Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Mother Was Right

...yet again.

When I was a kid, my mom kept things like permanent markers and scotch tape, not exactly under lock and key, but we had to ask permission to use them. And I sure thought she was mean. Really, what the heck kinda damage did she think we were gonna do with some clear tape? Not like it's the priciest stuff in the world either. It's not expensive now and it wasn't then. What gives Ma?

Enter my own motherhood. From the outset I was gonna be the cool mom. I bought the good tape dispenser and decided to leave it on the cabinet top next to the pencil sharpener I mounted where the kids could use it. Right next to the stapler, the paper and the crayons. My kids will have access to all these items and learn to use them responsibly. I am not insane... the glue, glitter and paints are hidden in my private stash or up high, but the tape? Puh-leeeze. It's tape.

I never counted on how badly my kids desire to rearrange my world to their own liking. How much they would need to personalise and shift. I never counted on exactly where and how they would make use of tape.

Scotch tape.

Yards long swaths connecting their beds to the dresser, criss-crossing to form spider webs. Clothing taped together to make new fashion. Hangers with the corners taped up solid till they looked like the web feet of ducks. Inch long bits that never made it anywhere (I guess) other than to form an irregular skin upon the tile flooring, the table top, down the legs of chairs.

I expect to awake any morning to find my eyelids taped shut, my arms taped to the bedsheets like some 3M solution to my Gulliver.

It's like web worms in a tree, and my house is the tree. Every extremity and light fixture seems to acquire a scum of scotch tape, every toy is ready for the tape party with teensy little crayoned triangle hats taped on their heads. Anything not tied down is fair game. A Pokemon card taped to the walls in the hallway. The plastic ring that you remove from a new gallon jug of milk, scrounged from the trash and taped just in the entryway to greet our guests. Darling, did you find a wee little key to an impossibly teensy padlock? Tape it to the doorframe. Of course.

All this done while the tape dispenser is not allowed to leave the kitchen where it belongs. There is much scurrying and scuttling about with every new project as they run back and forth to the kitchen for a fresh length to shore up a beavers damn of sleeping bags and Littlest Petshop figurines.

I no longer cut or file my nails, my near constant habit of picking off stray bits of scotchtape off of any surface that is not wet, keeps them manageable.

Yesterday Lilac took a hanky and taped it up to make herself a "Trick or Treat" bag and tried to get me to raid Dadguy's stash of treats that he uses to bribe the Elders in his Quorum. Today as she walked into the house from the van she grabbed an empty ice cream bucket with lid off of the junk pile, and with a plastic spoon she found in the van, created a "Bird Feeder" using copious amounts of.... tape. She taped the lid upside down onto the bottom of the bucket, she used the spoon as wobbly perch with a knob of scotch tape joining it to the rim of the bucket..

She next wanted to go to the store for some bird seed.

If scotch tape was more aggressive I guess I'd end it here and now, but since the main casualty to the encroaching scum of tape is my sanity, as some new and incomprehensible place gains a filmy layer for whoknowsWHAT purpose, I guess I will let the madness continue. It's just sanity. Not like I'm gonna have anything to my soul or reason left at the end of this child-rearing, tape or no tape. I know that in the end they will take me away in a scotch tape straight jacket. It will look like a chrysalis, and when the time comes I will leave my filmy cocoon as a Granny and I will gift all my grandchildren with their own private tape dispensers and many, many rolls of refill.

But there is no doubt in my mind, my Mother was right to limit our tape access.

Monday, March 15, 2010

6. Be Still

....and know that God is there and listening.

Be still and slow down and have a little faith that your Father in Heaven loves you, wants you to be happy. Wants you to know joy, same as He wants that for the rest of His children. Believe that He is there with blessings innumerable, just for you, if you would but knock.

Be still and listen for the Comforter, pay attention to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit who will lead you to those who have need... of something. Something that you can provide or be. Often when it comes to friendship, so much of what is of value are the things that you do for someone else. So often it is the service you provide another that feeds your heart and stoppers up that hole where the wind blows through your middle.

...And so ends this wee series on being a friend and a neighbor.
Good Luck!


I just want to record this for posterity, for my records... for THE flippin' record in general. I went to the ENT today to see if he thought that I should get my tonsils out.

He didn't.

Turns out that I am one round of tonsillitis/strep shy of the recommended amount to get the old tonsies yanked. So. Yay, I guess. I've heard that getting your tonsils out as an adult it a miserable process. He said if I get either illness in the next three to four months, just to call his office and schedule a tonsil-yanktomy. Medical terminology.

Otherwise we'll just count this past year as the year of bad luck. Y'all. That was a year of buckets of bad luck health-wise. Let's do the math, shall we?

In preparation for this appt, they wanted me to get my doctors records from the year prior... and this is what they said:

Strep throat- three times, and the way I get it, with the ulcers and all, I am one sick puppy for minimum two weeks each time.

Sinus infections- three times. By the time I go to the doctor's office I have been sick a minimum of ten days (they won't even deal with you till then) Then I go on antibiotics and by the time I am up and running again, it's an easy three weeks per episode.

Tonsilitis- same deal, only I didn't wait the full ten days.... so two weeks.

Mastitis- one week

Pneumonia- six weeks (and that's being nice about it)

I also had at least two colds that didn't turn into sinusitis hell- they are a week of feeling crappy each.

Out of the past 52 weeks... I have felt like crap for at least 26 of them. That's half.

I am not sure what to do about this information.

But it does sort of explain the frustration with a generous side order of self-pity that I feel. On the flip side I finally got pissed off enough to find a new doctor. Hope this guy works out a little better. Hope I won't have to look at him again for a looooong time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

5. Be Civil

Whuf! This series has been a little tougher than I thought it would be. Mostly just because I had that round of so-called Strep, that turned out to be that stupid flesh eating virus that gives me ulcers in my throat. Again. Being sick just eats the color out of my life.

There is also a notable, unbloggable elephant sitting on my keyboard. Stupid elephant has managed to hurt my feel-bads on seven different levels of strange Chinese hells... like the Hell Of Childhood Hurts, the Hell Of An Ungrateful Heart, the Hell of Things That I Don't And Cannot Understand But That's How It Is Anyway, The Hell Of There Goes The Last Of Your Discretionary time, and the Hell Of What The Hell Is My Problem?

Like when you need to just get over a jerk-wad ex-boyfriend, you know you need to let him go, you know you shouldn't care about some dill-weed that treats you bad, and you are going to stay away from whassisdork and all that.... but it still hurts and it's going to just keep hurting till it doesn't anymore. I am waiting for it to stop hurting, only there is no jerk, there is just me and my brains and my traitorous heart.

Not trying to be cryptic, but I do want to acknowledge that I am an angry, hurty person right now, even if I cannot tell you why.

So... Be Civil.

Look, I am more that aware that I am not everyones cup-o-tea. More than one person has taken it upon themselves to point out how Lame I am... and other things besides. I'll tell you a secret, not everyone I meet is my bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper either. Some people just rub me wrong by breathing air near me.

Some people go out of their way to make me miserable. But do I have to let them dictate my
behaviour? Heck no. When I react to some random person's nastiness with nasty in kind, I am giving them some of my space and some of my energy. Plus I am helping to grow the problem. Nourishing it. Closing down any useful dialog between us.

Civility is a choice, it is always a choice. It is not capitulation, it is not surrender and it is not validation of anything wrong done to you... it is simply Civility. An attitude, a pro-active choice rather than any kind of reaction. Since it is pro-active, it stands on it's own and has the amazing ability to be a beginning. A do-over. An opportunity to alter what ever negative thing is happening, or keep peaceful whatever disagreement that stands between two people. It is the anti-escalator, and when we adhere to Civility we can find whatever middle ground exists between those that disagree, small though it may be.

Civility means you put on your Big Girl Panties and Use Your Words. Sometimes it means doing things you would rather not, and often it means to have a care with how you say what you think you mean. Sometimes it requires you to listen twice, sometimes it means you just walk away.

It's all the stuff yer mama taught ya.
And I'll tell ya, little one year old boys don't know civility from a poopy doobah, so this is all ya get today!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

4. Be Quiet

Seriously, for the love of Pete wouldja just shut-up for a minute or two already?

Do you have any idea what you have just missed, what has sailed right on past you because you were so busy yapping or thinking about what you were going to say or being reminded about something that you could add...

...or even worse, has something awful, or private, or simply unnecessary about another person just slipped from your lips?

What critical thoughts, ungenerous even if true, are you putting words on and letting out into the open, about a friend no less?

Your mouth and your words cannot be too guarded when it comes to friendship. Trust me, I am perfectly aware of the concept "you are as sick as your secrets" and I agree that if you are having difficulties in a relationship that it really ought to be talked out, and some things really do need to be said. In the right forum. Carefully. And I bet you know what I am talking about when I say that most of this stuff is NOT discussed in the right forum. So shut that mouth. Quick!

Now, most all of y'all know me, I have lived a full life and have interesting stories to tell... and I like to tell them. But last year I had something interesting happen to me, a sort of epiphany I s'pose. I was at a family gathering for Dadguy's side and one of his cousins is a cop. A county deputy type I think, and let me tell you, this woman has paid and paid to be where she is. There is a pretty serious Good Ole Boy network in law enforcement in the county where she lives and works, and that network kept her working jail detail for years longer than her male peers. She has to be tougher and harder and smarter than everyone else to be where she is. And like any cop she has stories to tell, stories that normal people listen to with their mouths wide open. Only I was in there "swapping" stories with her, from my junkie days, but it was on the way home from that family picnic that i realized what had really just happened.

I had blown it.

Here was this amazing opportunity to shut my mouth and listen to stories, the likes of which can be told by so very few mouths on this planet. Stories from someone who doesn't tell them often. I was so happy to get in there and yapyapyap, that I used up valuable time that could have been spent quietly. What tales did I miss in my zeal to Share My Great Stories?

I am still kicking myself. To be frank, when I look back on it I still just shake my head at myself and say "Sheesh, what an shmoe I am!" But at least I am a shmoe with a lesson that I (hopefully) won't need to re-learn too many more times. Learn from my shmoe-dom.

Sure, not everyone has amazing County Sherriff Deputy Type stories to tell, but they do have words and stories that only they can give voice to. If you let them. If there is enough space that is not filled up with this need you have to fill every nook of silence with your own self-ity-self.

Shhhhhhhhh. Be quiet.

3. Be Aware

Huh, well how bout that? This may have been the "Be" that got a little glossed over in the presentation. I seem to have very little written down here for number three, and I think a goodly chunk got used for number one. Plus the more that I look at it, another goodly chunk really ought to get shifted over into number four.

(shiftshiftshift) Here's what's left.

Number three is mostly about being a good neighbor, but it can easily translate into being a good friend, since what the heck kind of friend are you if you are not even aware of what is going on for your friend. I am referring to who are they? What is important to them? Are they OK? Do they have any needs that are going unmet?

I am not exactly talking about being snoopy, especially at the neighborhood level.... but I am not exactly ruling it out either. I know, I know... it's none of your business what is going on across the street and down one. Not exactly anyway. Except for on a human level, it sort of is your business.

Do you breathe? Do you have a heart in working condition? Then you are a line of defense in your neighborhood against starvation, bullying, crime and abuse, and to a certain extent you really are responsible for what is going on next door inasmuch as you turn a blind eye or just cannot be bothered.

Heavy, but it's about being a real person.

So how do you be a decent human being and not turn a blind eye? Guess what, bad news.... you gotta reach out and make the acquaintance, perhaps even make friends with your neighbors before you can be of use to them, and that can be both difficult and problematic. Not everyone wants to be pals, and that's Ok... but you can pay attention to some details. Like if someone's dog gets out, you can let them know you just saw Fido trotting down the street. Like if all of a sudden the older lady who lives next door doesn't seem to be getting visits from her daughter every Tuesday anymore. Is everything OK? Is her daughter OK? Does she need help with anything that her daughter may not be helping her with anymore?

Don't have time to pay attention? Be honest, all it takes is a small bit of your awareness and a willingness to take steps if you see a problem.

That's all I'm a gonna write on this topic, even though I see now that I am giving a pretty broad topic just a little bit of attention. Just think about this for a minute on your own. Who is in your neighborhood? What is your relationship to them? If they got cancer, would you be a person they could rely on for a bit of basic assistance? If not, why not? Is there something that you could realistically change to be of use to another in case of need?

Do you believe that you have a responsibility here? If not, tell me why... maybe I have it wrong.

I just suspect that you kind of agree with me.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

2. Be Open

This particular "Be" could mean "Open Your Heart." It could easily mean you should open your eyes and open your arms to accept others.

But it doesn't.

When I say "Be Open," I am talking about the doors to your house... and in some cases I mean this literally.

I should explain here, while I think that I am a pretty good mama and a nice person, I am a mediocre to middlin' housekeeper. Oh, I mean well enough... but there are always art projects and the park calling to me, to say nothing of good books and then there is that new little Netflix
Online thing-gummy. Like most anyone I know, I love to have a clean home... but apparently I don't love it enough to actually do what it takes to have one most of the time. Really, just the whole "food" and "cooking dinner" shtick, along with dishes and clean up of meals sucks down so very much of my soul, there is little left to give a hang about cleaning the Koolaid drips off the baseboards in the kitchen.

That is... until I think about inviting someone else over and allowing them to see the reality of how we live around here. How on earth do I let someone see my messy life? How do I get over the shame of being who I am, a diffident maid and lackadaisical spot-shiner, a silly heart and a dreamer?

At first my answer was to clean the heck out of everything and then invite folks over, and that worked nicely with the bonus of fooling everyone into thinking I had and could do "it all." But I kept having kids. With every addition to the family, the chinks in my facade started to become more apparent, but need for friends grew. What to do?

In the end I got forced into opening my door, even when I wasn't proud of what others were seeing. I opened my door and had lunches and got really grateful for the new tile in the kitchen that hides the heck out of the fact that I haven't mopped in two and a half weeks! I opened my door and realised that this open door policy is kind of a metaphor. Because I had to let people see my messy life as well as my messy house. I got pretty darn real about the fact that while I have some talents and gifts, baby... I don't have it all, and I certainly don't have it all together. And that is just fine.

Turns out I didn't really have anyone fooled anyway.

I am starting to think that I might want to re-title this series of posts into "Something About Bees and Stuff I Learned On My Mission," because here I need to share another fine tidbit I learned while while serving. In order to teach the Gospel effectively, it really helps if the people you are teaching know that you love them. As a Missionary that's the easy part. The love that you have for the people you serve just seems to bubble out of your pores and wake you up at night with the desire to hit your knees and pray for your investigators and the members of the church in the area where you serve, just one more time. But even more profound is what can be taught by the Spirit when the student loves the teacher, but it's a little more problematic to get someone else to love you back. I had an amazing Trainer though, and she taught me a secret, and I am going to share it with you.

The secret to getting others to love you: let them serve you.

You think I jest? Not hardly, y'all. I am absolutely serious. Think about it... do you have a speciality in the kitchen? Something that you make well, and you think tastes darn good? Picture yourself offering a random individual a bit of your... we'll call it Brownie Supreme, and they don't want to put you out and politely refuse your treat out of some misguided sense of manners.

Huh. How do you feel about them?

Now offer it again. Random person takes a bite of Brownie Supreme, and WOW! Sonuvagun! You are right, that is some kind of brownie you have going there! Random individual enjoys every bite and thanks you and now how do you feel about them?

Sure I have simplified the principle, and you never want to overdo the getting served by others. A little goes a long way and all that. What I am trying to say is that it is not only OK to be vulnerable and allow others to help you, in some ways it is absolutely necessary to friendship.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

1. Be There

Oh good, you're here! I am glad you are on time, because I wanted to make sure you got the heads-up on this post... it's a little heavy on the pithy cliches. Such is life, can't be helped, lah-tee-diddly-dah.

The first thing about developing loving friendships is you have to decide that they are valuable. More specifically, that quality relationships with other humans have value to you. I am hoping that my last post established a few reasons why this is so for you, but even if you are not all the way "There" with the "Why I Should Make Friends With Women" thingummy, or even "Why I Need Friends," this really is one of those things that you can take on a fake-it-till-ya-make-it trial basis.

You don't know the fake-it-till-ya-make-it? It means you just suit-up, show-up, shut-up and do what you are told. The proof is in the pudding. You will gain the testimony in the doing. Really. Really-really.

One of the first things about Being There, is being who you are and where you are in the time of your life. Face it, the kinds of friendships that a seventeen year old, senior year in High School you could manage are not the kinds of friendships you will be able to manage as a part-time-work-at home-mother-of-two. Heck, the kinds of friendships you desire will simply be different and the things you have to offer as a friend have changed. But you still need friends, and in some ways you need them more as you get older. Not necessarily more in terms of time, just more in terms of surviving the life experiences coming your way with grace and joy. Or maybe just surviving them. Period. So look at your life, and while being realistic please do carve out some time and energy to developing these sweet relationships.

Be There. Be where you are in space, now look around you with your minds eye. Who are the women who inhabit, or are in some way physically close to your sphere of life. Do you go to the gym, church, work, shop for groceries, take the kid to the park? Who else is there doing the same things? Who lives down the street or the next floor up? Maybe you come up with faces and no names, or names from a PTA roster, but no faces to go with. Perhaps you live out in the sticks, miles from any one else.... even still, open those peepers and look! I am talking about women here... not just women who dress like you, or seem to be about in the same place you are in your life. I am talking about old women, young women, poor women, wealthy women, jocks, fashionistas, artsy farsties. Women. Quit being so incapacitatingly picky! I am not saying you shouldn't be picky about your friends, I am just saying open up those doors to possibility, especially at this part of the process.

There are so many ways of being friends, and so many way we nourish and sustain each other.

When you have the good fortune to interact with these friendship possibilities, or with established friends alike you need to as much as possible, BE There. If it's at all feasible, turn off your phone or screen you calls if you must when visiting. Be there, by letting the kids take turns giving each other pushes on the swing while you take the time to catch up with a friend. Be there by giving some thought every now and then to think of a nice thing you could do for or with a friend. Don't be planning your dinner menu in your head while your friend is talking, be THERE.

Last of all, when I was serving an LDS mission, I had a mission president who explained that there were two main types of people in the world. There were the kinds who, in essence will walk into a room and say "Here I am " in any and all of the ways that short sentence can be said.

HERE I am!
Here I am!
Here I AM!

and then there are those who walk into a room and say, in all of it's various ways of being said:

THERE you are!
There YOU are!
There you ARE!

Guess which kind the Saviour was?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Love Yer Neighbor

Six B's of Friendship

There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon that talks about the agency of humans, specifically as it relates to the fall of Adam, it says the following...

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
2 Nephi 2:22

Women too. Obviously. And yes, we are here to learn to have joy. This scripture isn't talking about being "happy" all the time, not pleasure and not giddiness. When it talks about joy, to my understanding, it is referring to a state of being that a human has to choose. Joy is a state that a person has to foster in themselves and is partly dependent on other choices that they make; because while you can choose what you will, good or ill, you do not get to choose the consequences, and some consequences are harder to live with than others. Some consequences make choosing and experiencing joy harder to do. Harder, but it can be done. And that's a darn good thing, because sometimes we make choices that have consequences that spill onto others, and make it harder for others to have joy.

Why the theological yap-yap-yap? Because I believe that our human relationships are absolutely vital to our progression and our becoming more like our Father. I also believe that when a person is embroiled in a feud with the next door neighbor over where they park their camper, or saying unkind things about a sister, that they are stunting themselves. There is no joy in contention or fear. It's my oh-so-esteemed opinion that since we are all here in this mortal realm for such a short time trying to learn the pro-active art of "having joy" in the midst of heartbreak, hunger, tragedy and sorrow, it would behooves us to foster friendship and kind feelings wherever we can.

Yeah, I know, I kinda suck at it too. But remember, we are practicing progress, not perfection.

Baby, ya need some friends. A little back-up, ya know? But being social and friendly doesn't actually come naturally to everyone, and even for those blessed with the friendshippy gene... it can be easy to let this stuff slip as we become adults and the weight of responsibilities start sitting on our shoulders, and maybe we rely more heavily on our spouse and kids for human interaction and less and less with other women. And hey! I am Mormon, biiig on families right? Big on BIG families and all that, so the more family time the better!?

I think this is a big mistake.

I don't have any scripture or scientific studies to make my point here, but I do have an interesting personal experience to share. Years ago when I was serving a mission in New England, the then Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley held a special meeting at a church house that stood on the Joseph Smith Memorial in Sharon Vermont. The meeting was for full time LDS missionaries only, and I prepared carefully for this meeting curious as to what it would be like to be in the presence of a living Prophet. As the day came and the meeting progressed, I was surprised, but then sort of not surprised, that I was feeling the warm feelings of the Holy Ghost in exactly the same way that I experience them during a good Relief Society lesson. I hadn't really thought about it before that moment, but there is a certain peaceful nourishment that comes to me especially clearly in the presence of other women and living Prophets. You can make of that what you will, but I have chosen to make friends with women.

Over the next few posts I will be outlining six points, and as a nod to the late President Hinckley and his Six B's, I have made them into B's as well. The whole exercise is to get you thinking about the friendships and relationships in your own life. Hopefully as you go down this short journey with me in to honeybee-land, you will look at those around you who could be friends and maybe are not yet. Also, I am looking forward to a little discussion along the way, and I will not die if you need to correct me.

Six B's
1. Be There
2. Be Open
3. Be Aware
4. Be Quiet
5. Be Civil
6. Be Still

Monday, March 01, 2010

Freaking Wretched

Eeep! Retreat! Retreat!

I really do have a series of posts, and the second is even more than half written, but wouldn'tcha know, Friday night I came down with...

drumroll please....

Strep Freaking Wretched Throat.

I feel tonite as though I stand half a chance of recovery, but the rest of my reality? Bruuu-ther! And please, this is NOT to disparage Dadguy's heroic work to keep the household afloat. But the man was pretty darn sick himself, with a mean cold, taking care of kids with mean colds... and all with no milk, bread, low on diapers and other vital necessities.

Only, afloat don't mean running like a well oiled machine, either.

I am thinking it may be a day or two till ya see installment numero two-o. But it's a comin'! And on a happy side of things, HEY! The antibiotics are working this time! Wheeeeeee!