Move from Utah to Maine, Day 2–Siri lies, “Housebuilder” joins us, and Nebraska is as long as Wyoming

Our 9.5 hour drive took 14+ hours, and I still don’t know why. But we made it to Indianoloa, Iowa, and while I hoped to be more coherent this evening, that ain’t gonna happen, so let’s not even pretend. But I did find a way to download my photos!

Here’s my view of my husband’s big yellow butt that I wrote about yesterday:

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You know how many anagrams you can make from the word “Penske”? Yeah, that many. I have all the words on the truck memorized, and will for the rest of my life.

Here’s what went on today:

5-year-old son woke up so disoriented that he hid in a closet for ten minutes until we lured him out with his new Star Wars underwear. He came out of the closet for Yoda. (Something about that sentence isn’t right, but I’m not sure what yet.)

My husband asked his phone how much road construction there will be after we funneled once again into one lane. It told him the next 3,000 miles were only one lane, but it lied–we had at least five miles of double lanes.

Thank goodness my 5 y.o. is enthralled by long trains and small cows and his new Webkind travel buddy: a gray-and-white koala he’s inexplicably called “Housebuilder.” Housebuilder is best friends with a Bop-It BB8 toy/game our friends gave us as a travel gift. My youngest left them alone in the van so they could eat in private. They sat on his blanket, but I have no idea what they ate while we had lunch at a Veterans’ Memorial park in Nebraska.

Below is my brilliant idea: We bought a ton of snacky foods, divided them, and put them in baggies with people’s names on them. Now each person can eat whatever they like during the trip without bugging anyone to reach into a bin to find something good. I’d show you a picture of mine, but it’s only full of gluten-free, high fiber nutrition treats because I already ate all of my Skittles.

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When a person’s mind gets bored in Nebraska (about as dull as Wyoming, although my 13 y.o. asked to go back to Wyoming because he thought it was slightly more interesting) one starts to look for anything to think of.

But was I composing the prequel to my book series or contemplating the deeper meanings of the cosmos? No. I was obsessed with this trailer I was stuck behind for ten miles:

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IT’S SO WRONG!

First, I spent three full minutes trying to understand “Dont dead, open inside,” until I realized they intended you to read it TOP to BOTTOM. Hey, this isn’t Japan, you know.

Next, WHERE’S THE FREAKING APOSTROPHE?! I got real close (probably too close) searching the sloppy font for it in the DONT, but it’s not there! I even took this photo while driving, looking for apostrophic evidence.

Then I spent the next five minutes running Mission Impossible/Wile Coyote scenarios in my mind as to how I could create a suspension bridge between us, take the Sharpie I had in the van, inch over to the back of the trailer, and FIX THE WORDS!

Then I spent the next too many minutes thinking, “Why would you put zombies in a nice trailer? Transport them in cattle cars–they won’t care: THEY’RE UNDEAD!”

Man, was I glad when that trailer pulled away.

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The items in our trailer are slowly trying to escape. Can you guess what we’re transporting? Two of the pokey-outy-bits have me stumped, and I helped put the tarp on it.

There’s a particular bathroom at a gas station in Nebraska where the men’s urinal is unfortunately placed in relation to the door. Please don’t ask how I know that.

17 y.o. figured out how to take a picture!

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He snapped this and smugly said, “Because of my skill in computer games, I can point and shoot just about anything.”

The reason I don’t have any pictures of the Welcome to Iowa sign is because while we were driving I asked him to open my gluten-free loaf of bread package, and the pressurized bag exploded on him as he ripped it open with his teeth, and he was momentarily overwhelmed by gluten-free gas just as we got on to bridge crossing the Missouri River. Seriously.

Announced on the radio by my husband: “It’s 100% today–every RV is driven by someone with a mustache.” Which sent me on another deep-thought adventure: Is it required that people grow a mustache BEFORE they purchase the RV, or does the RV then make people think, “I need a ‘stache to go along with this”? What about the women? These thoughts kept me going for nearly half an hour, I’m sorry to report.

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Evidence that we’re getting closer to Ron Swanson territory. I’m waiting anxiously to find a “Food and Stuff.”

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I didn’t need a sign to tell me this.

To pretend this trip is something of a vacation, we stopped in Winter Quarters, Nebraska, where Mormon Pioneers fled after being expelled from Illinois, and where they prepared to head to Salt Lake City. We had only an hour there, but realizing that we spent two days driving what took pioneers MONTHS to do was humbling and refreshing.

Here they told us that across the street was a burial ground of 300+ pioneers, more than half of them children who died along the way. Heck, we haven’t lost one of ours yet.

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Then we went to take a picture of the tiny temple there and look at the cemetery, where we could read the names and ages of every last pioneer who died there.

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Then I tried to take selfies of us in front of the temple.

My selfie skills are surpassed.

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I don’t think people are looking. Let’s try that again.

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Did someone get cut off? One more time:

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I feel like people aren’t taking this seriously. Again?

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Ok, something’s seriously wrong with my 13 y. o. He’s the one who thinks Wyoming was more interesting than Nebraska. See if you can pick him out.

It’s now after midnight, and tomorrow (today?) we hope to get somewhere in Ohio, hopefully before midnight. Good night.

What if we just quit bothering with the world? The easiness of essentialism.

What if, instead of worrying about the world and its expectations, we focused on only a couple of key items and let the rest of world just . . . go on its way?

Think about that: maybe there’s only a handful of things we really need to worry about, and as for the millions of other demands the world makes upon us we just ignore them.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?

My friend clued me into “Essentialism,” which redefines minimalism and suggests that we should “discern what is absolutely essential, then eliminate everything that is not.” Greg McKeon argues that we get too caught up in the non-essentials: “non-essentialism is this idea that everything has to be done and that you have to do it all. Everything is equally important so therefore I have to try to do it all. That’s an idea — if I can do it all, I can have it all.”

But what if we don’t bother with doing it all? Why would we want it all anyway?

What if we quit following every news outlet, every fashion, every new-and-latest thing, every competition and demand for our attention, and focus instead on only a few ESSENTIAL points?

We’d be a heckuva lot happier!

Consider how simpler life would be if we:

  • stopped fretting that our houses aren’t up to date (no, you don’t have to put shiplap on every wall),
  • that our kids aren’t excelling in every sport/musical instrument/dance/karate/theatrical production (freeing up afternoons and weekends),
  • that we’re not on top of every trend (anyone remember how fast Pokemon Go came and went? Men’s rompers will go the same way, so don’t give them another thought). 
  • And what if we let the world go on its way . . . without us?

I think about life in the 1800s, how people focused on survival, their immediate family and neighbors, their little communities, and had no idea what the gossip was on the other side of the state or the world. They could think about real things, urgent things, important things.

Whereas we think about silly, petty, and divisive things.

But we don’t have to. We can center our lives on very few priorities and shut out everything else.

So what would those priorities be? How about the only thing that really matters: developing Christlike attributes.

To become like Him is the main reason we’re on this earth, going through this trial of life to see what our hearts really want, and to see how we can become more like Him. And you know what? I’m thinking more and more that being like Christ is the best and only worry I need.

And that “worry” isn’t even a concern. Look what He said in Matthew 11:

 28 Come unto me, all ye that labor [to keep up with the demands of the world] and are heavy laden [with the world’s expectations], and I will give you rest [because we set that all aside].

29 Take my yoke upon you [and throw off what the world expects of you], and learn of me [instead of the world]; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls [because I teach the peaceable things of the kingdom].

30 For my yoke is easy [way easier than anything the world demands], and my burden is light [lighter than anything the world shoves upon you].

Matthew 11:28, We find rest in Christ

And that’s all there is to it.

People assume that because I have nine kids I’m constantly busy and harried. But the truth is–and sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit it–I’m not. Quite often I can spend hours each day in pursuits I enjoy–writing, reading, researching–because we don’t bother with the non-essentials.

My kids aren’t involved in many activities; we don’t run around endlessly every afternoon from one thing to another–I let them entertain themselves like some 1970s throwback mom. I don’t demand perfect grades from them (grades aren’t an indicator of future success anyway), but I let them push themselves, which they do.

My house isn’t spotless or trendy (I’ve got better things to do), I make simple meals for dinner, and, frankly, I’m pretty relaxed most of the time. I almost feel guilty about that . . . but then I decide I don’t need to bother with worldly guilt, either, and let the feeling go.

We take care of each other, study the gospel, go to church, play together, educate each other and . . . that’s about it. Easy.

I am, however, trying to increase the amount of time I spend on others, trying to find additional ways we can be of service, because that’s really the purpose of life: taking care of others as Christ did.

The apostle James put it in simple terms:

27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction [taking care of the vulnerable and needy around us], and to keep himself unspotted from the world [ignore the world].  ~ James 1:27

That’s it. Only two things, just like Christ said to the lawyer in Matthew 22:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind [not giving any of your heart, soul, or mind to the world which will treat you cruelly].

38 This is the first and great commandment [which will keep you unspotted and unburdened by the world].

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself [by taking care of the vulnerable and needy].

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets [and you need not bother about anything else].

Simple, sweet, and satisfying! (Unlike the world.)

We can do that. Anyone can do that.

And we should, because consider these words of Christ:

36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall again the whole world [be accepted by it, follow its trends and demands religiously], and lose his own soul? [Worldliness kills the soul—simple as that.]  ~Mark 8:36

I’m not saying it’s easy to shut out the world. I’ve been working on doing that for quite some time now, trying to cut off more and more connections to it, especially through social media. Our family quit TV and radio some years ago (just getting rid of advertisements significantly increased peace in our lives). There are still many aspects I struggle with, and likely will my entire life. It’s hard to live in the world and not have some of it rub off on you, like trying to squeeze between muddy elephants without getting dirty.Image result for herd of muddy elephants

Purposely not doing what everyone else around you is can be a little disconcerting. Sometimes I suffer from FOMO: fear of missing out. But just because the crowd is insistent, just because you feel the need to be like everyone else, you don’t have to be. This image, which I ran across many years ago, has seared deeply into my soul. I want to be that guy.

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I’m discovering that when I ask God how I can step further away from the world so that I can be closer to Him, He gives me ideas, nudges me away from distractions and gently prods me toward more important activities. He wants me and my family to be unspotted, and He wants to ease our burdens. I have full confidence that He can get us all the way where we need—and want—to be, because, awesomely, He’s already done it himself:

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace [because haven’t you grown weary of keeping up with the world yet?]. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world [and so can you].”  ~John 16:3

     “You look so tired, Young Pere. So weary, my sweet boy. Did you ever have a day of peace in the world?”
     “No,” he sighed. “Not that I remember.”
     “Then isn’t it time to let go of the world?”
     ~Book 8 (Yes, there’s a book 8!)

The Internet Civility Award (TICA): Who will you award it to?

The other day something astonishing happened on my Facebook page.
Friend #1 posted his feelings about government spending, and Friend #2 chimed in with an opposing viewpoint.
Friend #1 presented more evidence.
Friend #2 countered and began to escalate.
This is the astonishing part: Friend #1 explained his beliefs, then APOLOGIZED if he stepped on Friend #2’s toes.
Even weirder, Friend #2 responded by saying no apology was necessary and that SHE was sorry for getting emotional.

AND THAT WAS IT. CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!
They remained friends, and everyone went merrily on.

I, however, messaged both of them and told them I believed they each earned The Internet Civility Award (TICA). Since there wasn’t one yet, I couldn’t give it. But here it is now. (Yes, I just made this up.)

TICA The Internet Civility Award

Copy and paste this on anyone’s social media page to recognize them for kindness and respect.

I’ve written about civility before, but lately I’ve been watching for it, and it’s out there. For example, the LDS Church (Mormons) recently announced plans to build a temple in Pocatello, ID, and a Muslim family who lives there posted publicly on Facebook that they were happy for their LDS friends.

Muslims and Mormons

CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!

In looking for examples of civility to share with my children, we recently became addicted to “The Great British Baking Show,” not because we’re any good at baking, but because we love watching the contestants. It’s a competition, with each week a Star Baker identified, and someone sent home.

The amazing thing is watching these contestants HELP each other, GIVE each other advice, and when one of them wins, they CHEER their fellow competitor. And when someone gets sent home, they WEEP genuine tears for their loss.

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CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!

I realized the need to point out good behavior to my children during last year’s presidential election. My kids read over my shoulder when I’m on Facebook, looking for movie trailers and videos of screaming goats. My 9-year-old was stunned to see the posts of supposedly “mature” adults she knew, calling candidates names and behaving very uncivilly.

My 4th grader said, “That person’s a GROWN-UP! Why isn’t he acting like one?”

That great question led to a discussion about kindness and respect for all people, if we like them or not. Everyone deserves kindness. Everyone.

She agreed with me that we should unfollow this person, along with a few others, who didn’t demonstrate “grown-up” behavior online.

But I want to reward those who act like mature and civil adults (even if they’re still kids), so I will be awarding TICA  TICA The Internet Civility Awardto those who demonstrate excellent behavior in the face of rudeness, intolerance, and anger, and I’d love for you to join me.

When you see someone approach a conflict with grace and dignity, with kindness and respect, paste this image to them and let the world know that here’s a person who still knows how to behave.

TICA The Internet Civility Award

Maybe if we point out civil behavior more often, more of it might occur.

“That’s the way to respond! With respect like that, you’re already two weeks ahead of everyone else.”

~Book 6, The Flight of the Wounded Falcon, coming May 2017

The Best Spot in the world may not be where you think it is

There isn’t One Best Place in the world.

That came to me Tuesday as perfectly clear blue skies tempted me outside, despite 19 degree temperatures. My winter brain desperately needed the sunshine.

Besides, I got the impression that Maine was trying very hard to win me over during my last hours.

(Which was a smart play on Maine’s part, since my flight that day was canceled because of mechanical issues, and as I typed this the next day at the airport hotel, I watched in dread as the snow came down; another flight delay.)

I arrived seven days earlier to get to know coastal Maine, where my husband already lives and works, and where we’re planning to move in June.

Everyone has been gushing, “Ooh,  Maine! It’s so pretty there!” But in the dead of winter, I don’t believe there’s any place in the northern hemisphere that rates as “pretty.” Everything appears as the equivalent of, “Ugh, morning hair, forgot the makeup, frumpy clothes—just be grateful I showed up today.” Such places shine and glow in the summer, but everything seems to frown and snarl in the winter.

Snow is pretty only for the first hour; after that, misery.

Except for Tuesday when the blue skies waved its big hand at me and said, “Come on! We look decent right now—take a look!” So I bundled up, headed out of the school grounds where my husband lives and works, and soon found myself on an old track deep in the forest.

And this was a true forest, with old growth and ground thick with hundreds of years of plant matter, making parts of it spongy and springy where the ground wasn’t frozen. Despite the cold, a little spring insisted on trickling, and a squirrel next to it gave me the eye, as if wondering why I was there.

And this forest won me over:

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Darn it.

I was suddenly in Edge, in the forests above it which I originally patterned after Yellowstone (hence the hot pots and sulfur vents). But these forests were a very close, very nearly perfect, The Next Spot.

You know “The Spots,” right? The places you envision yourself being—the Dream House Spot, the Best Vacation Spot, The Cruise Spot, The Job Spot . . . The Spot.

I have been living in THE Spot for the past eight years, close to family, universities, shopping, and mountains. After having moved a dozen times in our marriage, I was sure we were set to stay.

Only, THE Spot doesn’t seem to be The Final Spot. Maine may not be The Final Spot either. However, for decades my husband has imagined Maine to be THE Spot, so when he was offered a job last year, seemingly out of the blue, he couldn’t resist.

I came for the week, trying to see this as THE Spot, and as I wandered in that forest I realized that there are many Good Spots. Millions of them, actually.

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(Just the regular run of the mill view as I ambled on a walking path . . . ho-hum.)

Do you ever wonder why people live in such diverse places, and in such varying ways?

Because there is not One Way To Live.

There is not, nor has there ever been, an Ideal Spot, a Perfect Home Town.

Some folks struggle with the idea that there isn’t a “ONE and ONLY TRUE WAY TO LIVE.” To them, Home Town is THE best Spot in the world; one can ONLY cheer for (fill in the name) university’s football team; vacations MEANS sitting at the beach; and pizza should have ONLY pepperoni and sausage toppings. Don’t even bring up pineapple.

They’re astonished to learn that others don’t want to move to their town, they don’t even follow football, vacations are some place different every year, and they prefer calzones. No, people aren’t ill-informed or plain stupid for not wanting to be exactly like everyone else, living in exactly the same way and place.

Because oh, what problems we’d have if everyone wanted the same things! It’s vital that different places, customs, and notions of “ideal” are wide and varied, in scope and depth, or seven billion of us would all be sitting on top of each other in one tiny Spot! (Which, I’ve learned from an acquaintance, people who live in New York City already think is happening.)

What a marvelous miracle of Intelligent Planning that all of us are different! That means there’s plenty of space and options for everyone.

Some of us live in the same town for generations; others may pick up and settle in another part of the world, never to return. History is full of stories of families sailing far away for a new life, a Different Spot. All of us in America, aside from the Native Americans, originally had family from “Some Other Spot.” It’s fine to find Other Spots. Sometimes God forces us to Another Spot, which looks like a Wretched Spot but later becomes a Most Beloved Spot.

There are millions–even billions–of Good Spots.

My current house hasn’t been my favorite, but it has grown on me—even the too-small kitchen—and I find myself melancholy about listing it for sale soon. I’ve always thought this was the best view I could hope for. As I type I frequently gaze out the windows to These Spots, and sigh in delight.

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But Those Spots will soon be memory, replaced by Spots Like These, the new paths I get to explore:

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And I had to admit Tuesday, that’s not so bad a Spot.

Some year, it might even become my new Best Spot.

It was that realization that the world was so vast, yet only a tiny fraction of it was populated and fought over, that struck the Shins as so tragic. None of the violence in the world had to happen. There was plenty for everyone. But no one wanted to leave what they knew.

~Book 6, coming Spring 2017

On book 6, planes, and the best friends you don’t remember at the airport

Random thoughts, in no particular order:

#1: Book 6 went out to my beta readers last week, which means it’s well on track to be revised and released by (hopefully) May 2017!

#2: I’m going on a plane Wednesday morning for the first time since 2003, when I had a genuine panic attack upon take-off. So if you hear on the news of anyone melting down on a flight on to Philadelphia, just roll your eyes and say, “Lemme guess . . .”

#3: I sat for six hours at the airport yesterday morning, (I’ve been going there a lot lately) thanks to the inefficiency of the US army, and was fascinated to think of how many people passed by me for the first time, and the only time, on this earth. A man from India repacked his bag next to us and chatted with my son about serving in the military. Some folks on the other side of us were in town from Chicago for the Sundance Film Festival. A snowboard team waited forever to check their boards.

As I watched people parade by–some looking as disoriented as I usually do in the airport, some appearing to be well-traveled experts–I was almost struck with the notion of touching each person (except there were too many TSA agents around), wondering just how far those folks would go, and if our paths might ever cross again.

The lady with the high heel boots and the Yorkie tucked under her arm.
The mom with three kids who each hefted their own bags and followed her obediently.
The grandpa walking arm-in-arm with his teenage grandson who was flying for the first time.
The lady in the bathroom who called her friend in a panic because the car rental agency didn’t want to give her a Ford Mustang because she would be driving through snowy mountain passes, but told her she’d be better off in a Jeep Cherokee, and only after her friend assured her that was an excellent idea did she relent.

Where do they all come from, and where will they all go? Will I ever see any of them again in this life?

I believe that before we were born, we all knew each other intimately. We had hung around together for at least thousands of year, if not eons.

But birth is, as Wordsworth reminds us, “but a sleep and a forgetting,” and every time I’m in such a crowd, I wonder that if we were all allowed to remember what we meant to each other once before, if we wouldn’t stare in astonishment and embrace in excitement. 

I can’t help imagine that we wouldn’t hurry past each other, or grow impatient with someone slower ahead who is clearly inept (my apologies already to my fellow travelers on Wednesday), but that we would shriek for joy that finally–FINALLY!–we found each other again.

Occasionally I’ve experienced, when I first meet someone, a flare of recognition, a heart-leap of, “There you are!” I know that person, already, and am getting the opportunity to know them again on earth. But that’s happened for me only a handful of times.

The rest of the time, we barely make eye contact as we hurry from one place to another, engaged with one important task or another. Maybe we exchange a friendly smile as we negotiate a line, and we’ll sit next to each other on the plane oblivious to the notion that perhaps this was once one of our greatest friends, and will be once again after we “wake up and remember.”

And that’s the best part: I’m confident that in the next life we all will recognize each other again, and trade notes about where we were and when in our mortal experiences, and discover that once, our paths did cross in a busy airport on a bleak day in January.

But something burned in Perrin’s heart. It caught him so much by surprise that he almost gasped. He took the boy’s face in his hands, because something was so familiar about that moment, about that face . . . He had seen this before.

~Book 6, to be released in late spring 2017

What you really need at Christmas

This Christmas, I’m posting my best gift, early:

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Yes, it’s merely a picture of my husband shoveling the snow this morning. Two days ago he came home from working on the other side of the country. We haven’t seen him since he drove away last summer. (No, I didn’t chase him away. He willingly came back for the holidays, see?)

Over the past six months I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for single parents and the stresses they deal with all by themselves. It seems that each month I had a new little crisis I had to deal with, without another parent to pick up my slack.

But not this week. My sweet hubby got out of bed, looked out the window, and willingly headed out. That means I don’t have to guilt and nag my sons into doing it—Merry Christmas to me!

As he shoveled, I read online about a family whose healthy, college-aged daughter just died unexpectedly in her sleep. About a young husband whose wife and unborn baby recently died in a car accident. About a military family which is facing Christmas without their husband and dad at home, again.

And here I was, taking pictures of my hubby shoveling.

At Christmas we don’t need as much as we think we do. If you’ve got most of, or even all, of your family around you, that’s huge. This year we’ll see everyone except one, but we’ll be able to skype him Christmas afternoon.

But if you don’t have all of your family with you this year, and may never have them again in this lifetime, you most especially need Christmas.

Or, more specifically, He who’s birth we’re trying to celebrate in the middle of the over-scheduled chaos: the Savior.

Bring to Him your heartache. Bring to Him your longing. Bring to Him your anger, and He will give to you the greatest gift that you truly need: Peace of Mind.

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Thank you all for a wonderful year, and may you find and feel that peace that the Savior brings–that lasting peace which tells you that while your life may make no sense right now, it will in the end. Just hold on, believe in Him, and no matter your circumstances, every Christmas will somehow be merry.

In a way, Mahrree felt almost cheated, almost dismayed, for feeling such dejection in the world, and had she only known how swiftly all that loneliness and longing would be swept away—

No, she did know. A small part of her had always known that whatever misery she was enduring would be seem but a small moment in retrospect. The Writings had said so, but it was as if her physical brain couldn’t fathom what her spiritual mind already knew. No wonder her feelings were often in so much conflict.

But now, with the limitations of her mortal mind lifted, suddenly everything was easier. She could remember the sadness, but marvelously she no longer felt it. She held the memories, but none of the pain.

No wonder they called it Paradise.

(Teaser from future book 8; don’t worry, book 6 is coming, very soon. And so will be books 7 and 8!)

Have you ever considered skipping Santa and getting straight to the Savior?

A recent online debate has prompted me to repost this blog I wrote three years ago. As a child I dearly loved Santa, and was deeply pained to learn he was only a story. As a parent, I wondered if there wasn’t another way to avoid that sticky problem. Well, there is, quite a simple one, in fact:

We don’t do Santa at our house.

anti santa

Now, before you label me a killjoy, call social services because I’m a terrible mother, or weep for my children because I’ve lost the Christmas spirit and am destroying the holidays, allow me to explain myself. Then you can start sending the critical responses.

I promise this won’t be a rant such as I once experienced delivered by a woman who was fond of pointing out that the letters in Santa can be rearranged into Satan. (She was also fond of roasting the opossums that wandered into her yard; I never accepted her offer to sample her stew.) This is an explanation of how we’ve chosen to do something more.

We used to do Santa for our three oldest children (who are now in their twenties) when they were younger, but over the years we’ve distanced ourselves from the magic, tricks, and well . . . deceit. Our six younger children never hear us mention Santa, unless we happen to be talking about a town in California.

As a child I dearly wanted to believe in Santa, despite the incongruities of his origin and abilities. I went to the point of analyzing, as thoroughly as my eight-year-old brain would let me, how he did everything in one night (magic dust, with some sort of cool physics involved), who all the other guys in Santa suits were (secret agents, bugged with mikes and recording devices to send the messages to Santa), and where he lived (under the ice cap—and this was many years before “The Santa Clause” movie; they stole my idea). I also concluded that the version of his origins, as told by the claymation TV show “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was likely the most accurate, primarily because I thought the name Burgermeister Meisterburger was genius.

Bmmb

(And I also suspected my ancestors looked like Burgermeister Meisterburger.)

I still struggled with aspects of Santa, such as why reindeer seemed a viable mode of transportation, and the fact that Santa’s handwriting looked exactly like my dad’s calligraphy. But I eventually decided that my dad simply changed the tags once the presents arrived because elf writing was illegible.

So it was with utter shock and dismay that I received this news at age nine, casually delivered by my mom: “You know Santa’s not real, right?”

No, I did not!

In fact, I’d wrestled with this so-called truth for years—since I was five, at least—to make sense of a man of magic when I knew—knew—there was no magic.
So the whole Santa-thing was really a trick?
And the entire world was in on it?
What was the point of that?!
Why did all the TV shows and movies and stores and schools and even church, of all places, perpetuate the mythology as truth only to eventually say, “Ha! Fooled you!”

I was devastated. Then I was furious.

What other cherished beliefs from my infancy would be revealed as also hoaxes? For many months I worried that something else, something far more important and vital to my happiness, would also be revealed as a scam.

Fast forward fifteen years, to when my husband and I have a child old enough to know about Santa. Suddenly all those feelings of betrayal rushed me when my husband asked, “So how should we do Santa?”

I didn’t want to! I didn’t want to expose my children to the same beloved stories only to find out later they were merely stories.

But, family and societal pressures told us our children had to have Santa, and who were we to buck tradition? So, for our first three children, we did Santa. Visited him, sent him letters, wrapped the presents “from” him in special Santa paper, and all was fine until those kids started asking legitimate questions about his veracity.

Now I had a problem. I had always vowed I would never lie to my children (that’s not the same as teasing, which is a completely different form of torture). When they asked a sincere question, I would always give an honest answer about everything, from the Tooth Fairy to what Daddy means when he waggles his eyebrows at me.
(“Um, that means we need to talk. In the bedroom. Choose a movie—any movie you want.” Ok, so my honesty is relative.)

But the Santa Really Exists (SRE) movement meant I had to lie to my children, if only to protect their innocent friends from the reality. And I hated that.

So, after a few years of this moral quandary, I told my husband I simply wanted to quit Santa at our house—who were we to buck tradition? Whoever we wanted to be!—and happily he agreed. Since then, we’ve never regretted the decision to focus on our family and friends, and not even bring up the old fat man in red with an odd laugh like garden tools.

What are the benefits of not participating in SRE?

First, Santa doesn’t come off as a jerk. Trying to explain to my children the disparagement of Santa in delivering toys made me feel like a fraud.
“Why did the neighbor kids get a lot more from Santa than you did? Uh, you see, Santa doesn’t actually make the toys; he’s like a Secret Shopper. He buys the presents, wraps and delivers them, then sends us the bill. Yeah, that’s right.”
That was the only way to explain why our budget for each child was $45, while the neighbors had a budget of $300 for each kid.

My children accepted that answer until the year we were in a position to do a Secret Santa for another family. They eagerly helped us choose and wrap presents, but then the unavoidable question arose: “Why isn’t Santa shopping for them and just donating the presents?”

“Well,” I invented wildly, “he’s asked us to help him because, um, he’s too busy—”

“What, buying presents for the rich kids?” my eight-year-old daughter asked cynically.

I didn’t have an immediate answer for that. No matter what kinds of stories and explanations I created, Santa came across as a self-serving jerk whose services were available to the highest bidder. That’s not the spirit of Santa.

Second, we don’t have to lie to our children. By not playing into the SRE game we don’t have to keep up the façade that, something that I’ve always taught my children isn’t real, suddenly is for the month of December. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy fantasy and magic—Harry Potter, Narnia, dragons and Merlin—we’ve got all the books, movies, costumes and games, and it’s fun and serves a purpose, but just not in the real world.

In our early parenting years we frequently struggled with juggling the mythology of Santa with the story of Jesus Christ, who we hold as reality. Once one of our children even said, “My friend at school said Santa is just your parents. So what is Jesus?” The notion of magic and miracles was so confused in her first grade mind she wasn’t sure what to believe.

And that bothered me, to my core. That was precisely what worried me as a nine-year-old. I had even decided, when I still believed in Santa, that on some level Jesus and Santa were related, and shared priesthood power and magic to accomplish Christmas.

Then Santa was revealed to be pretend, and so what about Jesus Christ?

For more than a year I paid very close attention in church each Sunday (well, it’s one way to get a kid interested about religion), waiting to hear something that would suggest that Jesus Christ and priesthood power were also just convenient and “fun” little lies. In fact, an acquaintance of mine who became disenchanted with all organized religion and the notion of God, told me the seed of that was planted when he learned Santa wasn’t real. It was society’s aggressive tactics to preserve this imaginary man, and the lengths to which everyone bought into the lie, that shocked him and led him to believe that everything is, at its heart, a hoax.

But I knew, in my heart, that Jesus Christ was not a hoax. After that year of deep ten-year-old introspection I developed a testimony of my Savior. I still believe in Him, and in my Heavenly Father, and in the Holy Ghost. I have felt them too many times influencing my thoughts and decisions to pretend my conscience is that clear and forward-planning. I have experienced miracles and even seen the laws of physics altered on two occasions to prevent potentially fatal car accidents. I have heard whispers, felt nudgings, and even once encountered a gentle cosmic slap upside my head trying to knock me into awareness when I was particularly hard-hearted.
God is real and involved and intensely worried about our welfare. Santa, however, is not.

I didn’t want my children facing those same troubling questions about what is real and isn’t, especially at such tender ages, so we quietly abandoned Santa a dozen years ago. When my children ask me the hard questions, such as if the Tooth Fairy is real, I answer with, “Is the Tooth Fairy magic? Remember what I’ve told you: magic is only pretend and for fun, but the power of the priesthood in Jesus Christ is very real and very powerful.” They don’t worry about magic anymore, because they have something better.

But, you may fret, what about the Spirit of Christmas? The Spirit of Santa?

Someone once remarked that Santa is the Savior in costume. That got me thinking: why not cut out the middle man and get straight to the Savior? We don’t need to be “Secret Santas”: we can be something grander, realer.

In other words, why not let Christmas be the time that we try even harder to be . . . like Christ? It’s His birthday we’re celebrating, after all. Why not celebrate it by doing what He did?

When you think about it, much of what we do in the name of Santa is what the Savior did and taught. Want to help that single mom down the street? Do so, and in the right spirit. Think about what the Apostle James wrote in describing pure religion: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. (James 1:27)

Want to bring clothing and gifts to those in need? Visit those who are ill or lonely? Go ahead, and remember who suggested it first (hint: wasn’t Santa). Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. . . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:36; 40)

Let’s donate, share, encourage, serve, and love in the name of Christ, not Santa.
Yeah, Santa’s a good guy and all, but not nearly as great as the Savior of the world. 

So don’t feel sorry for my children because they don’t have Santa. Oh, they’ll get plenty of presents on Christmas Day from their parents and siblings, along with stockings full of candy and Pringles, and there will be a few surprises snuck in after they’ve gone to bed on Christmas Eve, but if they happen to leave out a plate of cookies, they’ll know they were eaten by Mom and Dad while we put the candy canes on the tree.

Our kids don’t have Santa, but what they have instead are parents that don’t lie to them (well, not about anything important) and a truer sense about the meaning of Christmas.

After all, it’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Santa Day.

“I don’t hold with traditions just for tradition’s sake. I’m rather progressive that way.”
~Perrin Shin, “The Forest at the Edge of the World”

Flood the earth–or my basement and bedrooms–with service: #LIGHTtheWORLD

The most horrible sounds to wake up to are someone vomiting, something shattering, some cat hacking, or some water running. Early yesterday morning, I was awakened by the last item. I was planning to publish a piece here about my sons putting up Christmas lights, but I didn’t get to finishing it because at 4 a.m. I woke up to hear that doomsday sound of water trickling. As I put my feet on the floor, I immediately felt the squelch, and realized my carpet was soaked through. Frantically, I jumped to the bathroom to find the toilet was overflowing, and likely had been for about five hours.

As I was desperately trying to mop up the mess on the floor with all of the towels, my 16-year-old son came upstairs. “It’s happening in my room, too.”

Not sure what that cryptic, drowsy message was, but knowing it wasn’t good, I rushed downstairs to hear the nauseating sound of pouring water. Apparently the heat duct in the bathroom had served as overflow and channeled the water into the ceiling, closet, and carpeting of my son’s bedroom.

By 5 a.m. every towel we owned was wet and in the dryer, and I sent my son back to bed (or rather, the couch) because there was nothing more we could do.

By 7 a.m. I was slightly despondent as I tried again to start drying the mess, realizing that everything would have to come out of my bedroom/office in order to pull up enough carpet to dry it.

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(My thirteen-year-old thinks my flooded bedroom is worth dancing about. He’s not my favorite child today.)

At 9 a.m. I borrowed a wet vac from my neighbor and started sucking up the water, knowing already that it was far more than I could handle. Still, I was determined to try to solve this problem on my own.

But by 10 a.m. I sat down, exhausted, on the floor in my son’s room only to realize my bottom was wet (like my feet, my knees, and my arms) because the water had leaked much further than I’d expected.

That’s when my eyes started leaking. I hate crying. But having had only five hours of sleep, and realizing that not only would my bedroom have to be evacuated, but so too would this bedroom and its heavy loft beds, all I could do was weep.

My husband called then to check on the situation (I had Facebook messaged him at 5 a.m. with the news because I had nothing else I could do) and I said, sniffling, “I think I’m a little overwhelmed.”

He knows I rarely cry, and I think that’s why he took to the computer. Because he’s nearly three thousand miles away, he did all that he could: he messaged one of our neighbors, who called his wife, who called another neighbor, who called our ward’s bishop (similar to a pastor or rector), who came by at noon on his lunch break and said, “I heard you have a little water problem?”

I wasn’t going to cry in front of him, but I knew it wasn’t just the water; it was all the furniture I had to move, and all the work that faced me repairing the damage. While insurance will help, we have a very high deductible. By then I was feeling more than a little overwhelmed. Bishop Stevenson took a look at my mushy bedroom, went downstairs to evaluate my sons’ room, and poked around in the rafters looking for more problems, then said, “Well, the hard part is over.”

I scoffed at him. “It’s just started!”

“No, it’s ended. Now you have help. I’ll be back at three when I get off of work, with some movers.”

“No, Bishop, I think we can handle it . . .”

Fortunately he didn’t believe my lies.

At 3 p.m. two young husbands and a teenage boy arrived with him to help my sons and me move everything to dry ground. Another neighbor brought more fans, another retrieved my youngest from preschool, and while I talked on the phone with the insurance company, everything got moved and placed, Tetris-like, in the family room, my daughter’s bedroom, and living room.

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(Our family room-now-storage room. Yes, the poster in the background is of a psychiatrist saying to a unicorn, “You need to believe in yourself.”)

Another neighbor brought over two bars of very dark chocolate (like alcohol for middle-aged Mormon women), and someone else brought us pizza for dinner. And while my living room will be my bedroom’s storage for a week . . .img_1979

. . . I realize Bishop Stevenson was right: the hard part is over. I’ve got help on every side.

I freely admit it’s tough for me to accept help. I think it’s that way for a lot of us. A part of me feels guilty for the mess, thinking that if I’d just looked at the toilet before I went to bed (my four-year-old has a knack for plugging it), or hadn’t slept so deeply, that I would have noticed and even prevented the mess that a dozen people have now had to help me with.

I also wouldn’t have had to swallow my pride and let strange men see what’s under my bed as they moved it to the living room. (Go ahead—look under your bed right now, and imagine your neighbors seeing that. Horrifying, isn’t it? Oh, come on—please tell me I’m not the only one with a disaster under her bed!)

Interestingly, today, Dec. 1 is “Worldwide Day of Service,” and it marks the beginning of the “Light the World” initiative—an idea to get everyone giving service throughout the month of December. Here’s a guide of daily suggestions, too. (Tomorrow, Dec. 2, for example, is “Honor your parents” day. Call [not text] your parents, write a note to your parents or in-laws, or learn about an ancestor.)

Dec. 1st is “Jesus Lifted Others’ Burdens and So Can You.” But my kind neighbors didn’t need any initiative or any prodding. Service is what they do all the time, anyway. They merely started a day early, on Nov. 30, which will always be for me, “Relieve the Flooded Day.”

When the water extraction crew arrived in the evening  (I finally admitted I needed professional carpet drying help), they were astonished at how much work had been accomplished. They praised me for getting everything moved out and putting fans where I could, but I told them, “It wasn’t me; it was my neighbors.”

“You have some awesome neighbors, then,” they said. Yep.

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(I feel like our bedrooms are having surgery.)

So to all of you who may serve this month, who will be that “awesome neighbor” who will lift other’s burdens, who will notice the blinking back of tears when someone’s too prideful to whimper, “Help?” I say, “THANK YOU!” You may not hear those words from those you serve, but they’re being sent your way.

Your service is needed, every day and everywhere. Something small to you may be something huge to those in need. So go out there and light the world.

And thank you in advance.

“I don’t know of another family—there or perhaps even here—that would give up as much as you have for those you see in need . . . You and Mahrree don’t care for possessions or status, but for people. Already you understand.”
~Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti

How a Pepperidge Farms cake revealed that everyone is obedient to something, if they realize it or not

My friend “Sally” has a brother who openly belittles her for being “blindly obedient” to her religion. Privately, Sally struggles to think more charitably of “John” who she thinks is a jerk.

One summer their parents invited Sally’s family and John’s family to share their condo at the beach. They agreed until they found out—too late—that each other’s family would be there. So Sally, her husband, and three kids decided to try to be cordial to Jon, his wife and two kids.

But things started off rocky, because while John and his family arrived at the condo on Saturday, Sally and her husband has responsibilities at their church and didn’t want to miss it. Normally they avoided travel on Sundays, but to keep the family peace, they left after church and arrived at the condo that evening.

It wasn’t good enough. John greeted them with, “You and that stupid church of yours. I swear, you’re so blindly obedient to it that you fear to miss even one day? Check-in to the condo was yesterday, you know. You were supposed to be here then.”

Sally was determined to be kind, even though it was silently eating her gut. She had called the condo earlier and they told her check-in started on Saturday, but they could check in at any time that week.

However, Sally gritted her teeth and said, “Thank you for getting the place for us.” She decided not to further ruin her Sabbath by getting in an argument about her “blind obedience.” Jon had quit religion when he was a teenager, and thought Sally was ridiculous for giving up her Sundays.

The next morning, Sally got up to make her kids their favorite muffins. She dumped the mixes in the bowl and proceeded to whip the contents into a froth.

“Whoa!” John exclaimed as he came in the kitchen. “That’s not how you make muffins!” He snatched the bowl out of her hands, picked up the box with instructions, and said, “Look—it clearly says, ‘Mix gently until just moistened.’ Can’t you follow directions?”

She grabbed the bowl back, trying not to feel like a twelve-year-old again. “I know what the box says, but some months ago one of my kids made muffins, overmixed the batter, and we discovered that we much prefer that texture. Whipping improves the recipe, and this is how we like it!” She purposely whipped the batter even more, just to shock her brother who stormed out of the kitchen mumbling, “She can’t ever get things right . . .”

The muffins turned out exactly how Sally and her family liked them.

That day the weather was rough, so instead of spending it at the beach, the families hit the shops. Sally and John took their kids in different directions. One store on the boardwalk was particularly aggressive in trying to get parents to buy their children an overpriced stuffed animal they “made” themselves, then paying an extra $10 for that animal to wear a t-shirt from the beach. They advertised loudly that the bears were the item to have that year, and the employees went so far as to herd families into the store.

Sally and her husband purposely steered their kids away. They had a budget for the trip, and told each of the kids how much they could spend on them. “That bear, all by itself,” Sally’s husband told their kids, “would take all of your souvenir money. One toy for all of you? But instead of a bear that wears a t-shirt, how about each of you get a t-shirt for school? The shop over there has a deal, and you could each get three shirts and still have money left over for churros.”

The decision was easily made, because churros are the best, and when they went back to the condo at dinner time they had a dozen t-shirts for the whole family. They’d stopped at the grocery store to buy supplies for dinner—grilled cheese sandwiches, carrots with dip, and a favorite cake for dessert.

Sally wasn’t surprised when they entered the condo and found John and his family already there, each of his kids with one of those bears, each with the extra $10 t-shirt.

One of Sally’s kids said to her cousins, “My parents said those were too expensive. We bought us t-shirts instead.”

As the cousins examined each other’s purchases, John smirked at Sally. “Too cheap to buy them stuffed animals?”

“Not at $50 each,” Sally scoffed. “Our kids would stick them on a shelf then never play with them. I thought it was a useless purchase for us.”

John scoffed back. “But it’s what you do at the beach! You buy them expensive souvenirs. That’s what credit cards are for.” Sally and her husband didn’t believe in using credit cards.

John also predictably made fun of their grilled cheese sandwich dinner, (“But it’s our favorite!” Sally defended) and when someone knocked at the door, John announced, “There’s our dinner from the ‘Happy Harbor’.”

John’s kids frowned as his wife paid the delivery boy. “But we hate seafood,” they complained.

“Seafood is what you eat at the beach,” John told them, and set out their elaborate dinner of shellfish on the table on the back porch, so that any passers-by at the condo could see the bags advertising the most expensive restaurant in the area.

Sally quietly made two more grilled cheese sandwiches and slipped them to John’s kids who wolfed them down before their parents announced that their seafood feast was laid out and ready.

Sally’s family sat at the table indoors, not needing to show off their sandwiches, and perfectly satisfied to not have to dig their dinner out of shells like their cousins, whose complaints could be heard from outside.

When it was time for dessert, Sally pulled out of the freezer their favorite: two frozen Pepperidge Farms cakes. John came in from the porch and frowned at the cakes she was removing from the boxes. “You’re not cutting those up frozen, are you?”

“Of course I am,” Sally said. “They taste like ice-cream cake like this.”

He grabbed the box and pointed at the words. “Look, right here. You’re supposed to defrost it in the fridge, first. Man, you can’t get anything right, can you? I’m taking my family out to the Ice Cream Shack for a proper dessert.”

“But that place is pricey!” Sally exclaimed. “One scoop of ice-cream costs more than an entire cake.”

“It’s supposed to be pricey. It’s the beach and it’s supposed to be the best! And don’t cut that cake while it’s frozen!” Enraged, he took his family—and his credit card—out for the evening.

That’s when it hit Sally, and she told me later, “I realized at that moment that John belittled me not for my ‘blind obedience’ but because I wasn’t obedient to what he thought was important. His fury at my cutting a frozen cake was only a hint at a much bigger problem:

He, too, was exceptionally obedient—to what the world expects of him.
His insistence that I follow the directions on the boxes?
Obey the boxes.
His buying those expensive bears because everyone else was?
Obey the crowds.
The ice-cream?
Obey the marketing.

“The trip became easier after that, because I finally understood my brother; he was scared of what people would think of him if it found out his sister wasn’t obedient to the world he worshiped, and he was terrified to not be seen what he thought it demanded he be doing.

“I realized that all of us are obedient—wholly devoted—to something: maybe it’s a team, or a political party, or a religious organization, or a movement, or even ourselves that we set on a pedestal and worship.

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That’s not necessarily wrong or bad. But it is if we don’t realize it, or if we didn’t make that choice consciously.

“John didn’t recognize how blindly he followed the trends of the world, and worried that everyone was watching to make sure he did everything he was ‘supposed’ to do at the beach. But I doubt anyone even noticed him and his family’s ‘obedience.’

“Yes, I’m obedient to my church, because I’ve researched and lived by its teachings, and have discovered for myself that it’s the best way for me to live my life. That’s how we’ve done everything, from muffin mixes to how we spend our Sundays.  There’s nothing blind about my obedience. Nothing blind at all. I’ve chosen what I’m obedient to, and it’s brought meaning and peace to my life.

“Unfortunately, I’m not sure my brother can say the same thing.”

But Jaytsy knew what she did love, and it was glorious to no longer worry about the world’s opinions. ~Book 4, The Falcon in the Barn

Why General Conference fell flat for me–I’m not in “sucking in” mode

Twice a year my church (LDS–Mormons) holds what’s called General Conference. No one goes to church, but watches on TV or the internet the broadcast from Salt Lake City. For Saturday and Sunday we get to listen to five sessions of prophets, apostles, and auxiliary presidencies teaching us how to live more spiritually in the secular world around us. Normally it’s uplifting, and even a fun time at our house to sit in the living room eating snacks and making crafts while “going to church” on TV.

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Except for this year. General Conference occurred this last weekend, and it totally fell flat. The speakers weren’t engaging, the music was predictable, and I couldn’t focus on anything for long. In fact, I slept through most of the talks, only to wake up to hear something else bland and uninspiring, so I’d drift off again.

Why did I not find church interesting last weekend? What did they do wrong?

Nothing.

Church wasn’t the problem; the problem was me. I was sick. I’m on day five of fighting what I’m sure is strep throat (but I’m too cheap to go to the doctor’s to find out, so I’m trying to tough it out, which means whimpering every few minutes, “I can’t swallow.”).

(I hope this also explains why this week’s post is even more disjointed than usual.)

In my achy, miserable condition, I couldn’t pay attention, couldn’t feel the spirit, couldn’t become engaged in what I normally enjoy.

The problem wasn’t the source; it was me. This happens a lot, I’m afraid to admit.

For example, I remember reading The Scarlet Letter as a high school junior. I found it dull and strange—why was this minister carving into his own chest? Why couldn’t these people just be nice to this poor, unmarried mother? Like, whatever, dudes . . .

Then, some years later as a senior in college, I read it again for a class. This time I was married and expecting my first child, and the book made me weep. I ached for Hester Prynne, for Arthur Dimmesdale, even for Roger Chillingworth. I could scarcely write my essay about it because the story panged me so deeply.

Why the difference in responses? The book hadn’t changed, I had. My thoughts, my experiences, my heart were all much more prepared to take in what Nathaniel Hawthorne was trying to convey. (Pregnancy hormones likely played a part in amplifying the narrative in my head.)

I’ve seen people come away from movies, books, and speeches with a wide range of responses. “That was wonderful!” “That was stupid.” “That was dull.” “That was inspiring!” They all experienced the same thing, so why the different reactions?

More and more I’m convinced that people’s reactions say far more about themselves than about the activity they just completed.

This is one of the many reasons why I don’t rely too much on reviews about anything, or I read about a dozen reviews before I decide to take a chance on something. Objectivity is pretty much impossible for us biased, human creatures. And the more we insist that we are objective, it seems the more we demonstrate that we aren’t. We should just admit it: we react emotionally to everything around us because we aren’t robots.

During the past few days I’ve seen my friends put up posts of what they enjoyed most about General Conference, and I’m a bit jealous that I missed it all. The talks are available online, and once I’m finally over this gunk, I’ll rewatch or read them.

But this experience has made me understand something painful: if I’m not open-minded and open-hearted, I will miss things. Not just activities or fun stuff, but important emotional things.

Victor Weisskopf, a professor of physics, said this: “People cannot learn by having information pressed into their brains. Knowledge must be sucked into the brain, not pushed in.”

If I want to be uplifted, I need to prepare my mind for that “sucking in” experience. Conversely, if I’m not in the correct mindset, nothing—no matter how marvelous and majestic the experience—will let me see anything more than I’m willing to.

I’m reminded of the city-dweller who was used to vacationing at the beach. One year his wife dragged him instead to Yellowstone. When asked about the magnificent landscapes, the volcanic wonders, the plethora of wild animals, he said, still resentful about missing out on eating seafood and playing mini golf, “There were too many bison and I couldn’t get any wi-fi.”

His mind and heart weren’t in the correct “sucking in” mode.

This weekend has made me wonder how often I’m not in proper “sucking in” mode.

How often do I come to a situation with the “ailing” mindset of cynicism, resentment, unrealistic expectations, or just plain callousness?

How often has my head been acting as if it’s on too much DayQuil—too fogged to pay attention to the important details?

How often am I too light-headed to sink into deep thoughts?

How often do I sleep through moments that would astonish me?

Maybe the most important thing I learned from General Conference this year is to make sure my head’s always in “sucking in” mode. That doesn’t make for a great meme, I know. I tried:

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I can’t wait to get better, to escape this oppressive fog, and to once again “suck in” the world more clearly.

(My apologies–no matter how many times I write it, “suck in” just doesn’t sound right, so I’m going to go lay down now . . .)

“She thinks she’s got something relevant from her books for her blog this week?” Mahrree asked Perrin in surprise. “What are we supposed to say?”

He just looked at her with furrowed brows. “What’s DayQuil?”

~Book #nothing, The Writer Needs to Take a Nap