Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jared Turns 33

M'ijo--it has been quite a while since I wrote you a letter. Not being a good example, am I? So today, as I contemplate your Birthday, I think that I will take just a moment and write you a letter.

Let's see, how old are you today anyway? Oh my, you are 33! What was I doing when I was 33? It was 1985, in Bolivia, and Jonathan had just turned a year old! Jacey was not even thought of at the time. . .but the next year, we became a family of seven. I did some of my "best work" in life in Bolivia. The world grew smaller for me, and my strengths grew larger. I had unprecedented time with you kids, not having to worry about the daily upkeep of a house, and cooking the meals. I did all the fun stuff--designing and shopping for menus, cooking for big groups of people, and overseeing the house. That's how a woman's life should be I've decided. I remember Bolivian women thought all American women sat on their behinds all day eating bonbons. When I explained that I was the cook, the maid, the chauffeur, the party planner, the taxi, the bank, the laundress, the gardener (that was the most shocking to them!) the seamstress, paid the bills, coached and was the nanny--well, I think I had them straightened out and flying right.

I learned a lot in my 33rd year: like a woman's home is not her character, nor her worth. And speaking of worth--that mistakes were part of my growth--not my worth. My patriotism grew, my ability to sacrifice and be of service became more powerful, and I found that I could love anyone--no matter the culture, the poverty, the ignorance or the arrogance (that was for some Embassy folks). I learned that I could survive alone, and raise four kids with a spouse that traveled a lot--and be very happy doing it! I learned a new language, made new friends (mourned my old and dear friends), and served in a church calling where I didn't know a word that was spoken! I learned to eat fresh, not drink the water and to quit putting my hands in my mouth.

I learned to rely on the Lord in a way that I had never experienced so continuously. I saw His hand. I was sheltered in the hallow of that Hand many times. I knew and felt the comfort of the Holy Ghost--which sometimes was more my companion than your father was. I read the Book of Mormon and understood it better than the thirty-three years before. I also loved more deeply my LDS world family, and their passion for always trying to do the right thing.

I understood prejudice, poverty, sickness and religious intolerance in a way that was not possible being raised in my lily-white all Mormon Utah.  People can be just as devout and faithful believing something else, and I grew to love and understand that. I have one exception here: While driving in her car, I told Meches to quit genuflecting through every intersection, she was making me nervous! If she was so unsure of her driving skills and needed to bless every intersection--maybe I needed to walk!! 

Well, enough on my 33rd year, here is a wish I have for you for your 33rd year, and it comes in the form of a song from Dylan called "Forever Young"

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

I've included some music so that you can hear him sing it, and follow along with his words. They are good wishes, and some of the thoughts that I would wish for you as your Momma.

You are a good and man. Your brilliance, talents and social skills are the envy of everyone. They sense how much you like people. I'd like to think that my talking to strangers (like in elevators) may have helped a little in the social department! You are a good husband and I watch as you grow and learn how to be a better one and am very proud of your efforts. You are a wonderful father. Campbell has brought out in you all the tenderness, love, connection and sweetness than a true man can have for his child. You are beyond what I ever thought possible in your desire to serve your son and to give him so much of yourself. You will have many paydays ahead and will be full in your heart in the future for all of your work done today. Being a parent means delaying gratification, but then you are a gardener, so you know all about that.

Thank you for always caring about your Dad and me. You have an uncanny ability to sense when we need to talk, or to do something nice for us when we need it. But Jared, just having you walk in the door, and be so glad to see us, is the nicest thing that you can do. Old people like to be loved. I know, because I am old. You and Sade have been so good to us--and we love your invitations to join you--doing anything!

Thank you for the constant love that you show to your siblings, cousins, grandma--and your old aunts and uncles! You are the oldest and have known them the longest.

Have a wonderful day today reflecting on your thirty-three years of earth-life. I love you.


Monday, February 22, 2010

"Letter Day Saint"

Here we are, and what a motley crew I might add! What is about a four-hour trip, was actually seven. That's because we had to stop so Karol could walk around and wake her legs up, Audrey had to use the bathroom, we all needed drinks, and of course we had to eat at Cafe Rio!

We survived about three winter storms, icy and slushy roads, fog, and not having washer fluid! Going down was full of welcome chatter, and coming home was full of singing--from the Beatles to the Carpenters--we belted them all! I still miss Karen's voice. 

We wound down by listening to "American Life" with Ira Glass on NPR. This radio piece as told by David Segal tells the story about a woman named Elizabeth who was dying of cancer. She composed thirteen birthday letters for her 16 year-old daughter. Her final letter was to be sent on Rebecca's wedding day. 

At first, the letters felt comforting. Dad mailed them to her, but at her mother's request, the letters were for her eyes only. This set up one of many uncomfortable "traps" in the experience and unintentionally built a wall between her and her Father. The story has an interesting twist, and ends in a very unexpected way--promoting lively discussions between all of us, in the car, as we drove north on Interstate 15. What we would write to our children if we knew we were going to die?. Would we write anything at all? After hearing this broadcast, we all had to re-think our first reaction!

The girl, Rebecca, said that although she felt that the letters made her "visit her mother's grave" every year and kept her from "moving on", they also made her a better person, as her mom challenged her to give "ethical expression" to her life as well as other important comments and suggestions. Elizabeth was a Mormon mother who wanted her daughter to marry in an LDS Temple. All of her letters reflected on her daughters Mormon religiosity, with only one problem: the daughter decided as an adult that Mormonism was not for her. Each yearly letter became more of a condemnation than a welcomed visit. And Dad had to "pick up the pieces" from an emotionally distraught daughter every year she read her birthday letter.

She marries, outside of an LDS Temple, to a non-member. She is very happy, but on her wedding day, she is not sure if she wants to read her Mom's letter--she doesn't want to be sad knowing that she was not meeting the expectations her mother had for her. She thinks she may wait another time to read her Wedding Day Letter--but the letter never even arrives. Although her Dad's secretary had sent the letter FedEx, the letter turns missing. It never shows up. 

You will have to click on the link below and listen to the story--trust me, Rebecca has more to go through in her young life, and we are all saddened as we listen. Not the outcome we all thought, as we drove down the interstate. Not the outcome at all. 

The program describes what happens when parents set "accidental traps" for their children. The actual story is called: "Act One. Letter Day Saint", but the other two stories are just as interesting. So, if you have a moment, click on this link: 

Listen to all three stories if you like, and then tell me what you think in a comment. I would love to explore this with all of you!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Road Trip!!!

Jacey, Jennifer, Butterfly, my sister Karol (and maybe Sade) and I are going down to St. George on Saturday, because I have to wrap up the finishing touches on our Harrington Family Reunion in June in St. George. It's just easier to meet with my Uncle Julian at the kitchen table than exchanging emails.

Terry said, "Are you sure it's worth it going all the way down there on Saturday, just to come home on Sunday?"

"What?" I say, "and miss a four-hour talk-fest down, all the fun and talking at my Aunt and Uncle's house, and another four-hour talk-fest home? Are you crazy, I can't wait!!!"

He just laughed because, after all, he did marry a Venusian.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Journal Writer's Dilemna

Sometimes you will say or write different things if you know that no one is listening or reading your thoughts. Then there is the question, well how much exactly do I share? Do you tell the whole truth? And what happens when something is the truth, for right now, but isn't the truth later? Or what happens when you thought you knew the truth, but you really didn't. And what happens when your own truth isn't someone else's, and that that someone else is someone you love very much, or some one you live with, or someone you raised or was raised by . . .

How much do the people in my future (and with blogs, my present) want to know about their past? Will any of it really matter? Will it stop someone from making a terrible mistake? Feel that this too will pass? See that it could be overcome? Realize it has no power over them? Believe that because you think  it, it's okay for them to think it also?

Is what I do everyday, and sometimes twice on the weekends, going to really matter to someone that will probably spend their days totally different than I spend mine? I think I am going to say "yes" to that one. Because for as many "things" that change in the world, there will still be people--my people--that will still be doing the same old dumb, smart, funny, crazy and hopeful things. Although the world may change and look different, human nature, carnal woman, civilization and crazy families will still be reacting and dealing with life from a distinctly human point of view.

I just had one thought: maybe there will be a pill that will change all that "humanness". Maybe my great-great granddaughter won't need to read my journal--or listen to her parents--or do what right. Maybe there will be a pill that will change all that, and pharmacology will be better than psychology?

Well, I think that I will take my chances and write anyway. If only to make them glad they didn't have to live without all the things that I know that they are going to have that I can't even dream or imagine about. And also, because it will be good to know that I loved. I loved now, so that they will have love then. And I believe that love is one thing that will never change.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To Terry

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms,
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers.
Thanks to your love a certain fragrance,
risen darkly from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride,
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where "I" does not exist, nor "you,"
So close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
So close that your eyes close and I fall asleep.

-Pablo Neruda

Pay Your Bills

My Dad would get out the "bill box" every Sunday night or so. He would carefully go through all the bills, and more importantly, pay them. He always counseled us to pay our bills, and live on what was left. I have come to believe that not only is that sound wisdom in financial areas, and that you sleep better at night, but it is also good wisdom for everything else.

"Paying the bills" can be used as a metaphor for many things in life. If you exercise, eat right and get enough sleep--your body will thank you for the care you give it. "Pay it later" and you will live with degeneration, insomnia, pills and sometimes depression. 

Ignore your spiritual life, and you will find yourself feeling disconnected, vacant, lost, doubtful or troubled. Whatever it is that you need to do to keep yourself connected to God, a richer inner life, your Savior, or the Holy Spirit, you need to "pay" it. 

For everything in life that is worthwhile, beautiful, important and valuable--there is always a price to pay. An action to complete. A thing to do. There is always something that we have to do FIRST. Try it any other way, and it just gets undone. Those who have learned to delay gratification, and do the things necessary first--enjoy so much the journey later.

Dad always did the work. He always paid his dues. And everywhere I look in life I see where I have to do certain things, so that I will have the things that matter most (whatever they are) later.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Spirit Told Me

Saturday night I was able to spend an evening with my sister Karol, at a play at the Hale Centre Theatre. It was a play that I  really looked forward to: The Importance of Being Earnest. It was, and still is, one of the funniest plays/movies ever. But the show wasn't just on the stage. . .

Across from us, within level view, was a couple that caught my eye about 20 minutes into the play. They were a striking couple in their early seventies--her with her beautiful short white hair, and radiant smile, and he with his suit and tie and handsome features--were enjoying the play immensely. Actually, everyone was, but not exactly the way they did.

The woman would laugh, and he would turn and look at her laughing with such awe and joy. Then he would laugh and she would do the same. Sometimes she would caress his chin, and he would look at her with such tenderness and love. They both enjoyed the play--and each other. Towards the end of the play, I said, "Karol, look at that couple over there". Karol smiled and said, "I've been watching them all night, aren't they lovely?" We continued to glance at them, smiling, until the play ended.

As we departed down the stairs towards the exit--I found myself right next to the couple. I stopped and looked at both of them and said, "I don't know which I liked better: watching the play, or watching you two!" They were both overjoyed with my comment, and began to laugh together, and then he exclaimed, "We've only been married TWO weeks!" and then they hugged each other. Ah, such unrestrained love and devotion!

They went on to explain to Karol and me, that both had lost their spouses. When I asked how they met, he replied, "we were both walking out of the Tabernacle at the same time". Then she jumped in with, " . . . and a voice told me that I had to talk to that man!" I laughed and said, "but did you know if he was single?" and she said, "no, I just did what the voice told me to do!"

It was really just that simple--she did what the voice asked her to do. She lived her life by the spirit. She practiced listening to the spirit, and when she answered the spirit (because of her personal strength and experience) she was living out her later years with a companion that brought her obvious joy.

"Listen to that still small voice, listen listen. . .
When you have to make a choice
He will guide you . . .always"

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