August 30, 2007

Sunday Thoughts

Sunday morning I walk through the chapel doors, greeted by Brother Jones who hands me a program. I find my usual pew and sit with my children and my dad who's visiting. We hear a beautiful prelude hymn, “O My Father” being played by the organist. I open my Book of Mormon to prepare for my lesson and read through the story of Alma and the sons of Mosiah. My daughter asks me who I'm reading about, and then she asks who my favorite women in the Book of Mormon are. I struggle to think of any, but I assure her there must be some. The meeting begins, and I listen intently to the words of the opening prayer, “Our dear Father in Heaven…” ending with “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” The bishop’s first counselor, Brother Smith, stands and conducts the meeting, announcing the individuals who accepted new callings by the bishop. He announces the presence of our High Councilman, who gets up and reads a message from the men of the Stake Presidency.

We sing the hymn, “Praise to the Man” after which the bishop stands and invites 16 year old Chad Duncan to the podium, to announce that he has interviewed Chad and found him worthy to be ordained to the office of a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. Big smiles and handshakes ensue. Chad's twin sister sits in front of me with her mother, watching her brother be congratulated for his achievement.

I see Brother Harris slowly walk up the aisle, counting the number of people in attendance. My daughter asks me if she can get up and go get a drink. I tell her we don't walk around during sacrament meeting, it's not reverent. She stares at Brother Harris with a glare.

Next we sing the sacrament hymn, “O God, the Eternal Father” after which I watch as the Aaronic-priesthood-bearing boys prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament. During the quiet time of the passing of the sacrament, my father leans over my 7 year old daughter and whispers to my 11 year old son, “That’ll be YOU in a year, son, passing the sacrament and holding the priesthood so well like those boys. See how reverently they perform their sacred duty?” Proud smiles for my son while Grandpa reaches behind my daughter's head to pat him on the back.

Next comes a talk by Brother Green on the subject of fathers taken from “The Family, a Proclamation to the World.” He explains how fathers are to preside over their families using their priesthood as a sacred power to act in God’s name, which should not be taken lightly, it is That Important. He tells us all that abusing this awesome power and exercising unrighteous dominion over women and children is not pleasing in the Lord’s eyes. Men are instead supposed to use their power to help and serve others, and treat their women as if they are equal to men. As head of the household and having the holy priesthood power bestowed upon you, you men must remember you have a grave responsibility to make sure that you don’t abuse the special power you hold. You must remember that women are daughters of God. They have worth in God’s eyes, and you must always remember to grant them respect and equality and treat them as if they have worth. God has given you your sweet wife as a helpmeet and a friend, so treat her well! If you don't then you have forgotten what the Priesthood Power means! I see the bishop smile and nod. Brother Green ends his talk in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. I'm expected to say "Amen."

The next speaker teaches that if we follow God’s plan for us, we can become gods and goddesses someday over our own worlds. I find myself wondering what it means to be a goddess ~ considering I’ve never heard about my Heavenly Mother at all, beyond learning that there is one, even though we know nothing about her. But for some reason it was set up by God so I can only learn about God and only know what He is like from all the scriptures and the conference talks and doctrine that focus on just Him. I wonder to myself, does this mean that if I make it to the Celestial Kingdom and become a Goddess with my husband as God, I could also be as unmentionable as our Heavenly Mother is? Will our children be taught by Him to pray to Him only and never think of me? Will they be told to worship Him in all they do, and strive to be like Jesus (if that’s how our world plays out), but not encouraged to strive to be more like my girls, who are rarely mentioned in holy scripture? Will my spirit children be taught by my husband that He is all-knowing and will be the final judge of their hearts and lives in the end?

Apparently I am supposed to strive in this life to be like Jesus. For some reason I’ve been given a male as my standard of who to emulate...why don’t I have a woman as my standard if gender differences and gender roles are truly such an important part of God's Plan?

Do the men in charge of the church honestly think that becoming an unmentionable goddess is a dream come true for women??? I stand all amazed.

I sit there contemplating this while looking at all the men sitting in their places of power over the congregation.

The meeting ends with the closing hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” followed by Brother Tallmadge saying a closing prayer to our Heavenly Father, ending in the name of Jesus Christ.

I rush to get to the nursery before parents start delivering their children into my care for the next two hours.

. . . . .

When I hear my daughter later that day telling her brother he’s lucky to be a boy, I cry.

August 27, 2007

Birthday Wishes

Happy Birthday, honey!!! I hope your birthday is a good one.

Lemme know if you want to compare birthday suits in honor of the occasion, OK?

August 23, 2007

Leavin' On a Jet Plane - Part Two: From New York to Europe

It was not a comfortable feeling to know my luggage hadn't arrived in New York with me, especially since the next morning I was headed to Europe to live for a year. But what could I do? After filing the report at the lost luggage claims office, the exchange volunteers and I walked outside to the van. I couldn't help looking around me and marveling at the fact that this Montana girl was actually standing in New York City! It was impossible for me to look away as we drove down the congested roads - or were they highways? Our highways back home had only two lanes in each direction! I wondered how on earth the guy driving knew where to go, it was such a big city.

We arrived at the college campus, and we went into the dorms where exchange students stayed overnight before heading to their new countries. I was taken into a dingy room with bare fluorescent lights above, weakly lighting the dirty white walls and ratty old couch in what must have been the lounge area of the dorm. There was a card table set up beside the couch where they checked me in, verified my plane tickets jived with what their records showed for departure times, and gave me a room number down the adjoining hall. I could see kids milling around but nobody was talking to anyone else. I went to my room with my carry-on bag.

I was a bit shocked at the filth; the bunk bed wasn't made, and the floor and walls were disgusting. I expected to see cockroaches and rats but didn't, thank goodness. There was no cover to the single bulb that hung from the ceiling by a thin cord. I turned and shut the door, and found to my horror that there was NO. LOCK. ON. MY. DOOR! In big bad New York City. No lock! In fact, the door wouldn't even latch closed no matter how hard I tried. I went back out to find the lady at the card table had left because I was the last exchange student to arrive that day.

I had no choice but to accept my room and hope for the best. I changed for bed in the bathroom down the hall. I slept with my bag beside my pillow next to the wall. I hardly slept all night. I knew that every noise I heard was someone creeping into my room to get me or my stuff.

The next morning was filled with all the exchange volunteers frantically trying to track down my lost luggage. I had packed an entire year’s worth of clothes, knowing I was poor and wouldn’t have much spending money during my year. I had to get that suitcase back. Unfortunately, the time came to leave and we still hadn’t located it. Just as I stepped up into the bus to return to the airport, a car careened into the parking lot behind me. The driver jumped out before the car had come to a complete stop, whipped opened the trunk, and it was like a slow-motion scene straight out of a romantic movie. . .he lifted out a suitcase that had beaming rays of light shooting out from the seams, while a multitude of angels sang hosannas in the background. The heavens smiled down on young SML, the stars were aligned, and I was reunited with my stuff.

We boarded a huge plane this time, bound for Brussels, Belgium. There were about twenty exchange students from the United States headed for Austria, and we were all booked on the same flight. It was fun listening to the multitude of languages being spoken on the plane. I tried hard not to stare as I listened to the people around me. Before long I discovered that I have a talent for sleeping on airplanes, especially when I can use the food tray in front of me and cross my arms to use as a pillow. We arrived in Brussels at 6:00 a.m., although for my body it was 10:00 p.m. and I hadn’t had any good sleep the night before. We found an empty terminal and sprawled out in a jet-lagged stupor for a few hours. Eventually we rallied and decided to go explore Brussels, since we had a twelve-hour layover.

The bus ride to the middle of Brussels was fun ~ twenty loud American teens getting their first glimpse of Europe. It was a sight to behold. We walked around until we found an American Express office, where we exchanged some money to buy pastries and drinks. I thought I had never tasted anything so good. I bought some hot chocolate upon my uncle’s advice (he served an LDS mission in Belgium) and it was excellent. We wandered around downtown, discovering a big square with a beautiful fountain in the middle of it. The architecture looked nothing like the ugly buildings back home. Hearing French all around me was an awesome experience, and I wished I could tell what the people were saying. We passed through narrow paths and walkways between buildings, to emerge out into other squares full of fountains, cafĂ© tables with umbrellas, people, and buildings with beautiful facades. It was so fun. I saw an old man sitting at his easel painting a fountain. I could have stood there watching him all day. We discovered a famous fountain of a naked boy peeing (called the Manikin Pis) that we got a kick out of photographing. Definitely nothing like that in Montana!

We eventually got tired and gathered back at the big fountain in the center. It was surrounded by a platform of steps, which we reclined on until it was time to head back to the airport for our 6:00 p.m. flight. It seemed like mere minutes and suddenly I could feel the plane descending to Vienna!

I had finally arrived in my new country.

It took considerable time for our group to be checked through customs, after which we were escorted by exchange volunteers to a large charter bus. We watched with fascination out the windows as the streets of Vienna passed our line of vision. Vienna in the evening light was beautiful. Soon we were in the rural outskirts of the city, and then we were in the country. The bus turned off a small road that led into the woods, and after about half an hour, we arrived at our destination: a secluded Boy Scout lodge. We unloaded and untangled all the luggage from the bottom of the bus, and half the kids got back on the bus, because they had another 6 hours to go before they reached the other side of Austria. The exchange program in Austria consisted of two zones, and I was glad my journey was over. By that time it was dark, so we went in, had stew for dinner, then fell exhausted in the rooms full of bunk beds.

The next day was the beginning of our five-day orientation before our host families arrived to take us home.

To be continued. . .

August 20, 2007

Going green?? What a laugh.

I opened my health insurance billing statement for our company this morning and this printed notice was included (on thick, green card stock):


In response to feedback from our customers, our commitment to environmental stewardship, and our desire to hold down costs, we are eliminating the duplicate courtesy copy of your billing statement effective September 2007.

We need your help to make this change successful!

To ensure your payments continue to be properly applied, please be sure to send us a copy of your billing statement along with your payment.

We will continue to include a cover sheet on top of the bill to ensure protected health information is not visible through the envelopes because through a cost comparison study, we found it is four times more economical to use a paper cover sheet rather than using security envelopes.

Thank you for giving us feedback and for helping us help the environment and hold down costs.

This month the only thing they did not include as they always have was the 2-page copy of the billing statement. THE ONE THEY WANT ME TO COPY AND RETURN.

Not only are they not cutting back on any paper usage, they are including a note PRINTED ON CARDSTOCK to announce they are proud of "going green"! What a joke. Give me a fucking break! I'd laugh if this weren't so pathetic. The only thing they are "committed to" is saving themselves the cost of printing and mailing the remittance copy they now require their customers to send instead.

Idiots. Who also increased our premiums this month by over 20%.

I think I'm going to be sick. Oh, wait ~ that'll cost me too.

August 16, 2007


Invitation to girls' weekend in Paris: Check.

Dream about how fun it would be to go: Check.

Just for fun, browse Check.

Discover round-trip flights are cheaper than expected: Check.

Frantic e-mails saying I'M IN!!!: Check.

More frantic e-mails to include additional good friends in Paris plans: Check.

Apply for passport: Check.

Hope to Gawd my passport arrives in time without having to expedite the process to the tune of $60: Check.

Arrange place to stay in Paris with Montchan, Genilimaa, and Taiko Tari: Check.

Arrange place to stay in Paris with Wry Catcher and Chanson and possibly Mabel and Agnes, who are seeing if they can swing it too: To Be Done ASAP.

Relish the anticipation for months: Check.

~ A special thanks to my husband for supporting my desire to go on this trip. WHERE and WHEN are WE going to take a weekend??? See me.

~ Photo courtesy of Photos of Paris.

August 14, 2007

My Favorite Poem

I posted this on my blog back in August 2006 when I was so new at it I hardly had any readers. This poem inspires me as an artist, and also as a person who desires to be more authentic.

The Journey
By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

August 10, 2007

Friday at last

I've been pretty busy at work this week since it's my crunch time of the month with billing clients. I hope to see my way clear soon. I'm so burned out! I feel like I could sleep for 5 days straight.

Tonight we're taking the kids to a hotel in town that has a waterslide at their pool. We've never tried that before (who stays at a hotel in the same town they live in??) but it should be tons of fun. We plan to have pizza delivered to our room. Our youngest is pretty excited, and that makes us glad we chose to do this.

Happy weekend to everyone! If you are doing anything new or fun this weekend, feel free to share! I like to know what others like to do for fun.

August 8, 2007

On burnt buns and keeping up appearances

Yesterday my husband called me at work to ask me if he should boil ALL the bratwurst in beer before grilling. . .because our nine year old daughter had her best friend over. Her Mormon best friend. After a little thought and discussion we decided to boil hers in water to honor her parents' possible qualms about food cooked in alcohol.

When I walked in the door that evening, I was hit with the most delicious smells in the kitchen. Mmmmmm, brats, beer, corn on the cob, onions sauteed in butter, sauerkraut, freshly sliced cantaloupe. I love it when he cooks, he's much more inspired than I am with cooking, and he's quite talented at it too.

We were all sitting at the table waiting for him to finish up at the stove, when suddenly he yelled, "SON of a BITCH!" at the top of his voice as he turned around with a cookie sheet from the oven.

"Dartman!!" I thought he had burned himself.

"Oh, sorry. But GODDAMNIT, I burnt the buns! Goddamn buns are ruined! FUCK!"

"Dart! Mellow out! Stop swearing! It's not the end of the world!" He continued to mumble goddamnsonofabitch words while I watched my daughter's friend's eyes get huge, and she took her rounded corn on the cob skewers and put them over her ears to block out the swearing. All I could picture was her reporting this incident the second she got home. I kept telling him to mellow out while I tried to point out that burnt buns were no big deal ~ I'd be back in no time since the store is only a couple blocks away. I started putting my shoes on while giving him the eye. The stupid part of the whole thing was, the kids hadn't wanted their buns toasted (why does that sound bad??) so they were able to eat. It was only the adults who needed new buns.

I mouthed the words "Calm. Down." to him on my way out the door. I got back so soon, the brats were still hot. I was seething mad. It's just buns for cripes sakes.

And we worried about boiling her bratwurst in beer.

~ SML, hopeful that my daughter didn't just lose her best friend.

August 2, 2007

Growing Up Mormon - Youth Temple Trip Preparation

Every year our ward planned a youth temple trip to do baptisms for the dead. For Montanans, this required a road trip to the nearest temple since we didn't have enough members to warrant a temple being built (yet). The cool part for us was it meant a 6-hour drive to the Idaho Falls Temple and an overnight stay. Planning meetings, fund-raisers, and excited anticipation permeated the young mens and young womens organizations for months prior to the trip.

As MWOM (Mormons Without Money), my brother, sister and I always had to scramble to make enough money to pay our way to the temple. My brother is a year older than me and my sister is a year younger. Having six younger brothers and sisters meant I had a lot of experience babysitting, as did Eric and Val. I remember being relieved that I was finally able to earn my own money so I could have more money for clothes, shoes, and. . .oh, who am I kidding?? CANDY. I loved babysitting because it fed my addiction to candy.

One particularly lean year, my mom came up with a plan for us to raise money for our trip. She got out the ward directory and divided the list of names into three equal groups. Each of us got a different group of names, and a bit of instruction on what to say.

Let the cold calling begin!

"Hi, Sister Hodges? This is Lisa from your ward. I'm trying to earn money for the upcoming youth temple trip, and would just like to ask you to keep me in mind if you need a babysitter in the next month. Thanks!"

I was so uncomfortable making those calls. Perhaps those calls are the reason I've never worked as a phone solicitor. But lo and behold, it worked. We always made enough money to go. Of course, we also worked at every single bake sale and every single car wash too. I used to envy my MWM (Mormons With Money) friends, because they could skip those lame activities and all that hard work if they wanted. We didn't have the luxury. We worked every single fund-raiser we could.

I remember my first temple recommend interview. I was twelve years old, uncomfortable and nervous because I didn't know what to expect. After asking me to sit down, my bishop proceeded to try to make me feel more at ease by asking about my family. I told him they were fine. He asked me if I was a full tithe payer. Yes. He asked me if I followed the Word of Wisdom by not drinking coffee, tea, or partaking of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. I assured him I obeyed the Word of Wisdom. These questions were standard, so his next one caught me by surprise.

"Lisa, tell me how many boys you've kissed."

"NONE!" I kind of laughed nervously as if he had told a joke while I squirmed in my chair and looked at the wall behind his head. I could feel my face turning purple.

"Oh, come now. Surely you've kissed boys by now!"

"No! Not one! Sheesh!"

"Are you sure you've never kissed a boy, not even one? Come on, you can tell me. You must have kissed at least one. Tell me about it." He had lowered his voice to try to sound like a confidante who'd never tell my secrets.

What the hell?! I was starting to get mad. "Bishop. Listen. I have never kissed a boy. Ever. Why won't you believe me?" I was still beet red and my forehead had broken out into a cold sweat.

"I just find it hard to believe that someone like you has never even kissed a boy. You should tell me if you have. I'm your bishop."

"Well, I haven't, so the answer is no."

The interview ended quite quickly after that, thankfully.

Now that I look back on that interview with adult eyes, I realize things about that bishop that most Mormons won't acknowledge a priesthood leader could be capable of. I'm not sure what jollies he got out of just listening to a young girl talk about kissing other boys, but there can be no doubt that he had something going on that made him want to hear it.

My discomfort over being questioned wasn't for naught, however. I left the interview with temple recommend in hand. I was going to the temple, baby, the House of the Lord!