This really happened. I am still trying to wrap my brain around it.
Its 12:36 in the a.m. Joel and I are in bed discussing my theory of how Putin in secretly using the Olympics to take over the world. He not going for it, just so you know- but would love to see me as a commentator. He would like me to share my thoughts with the world. I choose to believe its because he thinks they are that brilliant.
Number 5 walks in. Emma. She is six years old, and petite for her age- with gorgeous hair that flows down to her waist. Her face is also covered in chocolate, and she is very upset.
"Mom..Dad.." in a super weepy, tiny, mouse-like voice.
I sit up. Now - I see her face. All I can say is "What..?"
"My tooth is loose, and it hurts."
We don't reply.
"Its this one." She wiggles one in the front.
Joel mumbles: "Just go to bed, it will be better in the morning."
I say: "Wait- what is on your face?"
Emma: "ummmmm....I think it might be chocolate?"
Me: "Why do you have chocolate all over your face?"
Emma proceeds to explain: "Sometimes when you eat it, it gets soft and spills out of your mouth. If you don't have a nakin (napkin) or a towel, then it can get smeared on your cheeks and stuff."
Me: "No, I mean WHY do you have chocolate...like at all?"
Emma: "Its my Valentines chocolate."
Me: "...why are you eating it at almost 1:00 in the morning?"
Emma: "I was at the table. Its mine. I can have it whenever I want. My tooth really hurts. You aren't helping me very much."
At this point I am amazed at how ridiculous this situation is, and Emma's complete lack of understanding. She also looks like on orphaned waif, and the whole thing is starting to make me laugh. I gather myself...
Me: "Emma- the problem we have here is not your tooth. Its you- getting out of bed this late, and eating chocolate at this insane hour. Do you get why this might be an issue?"
Emma: "Yes, because I ended up with a sore tooth. Next time, don't give a kid chocolate and never tell them the rules."
At this point I have to cover my face. If I crack, its over.
Joel: (He is trying to be very serious here) "I am sorry you have a sore tooth. Please go wash your face and get back into bed."
Emma leaves. I turn to Joel and say "Really? We have to explain that you can't get up at 1:00 a.m. and eat this?"
Joel: "Well, she was at the table- which is a rule. But she wasn't using a nakin. Also, I don't try to use reason with any Woman- be she six or 38 at 1:00 a.m. Just wash your face, and go to bed."
I have an embarrassing Valentine story to tell. Its embarrassing because it forces me to admit I have an impulse control issue. I really do.
There is an empty Valentine chocolate box that has been floating around our house. Joel bought me chocolates when I first found out I was pregnant. He knows this is a go-to gift for me, and will always be treasured. I treasured these chocolates by eating them in one sitting. I really did.
The box has stuck around because its an odd shaped heart, its made of tin, and my little girls LOVE it. They play with it non-stop. I find it everywhere- on the kitchen table, in the laundry room, in the car, just random places.
This morning I was having a very teary, emotional morning...(I have extremely vivid dreams, and the laundry pile was spilling out into the living room, and there was absolutely no. hope. I would EVER catch up. So naturally, I woke up sobbing) so I rolled over, and next to my face on the bed, was the Valentine chocolate tin. I kind of lost it. Just a bit.
I picked it up and yelled, demurely mentioned "That's it- this thing is going in the garbage!"and I threw gently tossed it on the floor next to the bed, only to realize that it was full of chocolate. It was a new box, and Joel had just purchased it this week. For me. For what was turning out to be my Valentines week of morning treats. He gasped, I began a brand new flood of tears with the appropriate wail. Happy. Valentines. To. Me.
So- to make it up to him, I am going to list a few things I love him for. Everyone should know these things.
1. He bought a matching box of the chocolates, so that when I was done eating them- the girls could each have one to play with. He thinks its adorable.
2. He will always 100% of the time, have a pen/pencil and a piece of paper in his suit pocket for one of the children to draw with during church.
3. He always cuts my sandwiches in half on the diagonal when he makes them for me. Just because he knows I like it.
4. He thinks Root Beer is nectar from the Gods.
5. He lets me drink out of his straw and it doesn't gross him out.
6. He always lets me have bites of whatever he is eating. It doesn't even phase him.
7. He makes an effort to develop an interest in anything I love. Just because I love it.
8. He doesn't care that I don't always like his music. (or movies)
9. Things that frustrate me about me, are the very things he loves about me, and he sees them as my secret strengths.
10. He loves me when I am truly myself. Even though that is not always the best part of who I want to be.
In April of 2012, I was invited to the Open House of the new LDS Temple in Kansas City. An Open House is the opportunity for the general public to tour a Temple before it is dedicated and consecrated for the use of the members. The descendants of Joseph Smith were invited to a private tour of the Temple, and I was asked to be there. It is situated on a piece of property that is significant to the history of the LDS church. To get an idea of what happened here, please read this post from my friend, Middle-aged Mormon Man: http://middleagedmormonman.com/home/2013/08/and-if-thou-shouldst-be-cast-into-pit.html He does a great job of spelling it out, and although the information is rough- he does a great job of keeping the focus where it needs to be. This brings me to the story, and point of this post.
To begin with, let me clarify, I am a descendant of the Smith family but not a direct descendant of Joseph or Emma Smith. It was a series of events, that I may blog about someday, that led me to work with the family, and to discover my relation to the family. I have made it part of my life's work, and I love promoting the good will, and the truth about their story. Today, in Kansas City, I was wearing a badge that said "Smith Family" with my name on it, and as they always do- they welcome and embrace me. These are some of the best people on earth.
As we were leaving the Open House, we stopped next to two clean cut, very well dressed young men who were directing people to the freeway entrance. This is not unusual- thousands of people attend Temple Open Houses, and the church will commonly assign people to direct the local traffic. That is who I thought they were, LDS Church volunteers - so naturally when they handed me a copy of the LDS Church News, I took it. I thought the open mouth, audible gasp from his companion at my Smith Family badge was a little odd...but ok. I began reading it- the first page was a great review of the Temple and the open house. Once I opened it up I was met with disturbing headlines about Joseph Smith and Satan worship, polygamy accusations, and very, very misleading and distorted accounts of what REALLY goes on in LDS Temple worship.
I was floored. Really? I became furious...ARE YOU SERIOUS? Did that really just happen? I wanted Joel to pull our car over, and I was fully intended to march up to those cowards and inform them of the indisputable, historical FACTS of what had gone on there, and that it was enough. To Stop. Leave us in peace.
I was reminded that the theme of this Temple was an Olive Branch. The Mission President had explained that this Temple signified an Olive Branch to the communities surrounding the Temple. So after over 10,000 of our people had been forcibly burned out of their homes, at the hands of a ruthless mob, enforcing an extermination order that the Governor of Missouri executed- and then left to die on the banks of the Missouri river during the worst cold snap the state had ever historically experienced- WE are the ones offering the Olive Branch.......Yes. We are.
I learned a great lesson that day about my focus. I had spent a wonderful day with amazing people. Was I going to let two cloaked protestors distract me from what I had just experienced? That one negative experience, when I focused on it, completely eclipsed everything else I had experienced that day. If I was truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, would I focus on the darkness, or turn my face toward the light of peace, and forgiveness? Sometimes when life is not fair our reaction is to make THAT the main priority in our lives. It drives how we think and what we do. We need to shift our focus to the goodness in the world, and the things we have control over. Bad things will continue to happen. We will always have our critics and people ready and willing to tear us down. However, when we are planted on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ- we can see it for what it is- distraction- and choose the better part. We can follow his example and even be the one to offer the Olive Branch of forgiveness and victory. Who Jesus Christ is remains imprinted upon each of his Temples dotted all over the world. We can use them as examples of how to live our lives, and how to be happy. I Love the Temple...and am so grateful for the sacred, cleansing sacrifices made upon that soil, so that there would be room for a magnificent house of the Lord to serve the community and bring peace to everyone who sees it.
Me, with a few Smith family members at the Open House. Re-uniting with Bob Smith (Omaha Bob) was a true highlight of the day!
One random thing before I get into the meat of this post. On NPR yesterday, there was some commentary on the idea of "Minnesota Nice." It cracked me up- I was right on with my post. The commentator said that a Minnesotan will gladly give you directions to anywhere...except their house. It made me smile. I love Minnesota.
Here are a few thing to expect and some to not expect with this pregnancy. Some are for me- some are for readers.
1. I do expect my eye prescription to change. However, I am not willing to buy a different lens for just a few months. So - I drive a black HHR with orange pin stripping- very noticeable- you might want to get on the sidewalks if you see me coming. Better yet, you can pay my friend Kristen to drive me anywhere I need to go.
2. I do expect to get a little moody over food. Moody is not the right word- its hangry. A mix of angry and hungry. If I wait to long to eat- it gets severely emotional, and sometimes Joel lollygags getting out the door to dinner. I have been known to half sob/yell "I need to eat now!!!!!" in public. Really. Public.
3. I don't expect to do any naked pregnant belly pictures in a field, or by a window, or anywhere really. I am fine if others choose to do those. That is not my thing, and will not be happening. So don't look for them here. Or anywhere.
4. I do expect Joel to film my C-section. I have never seen one live- I want to. Mine would be ideal for this. I will have to edit out the part where he throws up and passes out. But as long as there is footage of the actual cutting and birth part- I'm happy. Again- I will not be posted here. Or anywhere.
5. I do expect to be annoyed by having to buy maternity clothes. They are so different from 10 years ago, and I am different. I am far to practical to buy something I will only wear a few times. I do not like to shop for shopping sake.
6. I do expect to have the cutest baby ever!!! Really, you think parents just have to say that- but I have really, really cute babies. Nurses come from all over the hospital to see them. I am not exaggerating. I am not saying I have ever thought another persons baby was ugly, but I have thought "not as cute as mine!!!" With the amount of births I have attended though out my career in this field, and as unfiltered as I am - it is a miracle that has never come out of my mouth.
...I guess it just did. Now you will know what I am thinking when I look at your baby...
It has been awhile since I have posted, because I have struggled with exactly what I wanted to say with this post. I wanted to be careful and intentional.
Being LDS or Mormon has always caused a great deal of reaction from people around me. I could write pages and pages of personal experiences I have had. Some very good. Most, unfortunately, have involved others handing me REALLY heavy emotional baggage of their own to carry. I used to let it weigh me down. I used to not see it for what it was.
It seems that whenever I have chosen to practice what I believe, there is also a flurry of emotions from those around me. In this case, most other Mormons are supportive. They get it. Some good friends who may or may not be religious at all are very supportive also.
This time, the love and support, as well as the terrible things people have had to say to my family have given me pause. I had to digest the idea that Joel and I being pregnant would be such a big deal. It is to us- naturally- but to everyone else. So it must be something important. This baby is important.
In Mormon belief, we were created as spirit children to our Heavenly Father, and we lived with him before we were born. So - this baby has an eternal spirit that I knew before I was born. It is a separate being from me, with its own personality, strengths, and spiritual history. We believe that forming families and creating bodies, and creating a nurturing space for spirits to come to earth, is the most important thing you can do in this life. The reason that Christ lived, died, and was resurrected was for this purpose. The reason His church exists is for the support of the human family.
After the experiences I have had recently with people, I am even more convinced that I once was, that reminders of this truth cause the reaction I have received. The positive reactions are obvious, its the negative ones that I find to be the most interesting:
"This idea has some sort of hold on me for some reason- and I can't deal with the lack of not having all the answers...I am anxious."
"If this life event had happened to ME, I would be totally freaked out. Its not something I am ready for, the idea of it makes me extremely anxious."
"I derive my self-image from my work, and my accomplishments in life. I can't comprehend leaving any part of that behind or allowing anything else in my life that might change that for me. I don't know any other way to feel worthwhile or whole."
"I am so self-conscious that I have to maintain complete control of my environment, including others around me. I view this baby as an event that would be happening TO me, and that causes more pain that I want to deal with right now. I would not want this event to be happening in my life."
However, people don't say those emotionally honest things, they say: (All things that have been said to either Joel or I since we announced the pregnancy)
"Are you crazy?"
"I am glad you told me it wasn't planned, I was seriously doubting if you guys understood your lives, and could not understand WHY you would do this to yourselves."
"So that's it? You're just going to walk away from your education and your work?"
"What is this going to do to your other children?"
This was from a family member. FAMILY: "Joel forced you to do this didn't he? Even though he knew you were sick last year..."
"I don't have to tell you about naivety... "
I will stop here. The extremely sad truth is- the worst things that have been said, are from people that have this truth about family. A few not, and it makes it easier to sympathize with what they are feeling because they do not believe as I do.
This experience has drawn me to the undeniable conclusion that the work of family is important. Being a Mormon is important, but also openly practicing what I believe is important. I am not perfect, far from it, and I have made mistakes and taken wrong turns at times. I understand more than I did a few weeks ago that this is worth fighting for, its worth the daily work of a U-turn, the consistent self-evaluation of getting back on the road, the daily tasks of maintenance, the humility of getting dirty to make things right, and being content with just the wind and the rhythm of a smooth road... and what I have found is that the hum of the road is sweet.
Last spring when I was flying to New York on my way to London, I sat next to an older gentlemen and had an amazing conversation. He was a retired physician, and was on his way to Ireland with his wife. He did not start out in his career as a Doctor. He was originally a Physicist- and had worked on The Manhattan Project. I spent the majority of the flight listening to the adventures he had while in Santa Fe during that time. It was really fascinating to me. (I didn't tell him my Father was a downwinder, I am not a resentful person, and I was genuinely interested in his life story. I could have pulled an Inigo Montoya . But I decided against it.)
What was even more fascinating is what he taught me about mid-westerners. We got around to talking about the schools in Minnesota. I expressed how pleased I was at the education my children were receiving. He stated with a smile, that the schools were "good enough." I thought they were more than that. When I stated this, he was quick to point out that it was clear I was not from Minnesota. What was it that made it obvious? My big hair? My lack of mentioning cheese? What??? I HAD to know.
He explained that the state slogan was "The Land of 10,000 Lakes." This was a fact, verifiable through various sources. In fact, a gross underestimation of how many lakes there actually are in Minnesota. "We don't like to toot our own horn too loudly."
I grew up in Utah, where the state slogan was "The Greatest Snow on Earth." I did grow up with extremes of everything is the best, or the absolute worst. The first year my high school took state in basketball is still talked about. It is still awesome!
In getting to know native mid-westerners, the same pattern holds true. They are genuinely the nicest people I have ever met. I have had people go out of their way to remarkable lengths to help me out in situations where I thought I was doomed. Whether is was shoveling my driveway, giving me advice about a choice I was facing, even at the University level- getting me connected to the people I needed to be. "Minnesota Nice" is a real thing.
At the same time, there is a wall of privacy that is there. I was super confused by it at first. Social skills like this are acquired intellectually, and this one took me awhile to catch on to. I wear my emotions on my sleeve - to my detriment at times. In the mid-west there is a line of "this is good", and communication remains on that level. After the confusion left, and I saw that this was there, I have embraced it. Its different than what I am used to, but it is easy and, in my opinion -smart. There is less drama and more genuine "how can I help you?" I find I am not emotionally exhausted at the end of a social interaction. I think these guys are on to something here...
I did not understand how even communication styles differ depending on where we are from. Californian's are loud, Utahans are very emotional, New Yorkers can be very determined and straight-forward...and Minnesotans are nice...and I like it. Let me take that to an extreme- I like it ALOT!