Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Writer Writes

I've decided to resurrect again.  Lazarus!  I am Lazarus!  But I think I might start a completely new blog as weird as that makes me feel.  Any of you old blogger friends who started new blogs, do you miss your old ones?  I would CRY and I mean, CRY if I lost all the writing on's such a transformative period of my life and to be honest, I don't think I'm so past the transformation.  I'm still Ninny.  And noone reads this anymore it can still act as a brain heart testing ground.  Indecisions!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

going home,going home...

It's been a hard week.  I think these lyrics from The National say it best:

Standing at the punch table swallowing punch
can't pay attention to the sound of anyone
a little more stupid, a little more scared
every minute more unprepared

I made a mistake in my life today
everything I love gets lost in drawers
I want to start over, I want to be winning
way out of sync from the beginning

(it's a really good "woe is me" song but be careful not to listen to it on repeat too many is a gateway drug to nick drake songs that only make you want to do harder stuff)

I won't go into particulars, but suffice it say that this brave new world I inhabit is full of pitfalls and landmines.  Oh wait!  That's true of every world we inhabit :(  (curse you, Plan of Salvation).  The strangest part of having a hard week and feeling out of place in my own skin is that as I get older, the more homesick I get for my Mom and Dad.  Before I hit my thirties, I don't remember feeling this strange wistful ache to lay on my parents' living room floor while my dad yells at the baseball game/political pundit/ mundane sitcom starring ray romano and my mom makes cheesy biscuits like the ones at red lobster.  But now, it's all I want when my heart longs to be understood, my house is too messy to lay on my own floor and I can't even entertain the thought of cheesy biscuits without feeling the massive guilt of years of weight watchers points counting.  I want my mommy.  I want my first family.  I want to not have to try so damn hard to have love, to be loved and to love right. 

(Because it will matter to my sweet good husband, I quickly insert this disclaimer that my terrible no good rotten week has nothing to do with him...he is life sustaining and supportive even when it is clear I am crying from a hormonal imbalance and too many diet cokes.) 

Is this called running away?  I mean, this longing for a simple place where relationships are still complex but somehow lack pretense.  If I did decide to just fly home to spend a weekend with my parents and pretend I'm just their daughter and nothing else, is that taking the easy way out?  I read in the Conscious Bride that this is very normal during the transition from "maiden" to "wife" (seriously, I really hate that terminology.  The word "maiden" makes me about as uncomfortable as the phrase "moist panties".)  but I've been feeling it for a few years now.  Maybe it's normal as we get older and acknowledge how far we've gone from our childhood, how each step toward our independence has led us further from the protection we came to take for granted as children.  Maybe it's normal as we recognize and feel the weight of our parents' mortality. Moms have heart surgery.  Dads have high blood pressure and get gray hair.  Its disgusting and scary how time takes over.   Maybe it's normal when we see our own lives given away in the service of love to children and husbands - when that life that was once our own to hurl at the world as we please no longer has the same aerodynamics.  Maybe as I become more connected to the earth (literally, as I plant things as if for years) I long to be where that earth connection all started?

I'm not sure.  But I do know that nothing can soothe my soul like a few choice ephithets chucked at a tv screen or a perfectly yellow cheesed disc of carbs.  And I could use a bit of that soothing home energy right about now.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lay Lady Lay

You'd think that I, a girl with a name regularly deemed unpronounceable, a girl who comes from the D/O'D confusion, would have no problem with the whole name change business that I've chosen to have accompany my marriage.  BUT DAMN...this is hard work. 

I mean, beyond the normal stuff like forgetting your own initials when you're picking up your co-op order and signing your checks wrong and having to get a new gmail address so your resume looks legit (PS. who the hell is the other one of me that took my easy gmail address and forced me to add a weird e in the middle???), I've got this strange phenomenon going on...

Last sunday, JR and I were required to introduce ourselves in a sunday school class.  He started.  Easy for him...he's been the same name for 36 years.  Then it was my turn and I paused.  A feeling surged through me...a feeling like...well, I don't know how to describe it but it sounded like this in my head (all happening in .5 seconds):  "I don't want to just be the wife appendage saying his last name right after he just said his own last name I want to say my own last name - but if I was alone I would want to say my new last name but just not now together in this room with all these other people and right after he said it like I'm some sort of copycat I want to be different from him but I love him and love being married to him but I just don't want to not say my own last name and then I'll say Lay" and that's what I did, I said, "I'm KaRyn D____ L____".  (I can't write them out here together in an attempt to throw off search engines looking for some daily action)

Right after I said it, JR turned to me kind of hurt and said, "there's no D____ in there." BUT THERE IS!!!! There are 34 year of D_____ in there and I miss having my name.  I miss it.  OK?  I read somewhere that men and women (even those of us of a certain age) perceive getting married differently.  Men view it as "added value"- they get a wife, a crowning achievement that completes their manly ouevre.  Women almost always view it from the lens of loss.  We lose our freedom, we lose our parents, we lose our network of girls and we lose our name.  Our NAME.  The thing that has identified us to the outside world since our birth.  Is this not epic?????  I get that it is, and I still chose to do it as have MILLIONS of women.  We take on our husband's name presumably in an effort to be one.  It is important to insert here that my feelings don't seem to be some feminist manifesto-y type of thing.  The reality is that my last name from birth was a bestowal from my father's side...someone else gave me that name as part of a patriarchal system that decrees such things.  As for my new name, I can at least say that I CHOSE this one (and it's a nice name too...monosyllabic, simple, cute!)

The interesting part to me was my unwillingness to say it right after JR said it.  There was a sense that if I said it right then, I would be forever lumped with him as "just" a wife.  That's kind of a feminist issue, I suppose.  Was it because it was church? I'm intrigued to see if I will be hesitant in other situations to get rid of the D_____ in the introduction.  Has anyone else had this happen? Tell me your stories of name changing trauma.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The man, The myth, The Legend

Two posts in one day, you say?  YES YES YES because tonight I'm looking at this picture from the wedding and my heart is doing cartwheels while it sings a little made up song that goes, I MARRIED THIS MAN!!!!!lalalalalalala!!!!

I realized that so many of you who have read my blog in the past know nothing about this guy and at the risk of making him uncomfortable (because he's not really into broadcasting things, anything, ever) I think  it's time to tell you a thing or two about my heartsong inducing husband....

Though it was his tattoo that made me first pay attention, its his heart that keeps me captivated.   He is humble and willing to bend but strong enough to lift me (literally) without breaking.  He stares down the world with a breathtaking optimism that equal parts makes me want to karate chop him and helps me perceive the universe with a little more vision.  He is the opposite of me in so many ways...quiet where I am loud, private where I am public, athletic where I am bookish, careful where I am messy...and yet our differences are somehow possible. 

I fell in love with him as a Dad - I saw that he was capable and willing to sacrafice himself in the pursuit of his children's wellbeing. And he plays with his kids...he gets down on the floor and rolls around and doesn't worry about the time.  He is genuinely interested in their little and big thoughts and dreams.

 I feel safe with him and know that when we go to India, he'll be the one guiding my elbow through the streets away from trouble while I'm overwhelmed with the beauty and sadness of the universal life experience.  But he's also adventurous and spontaneous without maps or plans.  He's teaching me how to sort through my brain in ways that I didn't know I could.  And he's funny- like pee-my-pants funny.  He works so hard to make everything work - our relationship, our family, our house, our spirits.   Double shifts are like candy to this man who would rather be in school, but who took semesters off so I could finish (ha) my thesis.  I feel grateful for his love for God and that  I can trust his fidelity completely.  Ah yes.  I just feel grateful tonight.  After 34 years, my heart has found a home that will grow with me.

Everything is always awesome...IN THEORY

Let's talk about theory.  According to my graduate school professor, there is nothing so practical as a good theory.  After a wild weekend in my stepparenting adventure, I have this to say about that: ppppppppsssssssllllllllltttttttt.

The problem with theory is that it's idealistic.  It looks good on paper.  But when you start to test it, reality hits right between the eyes like a 3 year old with a tinkertoy and poor motor control.

Here are a few theories that got tested and are now in revision from this weekend:

T1. It is better to ignore messes around the house for the weekend so that you can spend more quality time with the kids.

REALITY: I AM 500 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE 500 TIMES LESS PATIENT WHEN MY ENVIRONMENT IS TRASHED.  I mean, seriously, it's embarrassing.  I don't know what it is about piles of childmess everywhere that sucks the kindness lifeforce out of me, but it does. And then whatever I think quality time is totally suffers.  So I've decided that a modicum of neatfreakiness (that same quality that used to drive me insane about my own mother) is a necessary evil if I am to maintain some sense of humanity during the kid weekends.

T2. I was MADE to be a stepparent.

REALITY: It is hard work sometimes to move beyond feeling like a teacher or a babysitter to the role of parent when you did not squeeze the children out of your business.  More than once this weekend when K1 was testing the control waters, I simply stopped feeling responsible for him.  I said in my head, "his dad can figure this out when he gets home."  My head then propped up its feet, raided the Lay's fridge and popped in Adventures In Babysitting while the children danced naked on the roof.  Does this mean that I don't love those kids?  NOT AT ALL.  I love them with as much heart as I can.  But maybe just maybe it will take me some time to bond entirely?  I think I expected to feel ownership the way JR feels ownership right out the gate, but the truth comes in waves and that's ok.

T3. I will be prepared for and will not take it personally when I hear the words, "You are not my mother".  I am a mature adult.

REALITY: oh, that hurts.  It just hurts.  I know that I'm not their mother, but I was kind of hoping they would miss that fact and let me in.  The truth is that they have two primary parents and their dear little heads would spin if they had more, so it's fine that I'm a secondary parent...but these may be my only children in this life and the thought that the closest I can get is FUN AUNT NINNY...well, just, sigh. I know, I know...I just got done saying how I sometimes FEEL like the fun aunt babysitter instead of a parent, so why wouldn't they feel that way about me too?  I get it.  I just wish it was all different. 

THe point it this:  I'm awesome in theory, moderately okay in reality and with time and some serious grace from God, I may be able to create a reality that blows away theory at some point.  I think what marriage and stepparenting are teaching me right now is to wash away expectation, to accept the reality that is now, to love myself in the moment and to trust that goodness is present in me and my new family.  I don't think I will stop thinking up theories that make me feel wise, but maybe I will be less attached to the successful defense of such theory in the face of contradicting evidence.  And just have fun with what we've got?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Tale from the Justin Bieber Note Book and Other Weekend Shenanigans WITH KIDS!

One of the best parts of being an instant parent are the moments when it all comes together and you realize that you are living the best're creating new family traditions and introducing your new kids to this new family culture and they like it! You teach them about hindus and they are curious. You introduce them to people from other countries and they act confused but eventually consider them friends. And all the while, they are teaching you how to be a kid again and let go of expectations and go with the flow (something kind of hard when it's all so sudden!)

This was one of the best weekends.


K1 (8 year old manchild) & K2 (7 year old girliegirl)are constantly making crafts in their room from the drawer where I chuck all the leftover art supplies. This is nice because it gives them some autonomy and it provides all kinds of fun surprises for us. K2 came out of her room the other day with a full-on dog costume made out of tissue paper(she calls herself BUNNY) and set up shop in the kitchen where I was making dinner. Then k1 joined her as the family cat and they both demanded cat/dog food. I put it in bowls on the floor because I DON'T tolerate animals at my table. K2 proceeded to wear the costume everywhere we went that night and with some urging from JR, hung her head out the back window and wagged her tongue at delighted cars beside us at stoplights.

These kids are so creative and independent and funny. They must get that from me (haha!)
BUT WAIT! THERE"S MORE! The best thing we ever bought K2 was a little dollar store Justin Beiber notebook...Church would not be nearly as fun without the constant stream of love you/hat you notes (that's "hate" but in 7 year old parlance). It won't be long before she stops spelling so phonetically and stops writing the sary ("SORRY") notes and just hands me the teen-angst-you-are-not-my-mother hat notes.

Here's how it went down - We were celebrating K2's birthday on the weekend since we wouldn't be with her on her actual birthday. I made the requested barbie mermaid cake (you know the kind with the doll IN the cake) and she and dad took a special trip to toysrexpensive and picked out her dream toy...A moxie girl with a fake fish tale that "swims" in water. Seriously, can someone explain the obsession with mermaids? Sunday, she "accidently" brought the doll in her church bag and when I wordlessly took it from her and gave it to JR to hold, the notes a-started flowing:

My response was a little manipulative, I realize. I shouldn't have brought up the cake but I was feeling slightly desperate. Like, LOOK! I"M NOT MENE! I MADE YOU A CAKE WITH A DOLLAR STORE BARBIE MERMAID ON TOP!
Then I bore my testimony and I cried while I was up there, because well, that's what I do. I think K2 thought I was crying because of her and that makes me feel sad because I wasn't! But this response makes me laugh. You probably can't see it very well, but she drew me a cat without know, one of those ugly sphinx cats. We were watching "Too Cute" as a family the night before and she got super defensive when JR and I said that the furrless cats were obscene. She knew I would laugh at this picture. That's love...
And then...with much better penmanship and technique (prity ples!), she regained her focus. In case you can't read this it says "culd I huld my marmad prity ples" and when I said no...instead of hat-ing me, she said BLO, BLO which neither JR nor I can decipher. But I'm MENE again, this time with an E at the end and some flowers to take away the sting.

I know that this time of under-spelled hat notes and pretending to be a dog in public will not last forever (man, I really hope not or we've got bigger problems) and I'm trying to enjoy every minute instead of worrying about whether I'm doing it right. I already missed the first 6/7 years of their lives and believe me, I feel it sometimes when they do something funny and I wish they had learned it from me. It's painful sometimes not to be able to take credit for the good in them but I'm not going to let worry ruin my chance of being able to influence the next round of delightful awesomeness. I'm really lucky to know them and I have a lot of catching up to do!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wham Bam Family Ma'am!

So it's time to resurrect this here blog.

I've taken a break to get married and have two kids (all at once) and I realized that I need you. I need this outlet. I need to write and tell stories and throw it up to the universe and see what sticks.

I declare today the start of a new era for'm a stepparent, a wife, an almost graduate of my masters program, a job seeker, a friend (although a kind of crappy one right now), a film consultant, an educator, a writer, a member of a co-op, a girl who dreams about owning chickens one day, and NOW I will reconnect with this new old identity on a keyboard. Watch for it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Starbiz (Glitter Trail!) and KaRyn Daley

If you are looking for more information about my music after seeing the WILDLY popular, HIGHLY controversial, DEEPLY entertaining BYUtv show, STARBIZ...check out my facebook fanpage at or myspace (what? Does that even exist anymore?) I don't have a website yet (BRYAN!!!) but someday. In the meantime, you can at least listen to a few of my old songs in rough format and find out what happens next on STARBIZ...glitter trail.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

All this Wanting

There was this time in the life of NinnyBeth where I did not think I would ever register for presents for my wedding. I said to myself, "Self, you have all that you need and if someone want to gift you a thing upon your nuptials, they will know you well enough to get you something cool."

This week, I said another thing to my self. I said, "Self, actually, you don't have a shower curtain for your hypothetical new apartment. And then there is that part where you might also want to consider the fact that you just might need to iron a shirt for your hypothetical new husband and though you have ignored wrinkles for the past 34 years, it is possible that owning an iron and an ironing board might not be a bad idea."

And so my self and I have registered at a few different stores just in case a friend who might want to buy us something cool wants to also buy us something useful since we are poor. Here's what I wish though. I wish I could register generically like, just have a list on a website somewhere that says just the idea of a things like:


toilet brush

grill type thing in fashion of George Foreman for syphoning fat from delicious red meat patties in round shape.

kitchenaid mixer (any color, go crazy)

laundry basket


picture for over bed because we don't have an actual bedframe and that will make it look more like a grownup bed.*


shower curtain*

*note: we like blues and greens and things that look old.

Would that be a cool kind of registry? You know, something a little more generic that will allow us to allow for some freedom. I don't usually plan my decorating schemes as carefully as this whole registry thing would have me do. My decor is usually a really weird mix of found items, DI castoffs, hand me downs, and leftover college posters. I'm uncomfortable with the level of decisiveness that this whole thing requires. I also philosophically feel challenged by the idea of NB and JR leaping down the aisles of target gunning out the things that we think you should buy us. Gross. Additionally, I don't want ANYONE to think that they have to bring a present in order to eat our chocolate cake and play the pianica at the concert/reception. But then there is the reality. People give gifts and registries are helpful. blah blah blah....

Maybe my registry idea is a little bit like the DRUM CIRCLE DEBAUCLE OF LATE SUMMER 2011 (in which NB tried desperately to get everyone to agree that having a drum circle of jembe drums at the reception would be the coolest thing EVER and to which no one would agree. EVER.) but I think it would be more fun that way. I like my friends. I'm mostly friends with them because they have style and humor and sass and they like me. I would like to trust them with this one. But I guess I will have to settle for spending a day gunning crap at Kohl's and Target that we need and pray that there are some surprises in the mix.

I wonder what emily post would say about asking your guests who want to give you a present to give you 10 bucks and list of their favorite yardsale locations. That sounds like the perfect gift to me!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Oh Hey There...Remember Me?

Yes. i am still alive. I'm engaged though, so maybe I'm only half alive? I'm joining the rank and file of Mormondom and I must admit that while I am so very very very excited to marry JR, I'm having a slightly rocky transition. Oh, believe me, I know what you're thinking, "HOLY HELL. ALL I"VE HEARD YOU DO IS WHINE ABOUT THE BABIES IN THE BASKETS AND THE WOMEN WITH THE WEDDING RINGS AND NOW YOU"RE ALL, 'wo wo wo is me! I'm getting everything I've ever wanted!' HRRRRMPH. PPHLLLLLPTTTT. BOO HISS."

I allow you to be annoyed.

But I also allow me to be annoying.

So there.

There's this part about how I'm having a slight identity crisis. For the last many years, I've been a single active mormon virgin trying to reconcile my place in a church where the mainstream is not me. And I was really really good at being that girl. I was wise. I was optimistic. I was inspirational to myself. I was secretely fond of being the girl that confused the masses, "I just don't understand why you're not married?"

but now, when we have a chastity lesson in Relief Society in JR's ward, I'm not "the other". I'm not the girl who doesn't know if she'll ever get to have sex (in this life, blah blah blah). I have this ring (a beautiful one, I might add) on my left hand that makes me indistinguishable from the girl across the aisle from me who got married at 22 and has three kids. There was this row of single girls behind me in JR's family ward during said chastity lesson who looked like some of my girls...the kind I would quickly connect to and kvetch about the marrieds and the world and talk about how we were finding our place in this community. I had a weird desire to hide my ring and go sit with them while yelling, I"M ONE OF YOU! I SWEAR IT! I"M ONE OF YOU!...instead I just turned quickly around at the end of the lesson, introduced myself and blurted out, "I'm 34, I just got engaged, and I don't know what I'm doing!" Smooth. Really smooth.

And then there is the part where I'm really putting this body image thing to the test...This is too much information, I'm sure, and I'm sorry if you've stumbled upon this and wish you hadn't...but I just need to put this somewhere. If you're aren't LDS, you will probably think this is ridiculously backward and feel sorry for me. But maybe just maybe you will identify.

For years, I've been battling with my body. Hating it and loving it in equal measure. I've lost 75 pounds, up and down, back and forth and my body, my dear 34 year old body has seen better days. All this is to say that I don't look good naked. Skinny or not, my body is not that of a taut 22 year old (I guess I'm really over those 22 year olds?). And I'm going to be naked for the first time with a man who has the body of a greek god. Though he is wonderful and I know he wants me as I am, it is not JR's responsibility to make me feel good about myself. This is between me and the world that has taught me poorly. Today I tried on lingerie. I cried for a solid 10 minutes in the dressing room, the desperate tears of someone who knows she will never (at least not without surgery) look like the images of sexy that are purveyed by the makers of underpants. I found a beautiful vintage inspired robe thing that did make me feel pretty, but I couldn't get past the feeling that I was a failure at sexy in the grand scheme of things.

Here is where you want to write me some sweet comment about sexy is a feeling and that men don't really care....but please don't because I care. I get those things. I care because I'm angry that I'm still seeing myself through someone else's eyes, namely society. I care because I know that this is a last ditch adversarial effort to undermine my sense of self and worth. I care because I haven't yet mustered up whatever courage or strength it takes to not give a crap if my inner thighs are jiggly even though my legs are rock solid from all the strength training I've been doing. I'm angry that I'm still angry. Sigh. But I do have something. I have a Father in Heaven who loves me and will send help to comfort me and teach me whatever I need to know. Remember this girl?

She's still me, ring or no ring.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This is How We Know It's Finals....

1. I shaved my legs. When I got out of the shower, I looked down to discover that one leg was perfectly smooth and the other was as hairy as sasquatch with PCOS. My initial reaction was to try to figure out what was wrong with my razor...why did it gloss over my right leg with "nairy" (get it?) a hair removed? Obviously it was a defective razor??? Oh wait. uh. Yeah. I suppose it could be that I LATHERED UP THE SAME LEG TWICE and didn't notice a problem. Note to self- stop thinking about qualitative research while enacting hair removal. 2. I pulled up to a four way stop in my neighborhood. The second one on 300 south going north (you know which one I mean, the one by the elementary school) The car at the opposite stop sign had his turn signal on to make a left hand turn. The car directly to my right was waiting patiently. The car turning left was not going. sitting there. with his blinker on. I got annoyed. I mean, really, Utah, can't you figure out how a four way stop works???? DUHHHHH. So I finally wave the left turner on. He was obviously there first. He finally goes, but not without a few blank searching stares from his passengers as I frustratedly make the face you make when someone is doing something dumb. And then the guy to my right. Just sitting there. Not going. So I wave him on too. Do I have to tell EVERYONE how to do a four way stop in this town?!>!>!>?!?!? Only after the idiot drivers who don't know what clockwise means are completely gone do I proceed through the intersection. But wait. what's this up ahead? A four way stop???? But...I don't underst...................ah. um. right. There was no stop sign back there. I stopped for no reason. I laughed for the entire ride to my destination, sad that I couldn't share the funny joke with the two idiots who don't know how to do a four way stop.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It happened one night at the Texas Roadhouse...

Don't judge me.

I had to go there because I was meeting some old mission companions for dinner. But also, I like throwing peanut shells on the floor.

Don't judge me about this part either:

I was feeling really sorry for myself because I'm 33 and practically the last one standing single from ye old west virginia charleston mission. After a recent string of less than stellar dating stories, my usual can-do attitude was waning in the face of dinner with my mormon-culturally-deemed-more-successful friends - one pregnant with 6th child and the other newly married with 6 month old. So I was driving to the American Fork Texas Roadhouse whining to God about a) eating at the TR b) driving to AF c) alone. alone. alone. I said a few things and asked that the spirit could help me be grateful for what I have instead of dwelling on what I lack. Whatever. The usual.

After we ordered an artery clogging onion dipped in oil and garnished with more oil, a different server came over to our table bearing three desserts. "You have the wrong table," we chimed in unison. The server, shaking his head in defeat, said, "no. it's the right table." Theories flew...was it J's friends at the table behind us? Was it one of the married girls' husbands? Longshot: Maybe it was the cute guy with the two kids at the table across from us who had made eye contact with me several times? I didn't see a ring, but we single ladies knwo that doesn't mean squat. More theorizing and observation and eventually, the server came back and said: "these desserts are from the gentleman in the booth back there. He just wanted to make sure that you had a great evening." to which J screamed and slapped me, "SHE'S SINGLE!". The waiter...errr, I mean server, then handed me a piece of paper - with the name Ethan and a phone number scrawled on it.

ARE YOU KIDDING????? Since when does something like this happen to me? There was no battle of wits, no exchange of cultural knowledge, no proving that I am smart and funny and a good housekeeper or whatever else I seem to think men like...He just thought I was pretty enough to hit on. me. ninnybeth.

And that, my friends, is how God answers whiney prayers occassionally. The story doesn't end with flourishing romance. Ethan, it turns out, is a nice guy but we have almost nearly possibly nothing in common except for proximity and a willingness to put ourselves on the line. It probably won't even lead to a first date. But God bless him for doing something. For taking a chance and being confident. In the narrative of my understanding of myself and making sense of a distorted vision of how others perceive me, this story will weave itself into my knowing and become part of that new fabric. Maybe it will sound overly dramatic to anyone but me, but these moments are healing and revelatory.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Phantom Ovary and Other Short Stories

she noted that the day was unusually cold and the air wafted with the smell of garlic sticks and pizza (with too much cheese. Note that, brick oven, too much cheese). The pain in her abdomen was growing steadily as she gripped the bathroom stall door and realized that she needed to call someone...anyone! HELP! "I just need to lie down for a second"....(author note: this mystery novel-ish formula is not working...maybe try as children's book?)

Ninny Beth had a scary monster cyst. It was very big. The scary monster cyst was crushing Ninny Beth's future babies. Ninny Beth had to go to the hospital because she couldn't breathe and had claw hands. She was probably dying. Most definitely dying. Then three doctors came. Each doctor gave her a different gift: Doctor 1 gave her a special potion to drink called morphine that made her feel like a princess. Doctor 2 was just starting his shift at the hospital and gave Ninny Beth pretty much nothing except a bill for his services and the secret name of the scary monster cyst (DERMOID). The third doctor gave her another bigger bill and told her that she could help NB remove the cyst, but only if she could take the future babies with her....
(author note: story kind of loses steam here...might need to switch to poetry?)

Eagerly, I have them
Remove this
Massive shape sitting on my
Ovary. oh hell take the whole thing
Its not doing anyone any good right now anyway
Delete. Delete. Delete.
Certainly, I can grow something better in there than this
Yesterday's tissue
Surely, this body can produce more than just a ball of
Teeth and hair?

(author's note: grossing self out with bad poetry. Try visual imagery. Maybe words are wrong medium)

Oh forget it. So I had surgery. I will be paying for it in more ways than one for the rest of my life. but I'm alive and not in pain anymore. I got to take a break from school and watch hours upon hours of 'Eureka'. I got to have visits from good friends. And I got to experience the Relief Society in action. It was a really lovely experience except for the part where they removed a vital organ. You know...whathaveyou.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Academician is a really dumb sounding word, but it's REAL.

It's been a month since I posted. Over a month. But don't feel bad...its not just this blog that's been ignored. My paper and pen journal is bereft of content as well. My guitar sits completely untouched. I haven't made a watercolor since summer and I can't tell you the last time I wrote a poem.

But I'm contemplating a Ph.D. And I wrote a paper about websites and nonprofits and documentary film that I'm submitting to an academic conference. So...that's something, I guess?

Academia, I shake my fist at thee. You're squeezing the creative life right out of me...or are you? Doesn't it take creativity to think of questions you want to answer? Doesn't it take a bit of creativity to take 50 articles on seemingly disparate topics and weave them into a coherent (if not completely logical) argument to justify your study? Maybe I'm just transfering my energy instead of stiffling it. Maybe.

Still, I can't help but think that I'm shriveling a tiny bit. Like my once full, plump cells have been submerged in bathwater and instead of soaking it up, I'm getting prune hands. When I'm not studying, I don't take breaks with my guitar. For some reason, I head outside to shovel icy snow or pull weeds that are just going to grow right back or rearrange the furniture in the mauve living room yet again. There is no space for my art. And it's really not about time. I don't have the motivation. I'm fried. And I miss being a kindergarten theater teacher. I miss making magic with duct tape and paperbags. Remember when I wrote a musical version of "The Paper Bag Princess" and little asian kids were singing "I am elizabeth and I am a princess!" down the halls of school? Those were good days.

Whatever. I'm being self-pitying and revisionist. And I really do like what I'm learning. I feel like there is something really structurally important in what I'm starting to contribute. I guess I just wish there was a way to have it all? I left teaching because I felt like I could do more good in the world on a larger scale (forgive my illusions of granduer, but I'm tired of sanitized blogging)and I felt there was a calling in my future. And I know that I'm on that path right now. I guess today when there is so much haze on the whatever mountains those are to the east and gray snow that WILL NOT DIE and not a green thing to be found in provotown, I'm wishing there was just a little more magic in my life. A little more art. A little more of that OTHER kind of creativity that made me feel possible and powerful and full of love for everything and everyone.

Can we please call down spring now???????

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gratitude through the lens of charity

(please notice that the title of this post has been done in APA style. Thank you.)

This is the talk I gave in church last week. It was about gratitude sort of...

For two years, I lived downtown in Seoul South Korea. It was my first experience living overseas and as you can imagine I experienced a great amount of culture shock. Seoul itself is a beehive of a city that in recent years has become a strange conglomeration of cultures. Because of the US military’s presence, there are outback steakhouses (sometimes two across the street from one another!), gaps, starbucks, dunkin donuts(Koreans LOVE them some donuts) and mcdonalds sharing storefront space with boshintang restaurants (that’s DOG SOUP!) and little cobbler stands where you can get your shoes resoled for under 4 korean won, which about 3 us dollars.

Every day, I walked through the streets on my way to the bus that would take me to the newer, highrise dominated suburbs and after a while, the oddities of seoul stopped seeming so odd. I grew used to the smell of bundegi ( steamed silkworm larva, a popular street snack ) and the strange site of little children licking their lips and saying, “YUM DELICIOUS” as they stared at our pet goldfish swimming around in his tank. Eventually, even the anachronisms of this asian city ceased to call attention to themselves and everything started to look about normal. But there was one thing that continued to bother me. Every day as I made my way through pighead alley to the bus stop at 8 am, I would see an old man (and we’re talking 80 year old man) with a makeshift wheelbarrow loaded to overcapacity with cardboard boxes. Every day, he would pull his cart through the street alongside a sea of yellow taxi cabs and brand new Hyundai sedans. It was like a scene out of a national geographic.

I learned from some of my Korean friends that this was a common way of making money for older Koreans. All night long while the city sort of slept, these adjushis & adjumas (or old men & women) would pick through the recycling, load up their carts and then turn them in for a very small sum of money. There were sort of turf wars for the best garbage gathering place, and occasionally, I would come home late at night and discover an old man in my garbage hut, bickering with someone over who’s beat this was and who got to take the load. The man that I saw each morning bothered me in particular because he seemed too feeble to be hauling such a heavy load. Sometimes his cart was so heavy that he could barely maneuver it across the street with his bent back and gnarled weatherworn hands. Korean drivers are crazy to begin with, but their patience evidently ran even thinner when it came to the junk carts. I watched regularly as he tried in vain to heave the cart from one side of the street to the other, waiting cars honking and yelling for him to move! My heart was heavy as I watched him struggle morning after morning and I wondered about his life. Surely it was miserable. SURELY it must be miserable. He couldn’t possibly be happy. I didn’t understand where he got the strength to live each day, to get back out there and haul his load through honking cars and sometimes vicious rain and cold.

One particular morning, I was feeling very sorry for the old man as I contemplated his life again. I’m pretty sure I was wondering why God would allow him to be so much more miserable than me in this life. when suddenly (and I think by inspiration) I had this thought: Who am I to assume that his life is any less happy than mine simply because I have more things and different life work? Is it not entirely possible that within the scope of his life, there have been times when his peace and happiness and contentment have eclipsed mine? If I believe in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then I must also believe that the gifts of spirit are available to all his children regardless of station in life.

This thought has been important to me as I contemplate my own life mission. As I prepare to work with the world’s poor and vulnerable populations, I must be able to see them not as objects of my pity or condescension, but rather as brothers and sisters with different life trajectories, no less capable of bearing the burdens placed upon them with joy and peace. I know plenty of people who have everything and still find themselves with gnarled hearts and bent spirits, unable to navigate their loaded carts through traffic.

So what does this mini, personal revelation have to do with gratitude? I submit that it is a lesson in Best practices…of HOW to cultivate a spirit of gratitude in true Christian form. I think that we can all agree that being grateful is important. It’s a moral truism that almost no one would find problematic. It’s such an important principle in the gospel of Christ that our prayers are structured to include a hefty portion of thanksgiving before just about anything else. I don’t need to spend 15 minutes convincing any of you that being grateful is a worthwhile pursuit. You’re already working on it. You’re here. You’re seeking to connect. Gratitude is part of that connection.

What I do think is worthwhile is thinking about how we use charity, the pure love of Christ in our efforts to be a grateful people.

Moroni 7:47-48 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever, and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore my beloved brethren (and sisters), pray unto the father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons (and daughters) of Christ; that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall SEE HIM AS HE IS; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified as he is pure. Amen.

As I’ve thought about this scripture, I’ve wondered how charity will make it so that we will be able to see Christ as he is and I’ve come to the conclusion that love, specifically Christ-like love as described in the preceding verses (envieth not, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, suffereth long, etc) creates a new perception of the world – a new way to see everything. It’s as though you’ve put on a pair of clarifying glasses in which you can suddenly see things from someone else’s eyes. I call it looking at the world through the LENS of CHARITY. I employed my charity lenses recently when I was feeling hurt by one of my friend’s seemingly careless actions. I prayed to Heavenly Father to help me look at the situation with my other eyes and suddenly, a new possibility opened up to me that helped to still my pain and understand that maybe there was more to the story than I could begin to perceive in my emotional state. After talking to my friend, I realized that indeed, there was more to the story. The lens of charity helped me to see things as they really were instead of how I perceived them. I believe that seeing things as they really is a gift that we must ask for and practice receiving. It is this gift that will ultimately makes us able to see Christ as he really is. We will see him through the same lens of charity that we have cultivated in this life.

Now for gratitude-

A few years ago, psychologists undertook a research study to determine how gratitude interacts with happiness. They used the idea of a gratitude journal and tested it against several different conditions. One condition was having subjects focus only on their hassles or struggles. You can imagine that this yielded very few positive results. The other condition that they tested against the gratitude journal was what social scientists called “downward social comparison” which they defined as ways in which participants thought they were better off than others. This is a happiness intervention that I bet we can all relate to. How many of us when feeling low about something quickly try to think about someone who has it worse than we do in order to feel better?

My friend's mom was very fond of reminding us, anytime we were dissatisfied with the fact that we were not married yet, to just think about that women who don’t have both of their legs or women who are put into arranged marriages. While it was sometimes good for a laugh, it didn’t really help us feel better about OUR own situation. In retrospect, I think this type of comparative gratitude can lead to a great deal of sorrow not only by diminishing or negating the authenticity of our own experiences but also, paradoxically intimating that someone else’s experience is more miserable than ours and that perhaps God has been kinder to us than to them. It’s a recipe for a slick kind of pride and denies the basic tenet of our understanding of who God is and that he gives gifts equally yet differently to each of his beloved children. It is the antithesis of seeing things with the lens of charity.

The results of the study showed that subjects who used the daily gratitude intervention (such as a gratitude journal) reported higher levels of positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to the subjects in the other group using downward social comparison. They were also more likely to have helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support to another person.

Science is simply reminding us of what King Benjamin said LONG LONG ago in his sermon to the nephites when he said, “ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

Perhaps thou shalt say, the man has brought upon himself his misery. Therefore I will stay my hand and will not give unto him of my food nor impart unto him of my substance that he many not suffer for his punishments are just.

But I say unto you, o man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent and except he repenteth of that which hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?"

Though King Benjamin is talking about the ways in which we impart of our material goods to the needy, his point is that we must focus on our own status with God in order to live the better law. It is the same principle that we see in the scientific study about gratitude. If we focus on what we are grateful for without using downward social comparison, we are better able to access our lens of charity. We can begin to see our brothers and sisters life experiences as different but equal with our own and treat them with dignity and respect instead of pity and condescension. We will be better able to acknowledge that God is working in the lives of every one of his sons and daughters. And we will see more clearly things as they really are instead of how our fallen intellect and narrow perceptions make them out to be.

Most importantly, we will be kinder to ourselves , HAPPIER and more content with the things allotted us in this life because we will understand that EVERYONE has a load to bear. Some of us carry our loads in the form of cardboard. Others are hauling around mental anguish, inability to move forward, fear, loneliness, exhaustion. But in each case, God is present, succoring and teaching. In each case, the atonement of Jesus Christ is sufficient to heal and bring peace. Our role in this great work of revelation (because I believe that missionaries are ultimately only revelators, wiping the dust off truth that exists in each person from birth) is to first believe and be grateful for that knowledge and then lovingly help others to see it as well.