Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Dear Readers,

S'mee's computer has bitten the proverbial dust. What started out as a "burned out energy source" has now taken it's toll upon the rest of the "works" and until it is repaired, the posts will be slow in coming. As it is I am writing via a borrowed and somewhat uncooperative laptop. grrrrr. : [

Until then, try to stay cool in this heat wave, and enjoy the summer. -S'mee

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Over at Conversation they are having a thread on the book, "The Secret Life Of Bees". It struck me that some folks actually had such good childhoods they could not/cannot comprehend the disastrous situations that may occur in others. It is hard for them to conceive of children being traumatized to the points they are by people who "love" them. Or that life in general hand some folks a lot more odd/dangerous/unrealistic events than "normal" kids. I think this is a good thing in a way. Seeing the world as a place where "too much" is over the top and could never have happened.

For me, it was often the opposite. The "too much" was my reality and I could not comprehend, even into my adulthood, that things could be "as good" as they were sometimes portrayed. Life was a never ending drama filled with running from and into adult troubles, terror, and living like people in the newspapers and t.v. As an adult I find it amusing that I can relate to almost any situation via a personal childhood experience!

I had a mother that "loved" me. For me, from my viewpoint, which may or may not be correct, I felt that love was different than the love my siblings shared with dear ol' mom. I can hear you saying, "Well, DUH! Every kid feels like the picked on one." It's Tommy Smothers all over again, "Ma always did love you best." But I really felt the difference.

There are too many reference points I could illustrate, but after I had grown up and looked it all over, I could see that each of my siblings felt the same real lack of love, just in different areas of their own. We have a "different" kind of mom. Love is there, but it isn't the love we feel for our own children and for our spouses; and that has made things very clear for us as adults. It's the kind of love that has to be there out of some sort of responsibility or to keep "losing face" at bay. The kind of love that is there to promote one's self sacrificing when really, the sacrificing wasn't there- or could have been diminished by being a "normal" definition of "mom". She worked hard, no one doubted that, but the whole mom gig wasn't her cup of tea; and we all felt it and carried the burden we gave her with us - even to this day. (mom=sacrifice kid=burden, pick a category and label yourself. we were an ungrateful, greedy, collective burden to mom's selfless and never-ending sacrifice.)

The following is an illustration at how I began to grow out of childhood thinking and into what was reality or the "norm".
When I was 2 months pregnant with #3 my appendix burst. If you have ever had this experience you know the kind of pain and how it progresses. It began for me as a "really bad intestinal flu" and progressed to the stage where I literally could not un-coil myself from a fetal position. I was sane enough, but MAN! it was pretty intense.

At the point of not being able to function enough to care for the two older, yet toddler-esque children I did not panic, but went through my options for assistance. #1 Thor. He was at work, far from home and would be home later that night tired, but could take over if I was not better. So I thought, "better try for someone else who can just take the kids for a few hours." This led me to review friends first. This was prior to cell phones and after finding no one home I resorted to the sisters in law who lived in my community. 2 of them were also not home, but the third was. Let me tell you it was very difficult for me to call this woman and ask for a favor, but by this time I was concerned for my children and needed help whether or not it was via this sister in law. It wasn't that she and I didn't get along, it was just this gal doesn't open the door to her own mother who may have traveled a while to see her. (but that's a different dysfunctional family!) I made the call and, to her credit, she came over.

One look at my ability to mask pain, she pronounced her diagnosis: not the flu, but losing the baby! I knew, deep inside, that I was not losing the baby, but forgetting all the Marcus Welby MD episodes I had seen, I dis-associated the "lower right side+intense pain" equaling appendicitis and clung to "flu" instead. That, and there is no possible way one can be pregnant and have appendicitis, right? So I just wanted her to take the kids until Thor got home. She would not have it and we headed to the hospital that was one hour away.

I called my mom. I told her my sis-in-law thought I was losing the baby and was headed to the hospital. She replied with questions and a follow up of "let me know how it goes." Which in reality did not shock me, nor hurt my feelings. I did not expect any other reaction and the phone call was just to inform her of the daily happenings.

After waking up from surgery I was faced with strong wrath from my father-in-law. His anger and absolute rage sprang from not being called, from not being allowed to care for me. I almost couldn't wrap my mind around why he was so angry at not being called. My end of it was reason. "If I called my own mother and she didn't seem interested, why the heck would you?" Even I knew that a mom (supposedly) was the one person you could count on, that one person who loved you above all others. And if she didn't care, no one else would or should! I couldn't understand that my father-in-law was scared to death for my safety, my child's safety, and had been insulted by not being allowed to help, pray, or even just take care of the grandkids. I couldn't understand how he could worry that much about me. I could get that he actually loved me, it was weird. Really weird. All that fuss because he loved me.

Childhood ideas taught me that I didn't matter. Grown up events began to change things, although there are still bugs in the system that was wired so long ago.

Now, the first call for help is to those I can trust to help me. I go where I can count on love. Dear mother is frustrated when she sees that I actually get along with other folks, it hurts her feelings and I feel guilty over it. But eventually one learns about real love. About real sacrifice. About real burden.

And eventually one learns that not everyone had the funkiness that I had. Some had the ideal. Some had good. And some grew up a lot faster than even I did.

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It's a cruel, cruel summer....

Yeeeowwwch! Did you feel that growing pain? (That's gonna leave a mark.)

After working her first job, #5 has learned a few things. Taxes aren't fun. "Training" and work is fun, but being paid less for the same work is not. "Bosses" fudge, stretch the truth, or otherwise flat out lie to you so that they appear to be your advocate when in reality they are just trying to get the best deal for the(ir) business, too bad you got the not so truthful end of the deal. There are no 40 hour a week - even during the summer- minimum wage jobs in Utah. There are no such things as promises from management. Good luck getting 20, those ahead of you will be grabbing all the hours they can because they have already learned these truths. Paying for a uniform can reduce one's earnings to a check that is embarrassing to cash: one penny. After you work next week for the same "training" pay scale, "the rest of your uniform monies will be taken out", thus a huge possibility of you receiving another embarrassing check. (There is a reason everyone has worked for this company and now does not.)

She has also learned that girls who have parents who pay their bills have no idea how much their bills are, they "just send the check to Dad and he takes care of it... your share is on the table..." and then they forget all about it. Thus the inquiries on said bills before signing on is about $80.00 more than anticipated. Living in the basement, your room gets neither heat nor cooling due to the layout of the venting situation. So when it gets warm enough up stairs they shut it off before you get it and the same is true for cooling. Whether or not you want cable or will use it, you will be charged for it; even when we asked you if you did or did not need cable and told you it was o.k. that you didn't and would be excluded from the agreement.

The really good friends who share the room above you aren't really that good of friends and now you know why they say "good roomies are hard to find". You have become the sounding board.

Life as a grown up is different than anticipated. (But still fun.)

(Let's hope that second job working for the MTC is a tad better. Or at least a more true picture of what the management painted prior to hiring.)

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

With our own mouth, we are digging our pit.

In our little end of the flock we are experiencing quite a surge of angst against those who are in authority, meaning pretty much if you are in a leadership position currently you are questioned, challenged, unappreciated, and mostly disrespected for the way in which you choose to fulfill you calling. This is from the Bishop on down to specific teachers and auxiliary leaders. (In all actuality, if you are in our ward -you are fair game.)I was mostly unaware of this situation, thinking it was pretty much focused at me as a Primary President, I was wrong.

As a Primary President we had an interesting situation at best. When I was called, the primary then was barely functioning. I was serving in the Stake as an interpreter serving in another ward, so I was unfamiliar with the goings on in our ward and as I took over I was immediately congratulated, praised, and warned that the former President had led the Primary into literal destruction. I was smart enough to know that people talk and most of the time they are just venting. The former President, if truth be told, had an overwhelming job, with little or no support and did what she could with what she had. The teachers also had been over worked and under thanked and were on their last legs.

I took over and did my best to bring the Primary back to semi-normalcy, although even after 2+ years, "my" Primary wasn't running on all cylinders either. I left without a firm Scouting Program, a struggling Faith in God Program for girls, and only one annual Activity Day. But I could look back on my time and I felt I had accomplished a lot. Activity rose, we had a severe situation with reverence that had all but disappeared and with "my" Primary literally being close to 1/2 half Special Needs, we had things under control and the kids were feeling safe and loved. Not perfect, but definite progress.

That being said, I was approached each week I served. Sometimes 2 or 3 times a Sunday if the "weather" was bad. Someone had something negative or challenging to say about the ill functioning Primary. There were disappointments for someone and I got an earful of it every week. After a while it adds up and there are times when you wonder if any one at all notices the things you are doing correct. I spent many days crying, I prayed like never before and I struggled literally from day to day until I was released. Thor saw it as my 40+ hour a week job. It was one of the hardest tenures I have ever spent in a calling. Mainly due to lack of understanding that I was trying and working, but there are some things you must allow others to accomplish and if they fail, it fails. The Lord does not wish us to micro-manage and rule with an iron fist. It is a learning process for everyone.

This brought me into my new calling. After not attending Relief Society for several years (somewhere like 20 something!) I was called to be the Education/1st Counselor. I, after one month still don't have all the scheduling and specifics of the calling clear in my head, but again, I am trying. And again I am hearing the congratulations and warnings and complaints of those who were ahead of me in line and those with whom I work currently. It amazes me. I have been asked to be the new "saviour" and bring my co-workers to repentance and retribution!

As I have left the Primary and entered into the "adult world", I have noticed a few things within our ward. We have a terrific amount of anger towards one another and great skills at being "snarky" towards each other. If there is an open shot - we take it. If someone makes the tiniest of mistakes we make sure to point them out loud and clear. And over and again. If the Bishop or other leaders make a decision we disagree with, it doesn't matter if they have the keys of discernment or information we may not, we cause a stink about it; and then do what we think should be done on our own, disregarding the instructed course of action by the Bishop and/or leader. We split the players and go to war with words and deeds and tally up who was more "right" on the surface. When we are called and asked to discuss the quarrel or ill feelings, we feel picked on and after the talking and "resolve", we decide it is better to just go home and stay there for a few years until things change. In the meantime we can occupy our time with phone calls to gather others to our side and cause even greater dissent against the ill chosen few who are in charge.

Are we all 10 year olds? We cannot see past our own idea and think that perhaps the person in authority is or is not making a poor judgment, but it is not our place to become involved and that if their plan is or is not wrong, the Lord will indeed take care of it. We want in on every ward decision, all the planning, all the judgments, all the gossip. When it comes to following the council we are given, that is when we draw the line. We pick and choose whom we will and will not serve and sustain. We raise our hands to sustain, then at our first displeasure we face the accused and announce our withdrawal and support. We are casting stones and pebbles at every opportunity, and our aim is remarkable considering the huge beam in our eyes. We blame, pick fights, grab offence and horde ill, and we will not forgive; even when an apology has been humble and sincerely offered.

We want a fight. We want an excuse. We want to know everything that is private and none of our business. We want to pat ourselves on the back, we want the calling another has because we think we deserve it and would do a better job. We forget that everyone, including ourselves, is still learning. We forget the Lord makes calls, not man, nor person. We forget that leaders may not be perfect but they are worthy and have been set apart. Mainly and foremost, we forget that we made sacred covenants that restrict and forbid us to be pointing fingers and criticizing, gossiping and speaking ill of one another. We forget that repentance is extremely difficult and that some repairs are tremendous. We forget that we are all related via the Gospel of Christ.

Forget that old staement made by moms the world over, "Just wait until your father gets home..." If we wait until we get home to our Father, it will be too late. We are waisting time we do not have worrying about others instead of perfecting ourselves. We will be Home too soon and by then it will be too late to forgive and repair. The damage will have been done, and not to those horrid people who mess up the ward, but to ourselves.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Calling the Bridal Consultant in You...

A few years back I worked with a gal who was a Bridal Consultant. We did theme weddings, everything from cowpoke ceremonies to full blown Cinderella, complete with gazebos, and life sized pumpkin coach, horses, etc. We transformed walls, ceilings, and floors. We did everything from the design to the cake to the music, flowers, food, photos and limo. If we didn't have in stock what you wanted it was fabricated before the event date. Colour options were limitless and, if you could think of it, we would provide it.

That was then and this is now. I get inquiries all the time. What can I do for this or that, what would you suggest for blah blah blah... Today someone very important to me asked what I would do for her daughter's reception. She has a few ideas and I gave her some of mine. Now I pose it to you out there in the cosmos:

What have you done or seen or hope to see in a reception? What would you do to "entertain" the reception crowd? How would you "decorate"? Does it matter if it is in a cultural hall or should you rent a ballroom at a hotel, a barn, or historical sight? Casual or formal? Sit down or buffet? What is the new trend? What is your budget? What is the most important thing about the "party" part of the event?

I am looking for new ideas, something fresh and unusual. So what do you think? If it were up to you, what would you do?

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

She stepped officially through the Golden Door

Sat in Sacrament this morning and listened to a friend of mine. She bore her testimony. Last May she and 5,000 of her new neighbors were presented up, weighed and measured and sworn in as the newest of the United States of America's citizens.

In her heavy accent she articulated that she loved "da Propet Joseph Smit because Got made him to be here and he saw Got and Jesus. I love da Propet." With tear filled eyes she related her thoughts that she would not have the Gospel if "Joseph Smit did nah live in da U.S. because Got blessed this lan for dis purpose." She loves her childhood home but feels God sent her here to bless her family with the Gospel and even though "I gah da really good job and am the manerger of many peoples it doesn mean nothing because I got the Gospel. Dat's all dat madder. My family has da Gospel." She then said that she felt remorse at waiting to apply for citizenship and putting it all off for so long. It never bothered her before that she could not vote, that she could not serve on a jury, and that she had no more legal rights than she had before she came here. "Now dat I am a real ci-izen I can do dose tings and more. I can voe now an I will. When eh comes my turn to be a jury I will go an do my job. I never had da same righs in my homelan. When I tink abou tomorrow I am happy now because I am real now. Before I was jus here an doing my job. I ha da papers an was legal but not a ci-izen. Tomorrow I will be happy."

As the meeting closed the Bishop rose, went to the pulpit and said the following: "In regard to Sister S's good news, I feel remiss that I forgot to celebrate with her back in May. To rectify that I suggest that everyone stay home tomorrow. Do not go to work. Stay with your families and spend the day thinking about Independence and Freedom and what it means to be a real citizen of these United States. Have a picnic. Go to the mountains or the beach. Eat some barbecue. Perhaps someone can find a firework or two to shoot off. Hey, let's make it a celebration! Let's all think of Sister S and her new found liberties." Then in a very hushed whisper as if to himself he said, "It's good. It's fitting." and sat down.

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name, Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
- 1883 by Emma Lazarus, appears on the pedestal of the Statue

So here's to my friend. The newest citizen I know. Let's celebrate with her tomorrow. It's good. It's fitting.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Russian River meets the Pacific

Russian River meets the Pacific
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

This map shows the road we took that sits about 500 yards from the Russian River, absolutely spectacular scenery, relaxing and invigorating at the same time.

By the time you wind your way to the sea you are treated with even more beauty. There is something about seeing what your fourth grade teacher taught you as a reality that always gets me! (It's gorgeous!) And, as an extra bonus, if you look very carefully at this photo you can see tiny light dots right at the bottom of the "S" shape to the left of the inlet water on the sand. Those tiny dots are actually elephant seals! (see May 03, 2005 post) From this vantage point we were too far away to see them without using our binoculars. I am curious about the mix of fresh and salt water and if the seals preferences and does it matter? The seals seem to be the young born last winter and were just happy to be sunning themselves on the sand.

Using the map above, you can find a small "1" in a circle above Jenner. This photo is approximately where that point on the map is. We got out of the car and the perfume of the wild flowers hung in the air. I was very surprised, thinking the salt air and breezes from the altitude would have swept all hints of the delicate flowers up the mountain side. But it was all around us, sweet and fresh. There were other places we stopped along this same coastline where you could see and smell wild dill, wild lavender, and flowers I am unfamiliar with. About this point in our trip we also saw deer on the cliffs above us! I am telling you, this is a great drive! The roar of the ocean as it crashes on the rocks and cliffs, the birds swaying and gliding and the smell of the sea, flowers, and herbs! What else would make you this delirious?

The coast near Jenner, CA.
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

Someone obviously had the same idea as I, and actually set up housekeeping! Look closely at the photo, just about center is a large boulder. Just below the protection of that boulder is a driftwood shelter! HOW COOL IS THIS? Man! Thor pointed out that there is plenty of driftwood, blackened by the year's fires, for providing building material and fuel to keep warm. Lucky dog who lives there!

I am as excited now as I was seeing it when I took the picture. I truly enjoy the coast so much! Just thinking back on the memories of growing up near the ocean, the really funky smell of a wharf, dock or harbour; the sounds that all of the ocean life offers; these things are exhilarating to me and just refresh my thinking! I have been really blessed! It is hard for me to think of people who live where there is no access to an ocean. I cannot imagine my life without these beautiful expressions of my Heavenly Father. It just flat out amazes me. Seeing the foam and the waves, the birds pecking out their food, deer (DEER!) grazing nearby, it all sends me!

If you would like more visual inspiration j.michael rowland's photography of this wonderland we toured is total eye candy!

More info on the Point Reyes National Seashore is here, and here: Point Reyes Lighthouse & Point Reyes.

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The ride to the "redwoods"...

Thor and I headed out the last day of our trip for a "quick look" at the Redwoods. Thor had visited them as a child and wanted to shared their beauty with me! Unfortunately childhood memories being what they are, Thor hadn't quite calculated the distance to the redwoods from San Francisco and we ended up on a freeway headed north. The freeway was a glorified parking lot and luck being what it is, we turned off and drove west! (My favorite direction!) Although we never made it to the redwoods, we had what turned out to be, one of the best driving day trips ever.

We turned off the 101 at the 12, driving through some of the most picturesque land. This map shows the route. Sebastopol is an artsy, wine country introducing, bed and breakfast-y kind of town. After the redirection from a road block caused by an accident we then went north through Forestville (self explanatory name), Guerneville, and on to Jenner at the coast. I felt a bit thrown back to my old hippy days (at least wannabe) as we drove through these little earthy towns with all natural food stores, hemp purveyors, rainbow pretty-much-anything-you-want, and art and craft boutiques. And lots of alternative couples feeling comfy in their own shoes to put it politely. The flip side being the white folks in dreads and India batik. Talk about mixing your cultures with fashion. But that's those darned artsy types. For me, it looked like heaven, for Thor, well that's another story.

The photo above is (terrific segue) a portion of the Catholic cemetery in Tomales. (looking at the above map, find Cotali and go straight west -and slightly lower- to the tiny little angle on the red line. That bend in the road near the water is Tomales.) A small historic town of (what the town sign said) 5. We think perhaps someone has erased the extra zero(s); but it's not for us to say. That aside, It is a quaint little town, very quiet the day we visited and we only saw about 5 actual folks walking around (so perhaps the sign was correct although the housing states there should be more.) We took the side street up the slope to the hill where the wrought iron gates waited wide open, and drove into the grounds. To the left of the drive way were the tombs. All had the raised curb and further raised cement borders; with the unused graves still grassy and full of wild flowers. Once "furnished", evidence shows a cement slab covers the crypt; and head stone or foot stone mark the resident(s). Interesting.

After leaving Tomales we drove out to Point Reyes in hopes of visiting the light house. It was closed, but after researching what we missed, I am a bit glad we got there too late. This website tells the history (very interesting!), but also that it is equivalent to climbing a 30 story staircase to get down to the light house, and then back up! Hello knees! So I am content (for now) to read all about it. You should too! Have fun!

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