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Archive for March, 2008

Belonging

In my church,The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, adult members receive assignments to visit one another. Women visit women and men are assigned in companionships to visit a couple families once a month. Every ward I have been in struggles with visiting and home teaching. Usually, I enjoy visiting teaching. The last year in Sweden, I was dismal at my calling. Between the challenges of getting around without a car, big responsibilities and various other things, I visited rather less than often. 

A couple of weeks ago, in my new ward, I was given two names to visit. I wasn’t assigned a companion which I thought was strange. My visiting teacher called me right away that evening and arranged to come and visit me on Friday evening. Friday rolled around and I was hardly well enough to get out of bed when I got a call from my v.t. reminding me that she was coming. As I hacked out my lung on the telephone, Rose said she would stay for only a short time.

Rose came to my home and gave me a short message, (short on the visiting and strong on the teaching) and left me feeling as if I had been given a dose of spiritual chicken noodle soup.

Yesterday as I bustled around my home, I came across a paper where I had written the appointment I had made with Brenda to visit her. Fortunately, I saw it in time to visit her that day. Visiting with Brenda was delightful. When we sat down at her kitchen table, Brenda grabbed her scriptures and her journal and sat, poised to write. I was suddenly humbled. I began sharing some quotes from the March Ensign. As we talked I learned that Brenda had joined the church 8 years,but had really only been active for the last 18 months. She has a hunger and thirst to understand and know the things of the gospel that made me marvel. And I also felt ashamed. Here I am, a woman who has had the gospel all her life and I don’t think I hunger and thirst after knowledge with that same intensity.

After leaving Brenda, I felt such a profound sense of gratitude for visiting teaching. Since we moved, I have felt like I wasn’t quite here nor there, but my visits with two strong women made me feel like I belong in this new place. And that feels pretty good.

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I’ve been sort of tagged. This was kind of fun, so I’ll play along.

The rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book (at least 123 pages).
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Find the 5th sentence.
4. Post the 5th sentence on your blog.
5. Tag 5 people (you know I always bend the rules when it comes to this part).

“I’m glad you didn’t make a song out of that.”

I grabbed the novel, Love, Again by Doris Lessing (She just won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2007). It wasn’t really an exciting sentence, but the there are some wonderful lines in the book!

 I’m not going to tag anyone. If you want play, comment so I can check out the line you found!

 Have fun.

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So it’s Women’s history month. . . I’ve read several different blog posts about noteworthy women. Fascinating to read. But the whole idea of Women’s History month makes me feel conflicted. On one hand, I totally get the idea of celebrating the legacy of women and the often unwritten legacy of women. I totally appreciate the sacrifices of women who fought to change the nursing standards (Florence Nightingale), women who fought for the vote (Susan B. Anthony), or articulate Mormon women who fearlessly contributed to women’s causes.  However, the idea that we have to celebrate women on a grand scale who contributed in a large way to politics or nursing or whatever kind of begs the question: what about the women who lived quiet, ordinary lives. The kind of woman that we only see a few lines written about on a gravestone. Perhaps we can’t measure their contributions, but I suspect that their influence was far greater than we can even imagine.

When I look at my personal history and think about the people who have shaped, influenced and molded me, I don’t think of the big names in politics, business, or technology, or even General Authorities. My list of women who impacted me will never get written up in Time magazine. But that doesn’t demean or belittle their contributions to my life.

There is my mother who grew up very poor. She had to work while a teenager to help her family. She learned how to make bread when she was young because her father liked how she made it. She made bread once a week to last the entire week. She was a good student and had a scholarship to college, but turned it down to move with her family. She married my father, a widower with three daughters, and built a life with him. I don’t remember my mother playing a lot with me when I was young, but I do remember the piano lessons she paid for so that I could have 12 years of lessons. She let me experiment in the kitchen as long as I cleaned up my messes. She has always been there supporting me in my endeavors.

My paternal grandmother was a working woman and worked at a court house when I was in elementary school. She was very intelligent and a hard worker. She had a witty sense of humor and was a real fighter.

My young women’s leader when I was a Laurel really shaped me. A month ago, I read the card she wrote to me when I graduated from high school. Her advice was spot on. I don’t know if I appreciated her then, but I sure do now.

My second grade teacher was wonderful. She had us write in a journal everyday in class. I treasure that battered notebook as I read my thoughts from my 8 year old self.

The women who became my friends at BYU. I am still in awe of their collective and individual intelligence. I always felt elevated when around them. Even today, as we juggle families across the globe, I appreciate the things they taught me as a freshman.

There are many more but I need to go. Perhaps another blog entry. . .

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It seems that we have moved to a place that is crawling with family history from my past. I can list several ancestors that actually were born in New York (close to the area in which I now live).

For example, on one side of my family is a Dutch family, I’m assuming merchants that were pretty wealthy. They immigrated to New Amsterdam when the Dutch held the area. When England took possession of New Amsterdam, they moved back to Holland.

I know of at least two ancestors who immigrated to New York from Ireland in the 1850’s.

Then there is the source of my maiden name, a family of Germans who immigrated to the American colonies because of promised land in the 1700’s. They played a particularly deadly and unhappy part in the Revolutionary War as loyalists.

And it continues. I am getting excited to start pulling the pieces together and find more about those people whose blood I share.

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Another whiny post

I am still sick. . . miserably so. Last night dh brough home Nyquil which I joyfully consumed with dreams of a good rest. I slept well, but woke up feeling like a train had run over me. Can anyone say achy joints and muscles? My baby has been feeling equally bad. We basically laid in the bed today, she played with my hair, rubbing it on her runny nose.

I did clean the house. 15 minutes of working and then I would lay down for 15 minutes. The only reason I am sitting typing this is that my decongestant has stopped working and I can’t take another one for an hour. If I lay down, it will make my stuffy nose worse. Good times.

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So last night my friend calls me and says, “I’ve been checking your blog everyday to see what you have to say about your new life in New York and you’re writing about My Antonia.” I kind of fumbled for words. Frankly, my life this past month has been consumed by the following things: sickness (as in everybody gets sick and we are all miserable), getting children enrolled into elementary school, getting bank accounts established, unpacking boxes, finding the library, browsing the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble, finding doctors, etc. In short, there’s not much to write home about.

But since she asked for a blog entry, here it is. . .

So we came down with this cold which has hit the two youngest kids particularly hard. They have had fevers, coughing and runny noses and goopy eyes. I have spent the last three days holding my baby constantly. She has slept on me. I have have slept for two nights with two small children draped over me. I did this on the lumpy couch bed so that dh could get some rest. Between the sneezing and coughing on me, the baby wiping her nose with my hair and general submersion in the germs, I have come down with the cold. Last night the kids actually slept in their own beds. I coughed all night. I’m tired. And after this post, I’m going to bed.

I did go to the grocery store last night though to get out of the house. And I browsed the cereal aisle. It was insane. In Sweden we had the following cereals: cornflakes, rice crispies, bran flakes, Special K, multi-grain Cheerios, a couple of granola cereals, oat puffs, and some muslis. Well, cereal in the U.S. is a big deal. The cereal aisle is 3 times the size of what was usual in Sweden. And guess what, my kids don’t like the cereal here, especially sugar cereal. funny huh!

 Okay, I had better crawl in that bed now. This was an absolutely ridiculous post.

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I had shied away from Willa Cather’s novels for a long time after a particularly painful movie experience. My sister had rented the film, O Pioneers, and we watched a superbly boring and tragic rendition of the classic novel. I remember thinking at the time, “when will she ever get to the point of this thing?” The movie didn’t resolve itself pleasantly and I walked away vowing never to read anything by Cather.

Fortunately, time has changed my feelings. I still don’t think I’ll watch the film again, but I can now say that I have read a novel by Willa Cather and was amazed, touched, and transfixed.

Cather handles language and description deftly. She doesn’t seem to want to describe things as they may appear, but rather describes to give you a sense of what things are. Just read this description:

“She lent herself to immemorial human attitudes whic we recognize by instinct as universal and true. I had not been mistaken. She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl; but she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one’s breath for a moment by a look or a gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things. She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last. All the strong things of her heart came out in her body, that had been so tireless in serving generous emotions.

It was no wonder that her sons stood tall and straight. She was a rich mine of life, like the founders of early races” (My Antonia, pg. 226-227).

 There is so much more I want to write, my thoughts are all crowded together, rushing out in incoherent wisps of excitement. More to come. I would love to hear comments or thoughts from others who have read this book. And if you haven’t read My Antonia, please take the time to read it. It is marvelous.

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