Elphaba and Glinda

*I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason,
bringing something we must learn. 
And we are led to those who help us most to grow,
if we let them.
And we help them in return.

I have had a friend for almost twelve years who is now more of an acquaintance.  We became neighbors when our sons were about 4 months old and her family moved across the street from me and mine.  We made quick work of our friendship, hanging out in each other's yards and kitchens.  We even went through our last pregnancies together ten years ago.  Our children also became almost inseparable, running across the street when they were babies to see each other, even at the risk of being punished by mean mommies who were trying to protect them.

A few years ago my friend decided that she needed to sever ties with me.  She was working on healing her life from many different injuries and I ended up being one of them.  It has been a while now and luckily my memory of this time has faded a bit.  I remember the email telling me that she felt strongly that my friendship was somehow hurtful.  That I made her feel bad about herself (thus the purging).  Months passed and we made up and all seemed well, until it all happened again.  Again, after some time we were friends again.

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun.  
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?

As my family started to experience growing pains (and I struggled a bit letting go and adjusting... just a little bit), there were very few efforts toward support or concern.  I let it go.  Not everyone is on the same level with empathy, right?  But then there were obvious times when I was avoided by her, in public  I mean.  I assumed there was insecurity or even resentment toward me because I was usually happy and well-adjusted.  What could I do about that?  And honestly, what could she do about it?

But because I knew you, I have been changed for good ...

Eight months ago it was me writing the email.  Something's not right.  You can't seem to get over feeling unhappy with me.  Let's be honest.  This friendship is over.  There was no response, which didn't surprise me.  We faded into a different kind of association.  This will be permanent, and it's ok.  The boys are still friends, which matters to me, but that's it.  Where there used to be phone calls and laughing there is the occasional wave from her passing car.  But somewhere deep down the sad part is gone and I have settled in to it.  She had been important to me, and I would take those good things with me.  All is well, and I realize now that not all relationships are meant to be lasting.  Some come and go, changing us for good in the process.

*lyrics taken from For Good from the musical WICKED 

Creators, We

When we lived in Pasadena, CA fifteen years ago my husband and I team-taught our Sunday School class.  We enjoyed it immensely, both because we got to prepare together and because we both enjoy teaching.  We were teaching right from the beginning of the Old Testament and so one of the first lessons was on the Creation.  I had prepared some thoughts on the possible symbolism of each of the creative periods and thought I had some decent ideas, but G.O. was the first one to stand in front of the group and share his thoughts on the topic.  

He spoke about the scriptural account of the creation of the world and got some good audience participation.  He is a great teacher and people usually respond well to his approach.  After a thorough discussion on the topic he presented the idea that each of us are inherently creators. We may have even taken part in that first creation.  "Sister Mayo, what do you think you may have helped to create?"  "Brother Long, what are you doing in your life right now that fits under the title of creator?"

Ever since then I have contemplated that idea that being actively involved in creating things is part of our God-given heritage.  That we are not whole unless we are exercising that characteristic.  When I was in a leadership position in my ward (congregation) I encouraged the women to fill their lamps regularly with prayer, scripture study, all of the things we need to feel closer to the spirit.  I needed that reminder so much in my own life because I had/have a tendency to fill it up with temporal things first and then squeeze in the rest.  And then I remembered that Sunday School lesson years ago, and added in my encouragement to find daily ways to create.  Paint, sew, write (blog), cook, photograph, whatever our souls need.

Last night we were blessed to hear President Uchtdorf offer official counsel on this topic.  He said, Being a creator is an inherent craving of each person on this earth.  I believe this.  I have felt more comfortable in my own skin when I have found ways to exercise that craving.  It is a liberating thing to know we are supposed to make something new where nothing was before.  I like to write (NANOWRIMO is coming up in November and I encourage all of my blogging friends to look it up and think about participating). I like to cook Indian food. I like modern design/decorating (my living room below). What do you do as a creator?

lone female wilderness

There's me and Encore.  We are it.  We are the sole representation of anything feminine in this house, and frankly, neither one of us are really very girly.  I like getting dressed up and I wear a bit of make-up every day, but I am not a pink-wearer and I do not like things with bows.  No thanks. Encore is our 9-year old Jack Russell terrier who loves to dig holes and run away. I don't consider busting out of the backyard and running away to a trailer park on the other end of town very feminine.  Do you?

But there are a couple of times a year when I bask in my femaleness.  One time happens in the summer, usually June, when my sons and my husband go camping with the other hunters and gatherers in our neighborhood.  It is Fathers and Sons weekend.  Sometimes I make big plans, like I invite some friends over and we eat and play board games.  Other times I get in my pjs nice and early and watch a movie or mess around on the computer.  I just kind of let the mood take me.  I roll with it.

Tomorrow they are all leaving for an annual camp out to Goblin Valley, where they will explore the hoodoos and hike around in the reddish-brown dust.  And even though they come back pretty caked with the stuff my husband has trained everyone to shower right away and get doing their laundry so I don't have to.  He has also trained me by advising me to not ask too many questions about what went on and what they spent their time doing.  He doesn't think it is wise for me to know too much.  He is probably right.

So my big decision is whether or not to make any real plans for myself.  Do I go out to a movie?  Maybe a little window shopping?  I will be the keeper of my own destiny, at least for a couple of days.  I am woman.  Hear me roar...

a sister can be the best medicine

I was having one of those kind of weeks early in the month. The kind where any little disappointment or bump in the road was enough to set me off and get that old blood pressure rising. I don't really know why I was on such a rant. Sometimes you can make a guess, and many times it just happens. Things build up and then you explode, or even implode. There were numerous times when my husband tried to help with the boys by intervening when they weren't cleaning up after themselves or doing their music practicing, but even with his good intentions he was too personally involved to really have perspective on my suffering.

Then my little sister called from VA and, in a way that was very uncharacteristic for me, I cried on the phone. Even though I consider myself to be pretty open with my emotions, for some reason I don't cry around my family (the one I come from, I mean). I have thought about it over the years and have come to the conclusion that it must have something to do with being the oldest. I was the one to move far away from the rest of the fam when I was twenty. I chose a different way of life in my new religion. Etcetera, etcetera... So here was my younger sister on the other end of the phone and I found it amazingly easy to open up about my own personal frustrations and mom guilt. Keep in mind she is twelve years younger than I am. We became real friends when she was about 18 and I was 30, and I feel like I have been learning from her ever since.

One of her many talents is finding funny cards, and after our phone call she would either text or send me a card every couple of days or so. They helped. She helped. And although life throws stuff at us, at me, it is nice to know that a beautiful 32 year-old across the country is my cheerleader. Thanks, Jen.

I'll admit that I wanted him dead...

For months now, no years now, I have secretly held on to angry feelings for someone who lives in my neighborhood. I have never had a conversation with this person. I know almost nothing about her, except that she lives about ten houses down from me and that she is nuts for her dog.

For years now I have watched as she walks her little dog down the street, methodically allowing him to relieve himself on any green patch of land that is not his own yard. He is let off his leash just long enough to get comfy in his business, and then he returns to his owner's side happy as a clam (a clam that has a very healthy digestive system).

This has gone on for years now and I have never seen her once bring along a little baggie or anything to help with clean up. Nothing. Because she has probably lived in the neighborhood for decades nobody is going to approach her and ask her to change her ways. I am not naive enough to believe that is going to happen. If I weren't so opposed to anonymous notes I might send her one, but I can't go against my morals on that one. So, I just turn away or go into the house when I see her and her little white fluff ball coming down the sidewalk. I avoid it.

This morning, however, avoidance was not an option. I was leaving my neighborhood, looking left as I was beginning to make a right turn. As I started rounding the turn I see her, the dog lady, standing there with a terrified look on her face and her hands on top of her head as she stared at my front right tire. I slammed on the brakes out of reflex and she came running to my car. I had just enough time to think, "I might have just killed the fertilizer!" before I jumped out of my car and ran to assess the damage. Her equally elderly sister-in-law, whom I know a little bit, was standing on the other corner holding both her own dog and my nemesis, who obviously had escaped the tread of my tire.

Before I knew what was happening my neighbor and I were embracing and making sure each other was alright. All angry feelings were gone and I had a small glimpse into what this little dog means to this woman. Next time I see them coming down the street I will wave and smile and practice a little avoidance again as the leash is unhooked. But this time the avoidance will help me remember an important question... Aren't there bigger things to worry about?

Lucky Me

Here I am with my admirable, reliable, just-a-joy-to-be-around son.  He is almost eighteen, and the stereotypes just don't apply to this one.  I can't tell you how many times I come home and find him happily doing the dishes or sitting in his room reading, or even, get ready, voluntarily hanging out with his younger brothers.

Now, this blog entry is not meant to make other moms who are struggling with their youth feel bad.  Each child is so different and we had some small trials with our oldest, who is now spending two years in Kenya learning patience and tolerance.  We love them all the same, of course.  But today I got a call from a friend who, along with her husband, works with the youth in our ward (congregation).  She just called to tell me how much the two of them enjoy my son.  He is positive and responsible and fun.  As a matter of fact, the other night at dinner he informed us that he had made a promise to himself that he was not going to complain about things.  When I asked how long he planned on keeping this goal he said, "Forever."  And I believe it.

I admit that sometimes I lie awake at night and ask myself, "What have I done to deserve this child?  Where did I go so right?"

Calming the Savage Beast

Tonight for our family time we listened to G.O. and our oldest son's "friend" as they practiced Meditation by Massenet for her church meeting this Sunday.  It was their first time practicing it together, even though my husband had worked on it Saturday for an hour or so.  

After listening to their piece I pulled out my mp3 player and encouraged (OK, made) the boys sit quietly while we listened to Barber's Adagio for Strings.  It is eleven minutes long and was difficult for my 12-year old drummer to adjust to, but as the younger boys watched their 17-year old brother soak it all in they began to listen and enjoy it, at least a little.  

We are not too stuffy around here.  We listen to classic rock as well as straight classical.  And we enjoy a lot of Indian music as well as some pop stuff.  But I have to say that there are a few classical selections that cut through me like a hot knife through butter, and I mean that in a very good way.  

What music calms your soul?  What can you listen to knowing you will feel good when you do? Here is one of mine...

Mamma Mia Maniac

Ok, I admit it.  I am a complete Mamma Mia addict (I have seen the play, but like the movie much more).  I have seen it in the theater eleven times, and being that it is still showing for another week or so, I will be back.  You can bet a zillion drachmas on that one.

So, what exactly draws me to this movie?  I am a singer, so of course the music plays a part.  Dancing Queen has got to be one of the best girl-power performances in recent history, and Slipping Through My Fingers gets me every time.  Super Trooper is also a liberating part of the show, especially the way Sophie (the daughter) is so proud of her mom instead of being humiliated by her "glory-days" performance.  But it really isn't just the music.

Watching Meryl Streep in this film makes me want to be one of those women that ages well.  I want to be youthful at 59 like she is.  I want to be strong.  I want to be able to create chemistry the way she does.  When she belts out The Winner Takes It All at the real climax of the story I am so caught up in her power, and when it is tender and wistful I am caught up in that.  She is funny and beautiful and brilliant, and I, as a forty-something, want to be like her when I grow up.  But until then I will just keep walking up to the box office, where I am sure they feel like they know me by now. 

My Vo

My whole life I thought everyone's grandmother wore conservative brown skirts and sensible pumps (if there is such a thing).  And if there was a need to go out of the house, a tan lightweight trench coat and a smooth leather "pocketbook" were necessities.  This is what I knew from my own experience with my grandmother, my "Vo".

She was the epitome of a textbook grandma, not just because of her clothing, but also because of her fierce love for her grandchildren.  She was the one who would stand up for my cousins Jen and Sara (my only two cousins on that side) when they would wear bikinis and my aunt would be mortified.  She would rub our arms when we sat beside her on the couch.  And she would call us each by nicknames, mine being Kazzy Wazzy.  

Her house always smelled like warm grandma food (you know what I mean), and she brought that smell with her when she came to visit.  I am not really sure how that works with grandmothers, but it is an interesting phenomenon.  

She lived on a big hill in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and until the time she had to move in with my parents she would walk that hill to go to the market or to the Catholic church she attended. 

When I was born we lived with Vo for about 18 months.  She had been widowed from my equally-perfect grandfather six months before my parents' wedding and our presence helped her tremendously.  My mom tells me it was MY presence mostly that saved her.  She wore her black clothes and black lace for a full year after being widowed, and once she got to rock me in her wooden spindled rocker on a regular basis it helped in her healing.  I felt a special connection with Vo my whole life.  When my engagement fell apart in 1986 I called her for comfort and advice and I was wrapped up in a big thick blanket of it.  She was my biggest fan and I still miss her so much.

But the most important lesson I learned from Vo was taught very indirectly from a story she never told me herself.  She moved to New England when she was 3- years old with her parents.  She (along with every single ancestor I have ever researched) was born in the Azores, which are small islands owned by Portugal way out in the Atlantic.  When she was only 15 she had to drop out of school to work in the textile mills in Fall River, Massachusetts, and by the time she was 19 both parents had died, leaving her with an 8-year old younger sister that she took care of.  Once her fiance had heard about the new responsibility of the younger sister, Georgiana, he asked Vo to find a new place for her.  Refusing, she soon broke off her engagement and got on with the business of caring for Georgie.  A few years later she married my grandfather, who loved his little sister-in-law like a daughter.  Until the day Vo died I wondered why Georgie's kids called Vo "Grandma Mary" instead of "Aunt Mary", and then I heard the story of her selfless sacrifice and realized who she really was.  She was my hero.

ps.. I am being published today at www.bloggersannex.com

Between my fingers and toes

My parents have been visiting this week and it has been terrific.  See, I have great parents who are real troopers.  No stuffy hotels or fancy sheets for them.  For years they have bunked in our den either on a blow-up bed or a futon, and this time they are down the street at an RV park, where they are close enough to hang out here most of the time basking in the mayhem that is our life.

My mom has said to me more than once, "Wow, your family is so busy!"  Between AA soccer, cello lessons, scouts, work, piano lessons, helping my seventeen-year old with Homecoming Dance ideas, getting housework done, giving my bishop- husband emotional support, (blogging... which I love), etc., it seriously is non-stop.  Not to mention that my husband has been very preoccupied with some things at work, which makes him pretty unavailable around here.

Sometimes I think life is going so fast that I can barely keep all of the balls up in the air.  It spooks me out when a week has gone by in the blink of an eye.  I don't like feeling like I am an observer of my own life and not someone who is living it.  Every spare crack and crevasse in my calendar gets filled up like these little rubber critters in between my son's fingers and toes, and I can't seem to figure out how to make things slow down.

Anybody have any good meditation ideas?  My best "slow-it-down" time comes when I am watching HGTV or when I am lying in bed reading, both being rare.  I am just thankful that I have thirty seconds at the end of everyday to take my blood pressure medication (no joke here).