Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finding Common Ground

What is the most attractive thing about someone?  Is it the brilliant blue of their eyes?  or is it their strong, broad shoulders and rippling muscles?  or is it any number of things that society touts as hallmarks of beauty?

To me, these are merely distractions.  I believe the most compelling trait in someone is the common interest we share.  Do you care about enough similar subjects to hold effortless conversation with me?  That is when friendship becomes easy.  That is when you could talk for hours without running out of things to say.  That is when you don't want to be the first person to hang up the phone. That is what builds the pathway to love.

Years ago I met an incredibly handsome man.  And he was, indeed, a man; not a boy, not a young man; I found myself utterly attracted to the fact that he seemed very mature and assured and ready to tackle the world.  At first glance, it would seem we had nothing in common.  He grew up on a ball field, or a ball court, or a ball diamond.  Me?  Don't you throw a ball at me!  I will not be able to catch it and will invariably end up hurting myself or someone or something else. 
He was the life of the party, effortlessly making all around him feel comfortable and important.  Me?  I was shy and insecure and awkward.  I was more at ease in a library, surrounded by friends that leapt from the pages of books.

So what could we possibly have to talk about?  Well, we did like to ski.  And we did like to go to church.  And we did like to laugh.  And we did like chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

These were the beginnings of our common ground.  It didn't take long to discover that we shared the same goals of family; the same interest in great books and ideas.  I read the great books.  He had the great ideas.

And most importantly, we shared a love of our Savior, and a desire to follow Him.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ equipped us with the tools to learn patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and unconditional love. 

That was all the common ground we needed.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wait! Can I Try That Again?

How many of us get a "do over"?  How often do we imagine what we could have said, or what we could have done if we could relive an unsuccessful moment, trying to improve upon its outcome?  Perhaps that is why I am drawn to a certain silly movie.

Through all of Bill Murray's lovable outrageousness, there can be found at the heart of Groundhog Day a remarkable idea.  What if we could try and try again until we get the day right?  What if we could fine tune our actions and our words and our reactions?  What if we could tweak the little things we say, the nuances with which we say them, and the level of service we offer to our neighbors? 

Unlike Murray's character in the movie, Phil Connors, who deals with no consequences from the previous day's mistakes or triumphs, we must live with the fallout from our yesterdays.  Are we learning from them?  Are we taking the time to review what is working and what isn't?  A little self-analysis is invaluable if we allow ourselves to correct our course and try to improve.

My daughter, Miranda, finds herself in a unique situation of getting do-overs, again and again and again.  As a College Program Cast Member at Walt Disney World, her assignment for the next five months is to be a Skipper on the Jungle Cruise in the Magic Kingdom.  This is a unique opportunity to perform the same script, over and over, to new captive audiences every ten minutes.  She also has the freedom to make it her own by inserting her unique personality and her astute observations.

Imagine being able to gauge your performance by the audience's laughter.  Imagine being able to throw in new material to the tried and true jokes, to change it up a little, to banter with the hecklers.  I cannot imagine what I would do in such a situation, nor can I comprehend the courage it would take, nor the grace, nor the poise, nor the mental agility.

And yet.  It does come with the chance to have do-overs, always perfecting, always improvising, always experimenting.  Just like Groundhog Day.

And I suppose, as in the movie when Phil Connors finally gets it right, when Miranda does have the perfect day with the perfect audience, doing and saying everything just how she would like, perhaps then it will be time to move forward, to come home, and to try something new.

Good luck, Sweetheart!  We think you're amazing!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Summer of Cupcakes

They're everywhere, aren't they?  There are bakeries that specialize only in cupcakes.  There are TV shows devoted just to cupcakes.  For some reason, cupcakes have become the little darlings of the treat world.

I'm a fan.  To me, few things are as irresistable as a perfectly baked, perfectly iced little single serving cake.
I have been perfectly willing to get on the bandwagon and join the trend, and my family seems to have been willing as well.
While my granddaughter was staying with us, one afternoon was devoted to cupcake baking.  I'm not sure if my motivation was the delicious results, or the photo opportunities.  Either way, they were both very sweet.
What's the perfect thing to do while you're waiting?  Dance Party, of course!

Last week, while all of the family was at the beach, Jackie suggested we have a Cupcake War.  No throwing was involved; just seeking for bragging rights for having baked the best cupcake! 

I was overwhelmed with the creativity, the effort, the teamwork, and the mess!  But mostly I loved the beautiful, yummy results.  Thanks to all for the memorable birthday treats!
We had cupcakes that resembled cups of cocoa, and Titleist golf balls.

We had cupcakes that explored a variety of flavor profiles.

And we had some whose mastery and expertise simply couldn't be denied.  I am hereby declaring Jackie's delectable peanut butter and chocolate masterpiece as the winner.  Sorry, guys.  You know her's were the best!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Birthday Tears

They are supposed to be happy days.  Joyous days.  Full of fun and family and cake.

And mine usually are.

I also have had birthdays filled with bittersweet tears.  Like this year.

Somehow, it seems that monumental days for my children happen to fall on my birthday.  In 2005, it was the day that my only son entered the Missionary Training Center to begin his two-year mission for Jesus Christ.  It was a day filled with pride, and joy, and heart-wrenching sorrow.  Try as I might, I could not smile through the tears.
This year was a similar experience.  On my birthday, my youngest daughter flew to Florida, checked into the Disney College Program in Walt Disney World, where she will live and work for the next five months. It was a day filled with pride, excitement, and anticipation.

And it was another tearful good-bye.  Another attempt to be brave while having my heart torn out.
I think, overall, I did pretty well holding it together.  Well, except for that one time.

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to......

Monday, August 8, 2011

Trailing Clouds of Glory, Do We Come

Children are a miracle.  We think we have so much to teach them.  When the opportunity comes along to spend a little time in their company, the real miracle is in realizing what they have to teach us.

I learned this recently as my husband and I took care of our two-year-old granddaughter for ten days while her parents vacationed in Hawaii.  Never once did we think that we weren't getting the best end of that deal.  She was a joy to be with.  We began seeing the world through her eyes.  We began looking for moo-moo cows in the fields along the road.  We began to simplify, slow our pace, and practice making animal noises.

In other words, we rediscovered the joy of living.

I was reminded of the lovely poem by William Wordsworth as I looked at this priceless photo of my granddaughter sitting at the feet of the Christus statue in the Idaho Falls Temple Visitors Center.  As I look in her eyes, I realize that the Savior is someone she already knows, already respects, and very well may still remember.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

These words may be the most oft-quoted part of the poem, Ode, Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood, and they are powerful, but there is another passage that resonates with me just as strongly.

THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparell'd in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

How easily we lose sight of the wonder in simple things.  How hardened and pessimistic and distracted we become as we strive to eat our bread by the sweat of our brow.  Life isn't meant to be a cakewalk; we are here to work, and yet I can't believe that a loving Heavenly Father doesn't intend for us to look upon His creations with the freshness they deserve.  How quickly we lose the wonder, the joy, the gratitude.

Thank you, my sweet Evelyn, for teaching your grandma.  Thank you for the light in your eyes and your reverence for sacred things.  That wasn't taught to you by the inhabitants of mortality.  It was taught to you by angels.

Thank you for being our little angel.