Saturday, February 26, 2011

Singing to My Daughter

I've sung a lot of lullabyes. I used to sing to the Richard twins when they'd go down for their nap, and then to all the Richard kids at night. When I went on vacation with them, I'd sing to the whole family, in the car, or at night. I sang to Zoe in a tent during thunderstorms at girl's camp in Tennessee (Zoe has Down Syndrome and is a great camper--unless there's thunderstorms), and to a cabin full of 12-13 yr old girls at girl's camp in New Hampshire. I sang to my girls when I was a youth camp leader in Tennessee and Pennsylvania. And now I sing to my first daughter.

I varied the selection, singing different songs for 12-year-old Delaney than for 5-year-olds Gage and Wyatt, but I always stuck to religious songs when it came to bed-time songs. During the day I'd sing folk songs, or pop songs, or put on some dance music; but at night I sang the most comforting songs I could think of, which were always those that spoke about Christ and hope for eternal things.

I realized the other night, as I was on the third verse of "I Am a Child of God" for the fourth or fifth time that day, that I have sung that song more than any other. It's not because it's my favorite--I've actually gotten quite sick of it at times. But when the twins were little, it was the song I always sang before their naps. Zoe and Camden (siblings, both have Down Syndrome) always requested the same song. And Cimorene calms down faster with that song than with any other.

Having sung it so much, I tend to not notice the words I'm actually saying, but lately I've been paying more attention.

I am a child of God, and He has sent me here
Has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear.

I am a child of God, and so my needs are great.
Help me to understand His words before it grows too late.

I am a child of God; rich blessings are in store.
If I but learn to do his will, I'll live with Him once more.

(And the generally unknown 4th verse from the primary songbook)
I am a child of God; His promises are sure
Celestial glory shall be mine, if I can but endure.

Some of my earliest memories with this song include confusion. "Parents deer?" I pictured my parents with antlers and hoofs. "And so my knees are great?" Well, they were generally scraped, but they weren't bad, I guess.

I learned what the words meant pretty quickly, but I never thought much about just how comforting they were. How many people in this world know that they're a child of God, and that their needs are important just because He loves them? How many would be happier if they knew and really understood that? Do I even really understand? How many times do I forget that doing His will is the important thing? And I won't tell you how often I need reminders that His promises are sure. God will come through. Everything he's promised--peace, forgiveness, eternal life, that my family can be together forever, that we'll live in our bodies again, and so many personal promises--these things are sure. I have to do my part, of course, but He will not fail in His.

What more do I need to be happy and hopeful in this life? No wonder so many children, whose hearts are pure, love this song. It speaks of hope, and love, and our divine nature and eternal destiny. I'm grateful for the chance to sing it ten times a day to my daughter. I only hope I can teach her someday what it means.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bubble-wrap Reading

I hereby confess: I like reading romance novels.

Before you freak out, let me clarify. I like reading Regency period romance novels--and only some of those. I stick to Regency for two reasons. First, they're generally clean. I've had to put down a couple, but the code of conduct expected of young ladies of society at the time lends itself to a safer read. Secondly, they're funny. The emphasis is usually on wit and an appreciation for the ridiculous.

These novels are what my father-in-law once described as "bubble-wrap literature" (he put Louis L'Amour under the same blanket). No one knows why popping bubble-wrap is so satisfying, but it draws us nonetheless. The same goes for reading these books. We know how it's going to end, usually from the first chapter on. The characters aren't people we're going to befriend and think about for weeks afterward. In fact, if we feel we know them at all, it's only because we've seen the same stock characters in other novels of the same genre. Chances are, reading one of these books will not change your life, and you probably won't have much desire to re-read it or recommend it to a friend (some of Georgette Heyer's books may be an exception).

Who cares? This is sheer escapism.

When I say that my father-in-law calls it bubble-wrap, don't think he's being derogatory. He has 3 shelves full of Regency books himself (his wife's are in the other room). And he's one of the most learned men I know (I count 14 bookcases in the house, most of them floor-to-ceiling, and he's read almost everything on them, from Dickens to Hugh B. Brown to Robin McKinley).

So why do I get embarrassed to admit that I read them?

I've recently created an account on goodreads.com. I want to keep track of all the books I read so I can look back at the end of the year and have a great sense of numerical achievement. Despite this, I've left off probably eight or nine books in the last two months. Why? Because they're fluff. Or, to stick with my metaphor, bubbles.

I'm too embarrassed to post that I read a Regency romance novel, even if it was handed to me by my PhD father-in-law? Yes. But not anymore.

I'm writing this post as a confession, because letting the secret into cyberspace here will allow me to defiantly add those books to my list. (It doesn't have to make sense, just accept that that's how my brain works.)

And you know what? I like happy endings, and reading about balls and earls, tete-a-tetes and repartees (forgive my inability to place the proper accent marks), and all sorts of other ridiculousness. Also, the books are generally small, easy to hold, and easy to focus on when I'm feeding my daughter or when I'm too tired to actually think.

But just in case my literary friends are starting to worry about me--especially after my previous posts about wanting to stretch my brain--I have another announcement. I finished Steinbeck's Cannery Row. And loved it. So there.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine's Memories

I've been thinking back this week about different Valentine's Days. I have some years in particular that stand out to me.

Age 15 -- I received my first real valentines ("real" meaning from a boy and not just because he's handing them out to the entire 3rd grade class). Brett and Nathan, two of my best friends in my mid-teens, both gave me valentines. Brett gave me one of those little boxes of chocolates. Nathan left an anonymous (the secret came out later) candy heart that said "Pretty Eyes," which started a series of inside jokes culminating in "Pretty Eyes" being painted on some bleachers at a combined-stake service project (don't worry, he was supposed to be painting them). Those two boys did more for my self-confidence that whole year than I could ever thank them for.

Age 19 -- Freshman year of college. My first boyfriend had broken up with me a month and a half earlier, and I figured Valentine's Day would just be depressing. Then Mandi informed me that Valentine's Day was amazing and that she would be my Valentine, because it was one of her favorite holidays. We swapped Valentine's goodies, and I learned that the Dollar Tree sells roses in February. Thank goodness for friends!

Age 20 -- Sophomore year. My roommate's boyfriend had left town to prepare for his mission, but he sent me a letter with money and asked me to buy her some roses and chocolate and set them up in a pretty way. I did an awesome job, if I do say so myself... This was also the year I was secretly wishing that Cooley would surprise me by deciding he liked me and sending me a Valentine. That was stupid, though; I knew he only saw me as a friend. I didn't get the Valentine, but 15 days later we were engaged.

This list, of course, leaves out the years where I wished the Grinch would switch from Christmas and steal Valentine's Day. But hey, it's my blog, and I can be selective with my memories if I want.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Learning to Think

The other day my father-in-law was talking about how this couple-month period in our lives is like Eden, because Ryan's not working (hasn't found a job yet), we don't have to worry about rent, we only cook once a week or so, and we can just do what we want.

If this is Eden, why am I not enjoying it more?

Ryan says I'm tired. Not sleeping for 6 months will do that. And it's true; I've never functioned well without my proper 8 hours of sleep. But it's more than that.

Where is the excitement for a new day, a new adventure? In her book Walking on Water Madeleine L'Engle talks about how young children always wake up excited, and she says that an artist must do the same or they will find no inspiration, because they won't notice the little curiosities of life.

I haven't felt much like an artist lately. I decided to resurrect this blog to help me find an incentive to write. But most days when I think about blogging, I think, "I don't have anything to write about. No one wants to hear about another diaper blow-out."

Then I ask myself, do I not have any thoughts? Do I not reflect on anything, or ponder, or wonder about anything? Wonder is the most inspiring thing for a writer. Where is my wonder?

I realize it's not that I don't have thoughts, it's that I generally don't pursue any of them far enough to create anything sensible from them. I have a lot of under-developed thoughts, which I dismiss before they have time to ruminate.

Well, why do I dismiss them?

I think it has something to do with the way that I always worry. I used to look forward to things, but our plans have changed so many times in the last year alone that I don't dare look forward anymore. I try not to look at the future, because it scares me. I just know there are big, nasty trials waiting for me around the next corner.

Well, duh. That's the purpose of life, isn't it?

But it's one thing to know trials are necessary, and another to not be afraid of them. I'm realizing, however, that my fear of future trials is crippling my ability to function in the present. I have a beautiful daughter and an amazing husband. I am healthy (despite the lack of sleep), and I have good friends and family who love me. I am a daughter of God, the ruler of the universe. Not just the God of this world, or country, or my church, or the God of my parents. The god of the universe. And he's on my side. Could I ask for better odds?

I'm setting a goal to blog at least 3 times every week. I'm going to find things that make me wonder or ponder, and I'm going to let those thoughts spin in my head, then spill them out as words and arrange and rearrange themselves until they teach me something.

Maybe the posts will be profound. Maybe they'll be humorous. Maybe they won't make sense to anyone but me. But as long as they show that I'm thinking, they'll be worth it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trusting Friendliness

Going to China did some interesting things for Ryan and me. Where I came back with 6 months of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), Ryan developed a heightened awareness of his surroundings and a distrust of strangers. (If you haven't heard our China story, don't go looking for it in the posts below. They scratch the bare bones of what happened, but skip all the stuff that caused the above-mentioned reactions.)

Yesterday as we walked through Walmart, we were struck by that feeling that something was different... turned out it was the layout of the store. We had no idea where the baby section was, and we were wandering around discussing the fact out loud when a man about 20 ft. away asked us what we were looking for. We told him, and he said, "Oh, it's over here," and walked us there.

He looked to be in his twenties and had two little girls with him, probably 2.5 and 4 years old. He had a bit of a beard, and a slightly airy voice. He took us to the appropriate section, and saw that we were looking at baby monitors.

"Oh, do you need a monitor? I have one I'd sell you. We paid $60 for it, but we never used it because our apartment was small enough to hear them crying. I'd give it to you for $30. It's one of those that has two receivers." He indicated the $60 monitors on the shelf.

Ryan and I looked at each other, but we weren't sure what to say. Meanwhile the older girl came running around the corner holding a Disney princess umbrella. "Daddy, Daddy, we need this for the rain outside!" Her sister came running up as well, holding an umbrella almost bigger than she was. She grinned up at me and said, "Sponge Bob."

Turns out his name was Frank. We found that after we had exchanged phone numbers and gotten his address. He called his wife, and she said to only charge us $20 for the monitor. That was cheaper than the single-receiver short-range set at the store. He said he'd go home and find it, then give us a call.

Ryan and I discussed afterward that our first instinct was to distrust even the fact that Frank offered to show us where the baby things were. We could tell he was just being nice, but part of us wanted to know why. Why would he be nice? What motive could he have for offering to sell us his monitor instead of the one at the store? Did he just want to sell it? Could it really be that he wanted to save us money and clear up some space in his house at the same time?

We went that night to pick up the monitor. It was dark out, which meant our guards were up even more. I sat in the car with Cimorene and locked the doors quickly behind Ryan. I kept wondering why I was sending my husband to knock on the door of someone we knew nothing about.

But Frank was not sitting there with a gun, ready to steal Ryan's wallet; he was in the living room where his younger daughter had fallen asleep curled up with blankets on the floor. He gave Ryan the monitor, and Ryan gave him the $20. They discussed how they'd both worked at the cheese factory in town. And Ryan came back to the car.

It's sad that we were both so hesitant to accept friendliness for what it was. We looked for hidden motives, instead of believing that Frank was actually just a nice guy. Neither of us felt genuinely uncomfortable about the situation, or we wouldn't have gone to his house, but both of us had that little cynical voice that said people aren't really just friendly like that. I'm grateful Frank showed us otherwise.