Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chieko on Christ

Chieko Okazaki was a leader in the Relief Society, which is the women's organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She died in 2011. These are her words on Jesus Christ:

 "We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. Its our faith that he experienced everything - absolutely everything. Sometimes we dont think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we dont experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism. 

"Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, 'And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.' (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet, empty apartment, where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He's been there. He's been lower than all that. 

"He's not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people dont need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He's not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief." 
- Chieko Okazaki

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Montana love, January edition

So I did a little  Things I Will Miss post before I left California, and I did a Reasons I Love My New Home post after we'd been here a while. More surprising may be that I am still pretty happy here in the dead of winter.

I love ...

  • Sunshine on fresh snow
  • Clear air
  • Footprints
  • Gas fireplaces (all fireplaces actually)
  • Wool socks
  • BOGS
  • Starry sky
  • Rosy-cheeked, red-nosed little kids
  • Flannel sheets
  • Cautious drivers
  • Cozy crocheted hats
  • White Christmas
  • Sledding
  • Silvery-looking snowy pines on the mountainsides
  • Hot cocoa
  • Herbal tea
  • Bad-weather camaraderie and community spirit
  • 45 degrees and you feel like abandoning your jacket
  • The walk and driveway all shoveled 
  • The cry of one bird in winter silence
I will alert you now, there will be no post similar to this one in April or May when it is still snowing.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 in Review

Lucy answered these questions. I thought it would be a useful exercise for me. I'm not really sad to leave 2011 behind. But this helped me remember some good things and brought to light some things I can really learn from. So that's good.

1.  What did you do in 2011 that you've never done before? 
Was admitted to a hospital. Went to Legoland. 

Took the dog with us on a major vacation. Worked through some major woes in the marriage. Sent my youngest child to preschool and had a couple of hours off in the middle of each day. 

Went camping without my husband, with the kids - twice (crazy).

Mothered a middle-schooler. 

Bought a refrigerator. Planned a ward Christmas party.

2.  Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions and will you make more for next year? 
The only resolution I made was to do my best and let the rest go. I think I did all right, especially considering the stressors that came up this year. I feel significantly less stressed and worried than I did at the end of 2010.

3.  Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Lots of friends and acquaintances had new babies, but no one I would call super close - no sisters, in-laws or besties. For me this is a mercy. We'll just leave that there for now.

4.  Did anyone close to you die?  
No, but I probably went to more funerals than I ever have before, because of my calling in Relief Society. 

And I began to consider that some people I love very dearly may not be with us forever, after all. I tried to spend a little more time with them - not easy because of distance, but I did try. I hope when they go I will not look back with regret. And I hope it's not soon.

5.  What countries did you visit? 
Just my own. Montana, Utah, Idaho, Nevada and California were my entire range for the year. Why mess with the best?

6.  What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011? 
A decent cell phone. I keep putting this off, because the expense is daunting. But my three-year-old pay-as-you-go phone, whose service provider does not exist in Montana, is becoming a significant problem.

7.  What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory and why?   
August 21, 2011. My husband turned 40 and my oldest son was ordained a deacon.

8.  What was your biggest personal achievement of the year?  
Coming to the decision that I am no longer doing things because I am told to or because I am supposed to or expected to. I am only doing things that I feel in my heart are right, things that really uplift me and my family. 37 is kind of old to turn the lights on for this. Better late than never. And while it may not change the appearance of my life a lot, it changes my inner landscape completely.

9.  What was your biggest failure?  
Continued inconsistency with the things I know are most important - spiritual practice, kindness to others, physical fitness and dietary discipline.

10.  Did you suffer injury or illness?  
Kidney stone at the end of January; I had surgery to remove it. Quit colas in hopes of avoiding recurrence, and so far, so good. Massive cold and ear infection while in California in July. Ever had a grapefruit in your ear? Me neither, but I thought I did. G had a hernia repaired and was also quite sick while we were away. A had pneumonia.

11.  What was the best thing you bought?  
BOGS boots. Warm, waterproof and cute. I live in a cold place, and warm feet make all the difference.

12.  Whose behavior merited celebration?  

Mine and Dr. G's. Not that we were perfect. We disagreed and agonized and argued and misunderstood and talked and cried more this year than we ever have before. But what I will celebrate is that we are still here, together. We are stronger than we have ever been. We understand our vulnerabilities and our strengths better than before. If we can get through the poo-swamp that was 2011, we can do anything.

13.  Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?    
Too close to home. This mommy gig is no picnic. I am in no way ready for the teenage years.

14.  Where did most of your money go?  
The really most went to our mortgage. After that, probably medical and therapy expenses.

15.  What did you get really, really, really excited about?  
Going to California for a whole month to hang out with Sally and see old friends and go to the beach. 

It turns out it was maybe a little too long, and much, much more expensive than we planned, but still, we're glad we went.

16.  What song will always remind you of 2011?  
"Someone Like You," by Adele, for all the times I listened to it and bawled. Its peak of popularity came at an emotionally inconvenient time for me.

17.   Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? 
b) thinner or fatter? 
c) richer or poorer?  
a) It's never that simple. Wiser, more peaceful, more realistic. b) Despite my intentions, same. At least my clothes fit. c) Thanks to therapy and surgery, poorer. But not without prospects for improvement.

18.  What do you wish you'd done more of?  
Family fun days and time outside. Creative writing. Gardening.

19.  What do you wish you'd done less of?  

Facebook games. OCD list-making. Staying up too late. Making up crazy stuff in my head. Spending money on things that don't really help. Wishing for a life that I don't have.

20.  Did you fall in love in 2011?  

Maybe with wool socks. Or Pinterest. Not meaning to make light of the question, but really, I have been married for 18 years and have four children. I love all these crazies a lot already. If I fall any further I will be lost. 

Here is one I am really in love with. When my older two were his age I thought they were big and gangly and sort of  losing their little-kid cuteness. Not my K. He is always pinch-the-cheeks cute to me.

21.  What was your favorite TV program? 

Dr. Who. I also discovered a show where Elvis Costello interviews musicians and other celebrities about music, and it's pretty much brilliant.

22.  Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?  

Thankfully free from hate. There is a neighborhood bully who I kind of wish would move away or something, but he's left off bothering my children and I don't feel like I hate him. Poor kid.

23.  What was the best book you read?  

24.  What was your greatest musical discovery?  

I think I'm too old for discoveries. I like my tried and true favorites. Except, like everyone else in any English-speaking country, I became obsessed with Adele.

25.  What did you want and get?  

The refrigerator. The month in California. The quilt from my mother-in-law (fabulous!) 

A flat-screen TV (wonderful surprise from my parents). Steady writing and editing work. Some nifty vintage stuff for my living room, especially the fabulous turquoise-and-gold lamp with the inverted drum shade. Totally '50s and in pristine condition. Thanks, Dr. G!

26.  What did you want and not get? 

Perfect health. I know, it's a lot to ask, and I should be grateful for what we have. But I'm a little weary of all our minor complaints. And now that I have said that I feel like a jerk. While I am at it, I also want my kitchen remodeled. Magically, and for free.

27.  What was your favorite film of this year?   

Hm. Crazy Stupid Love was a really fun girls' night out. Harry Potter 7.2 was pretty satisfying. But The Muppets takes the cake. (Also, I don't really feel like I see films. I just go to the movies like most other Americans.)

28.  What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?  

Cared for a kid with pneumonia while my husband traveled out of town. I turned 37. It was pretty much a  stinker of a birthday. But G made it up to me when he came home with an amazing dinner out at the place that has become my absolute favorite restaurant in town, the Uptown Cafe. I had scallops. Love me some scallops.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 

I'm thinking maybe a punching bag. 

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept for 2011? 

Trying a Little Harder Than I Sometimes Have in the Past. Often With Scarves and Boots.

31. What kept you sane? 

Kept? Sane? Two faulty presumptions there already. Really, probably the support of a few key friends. Also, chocolate, and alternating doses of Vitamin Water and SoBe Lifewater (the kinds with caffeine in them, because I had to quit colas, as I mentioned above). And the occasional triumphant feeling of posting something really clever on Facebook.