Friday, April 29, 2011

Stargirl: Thanks for the Reminder!

I think I had forgotten.  I think I had let it go too long.  Had I become afraid?  Had I become lazy, or busy, or trying to be selfless, or what?  I don't know.  Yesterday I wrote a blog about neglected old friends, referring to my old hobby of scrapbooking, and the renewal of my acquaintance with layouts that had been so much apart of my life.  Now I am meeting another old friend; why have I pushed aside my love affair with fiction?

I have spent my life reading.  It is what I do.  There is no greater source for learning and expanding one's mind.  But for some reason, I have neglected reading for reading's sake.  I have neglected fiction.  I have immersed myself in the scriptures.  I have immersed myself in non-fiction and don't regret a minute of it.  But that needn't be all there is.  How had I forgotten?

I am finally remembering the joy that comes from being so deeply within a story that one temporarily leaves behind reality.  At the recommendation of my sweet daughter, I have picked up a book, not to learn (and yet I have); not to explore (and yet I have); not to educate (and yet I have).  I have gotten back in touch with the dream world of living life through another's eyes, through another's footsteps, through another's thoughts.

I have come to know another person, who isn't even real, and yet who I wish so desperately that she was.  Maybe I wish she was real, because I, in some way, wish that I were more like her.  I want to not be encumbered with worry, and insecurity.  I want to live my life freely without keeping in check every personal expression, fearing that others may not understand or approve.  I want to befriend the friendless.  I want to do expressions of kindness just for the sake of brightening someone's day.  And if I want to wear a long dress, strum a ukelele, and sing as if nobody were listening, then maybe, just maybe, I will.

I just finished the sequel to Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl.  It is entitled Love, Stargirl.  It is quite different from the first one.  Among the many memorable parts, the following was the most important for me, the one that woke me up, the one that slapped me upside the head:

     "Where are you going?" he said.
     "Porch.  Check the snow."
     The way he said it, I stopped.  I sat back down.
     He looked at me across the table.  "Silly worries don't become you."

Fiction will never replace the scriptures.  That's okay.  I have the scriptures, too.  But I don't know of anything that can replace the suspending of disbelief, which enables one to enter into a world of the storyteller's creation; which enables one to see inside someone else thoughts and to walk in someone else's shoes.

Hello again, my old friend.  I have missed you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Consider the Lilies

My desk is covered with books.  It is stacked with notebooks and pens and paper clips and tools, and the shelves that surround me are filled with more books, and scrapbooks, and notebooks, and craft supplies, and photographs.  This is my little bit of heaven on earth.  This is my happy place.  The exciting thing for me is to discover what will reach out and grab my attention on any particular day.

Today brought one of the biggest surprises I have had in awhile.  I don't always know or remember how some things end up within arm's reach of my desk(s) (for you see I actually have two desks and two chairs which make it perfect for guests to stop by and visit me in my happy place; I especially love when my children, or my husband, peek in and pull up a chair). A beautiful purple book begged my notice.  I remember buying this book because one of the authors was a Seminary teacher of mine from years ago.  The book is entitled The New Testament for Today:  Biblical Stories with Modern Parallels  By W. Jeffrey Marsh and Ron. R. Munns, but I hadn't found the time to read it until now.

I immediately became engaged, enjoying the format of a passage of scripture from the New Testament which was then followed by commentary or a story from latter-day disciples.
On page twenty-five, one of my favorite passages was shared from Matthew 6:24-33, wherein Christ admonishes his followers to put their trust in God, to "take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink...And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field,how they grow...even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these....for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

Following these verses was a true story, entitled "Your Children Shall Never Beg for Bread."  This story has since been made into a film, entitled Treasure in Heaven, and I found a trailer for it on youtube.  After you watch the trailer, I will tell you why this story found me sitting in tears, all alone in my little room, my heart overflowing with gratitude.
From the book I read today:  "It is estimated that at various times John gave or loaned over fifty thousand dollars to Joseph Smith and the Church.  Later, as John forgave the remaining debts incurred while in Kirtland, Ohio, "the Prophet Joseph laid his right hand heavily on Elder Tanner's shoulder, saying, 'God bless you, Father Tanner; your children shall never beg bread'.

"John Tanner sacrificed everything he had for the gospel, and the promise given to him by the Prophet Joseph Smith has been literally fulfilled."

I am a direct descendant of this John Tanner.  Not too many generations pass without linking him to my Grandmother Frances Carter Yost, then my mother Caroline, and then me.  Also interesting to note, the missionaries that blessed John to be healed and then baptized him, are also ancesters from my mother's line, Simeon and Jared Carter, brothers to my Great Grandfather Gideon Carter. 

Sitting in my own little sanctuary, I was faced with the reality of my great heritage, while reading this lovely story in a seemingly random book.  In doing so, I felt the direct love of my Heavenly Father.  Because of the great sacrifices of those that have gone before me, I am reaping the great blessings of an inconquerable legacy.  My humble needs have always been met.  I have always had a roof over my head.  I have always had food in my cupboard.  I have always found a way to clothe my children, even if it meant sewing play clothes from scraps from the sewing factory.

"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin...Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"

My prayer is that we will always remember from whom our greatest blessings flow; that if we make our lives as holy offerings to God, He will pour out blessings from the windows of heaven, "that there shall not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:10)

Mud Frogs: Beginning to See One Another

"In the Sonoran Desert there are ponds.  You could be standing in the middle of one and not know it, because the ponds are usually dry.  Nor would you know that inches below your feet, frogs are sleeping, their heartbeats down to once or twice per minute.  They lie dormant and waiting, these mud frogs, for without water their lives are incomplete, they are not fully themselves.  For many months they sleep like this within the earth.  And then the rain comes.  And a hundred pairs of eyes pop out of the mud, and at night a hundred voices call across the moonlit water.

"It was wonderful to see, wonderful to be in the middle of:  we mud frogs awakening all around.  We were awash in tiny attentions.  Small gestures, words, empathies thought to be extinct came to life.  For years the strangers among us had passed sullenly in the hallways; now we looked, we nodded, we smiled.  If someone got an A, others celebrated, too.  If someone sprained an ankle, others felt the pain.  We discovered the color of each other's eyes."   (excerpt from Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli)

I have mentioned that I recently read a sweet little book, one that really spoke to my soul.  I learned so much from those few pages that it may take awhile for me to process everything I learned.

One of those lessons is about awakening mud frogs.  How long have we been imprisoned by self-imposed mud, waiting for someone to come along and free us from our dreary little self-centered lives?  Or perhaps  might we recognize our own potential for lifting others from the quagmire?

Which will we be, the mud frog or the rain?  Will our smiles, our kindnesses, our affection, our love come as refreshing rain upon one who might be struggling?  There are so many opportunities to brighten one's day; are we taking them?  Simple gestures can have far-reaching effects; are we making them? 

I want to be like Stargirl.  I want to make someone's day a little better, a little brighter, and I hope it doesn't come as too much of a surprise.  Therein lies the challenge, really.  Is our society so entrenched in the muck and mud that a burst of refreshing kindness is so startling and unusual that we don't know how to respond? Is forgiveness questioned?  Is selflessness doubted? 

May we begin in the simplest way then.  Let us take note of the color of each other's eyes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jane's Tale of Woe

I consider myself an expert.  I consider myself a super fan.  I feel ownership; I feel custodianship; I feel like they should have consulted me on their project!
I wonder, wonder, wonder.  For whom were the producers making the most recent adaptation of Jane Eyre?  Were they making it for those like me (and I know I am NOT alone)?  Or were they making it for those that are curious and want to know what all the fuss is about?

Were the glaring gaps left because the filmmakers knew I would be able to fill them all in with my previously acquired knowledge of the story?  What about all the first-timers?  Are they to be left with the impression that the only joy must come through one's own imagination?  Why, why, why did it have to be soooo gloomy, and soooooo austere, and sooooooo heartwrenching?  And this is coming from the queen of heartwrenching.  I love books and movies that successfully pull my heartstrings to hurt and to ache and to pine.  I crave this stuff.

But on the other hand, throw me a few crumbs of joy.  Please!  A love story cannot be exclusively built upon a few passionate conversations.  It comes from the day to day experiences, wherein we laugh, we work, we eat, we enjoy life.  The profession of affection comes too abruptly and without enough evidence to make it believable.

Still, it is a masterpiece of filmmaking.  Visually, it is stunning.  And the few tidbits of Spring color are welcome relief for weary eyes, amidst all the darkness and sparsity.

It stars the brilliant Mia Wasikowska as Jane, and Michael Fassbender as Rochester.  Their chemistry is real, but the script doesn't allow them enough lattitude to explore it or capitalize upon it.
The story of Jane Eyre is not all gloom and doom.  Period.  And yet one would believe it is if this were the only exposure to the story one has had.  May I suggest then, for a more positive experience, one might try:

1)  the book, itself, by Charlotte Bronte
2) the original 1944 version with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine
3) or the 1996 version with William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg
4) or the 1997 version with Ciaran Hind and Samantha Morton
5)  or the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke
6)  or the 2006 version with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson
Each one adds a new dimension to this timeless tale.  Each Rochester is irresistable in his own unique way.  Each Jane is a symbol of courage and integrity, which is the real reason this book lingers in the top of my all-time favorites list.  She may be put upon, harshly dealt with, yet she never loses sight of right and wrong and self-respect.  She makes no excuses and I admire that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I May Never Be the Same

Sometimes something will come along that changes you.  Often it comes in an unassuming way, unexpectedly, and with no great fanfare.  Such was my introduction to Stargirl.  I read Stargirl in one afternoon, unable to put down this tender, triumphant, heartbreaking story.  Something about it spoke to my soul.  It called out to me in a very real, very personal way, and I became apart of it, just as it became apart of me.

Stargirl is filled with beauty, with truth, with reality; it is also filled with heartache and with unkindness and with the best and worst parts of humanity.

There are many blogposts to be written about Stargirl.  This is the first.  It will not be the last.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

And What Did I See?

I know a little girl who loves to go to church.  Every Sunday her momma gets her ready in a perfectly matched little outfit and she can hardly wait until it is time to go.  She always "leads" the music along with the chorister.  She loves her little friends. And mostly she loves going to Nursery.  She loves sitting on her little carpet square and listening to stories.  And she loves snack time.

But her favorite activity of all is singing time.  Her favorite song?  Well, of course it is the same song that was my favorite, and probably your favorite as well.
Can you guess?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yesterday Would Have Been the Day

It was my own special tradition.  It was something I remember doing every Spring.  I never knew exactly when it would happen, but when the time was right, I would know it.

After spending the winter months bundled up in coats and hats and scarves and mittens, one day invariably as I would walk home from school, I would realize that maybe summer was really on its way.  If I had taken a sweater to school in the morning, on the way home it would have been shed as the sun was finally beginning to take away the wintertime chill and showing the promise of warmer days. 

Upon arriving at home, I would make a beeline to my bedroom, open the bottom dresser drawer, determined to find the summertime clothes that had been put away for the season.  With the hope that Summer really was close at hand, I would change out of my school clothes then head out to the shed to uncover the bicycles.  Finding the bicycle pump was usually necessary too.

Then feeling that irrepressible freedom after the restrictive cold months, I would strike out for a bicycle ride around the neighborhood.  How liberating!  I felt as free as a bird.  It felt so good to stretch my legs and feel the breeze on my skin. 

Yesterday, I know it would have been that special day for me.  The long-absent sunshine beckoned me out for a walk around the neighborhood.  Soon the unexpected warmth made me want to shed my hoodie and find the summer clothes that I haven't touched in months.  If I had had a bicycle, I would have pulled it from the shed too.

My body may be getting older, but it was nice to discover that my soul will always be young.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Tradition I Could Never Grasp

I love Santa Claus.  I love everything about Santa Claus.  I have thrown my entire being into supporting his cause, and promoting the dream and the magic that is uniquely his.

But I never could understand the ridiculousness that is the "Easter Bunny".  C'mon, really?  What is that about?  And WHY?

But what about your poor children, you may be asking.  What a grouchy mother they have!  She has deprived them of the "magic" of an anthropomorphic rabbit that hides gross hard-boiled eggs under the couch never to be found until they start to stink sometime in May.

Well, to my defense, my children have always had their fair share of Easter goodies.  But, as a family, we have chosen to celebrate with those things on the Saturday prior to Easter, preserving the Sabbath for our undistracted worship of the Resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So while my children never looked for Easter baskets on Sunday morning, we always had a rousing treasure hunt on Saturday afternoon.  Brian and I would carefully write clues which led our children from hiding place to hiding place, which would then lead to the grand-daddy of them all where elaborate baskets would be waiting for them.  These would contain whatever this "Easter Bunny" thought would delight them.  Including Peeps.  Which I personally hate. 

I have no desire to discount whatever your family traditions are.  Whatever brings you and yours together is the important thing. 

But those "poor" Haws children seem to have managed just fine without a yearly visit from that mythical rabbit.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Facebook: Does the Good Outweigh the Bad?

I am faced with a dilemma.  I have become dependent upon Facebook as the source of most of my social connection.  That, in itself, is pretty pathetic.  I know that.  I get that.  Being one that lives alone with my husband, with all my children living far from home, I feel like I am able to stay in touch with many friends and family members and feel connected to their day-to-day lives.  As Martha would say, It's a Good Thing.

Yet, in the same breath, I must declare that much of the time Facebook really brings me down.  I have become so tired, so weary, of the "yelling" that happens, as people try to make their opinions heard over the fray.  I am sick of the name-calling.  I am sick of the arguments.  I am just sick.....

As I search for a solution, I ask myself if closing my account is the best alternative.  It can't be.  I would miss it so much.  And yet, I wouldn't miss all of it.  It would be refreshing in some regards.  I do welcome everyone's opinion, and learn so much from others' insights.  But is outrage the only answer to the troubles of the world?  I think there must be a peaceful way to express our frustrations without relying on name-calling.

As the history of the world winds down to its close, to its final showdown; as it escalates in intensity and drama and hatred and iniquity, can't we stand forth as examples of peace, as disciples of Jesus Christ?  Can't we stand together in holy places, watching and aware of the turmoil around us, yet not get dragged down into the ugliness?

I guess I need to do some real soul-searching.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

To Go Before the Mast

It may come as a surprise; it may seem out of character. For many years I have had a love affair with historic tall ships; those that depend on the power of the wind to fill their expansive sails, those that were manned by accomplished sailors who navigated their courses by the nighttime skies. These ships, with their undisputed beauty, speak to me of adventure, of romance of times gone by, of courage, of stout-hearted men.

While certain that I am not hearty nor courageous enough to have sailed the seven seas in this manner, in my dreams I do long to take my spot next to the great captains which I read about in books. Indeed, I have already outed my obsession with Horatio Hornblower.
Last Tuesday, I had the unique opportunity to "go before the mast and on the deck of the world", to test out my sea legs and to feel the exhilaration of the wind in my sails. It fulfilled a lifelong dream, and despite the debilitating cold of our evening cruise, I will always treasure the experience.
We sailed out of the bay in Newport, Oregon, on the Lady Washington, an historically accurate wooden replica of the original Lady Washington, one of the first U.S.-flagged vessels to visit the west coast of North America. This beautiful movie-star ship has appeared in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" and "Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World."
I appreciate my family and their patience with me as I pursue the things I love.  They are very supportive and adventurous as well, and I love them.  Together, we could sail to the ends of the earth, or wherever we decide to go.
"I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now."
~Henry David Thoreau~

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Special Agents of the O.E.M.

They burst upon the scene in their Preparation Day clothes.  They overflow with energy, with enthusiasm, with child-like wonder.  They have a well-earned day off to relax, to kick off their walking shoes, and to let their hair down a little.  They are eager for coastal diversions and some clam chowder at Mo's.

Their zealous Zone Leaders have envisioned the perfect zone photograph, and all have come prepared with their special baptismal clothing.  Suddenly this rowdy, boisterous group transforms into the humble servants that they are, radiating the spirit of who they really are and who they represent.
Then with the same energy and eagerness of before, they run out the door, full speed, to accomplish their mission of the day.
From my perch above, I begin to see specks of white on the sand below.  More follow, and just as the night sky fills with light one by one, soon the beach is filled with white stars.
In short order, the chaos organizes itself, and pays tribute to the "Best Mission in the World":  The Oregon Eugene Mission.  It was a singularly special event, one I felt privileged to be apart of.  Thank you for sharing your spirit and your light with us.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Personalities of a House

It embraces a crowd with ease.  It offers sanctuary to a family that wants to escape the chaos of the world.  It envelops a solitary inhabitant with peace and quiet.  It has become my home away from home where I can read, write, meditate, entertain, dream, and spoil my family and friends.

I used to feel like just a guest, albeit a very welcomed guest.  When I would drive up to our beach home, I felt a little like an outsider that was treading on foreign territory.  I used to feel like I was trespassing, or merely pretending to belong.

Not any more.  As I drive up Coast Avenue to the lovely peach and beige home at the top of the hill, now I feel like it is just an extension of of my family, of myself.  It is now just the other place that I live.
Do I still pinch myself once in while to make sure I'm not just dreaming?  Absolutely!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Man of Integrity

What a classy guy.  What a class act.  What a beautiful performance.
I was so impressed with Jacob Lusk last night on American Idol.  I appreciate that he took responsibility for his song choice, desiring that the message of his song be one that he could stand behind.  How often do artists even pause to consider what message they are sending out?  I know the Idol Contestants are constantly being advised to sing from their hearts, to connect to the message of the song, and last  night, this courageous young man had the guts to make his decision based upon the meaning of the lyrics.

I don't know if his choice will be the highest vote-getter.  I don't know if America is ready to reward someone for their convictions.  But I don't think that really matters here.  What matters is when he looks in the mirror, will he like what he sees?  Will he know that he has been true to himself and to his standards?

What a great example to the millions of viewers that watched as someone had the courage to be the change he wanted to see.  I believe that the man Jacob will see, as he looks in the mirror every morning, whether he is the next American Idol or not, is indeed a man of integrity.  These are the kind of men we need to change the world.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What She is, and What She Isn't

That is what I learned this weekend.  I learned that the virtues and qualities of my daughter are finally being recognized and appreciated.  I learned that beauty doesn't have to be devoid of intelligence and grace.
I learned that an entire audience can catch their breath at the same time, while listening to my angel sing with an angelic voice. 
I learned that you don't need to be a seasoned, groomed, polished pageant contestant to finish strong.  I learned that sometimes the victory lies in the overcoming of fear and insecurity. I learned that my family is strong; that we rally together, each member contributing to support one another.
I wouldn't have changed a thing.  In reviewing the events of the past weekend, everything was exactly how I would have chosen it to be.

My youngest daughter, Miranda, participated in the Miss Rexburg Scholarship Program, and she was a finalist, winning the title of Second Runner-up, which came with honor, a certificate, a bouquet of beautiful flowers, a decent monetary prize, and the best part, no commitment to remain in Rexburg for the coming year.  So everyone won something.
But I think Miranda won the most of all.