing what I might use to help other people? Listing my potential? And who holds the eraser?
I walked up to the machine and slid my right arm out of the sleeve of my gown. This might pinch a little, said the pretty technician with her perfect hair and never-been-smashed-before, 29 year-old breasts. I didn't have anything against her, it's just that this was the third time over the years that I have had to go back for a repeat mammogram, and I think I knew all about the pinching by now.
There was a concern on the right side, again. Now we need to do some pictures at this angle, she sweetly informed me. I held onto the bar and tried to think about anything else I could at that moment. Sit right there and either I or the radiologist will be back in to discuss your results. Ten minutes later they needed additional pictures, so off with the right sleeve again. Don't get me wrong- be as thorough as you need to be. I am just not a good waiter. And again ten minutes later a third set is needed. Red and screaming at me, I looked down to apologize to my body.
We are going to have you just come across the hall for an ultrasound to be sure we are as accurate as possible with our tests today. So I wrapped my gown tightly across my chest and walked across the hall, my brown suede knee-high boots clicking my arrival. Another too-young-to-really-get-my-anxiety technician was very kind and gentle as she performed my first ultrasound. Things look fine to me, but I will have the radiologist look at what I did here. Twenty minutes pass as I stare at the acoustical tiles on the ceiling. The tiles don't even match, and the canned recessed lights look like they might fall right out and onto me as I lay there wondering what a biopsy will feel like.
The radiologist comes in for another ultrasound, and informs me that all seems well. Sometimes we see things at one angle that we can't prove with other tests. So let's have you back in six months, just to follow up.
When do you choose the thing that matters to your soul over the thing that will pay more? When do you go on faith? When do you take the good financial opportunity?
It's almost like a cosmic practical joke for me lately. I have recently posted about my job being taken off the table for next school year. This week my coworker was also reassigned. Now I had the option to stay in my current position, but only half-time. Think, think, think.
After being torn all week, I decided to stay where I am and hope for the best as far as making enough to help out around here with a missionary and other undeniable expenses. So today I formally accepted the job. When I got home I found out that I was offered a possible job from a family member that would bring in many many moons more money. It would be at a greater personal sacrifice as far as a commute and time away from command central here though, which needs to all be factored in.
Some people are haunted by regret or bad decisions. Some by dead relatives who return with vital messages. Today I was haunted by a nineteen-ninety-something turquoise Pontiac Grand Prix.
I left work to head north for a couple of errands and a doctor's appointment. It had been a long day with even more budget cuts playing out in our school, which has gotten to be a bit depressing. Sitting at the last light at the north end of my town I heard a loud rattle beside me and looked over to see my ghost. It was practically duct taped together, inside and out, and was incredibly sad, actually. The light changed and we both drove through on the main road into the next town, passing each other here and there as we went. But finally I looked in the rear view mirror and noticed I had lost my rattley poltergeist somewhere behind me.
On I went for the next two hours, getting things accomplished and even catching an early dinner at an Indian restaurant with Geo. Chicken Korma, naan. Soul medicine. But cub scouts called and I needed to head home to prepare, and to check in with my boys. My little touchstones.
I found myself wandering mentally as I drove south toward my house. I think I will take the cubs to the grocery store where we can do a little lesson on shopping on a budget. FG still needs help making his puppet show. So funny to get a letter from my missionary son about a monkey wrestling a banana from his hand. And I wonder if he had fun chasing impalas through a savannah. Amazing things he is experiencing. I need more socks. I will miss Joan and Connie next year. I am grateful for my sister, who really cares about me. And then there it was again. Same place, just heading the other direction. My new friend. My noisey specter.
*comments are off for awhile *I am considering a hiatus from Musical Mondays until I accumulate some music.
I recorded and re-recorded the original version of this song, until I realized it was such an iconic piece that I was kind of freaking myself out over it. So, on a whim I sang the words to a melody I came up with on the fly. Forgive me for tampering with such a symbol of American Christianity, but I have been playing around with the a capella style and thought this would be fun.
I have felt grace in my life. I have felt it lately. I have felt it this very day. And as we all face unknown futures, at least we have grace to cushion us and give us hope. Soft, warm, undeserved grace.
Amazing Grace Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.
Three years ago a great man was planning his 80th birthday celebration. He wanted creative control and had his own ideas about how the evening should be spent.
Everyone come in Sunday best. I have prepared an address I will be giving. We will not play games, and after the cake I would like everyone to quietly go home after giving me a big hug.
The family all showed up on time and were greeted by the man in his sear-sucker suit. They all walked into the living room where there were chairs and even a podium ready for the event.
Deep feelings shared. Love of the Lord. Love of family. Geneology. Tears.
And then came the gifts. A line of 12 grandchildren who had been secretly prepared to stand in front of this man they adored to recite Emerson quotes by memory. All of this to honor the man's love of his work. Hours spent standing in line on ships in the south Pacific during WWII reading Emerson front to back. The book now sits on a son's bookshelf as a constant reminder of a father's love and his interest in fine literature.
And then one final gift from the oldest grandson. After finding an old musical score in the old man's den, this grandson set about, with his father's help, to transfer the notes from the page to a digital recording. A composition never before heard. Never performed. Written while living on a metal mansion floating off the coast of Japan, composed entirely with a pitch pipe. Multiple parts for multiple instruments. In a manilla envelope for over 60 years, a silent symphony. This grandson turned on the cd player and sat down in time to see the color change in his grandfather's face. Remembrance within seconds. An internal recollection. First time alive.
Someone suggested this song for me a couple of months ago, but I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle it. I had a thought today to add some texture to it to make it a bit more haunting, as if it were being sung out in the woods at night while standing on the bank of a river. That second person in the boat changes as we face different circumstances. This week I felt accompanied by both a good husband and by the Lord, as they took turns sitting beside me rowing. Life is good. And even when the water is wide we can cross over. It's possible.
The water is wide, I cannot cross o'er. And neither have I wings to fly. Give me a boat that will carry two, And both shall row. My love and I.
A ship there is, and she sails the sea. She's loaded deep, as deep can be. But not so deep as the love I'm in. I know not if I sink or swim.
Oh love be handsome, and love be kind. Gay as a jewel when first it's new. But love grows old and waxes cold, And fades away like the morning dew.
The water is wide. I cannot cross o'er. Neither have I wings to fly. Give me a boat that can carry two, And both shall row. My love and I. The Water Is Wide Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.