At church that week, I had grabbed a faded pink copy of a book called Gospel Principles. At that point, when I picked up that book, all I was certain of was that God was real. Some indescribable experiences gave me the gift of certainty- and I absolutely considered that certainty a gift. I flipped through the book idly, and finally decided to actually read. [Read more…]
Several lifetimes ago in Southern California, I found myself listening to a lecture on abstract expressionism. My professor was a painter from west Africa. He wore colorful dashikis with large bone necklaces, spoke with a musical cadence that combined with the droning summer fans and aromatic paints made his class enchanting. He pushed us- he could tell if we were playing it safe. Most of us students were accustomed to praise, and the first time he threw one of my works in the trash and told me to leave if I wasn’t serious, I was stung, umbraged, offended- and deep down, under the pride, I knew he was right. He didn’t want art from privileged kids who had been petted for their talent all their lives- everyone at that school was talented- he wanted to teach us to be fearless. How to examine our motives, to tear away our safety nets, and build our own wings as we were falling.
Which brings me to Jackson Pollock. If a person knows nothing about modern art, they know Jackson Pollock. And almost everyone has heard someone exclaim, as they look at a Pollock: “My [small child of various bladder control ability] could paint that.” One day a student in Mr. West Africa’s class made the mistake of making just such a statement. Fury sparked, and he turned on the student. Paraphrasing, because this was nearly 20 years ago, he said: [Read more…]
First, when making pickles, you must have the perfect pickle recipe. Along with David Bednar, I too happen to have one- it’s my great-grandmother’s recipe, from many a hot Iowa summer, written in my grandfather’s own hand, which somehow makes it cooler than cool, and guaranteed to make magic pickles. It’s also helpful to have a wooden-yellow-handled vintage pickle cutter. Helpful, but not necessary. Cooler, but everyone will live if your poor pickles have straight sides. They’ll feel sorry for you, but they’ll still like your pickles. [Read more…]
American illustrator and beloved LDS painter Arnold Friberg passed away early this morning, July 1, 2010 in Salt Lake City. [Read more…]
“It is so important that you young men and you young women get all of the education that you can. The Lord has said very plainly that His people are to gain knowledge of countries and kingdoms and of things of the world through the process of education, even by study and by faith.”
~Gordon B Hinckley [Read more…]
Today was my kids’ last day of school. I now have a fourth-grader, a first-grader and a pre-kinder kid. My baby-years are officially over. So what do I do to celebrate? Monday is MY first day back at college.
It’s odd to find myself again in a time of making big-decisions. We usually attribute (and I did too) those times to our younger years. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to major in? How will you chose a partner or spouse? I thought the Deciding Years were far behind me. Ha ha! Joke’s on me! [Read more…]
Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” Doctrine and Covenants 13
One of the things that frightened me most about getting divorced was the lack of a father figure in our home. I know I can accomplish a lot as a competent mother- but I also know, for both my sons and for my daughter, having a healthy idea of what a man is and does is vitally important. And this is something, no matter how good a mother I might be, I cannot provide. [Read more…]
She wasn’t looking as she stepped out Emma’s front door, and the fall knocked the wind completely from her chest. It was a big first step, and she was so distracted by the people surveying the Smith family cemetery across the street, she completely missed it. She was still in her skirt from the Temple earlier, which flew up and let the rough concrete take a gnarly bite of exposed leg, as her head slammed into the iron railing on the edge of the landing.
For a few seconds she sat, stunned and detachedly noting the reality she had long suspected only a Looney Tunes gag- but nope- stars and bells, coupled with black swirly spots swam across her vision. [Read more…]
Sister Paul stuck her head in my room and asked if I had an extra manual. She teaches the next class up, the 14-year-olds that I had last year. When they say you love those you serve, I had no idea how true it was until I was called to teach a dozen teenagers Sunday School. It’s been two years now, and I’ve never loved a calling more than I love teaching these kids. Which of course means I’ll be released soon and thrown in Nursery or (shoot me now) Scouts.
“Here, you can have mine. I’m winging it today.” [Read more…]
Taking the first picture off the wall and gently placing it a box was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Days later I still sat looking at the bare spot on the wall, a lump in my throat and tears welling uncontrollably. Taking that picture down was acknowledging the inevitable, and I kept forgetting to breathe.
The next week, women began showing up on my doorstep with cardboard boxes and rolls of tape. The doorbell would ring, and I never knew how many kind faces would be standing there- but every day, they came as the sun. My shoulders were bowed under the weight of a life imploding, and those hands held up more than cardboard boxes that week.
Divorce ripples out and out, and changes people who thought they were far enough from the ragged epicenter to be safe. No one is safe. Divorce, while first a deeply private and painful rending surprised me in being also a communal sorrow. I did not – could not have- anticipated the families effected by, touched by, and changed by the private hell of the loss of my marriage. [Read more…]
My hand is shaking as I dial the numbers, balancing the little spiral-bound directory on my knee. Jane picked up on the second ring, “Hi Tracy…!” I jumped a little, always startled when caller ID betrays me. I was born at the wrong time. “…How are you!?” Jane is always cheerful, despite having seven kids and an array of stray pets brought home by her veterinarian husband.
“Hi Jane” I choke out, the tears clogging my throat and getting stuck somewhere in my mangled greeting.
“Are you okay? No, I know you’re not okay, I’ll be right there.”
Gratitude wells within. Grateful for someone cheery who talks a lot and doesn’t need me to fill in the yawning gaps. My life is full of yawning gaps. Everywhere I step, the ground is thin, fragile like a crust of ice on snow that’s frozen overnight. Looks are deceiving. Looks don’t mean anything. [Read more…]
One thing Mormons do better than just about anyone is to circle the wagons. As a people, we love to help. We prepare, we practice, we take classes, we bring casseroles, and heaven knows, we store our wheat. I’ve watched with fascination over the years, as my membership in the church has mellowed from newbie to fully-aged and sort-of mellowed active, adult, endowed member. I’ve participated, as my friends practice what they preach- or at the very least, make a mighty effort to do so. I read posts like this one, and especially this one and I find myself swelling with pride. These are My People, and I am counted among the flock. [Read more…]
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is on the TV, as it is every Thanksgiving morning. My grandma was a firm believer in this Parade, and would even get up early to watch it live, sipping her Sanka and making me a grilled cheese sandwich and frozen red grapes. As an adult, I don’t particularly care for parades, let alone parades on tv that are spliced and diced- but it would not be Thanksgiving for me without Al Roker yelling at me and the Rockettes freezing their cute tushies off while they slip around in the New York cold. [Read more…]
Along with Steve Evans and J. Stapley, I was honored to present as part of the Pillars of My Faith at Sunstone Northwest this last Saturday. Most of this story will be familiar to anyone who’s followed my journey, but I agreed to post and share my thoughts. Thanks also to Molly Bennion and Mary Ellen Robertson for all the good work they devote to others.
The pillars of my faith are planted in soil that is still soft and freshly turned. The ground where they rest is still marred by the plow, loamy and verdant from only relatively recently having been broken and turned. This lose fresh soil makes my pillars more like stakes, sprouts… wisps of what they may someday be, but the seeds are planted nonetheless, and I have seen the seeds sprout that may someday have the breadth of pillars, the strength of cedars. Not yet, but the promise makes me gasp in awe, and make me willing to gamble on faith. [Read more…]
…it’s all going to be all right. You and your family will be fine, and you are not to worry…
Those were the words I used to close my last post. It’s with a mix of reverence and perplexed bemusement that I contemplate them now. After two years of unemployment, a son diagnosed with autism, and my husband making choices that were beyond my control, I find myself still tremendously comforted by those words, and oddly, they have more meaning to me today, in the middle of a divorce, than they did then. [Read more…]
I gave this talk this morning in my ward. It’s my second in 7 years of membership. The photograph is from a friend’s mission to Canada.
We are a living church. One of our greatest blessings is that we belong to a church with continuing, ongoing revelation. The heavens are open. Most Christian denominations have a closed canon of scriptures, meaning that they believe the Bible contains all of God’s words to his children, and that nothing further can be added or will be given to the earth. The heavens are thus sealed to Mankind. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints, we reject this notion. We believe in an open canon- meaning we have the limitless and hope-filled potential for more binding revelation to be given and received.
Joseph Smith wrote, in the ninth article of faith, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and all that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” [Read more…]
Extended Unemployment. Simple little words, but words that have rocked my world. Who knew? I mean, when this all started nineteen months ago, we were so confident it was nothing more than a minor blip- a new job would surely materialize quickly- We’d never even heard of someone who wanted to work actually being unable to find a job. We figured we’d call some connections, float some resumes and something would come up. Tick… tick… tick… tick… the weeks turned into months, and more surprises surfaced in our lives.
My husband suffered some unexpected health issues, and without medical insurance (because earlier we had to decide: Mortgage? Or COBRA?) we were saddled with some hefty bills. Recovery and therapy followed. Tick… tick… tick… We had our six-months reserves, as counselled. We had our credit cards paid off. Our modest cars and student loans were paid off.
My husband picked up odd jobs where he could, while continuing his search. We paid a headhunter to help us. We broadened our horizons, looking in other cities. At one temp-job, my husband broke his hand in some machinery. More medical bills. Tick… tick… tick… At the same time, our youngest son was officially diagnosed with Autism, and we began learning a new language. [Read more…]
Just back from running errands, I kicked my shoes into the basket by the door, and dropped my keys on the piano. Hollering a greeting to David, I ran upstairs to my bathroom, grabbed some clean folded clothes from the basket on the bed, and turned on the hot water. After my scalding shower, the kids came to greet me and we played before a phone call pulled me away.
Heading downstairs, I kissed my husband on the cheek and asked how his day was going- standing at the kitchen sink with suds on his muscular forearms, he frowned, “Abby’s pooped three times. Did you notice the bathroom?”
The phone rang again- holding up my finger and whispering that I loved him, I nodded and took the call. I was late for a meeting with a cabinet maker I’m doing some freelance murals for, and I hated to shower and run, but I was going to be late. I grabbed my purse, blew kisses, headed towards the garage and hit the opener “What time will you be back? Don’t forget family night tonight…” I waved through the windshield, shouting over the engine that I would be back on time- and that my phone was on if he needed me. Wiping his hands on the dishtowel, he stood in the doorway, watching me back out of the driveway… [Read more…]
Ten years ago, while preparing for my own marriage, I was also looking into Judaism. I had taken some Hebrew classes and attended temple at my local synagogue, and found the traditions and history especially rich and fascinating. As an artist and a soon-to be bride, I was especially drawn to the tradition of the Ketubah. In ancient times the Ketubah was a marriage agreement written up as protection for the bride. As part of the wedding ceremony, it was read under the chuppa, and was signed by the Rabbi and by witnesses. It is still done today.
Ketubah are quite beautiful, and often are seen framed in Jewish homes. The artwork can be elaborate or simple, modern or archaic and the wording, with a few exceptions, reflects personal choices of the couple. I found this a lovely tradition and decided to make something similar for myself and my husband. [Read more…]
Continuing our theme this week… Almost seventeen months ago, my husband lost his job. We had our six-months reserves, we had our cars and student loans paid off, we had our food storage and our credit cards were empty. We did everything we were counselled to do. We cashed in our 401K, pared down our expenses and tried to stretch our dollar, making our six months savings last almost a year and half. In these months, we’ve also accumulated over 300 rejection letters for the jobs my husband has applied for in three states.
Today, we are out of rope. The savings are gone. The 401K is gone. The unemployment insurance is gone. We don’t know what comes next. But here is what I can see from where I stand… [Read more…]
My husband and I teach Sunday School in our new ward. Our class of 13-year-old kids are bright, interesting and they have a lot to offer our discussions. We often let the kids take the lead- even letting them teach the lesson every other Sunday- and while that might be a little unconventional, it works well for this group. We use the manual as our guidelines, but are also open to following questions where they may lead. [Read more…]
Last night, after picking up the umpteenth dirty sock-wad, after doing my third load of laundry, after telling the boys for the 6th time to get their jammies on, after stepping in yogurt blobs on the floor after I TOLD them not to eat in the living room, I lost it.
Feeling bad, but still simmering, I went upstairs to get myself ready for bed- only to find my room torn apart; stuff from under the bed strewn about, a package I received in the mail was opened and scattered, and my new tights for the cold weather were opened and tied around the bed posts. I really lost it. Dropped my basket, so to speak. [Read more…]
This candle will brighten your holiday and it tastes wonderful! [Read more…]
Late this summer, I took my six year-old son Jeffrey on his first road trip. Headed to Salt Lake for a conference, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for bonding time before school started. It might have been quicker to fly, but seriously, road trips are a rite of passage I wanted to share with him. There would be other kids at the conference, and I would have plenty of free time. He was excited to go, and piled his pillows and toys in the backseat with puppy-like exuberance.
Ten hours and a ghastly amount of “Are we there yet?” later, we pulled into our Salt Lake City hotel. Our room was right off the pool, and I promised my tired boy we would hit the water as soon as we got dinner. We unpacked and decided to walk to a restaurant up the street. [Read more…]
On Thursday, no appointment, no arrangement, bee in my bonnet, I camped out at my bishop’s office door. In all fairness, I did email to warn him- it’s time for my Recommend. We have been dancing around this for years now, and this week was my personal Appomattox. For no reason in particular, it was time. And when I say it was time, I meant now.
At 9:33 on Thursday night, I left the Stake Presidents office with a bright, shiny, signed living endowment recommend and a two-year, bar-coded, bona fide Temple Recommend. [Read more…]
Trying to decide what to tell your kids, if anything, about suicide is horrible. My husband’s brother took his own life Thursday. And I’m still waiting for the blast waves to wash over this already fragile family of mine. My husband and his mom are flying to bury their brother/son; the ache and sadness are beyond words. It’s coloring everything I see and feel- including the sunrises I’ve been watching because I cannot sleep. I just cry and cry, and I wasn’t even close to this sibling. It’s unfathomably sad he felt suicide was his best choice. Those left behind are fractured and devastated. [Read more…]
Last time I was in Salt Lake City was on the back of my boyfriend’s Harley Davidson, no helmet, braids blowing from under a pink bandana, headed towards South Dakota. Now, a dozen years down the road, safely buckled in a car with my six year-old son, the bikers rumbled past, headed east for that same bike rally, always held the first week of August. [Read more…]
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Zora Neale Hurston
When I was younger, and thought I understood things, I yearned for Answer years. Of course, I was up to my collarbones in Asking years- immersed in the joy and luxury of contemplating life’s Big questions. In my naiveté, I often wondered what was more difficult- asking or getting my answers. Occasionally I would catch glimpses of an Answer- a fleeing shadow, the dry shaded rustle of the unknown on the edge of my vision. But like a child playing with matches who hasn’t yet seen fire, there was no framework to comprehend those Answers. [Read more…]
The coupons were concealed carefully inside my purse, but I had to keep peeking at the list to see what was approved for me to purchase. A dozen eggs, four gallons of milk, some breakfast cereal of specific brand, cheese- all carefully lined out on the coupons the nice lady at the WIC center had given me. [Read more…]
So, following the news this morning… If Roger Clemens, a resident of Houston, really had an affair with a 15 year-old, why doesn’t the great state of Texas raid his home and take his children away from him? And maybe, while they’re at it, they could take his neighbor’s kids, just to be safe?