Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sticking it to the Man

Sometimes I like to be stubborn, just to prove I am. I am think I am displaying a certain behavior, but when it comes down to it, I just want to prove that I can do X. My family grew up, except for a four month hiatus, without a dishwasher. When people asked my Mom why we didn't have one, she would say, "I don't need a dishwasher, I already have nine of them." These were her nine children living at home, of course. Hyuk, hyuk. In college I maintained that I didn't really believe in dishwashers. I had many reasons why - because everyone pre-rinsed anyway, so dishwashers didn't save on water usage, nor time. Because I lived with roommates who all ate at different times, and didn't pre-rinse, and the dishwasher was run erratically, and the caked on food never came off.

I to this day have not had a dishwasher in mine and Avram's marriage, except for when we lived with his parents. I have also (except for right now, when my house is falling apart because Avram was gone all week at a convention here in Columbus, and it is heart wrenching to do dishes when you miss your spouse. That's my excuse) gotten over my latent hatred of dishes, and now I do not mind doing them. Usually.

Having said all this, I recognize that when we eventually move into a house that has a dishwasher, I do not think I will tear it out, nor will I use it as a storage for extra pots. No, I will succumb, and fall in line with the rest of middle class America. It turns out my not liking dishwashers, while still having valid points (such as the pre-rinsing. If I'm going to bother rinsing, I can just add some soap, and call it washing?), is mainly just me being stubborn. Against what, I must wonder? Perhaps the middle class myth of necessities in America.

Air conditioning is the same way. We had a swamp cooler growing up in my home, which worked fine, although very local to the living room where it was contained. After I had gone off to boarding school or college my parents upgraded to central air, but regardless I did not grow up sans AC. Avram did, however. Despite living in the jungle like humidity of Virginia, plus heat that makes you melt into a puddle under a fan and lie there in a comatose state throughout the day (not to mention their Summer lasts around five months long), his family never had AC. So when we were married, we did not automatically buy a little portable apartment AC. And because we both worked that first Summer, and usually weren't home during the heat of the day, we never really missed one.

Then the next summer I had Lydia as a newborn, but I learned to leave my windows open at night, and then close them and the blinds at 10 am the next morning, and the house kept its cool for the day.

Then we lived (after briefly melting our brains in Virginia) in England, where we were still using heat intermittently in June. If you ever visit England, I suggest packing a variety of cardigans and other jackets.

Which brings us (after once more losing more brain capacity in Virginia) to Ohio. In April I rearranged our love seat and placed it directly in front of the built in swamp cooler AC unit. I was bound and determined to not use it. I suppose to save money, but mostly to prove to the world that I didn't need an AC, and that I would be alright without one. We're tough! We like to sweat! Up until this past week my Summer has been according to plan. We had had a couple of really hot days, but they were intermittent with nice storms, and all was well. Our house never felt uncomfortable, just warm. I didn't even sweat. Then this week we were on a heat wave, although it was only the upper '80s, but with humidity, and I have been dying. Monday through Thursday I saw many women in the Ward for various activities, and somehow the subject of dying in the heat (while sitting in their Air Conditioned houses) always came up. Looking back, I realize I sounded like the biggest, cheapest wimp of central Ohio.

Then on Thursday a storm hit in the evening. As the rain started pounding down, and a fine mist of water came through the open window, I felt my heart lift within me. I loved the storm, and I felt my heart knit as one with the pioneers, who must have looked for relief from heat from the weather as much as I did. That night the main floor of our townhouse was blessedly cool. Then next day continued with clouds, and our upstairs cooled off as well. I could finally sleep without constant tossing and turning. Since then the weather has been moderate, and I find myself thinking, "We don't really need the AC. I'm fine. Despite the fact that now my whole Relief Society thinks that I complain a lot about my own decision to not use AC, I really am OK." I really am Ok, and I have made my peace, for this week, with the weather.

By the way, this explains my absence from blogging. Our computer is upstairs, and every time I would get on it, the heat would melt my brain, and it would dribble out my ears, and I often could not even remember why I was on the computer, let alone my blog topic.

But I have realized that ultimately I do not not use the AC to save money. It probably saves me $30 a month - a little bit, but not worth making a fool of myself to my feminine social groups by constant complaining. No, I do not use AC so I can stick it to the man. That middle class man, the one that says AC is a necessity. He's also the one with the Dishwasher. And the TV.

Except TV is one place I actually have belief behind my odd habits. Avram and I have never owned a TV until this year. And this TV is old enough it doesn't pick up digital channels, nor do we ever plan to buy the little subsidized doo-hickley that receives digital programming. I do not ever plan, nor want to receive TV in my home. I have the TV because I got tired of squinting when watching movies on our computer. But sometimes, such as when I was visited by the Living Scriptures salesman this past week, I wish that I didn't have one still, because then I could simply say, "I don't have a TV," and that would be the end of that. Now I have to go on about how it may look like a TV, but do not be fooled, it is only a Movie Monitor. I think I'll start calling it my MM. That'll show the Man.

Yet I am never tempted to have a TV, and except when the Olympics or Conference is on I don't complain about it either. Because to me a TV is a colossal time waster, and I already have the Internet for that. And although I'd like to pretend that someday I could theoretically get rid of the Internet, I would have to then write my blog from the Library. And in the words of Lydia, "That's silly!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fragility Of Life

Last Friday, while eating Steak with Avram's family in Virginia, his Dad began choking on a piece. He staggered up, Avram began trying to do the Heimlich on him. He turned red. My sister in law asked if she should call 911. I told her to not bother, because they live in the middle of the country, and they would take too long to get here (it take five minutes to just drive up their private shared road, let alone they're another ten minute drive from the fire station). He turned purple. Avram couldn't do the Heimlich because my Father in law's stomach muscles were too strong, and he was flexing them, trying to make himself throw up (he's a retired Marine, and loves exercise.)

And then, just like that, he threw up, did not pass out, and did not die. My mother in law said as she stood there watching this, she thought, "so this is how people die. Just like this, choking on steak."

Then, on Saturday, my sister's best friend collapsed, and had a pulmonary embolism, and lost her 26 week old baby, and then is dying herself.

And I've been thinking a lot about the fragility of life. How one minute, life can go on as normal, and then the next tragedy happens. Unlike my recent post, I'm not unduly scared of living or life, it just makes me reflect. If I knew I were going to die in a year, would I change my life at all? In a month? In a week? No, not really. Right now I am living the life I want. I am married to Avram, my best friend. We have two beautiful daughters, and I love being their mother. Avram is pursuing his life long dream of a Ph.d. I get to be a homemaker.

The only adjustments I would make would be small ones. I would take more sight seeing day trips. Go camping. Eat all the expensive fruit I love, but Avram doesn't, and so I never buy them - cherries, peaches, watermelon, honeydew. Buy the finicky dessert pans so I can make the desserts I always read about, but can't make. A bundt pan, for the tunnel of fudge cake. Ramekins for Creme Brulee and Molten Chocolate Cakes. Trifle dish. Tart pan. Tools to help with desserts. A sieve. A sifter. A bench scraper. A silpat. A blow torch. After all, I don't need to worry about my long term health. I would get a nice camera, not just a point and shoot, and I would take pictures of everything beatiful, and even ugly things, if they are picturesque. And my girls -they would get the most pictures.

And I would take a trip - to England, with Avram. I'm planning to go for our 15th (or so) anniversary - after he has tenure somewhere. It will be our second honeymoon, and we'll leave our kids at home. I would just take it now, instead. I'll get to see everything I didn't see the first time I went to England - which is just about the whole country. Perhaps I'll even entice him over to Ireland.

I would also pray a lot more fervantly, read the scriptures with vested interest to know what would lie before me, and hope I would go while being in the temple - I can't think of a better place to die. If life is like Hamlet, when Hamlet could not kill his Uncle Claudius because he was praying, and if he died while praying he would go to heaven, and Hamlet wanted him to go to Hell, I want to be in the Temple, in the Celestial Room. 'Cause then my exaltation will be sure, just by being in the right location. Of course, Hamlet is more than a little crazy, so perhaps I should not base doctrinal matters of importance on him.

Oh, and I would also turn on my air conditioning, savings be forgot.

Not that I would ever want to know the date of my own death. Then I would be too busy trying to say goodbye to everything all of the time to appreciate any of this. But it is nice to know that in the essentials, I am living the way I would want to, even if I died tomorrow. In Sha' Allah I will die at age 90, or better yet, will be twinkled* But if not, I am glad that this is the life I am living, and most importantly, I am with my family.

When Avram and I were at the Smithsonian, we went to the exhibit of Western Cultures and the Forensic one as well, both lodged in the Natural History Museum. As we walked from prehistory down to a displayed skeleton of a modern (dead) scientist of the Smithsonian (it was his wish to be displayed, along with his dog's skeleton). I was amazed by how all through human history how much of our time and effort has been spent on preparing for death, working through death, and trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid death and its consequences. I myself in my own way would like to avoid aspects of modern death - I do not want to be embalmed, and I want to be buried in a plain wooden coffin, and not surrounded by lead or a concrete vault, so that I can actually return to the elements. But no matter our wishes, at some point, we will all leave this life, and at that point, will have no more say on what happens to our mortal remains.

Mostly in all of this, I'm grateful for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is because of my religious beliefs that (minus thos pesky ramekins and cherries) I am living my dream life. Because my life is centered around what truly matters to me, and that is my family and having joy - both of which will also exist in the eternities.

*immediately resurrected after death.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Open Letter to Family, Friends, and the Criminal Element of Ohio

I've spent the last week in Virginia, on a stealth vacation from both blogging and cooking. It was not meant to be a hiatus from blogging. Avram's parent's live in Northern Virginia, so we went and let the Grandparents coddle our kids while we sat around and pretended to be lazy (it was pretending, I promise). A couple of days in, when I had had my fill of sitting around and pretending to read Hermann Hesse while actually dozing, I decided to write a blog post. But then my Mother and law and Avram mentioned that in the morning's newspaper had been an article about how the rate of burglary goes up when people mention that they are on vacation on their blogs. Clearly this was a sign that if I mentioned we were absent from our home that somehow the criminal element in Columbus would stumble across my blog, and immediately know my last name and address, and come and lift the remaining DVDs they neglected to steal the first time, and the replaced $30 DVD player from Wal*mart.

So you never heard my humourous open letter to this very same criminal element, detailing out what they could expect to find in my humble abode, which letter I composed mentally while lying around (and this is important) neither reading nor sleeping, but while actually thinking. Nor have you yet heard about mine and Avram's romantic day getaway to the Smithsonian (wherein I snagged an Travertine Mortar and Pestle made in Pakistan) (It was romantic, too. There is nothing better than connecting together over the Code of Hammurabi, listening to my husband translate it, from the (plaster mold of) the code itself. Some of you may think I am joking, but others will know that in this at least I am dead serious.). I am sorry to have bereft you of my voice (and Mom, I'm really sorry I never called you while there, and told you I was actually on vacation. Same thing to you Mary. And to the eight other hang up messages on my phone from no one (since we don't have caller ID, I can only assume it's one you, my dear readers). I love you too, and you can call me now.)

At least for the next week, since a week from Monday I'm flying out to Utah for Nine days with my Girls for loads of too much excitement, plus a family reunion at Yellowstone Park. Feel free to make appointments with Moi and we'll hang out and pretend to read and sleep together. I'm not sure how much more vacationing I can take. But beware, for all the burlars reading this - Avram will be home. Cleaning his shotgun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Nightmare

I'm not sure I will even publish this post. But I have to write somewhere.

I was babysitting two children that I babysat before James - an almost four year old girl, and a two year old boy. They were taking a bath, and the water was running, and I had shut the bathroom door. Meanwhile, I had some receipt for something on the Internet, and I needed to return it, or make sense of it, or something, and I was searching all over the house looking for a companion receipt. I sifted through piles of random papers that had fallen off of surfaces and lay scattered on the floor in so many strata of detritus. As I searched, and ran back and forth to the computer, their Mother arrived at the house. We chatted casually about buying Tupperware on the Internet, and she talked to me while I looked for the receipt. As we adjourned back to the computer, I suddenly recalled the children, and had a horrible feeling something had gone wrong. I ran into the bathroom, and there the two year old boy was, lying peacefully still, under the water. The four year old was sitting in the bath too, but she hadn't come to get me, or moved. I knew as I saw him there, that he had gone.

And then I woke up with a lurch. It was four am. And I could not close my eyes again, as I saw every time his pale, white body, lying in the water, like poor Ophelia. Eventually I rose and went and read my modernist semi-Utopian novel, The Glass Bead Game, by Herman Hesse. And the second page in from where I was had the main character ask another if dreams mattered, if they meant something. And his answer was they always meant something, always should be marked and remembered.

And I'm never giving my children, or anyone's children, a bath again. Never mind that I have never left any child in the bath with a door closed, ever. But now I feel that death is courting me, my children, any child. I know I am not superstitious. When it is light outside, and I am not pondering upon mortality. But at other times, my non-rational inner mind is quite willing to knock on wood to satisfy the demands of superstition. I can quite convince myself if I turn around, there will be a ghost, watching me. Or other strange supernatural phenomena. And that any dream I have, of which there are many, and all of them are vivid (although not usually this morbid) could, perhaps, have larger portent than my fevered mind.

I hate it when Authors include long, extended dream sequences in their books, and I'm never sure if these are just supposed to reflect the state of the mind of the main character (who, it must be inferred, has a brain that makes no sense whatsoever in the subconscious), or if they are foreshadowing a future plot point, or whether the author sat down and by mistake recorded their own dreams as a method of breaking the writer's block, and just forgot to delete them later on. The idea that the insight into dreams will answer life's questions or provide insight into the future is laughable. Except when it's not. Like at four in the morning. It may have been a senseless nightmare, but it felt real to me. It is a stronger memory than many of my real actions yesterday were. A dream caused Dennis to date me in the first place. A dream was part of the (many) reasons I decided to marry Avram (just a little tidbit to keep you Saga people going). Another dream was the main impetus when I almost broke off our engagement. I am very susceptible to my nighttime musings, whether for good or ill. Lehi moved his family to the wilderness from a dream (although this one was unequivocally sent from God, and mine aren't.) Dreams can have meaning. And I always fear, what if mine have suddenly transcended to the state of sleeping visions?

I had a music teacher who had twins, and her oldest daughter was watching them one day when they were about nine or ten months old. She was giving them a bath, and left the room just for a moment, and came back, and one had drowned. I still remember my music teacher talking to my Mom about this experience (by this point the remaining twin was about six to eight years old), and saying how before the funeral, the mortician brought their son to her family, and they all took turns holding him. She said (she was LDS) that the Spirit was so strong, and she could feel his presence as she held him - not in his body of course. And it was a very peaceful moment.

I know that tragedies happen. And I know that we grow through the trials that we have before us, whether they come through sheer accident, or through our own choices, or by some grand design by God. Thus far in my adult life, all of my trials have been very...impersonal. First I spent years agonizing over who to marry. But ultimately it was only a problem because I knew I could marry any of my choices - that God did not care which one I picked, because I could be happy with all of them. So really, it was a very impersonal, minuscule (and yet heart wrenching) trial. And since marriage, the only real continuous trial has been money, has been being starving college students. An even more impersonal trial, that I know shall pass, and I even know when. Sure, marriage and children have been events in my life, and not easy ones at that, but I have not felt tried beyond any capacity I have had by them.

And I know that God does not work like this, but sometimes I worry that my life is too easy. Things go too well. I recently read a blog post by DeNae at My Real Life Was Backordered about what your life was imagined to be when you were 20, and what your life really has been about. Several of the commentators expressed dis-satisfaction with their life as it is, and even more expressed happiness where they were, while acknowledging that their life had not gone according to their youthful plans. Whether through lack of marriage, infertility, job losses, divorce, or even just being a stay at home Mom instead of having a glorious career, time and again women talked about the different-than-expected tracks their lives had taken.

Now, I am not so far removed from 20. But even back into my teenage years, my life has progressed very much the way that I have always planned. My mother, whose life has been one of those that has been hard, and now is happy, but not at all the way she ever foresaw it being, always has had a habit of telling me, when I would time and again express to her, while being a youth, of my broad and shining futures mapped out in my mind, she would say, "I hope that happens for you. I really do." And I read, whether it was there or not, an implicit belief that she, at least, did not think my future would go according to plan at all. Some things have changed, but only because I too grew and changed, and the changes have mostly been surface fluff, pleasant to dream about, but never the real substance of my desires.

I remember telling a high school teacher of mine that I wanted seven children. I have always wanted a large family. She was flabbergasted, but I remember even then, as a high school junior, being very set in my ways as to my future. Of course, along with this I wanted to be married in the temple to a nice, righteous young man with good career prospects ( I may not have put this last qualifier into so many words, but I always knew I did not want live my life as I grew up, in a tiny house with children bursting at the seams, with never enough money to cover the needs and wants.) I also, as was expected of me through high school, had career plans as well. I was get my doctorate in something relating to the Near East, and become a professor (all while balancing seven children. I knew somehow the two could come into conflict, but I never chose to think it all out).

When I went to BYU I told a friend of my roommates that I was not going to get married until I was 26, and had my Ph.d. (a doctorate in only four years, my I was going to be precocious...) He laughed at me, while I insisted that I was serious.

By the time I was twenty, and a sophomore, I had already realized that although I loved academia and learning, I did not desire to get a Ph.d. - I did not feel I had anything to say, anything to add to the corpus of learning. Plus to be perfectly honest, I only had an A- grade average, and so I knew I would not be very competitive in applying to grad school anyway. By that time I had fallen in love twice, and knew that finding someone to marry would not take until I was 26, but rather it would be a miracle if I managed to finish school without getting married. (I had 3 1/2 credits left to finish when I married Avram). But in the essentials my plans for life had not changed. I still wanted to be married, and have children. And be academic, somehow.

When I took the interview for the study abroad to Egypt my Junior year, and the Professor Dil asked me what I wanted to go into in the field, I gave my then standard "academic" answer of becoming a librarian at a University, working in the Near Eastern and Religion sections (this was my back up plan in case both Avram and Dennis fell through). He responded that good librarians who knew the languages were always needed, etc & etc. Then I finally burst out that what I really wanted to do was to marry someone who was interested in the same field I was, and then he could be the academic, and I could just journey along with him, and experience the cultures and languages and history of the Near East, and it be a part of my life.

Then I married Avram, and had two children, and he's getting the Ph.d. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures for us both, although I do feel very connected to it all, and get to be his number one editor for all his papers, and sometimes I even pretend to read Biblical Hebrew with him. And my life is exactly as I planned it. I never had to work at getting married, or getting pregnant, and even my pregnancies and labors and child raisings have gone according to plan (although I have had one miscarriage). Except I couldn't cut doing cloth diapers. But I hardly think the method of covering my children's bottoms as qualifying as a major life plan change.

So what if the fates have been saving it all up? Clearly I am in for...something. Unless maybe I was just wiser than most 20 year olds, and knew what I really wanted and needed. Right. It makes me nervous, because all I really want if for Avram to get his Ph.d. and then get a Job at BYU as either a Hebrew or Religion teacher, and then I want to move to Provo, to a home in the tree streets with dormer windows (good luck on that one), and live there, raising children and perhaps getting a master's degree in Anthropology, or become a department secretary, and through all of this I would like to be a foster mother, as well as a regular mother, until I die a ripe old age. And so far, all signs point to this as a good possibility. Sure, I cannot guarantee Avram will get a job at BYU. But in the religious field, at some point in his career, if Avram desires it, I am sure he could go to BYU, because in LDS religious scholarship it is a field mostly pursued through BYU.

And it just seems all too easy. Are there really people out there living the exact life they always wanted? Or am I wise enough (I like this option. It makes me sound smart) to want what I can have? Only in pretentious books do dreams come as portents of the future, but at four am this morning I sure could believe that my personal Utopia is threatened. I just pray that I am never tested by the death of a child. Or heaven forbid, the death of another's child under my care. I believe in the eternal plan. I know that mine is an eternal family - death is not the end of it all. Just as I know in this life the specifics are not as important as the kind of people we become, how we shape ourselves out of the details that make up our lives. And that trials will come. Just let it not be this way, with sudden tragedy.

Oh, dear. I went to link to DeNae's blog, and her most recent post is about...dreams. According to her, I should not even be wasting brain space thinking about it. Hmmm....

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I beat the Game this Round

Last Tuesday night the slight night wind blew some branches against our phone line. The line didn't fall down, but it did drop by several inches. And Wednesday our Internet (DSL) didn't work, which I noticed in the morning. All day long I reset wires, unplugged and replugged, and to no avail. I even offered desperate, bargaining prayers. But then Internet never worked. I did not, however, look outside my back window at my phone line. Nor did I ever try and use the phone. That afternoon, as I had stayed up late the night before reading a book (vampire fiction no less, by Robin McKinley. Yikes, I even liked it. [although it was very different from the rest of her books, and]), I managed to finagle a nap for myself. Lydia was playing on my bed, and fell asleep, Elisheva was asleep for her normal afternoon nap, and I crashed on the couch.

I even brought the phone over, in case a well meaning sister called me, so I wouldn't have to move from my spot of repose. But the phone never rang. I should have known the fates of the world would never let me get through a nap without the phone ringing without something being wrong with the phone.

It was not until after my nap, when I awoke with a massive hunger inside me for red meat, that I realized how cut off from the world I truly was. You must know something about me. I am always on the verge of anemia. Both pregnancies I have been anemic during, and with Elisheva it was bad enough that I often could not muster the energy to cook, or clean. Oh, sure, that's my excuse sometimes now, but back then, it was real. I would sit there, and think, 'I really should get up. And cook. Or do dishes. Or just get up, and stand there.' And my body would not respond. I think that part of anemia must include your brain synapses becoming detached from your nerve system. Even when I am not pregnant, I will often be anemic, although not nearly as bad. Every time I go to give blood, I have them check my iron level first thing, because about half the time I cannot muster enough iron to count as not anemic. Even when I pass, after having intentionally gorged on raisins (blecky), spinach and red meat for days beforehand, I still only measure right on the line - one degree lower, and I would, yet again, be anemic.

So I awoke from my nap, and went into the kitchen to find something to make for dinner. And nothing I had planned sounded appealing. I knew I needed to eat red meat for dinner. And all we had were some frozen steaks (gifts from Avram's parents). Not even Venison was red meat enough for me (we have lots of venison - also gifts from the same source.) So I thawed the three steaks. By this time, I was reeling around the kitchen, dreaming of nice, rare steak. But we had no potatoes, for a side. And steaks need potatoes. And the girls were still asleep. And Avram wouldn't arrive home until after six - way past any time the potatoes would need to be started.

I pulled out cookbooks, trying to think of alternative food. I sat around, and dreamed of steak. And then I looked up Golden Corral, the steak buffet, in the phonebook. By now my mind reduced to a little anemic lump, sending out only one message - "Need Iron now, need iron now." I did find three in the greater Columbus area, but I didn't know where they were, and I could not consult Google maps. And I wanted to make sure they served steak on weeknights. So I at last resorted to the phone. Where I discovered that, although I could hear the dial tone, it was covered with a loud layer of crackly static.

My pea sized brain had a moment of inspiration, and I knew why the Internet had not worked all day long. But this did not solve any problems. Turns out G.I. Joe was wrong - knowing isn't half the battle.

At six fifteen, the girls had barely woken up, Avram arrived home, to find all of us staring hopefully out the window at him, waiting for him to fix our troubles.

After diagnosing the phone problem with me (already the dial tone was mostly gone, and static reigned supreme), Avram, the good husband that he is, rounded up the girls, and we got in the car, on a search for the Golden Corral. We drove down the street we knew it was one (we just didn't know how far we'd have to drive). After twenty minutes, we hit a stopped train, and a policman redirecting traffic away, so we did a detour that eventually, after I had lost hope in the Universe, to the Golden Corral, which did in fact serve steak, and all was well.

Except our phone, which didn't get fixed until Friday night. Which means that I was very cut off from the world, and my family thought I hated them. I think the Forces that be were retaliating for my Game of Life post. It was too insidious.

I got them once and for all, though. Avram sent in a proposal for the 2010 Sperry Symposium, a scriptural conference that BYU does every October. For last year's schedule they only had profesors and CES, so I have been sadly sure that Avram would not be accepted. On Thursday, we got a letter from BYU - a physical letter, even, so it bypassed our lack of Internet, and Avram was preliminarily accepted! He needs to write the paper now, and send it by the beginning of October this year, and as long as the paper is fine, then he'll be a presenter at the Sperry Symposium, and his paper will possibly even be included in the book they publish from the Symposium. I'm so proud of Avram - this is the biggest LDS Scriptural Conference, and a very important one for him to present in from a Scholarly LDS perspective. And along with getting the Ph.d. degree itself, there are important other things that a potential Professor needs to do to be marketable. Among them are presenting at conferences. Another is being published. And another is teaching.

Then, yesterday Avram found out that he has funding for Fall of this year. He'll be teaching a class, the Bible as Literature. And his colleague got funding as well, as a research assistant. And Avram anticipates he will be able to teach the Mythology class, or something else, the rest of the year as well. We are so grateful. And my imaginary ulcer I was getting from all the worry can relax now.

So, I believe for this round at least, despite my slow beginning, I have beat the Universe and Mean & Nasty Fates.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where Ever I Roam

Today at Church a visiting member bore his testimony, and in it he talked about being able to go anywhere and have the Church to go to. He just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, where they just recently organized a branch and a district. Another brother talked about a similar theme, and how he had some neighbors who had been looking for a church to attend, but didn't know where one was that they believed in/agreed with.

I love how, where ever I have gone in the world, there has been the Gospel, and somewhere there has been a ward house, or at least members gathered together. Whether I've moved to various places, or whether I've just been visiting and passing through, we just look up where we'll be on, and it will tell us the closest Chapel to attend.

Last year we attended a ward in Lille, France. I do not speak any French at all, but that did not stop me from appreciating the ward. The Brother, originally from Africa, that sat next to me shared his hymnbook with me, and made a few comments throughout the meeting, that he would then laugh at. I would laugh too, although I had no idea what he had said, and we continued happily this way through all of Sacrament meeting. I still do not know if he ever realized I didn't speak French. I dropped Lydia off at Nursery, and could not even tell them anything but her name, but they smiled at me, and took her. I could not follow the lessons, but I could take the sacrament. I could show my devotion through attendance.

The first time we attended our Oxford ward, within five minutes of me arriving, a Sister Talputt had met me in the hallway, and taken down my name and address and relevant information, and was already working on finding my family a regular ride to Church for the nine months we were there (which she did find for us that very Sunday).

In Tennessee, where Avram's grandparents, who are not LDS members live, when we went to the local Branch they were meeting in a School's Lunchroom, while their building was being renovated. When we arrived - Avram's parents, three brothers and he and I (this was before the Girls), they were so excited, because they thought at first we were moving in. They were still happy to see us visiting, even if it didn't mean more permanent strength to the Branch.

I've been to church in Amman, Jordan, where the branch was so small, and all the women were wearing pants, and only one member was wearing a suit, and he was also the only returned missionary. A Senior Couple led the branch. And most of the investigators were more interested in learning English than in religion. And in Jordan, where proselyting is not allowed, the only method of finding investigators is teaching English. And yet, in all their manifold weakness, so weak that I just wanted to pack up and find an official wardhouse with hundreds of members, because I felt uncomfortable, as if I should do something to help them be strong, to help them learn the gospel, but I didn't know how. In all of this, the Primary gave a musical number, and the primary president (who probably also was her own first and second counselor and secretary as well) stood up, and herded the children to the front. She was still wearing a pantsuit, but it was a dressy one, and as she led the children in a song, accompanied by a CD, I realized that the Gospel light shining may be weak, and new, and unsure about many customs. But the Spirit was there, and these children, this Primary President, this suited Returned Missionary. They had the Spirit (and hey, the Romantic part of me thought, she's young and unmarried, he's young and unmarried, maybe they'll end up together, and help build the Church together....).

In Egypt there is only one branch, in Cairo. It is composed mainly of various foreign (mostly American) military personnel and their families, and also Sudanese. After one meeting there, we talked to some of the Sudanese women, in their native, large printed flowing cotton dresses, bright with patterns and color. They talked of how they had come from Sudan, from the war there, came as refugees to Egypt. And how they came to Church, and liked it here. Liked what they felt.

When I went to boarding school in Wisconsin as a teenager, my mother called ahead to the Branch President. He arranged for a ride to pick me up that first Sunday - a brother who was also called as my 'home teacher' (being an unusual family unit of one 17 year old, he mainly served me through regular rides to church). The branch, which met in a school while their building was being built, already knew who I was. They were excited to have me, and for the next two years, this branch became my family. They picked me up for Seminary, which time had to be delayed until they came to unlock the dorms every morning, so I could get out. They visited the plays I was in, and visited me in the hospital when I broke my wrist and had to spend the night. They picked me up from the airport, and dropped me off at the bus station. They took me into their homes, and fed me Sunday Dinners. And all for a teenager that did not always say thank you enough, and who has certainly not kept in touch since then, as she should. And yet I know they would do it again, in a heartbeat, for anyone else who came to the Boarding School.

When I had Elisheva in England, our ward helped us out immensely. Besides the basic, with Sister Dick watching Lydia for two days, taking me to the Hospital, ferrying Avram home in the midnight hour after Elisheva was born (since he was not allowed to spend the night in the hospital), and then taking us home for the hospital with a box of food to eat. Sister Hill (Sister Dick's mother), the compassionate service leader, arranged for food for a week. She also had Sisters call me every day, to make sure I was doing alright. Connie Rigby, my Visiting Teacher, and a sweet grandmother, visited me in the hospital, and knitted booties galore for Elisheva, plus knitted stuffed animals for Elisheva and Lydia both. A member of Avram's program, Or, from Israel, was among several who expressed amazement at our finding a church who helped us this much. A few asked us how we had found them. The answer to us seemed almost laughable - we just looked up the closest ward, and arrived at it. And they loved us, and took us in, even thought they knew we would only be there for less than a year. I told Or he could come to our ward too, if he really thought it was that amazing. But he aptly pointed out he would have to believe in our Religion.

I do love the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But as much so, I love the people. I love that on any given Sunday (or Friday, Jordan or Egypt, or Saturday in Israel), anywhere in the world, a group of Saints gather together, and any are welcome. And whether I understand the lessons or not, they are out of the same manual I use . And the Sacrament is always present. I may only be there for a day, I may be moving in, but I still feel the same amount of kindness, and well wishing. The people are different cultures, speak different languages, and wear different sorts of clothes. The local customs are different. They meet in everything from schools to rented apartments to member's homes to official Church buildings, with the universal floor plan, and carpeted walls. But we are all Latter-day Saints. And the Spirit can go anywhere.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Game of Life

We've just had a few of those days. The days that make you want to surrender to whatever force is opposing you, since it obviously is winning.

The same day we got $25 in bank fees, Elisheva knocked over a standing living room lamp that Avram and I bought with wedding money four years ago, and broke the victorian style glass shade - although the lamp still works, even if it is a bit glaring now.Notice the innocent lamp awaiting its doom in the corner, while Elisheva plots her evil plans in the foreground. My life has so much foreshadowing, if I only could read it.

Then on Friday Elisheva broke part of the base off from my Alabaster mortar and pestle that I bought in Egypt. Don't let the cuteness fool you. She has the full unleashed destructiveness of a toddler.

And Lydia, who has had access to 'craft' scissors for months, and has always been very responsible with them, and has only cut paper, Lydia planning the dastardly deed
got ahold of the kitchen shears, and gave herself a personal layered look, along with some bangs. As well as chopping up into dozens of pieces a favorite tie that emphasizes the waist that goes with a favorite sweater cardigan of mine.
She won't have darling hair-dos anymore, but she also won't have the common difficulty of hair in the eyes.I ended up chopping off all of Lydia's hair, to eliminate the odd layers. I almost cried. Lydia has had bangs cut twice, a year ago, but otherwise her hair has remained untouched. At first I didn't like the cut at all, and felt that I was seeing a stranger, but then today she looked cute in it - a little Fraulein Maria almost. Or perhaps a child of the depression.(She actually is happy in this picture. You just can't tell. Also, I do not know why a computer chip is her best friend.)

And several people at church commented on how cute she looked, and asked me where I got her hair cut. One sister even said she reminded her of how all the little French girls looked (she lived in France for a couple of years). And so I felt better, since I was worried the haircut looked bad, as cutting wiggly girl's hair is very different than cutting my own or Avram's hair. (Although Lydia was very good and stood still for the cutting, and did not seem to mind at all the disappearance of her hair.) (Which somehow this all reminds me of the time that my older sister Camilla, who was very young at the time, was found in the closet, cutting one of a swimming suit up into pieces, because she was trying to make a bikini out of it.)

Also I heard odd splashing, and went and investigated to see Lydia and Elisheva standing around the toilet while Lydia was ladling out dirty toilet water with a bath-time cup, and then pouring it back in streams. Yuck! I flushed the toilet, and it overflowed all over the bathroom floor, including onto the bath mat. Double Yuck.

My sister has asked me how I manage to read all the books that keep appearing on my sidebar. I tell her I just do it while parenting, and that they go together very well for me. Well, I may have been reading a book on Friday morning. And as we can see, apparently I don't parent and read at the same time. I just have wild hooligans instead.

Then Avram came home after a day spent writing a paper due on Monday (tomorrow), and as he started helping me rejuvenate from the disaster of the day, and rolled up his sleeves to do some dishes, it came out that the finished ten page paper he had emailed himself home was actually only the very first draft he had written, which was a page long. So we all piled into the car and raced down to campus to see if somehow the finished draft was still saved on the computer he had been using while on campus.

It wasn't.

Avram spent the next several hours trying to recreate his paper, while I herded the girls through dinner time and bedtime routine.

And then thankfully ended a Friday I never want to repeat. Forces that be: Six. Thora: Zero. What's your score?