Speaking of Prayer

Or, By the Grace of the Check Engine Light

My own skepticism has caused me to hesitate sharing this experience, because when I hear people share their own experiences and draw what I consider to be specious conclusions, I fear that’s how people will perceive the lessons I learned one morning a few weeks ago. When returned missionaries come home and declare that they were good missionaries and kept the commandments, therefore they got engaged within a month of returning home; or when people assume everyone in an entire region of the world was wicked therefore a catastrophe leveled the land, I tend to wince a little. So what I’m about to share may prove a little hypocritical, but the Lord’s judgment is just and for me and me alone; nevertheless I’m willing to face judgment from my spiritual peers and superiors in mortality. Or just not care. I’m fine either way now.

It was a Tuesday night, and I decided to go to bed early, because I had to take my mom to the airport at 3:30 Wednesday morning. She came up to attend my graduation ceremony for library school and had stayed with us for a full six days. The car I usually drive had a flat tire, so we planned to take the other car instead. I headed to bed around 9:00 or 9:30, which would have given me a solid 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep.

In order to sleep, one has to be sleepy, which I wasn’t. I can’t even recall that I was all that tired. I lay in bed and tossed and turned. Every half hour or so I looked at the clock, which gratefully seemed to be creeping along. I played a few rounds of sudoku on the Kindle and read a few pages of The Screwtape Letters. I tried lying on my stomach and then on my back and then on my side. I turned the pillow when it got too warm. I attempted breathing exercises to help relaxation.

Nothing worked. My mind was too active thinking about driving to the airport and potty training Z and work and everything else I could possibly think about. Reilly said if I was too worried about being too tired on the road, we’d get the whole family in the car. But I didn’t want him to be too tired for work. I told myself I’d be fine.

Time went from crawling to running, and around 3:00am I finally dozed off to half-consciousness. My alarm went off at 3:20am. Reilly got up to scrape any ice from the car windows, which there was none. I threw on some jeans and a sweater, then my winter coat. I grabbed a Mountain Dew from the refrigerator. Mom and I climbed into the car.

The ride to the airport was uneventful. I pulled into the dropoff area and helped Mom with her suitcase. We hugged each other. I cried a little. After watching Mom walk into the terminal, I got back into the car.

Just as I had pulled away from the dropoff area and driven onto the road exiting the airport, the check engine light came on. A bright yellow-orange light shaped like a drawing of an engine.

I still had 40 miles to get home.

Sometimes the engine sounded fine. I don’t know anything about cars, but sporadically the engine sounded as if it was losing traction, like it lost its grip on a thingy but another thingy would keep spinning for 5 to 10 seconds until it gained traction again. This happened every few miles the whole way home.

Whenever this happened my stomach sank, and I would experiment with pressure on the gas pedal and vary speeds to see if that affected the traction thingy. The traction thingy happened no matter what I did. Yet I decided to drive slower than the speed limit most of the way; I don’t know why.

The whole time I watched the speedometer and the temperature gauges, and the check engine light stayed on. The whole time, my mind was alert, and I came up with an emergency plan in case the car stopped on the freeway.

The whole time my mind was spinning, with and without traction, much like the engine seemed to be. The whole time I was driving I was praying aloud. I turned off the radio so I could hear the engine, but also so that the Lord knew I was serious about needing to get home. There are worse situations than being stuck on the side of the freeway at 4:30am, but I wanted to get home. I made this desire known.

I talked about my family and my attitude and my current level of spirituality. I apologized for not praying as much and reading my scriptures as much. I started making those deals that people make about being a better person if they survive a certain situation. I expressed gratitude for blessings, for being able to drop off my mom safely at the airport.

The distance home shrank and I steered onto our exit. I asked and hoped that the car would make it to our apartment on the slower city roads and at stop lights. Soon I was just a few miles away. I pulled up to our apartment and parked the car. When I turned off the ignition, the check engine light also shut off. I sighed with relief.

Reilly was up when I walked in. I told him about the car. It wouldn’t be until the following Sunday when Reilly’s dad would look at it to see if anything was wrong.

But it occurred to me: What if nothing was wrong with the car after getting home? What if this was just a thing that happened to keep me awake on the way home from the airport? What if the check engine light turning on was all in my head? If nothing was wrong with the car, it might look like I was just telling stories, for what, attention?

Thankfully, something was wrong with the coil thingy in the engine. Yes, it’s a bummer, but I’m also glad I wasn’t imagining it.

Reilly said that if I had been worried about staying awake on the drive from the airport, the car issue and the check engine light had definitely kept me from falling asleep at the wheel. A blessing in a slightly conspicuous disguise.

I’m grateful the situation compelled me to utter a 35-minute prayer on the freeway in the wee morning hours. The act of praying aloud also had kept me awake.

But what if I had gotten a good night’s sleep? Chances are that the car would have still acted up, and my mind would have still been put on high alert, and I still would have made it home safely. I’d still have something to be grateful for.

Instead of a prayer of desperation, I offer a prayer of gratitude for the check engine light, for the reminders of temporariness of this life, the awareness of struggles in this world, the assurance that–even when we feel we’re losing traction, and I’m just now realizing the analogy of this situation and forthcoming bad pun–exaltation will come to this mortal coil.

Last Night During Family Prayer

Every night before bedtime we gather together to pray as a family. It’s the end of Z’s bedtime routine, and it’s something we’ve done since she was a newborn. We do this to help her develop the habit of praying and instilling the value of praying together as a family.

As I’ve mentioned before, our daughter talks, but there’s not much that her father nor I understand yet. She laughs and squeals, and her jabbering has the certain cadence and melody of sentences.

Last night, we formed our little prayer circle. Reilly swaddled Z and held her while either he or I pray. It was my turn. I gave thanks for a few things, and I asked for a few blessings. And then I said, “We’re thankful for [Zinger].”

Immediately after I said this, our daughter said, “[Zinger].” It was unexpected, and it was in her cute little voice. Reilly and I laughed for a few seconds and sporadically throughout the prayer. Z also said some other things–this time we couldn’t understand them, and I can only imagine that she was praying right along with us. As I finished the prayer, her little voice came to mind again and I laughed through the “amen.”

After we set Z down in her crib, Reilly and I reenacted this scene a few more times, imitating our dear daughter. We laughed, again and again. What a precious moment.

This is probably my favorite time of the day.

Adventures in Potty Training 20160116

Yesterday morning, we watched and waited, waited and watched. Two days ago, Z didn’t poop, and she usually poops at least once a day. We were anxious for the next #2 event to happen. We knew it was going to happen soon.

All the pees throughout the day occurred without accident, except there was one time when she held it for too long and barely trickled in her underwear. Outside of this, we’re pretty confident that she’s confident about going pee.

We’ve been diligent with taking her to the toilet to poop for the past week, but we had no real way of knowing if she was catching on to the concept of pooping in the toilet. We’ve explained to her each time the function of the toilet; we’ve let her do the flushing; we’ve let her splash in the sink while washing her hands after every trip to the potty. We hope she’s grasping the process. She’s still not talking with many words her father and I understand, but I like to think she’s discussing potty training in addition to her opinions of the Pixar movies she’s probably already memorized.

This past week we’ve all managed to catch colds, and Z seems to have recovered the fastest. Yesterday she was playing and running around the apartment as usual, while Reilly and I committed to our plan to stay in our pajamas and watch movies and rest. And breathe through our mouths. And blow our noses every five minutes. I didn’t know if we’d be alert enough to run Z to the toilet to finish a #2.

So yesterday I was washing dishes and I walked out of the kitchen and saw Z going into the bathroom. I followed her and she walked toward the stool by the toilet. She looked at me, and I helped her onto the toilet.

After a few seconds of sitting on the toilet, she began to go. You know, go. The longish nuggets plopped into the toilet water, and I hugged Z and praised her while it was all happening. I called out to Reilly that she was doing it, she had pooped in the toilet without our having to take her there. Yay!

We cleaned up and flushed the toilet and washed our hands. We gave her a treat, and she continued being wonderful for the rest of the day. I can’t describe how proud we were of her in that moment, and we hope this continues, well, forever.

Adventures in Potty Training 20160115

Date: 15 Jan 2016

Trips to the potty: 5

Successful attempts: 5

Poops: 0

Other notes:

She goes when we put her on the potty! Also, she doesn’t go during her naps. So far. This is a big deal. So far.

We’ve been bare-bumming it most of the week, and we decided to try big girl panties the past couple of days. She’s only been a little reluctant. But she hasn’t pooped or peed in them so far.

Z didn’t poop. We waited all day. But she had those two poops in a row the night before. Really nervous about the next day.

Adventures in Potty Training 20160114

Date: 14 Jan 2016

Trips to the potty: 5

Successful attempts: 5 (including poops)

Poops: 2

Turds dropped on floor: 0

Description of poops: Z decided to wait until the end of the day to eliminate feces. We caught her just starting in the living room and ran her to the toilet. She finished, I cleaned her up, and she ran back to the living room. A few seconds later as her father was carrying her back to put on a nighttime diaper, she started going AGAIN. We set her on the toilet where she finished AGAIN. We figure if she had stayed on the toilet a little while longer the first time, this would have counted as one poop session.

Other notes:

Really good day. It looks like Z can space out her pees 2 or so hours apart. Still anxious about her learning to poop in the toilet. I’m confident she’ll catch on.

Adventures in Potty Training 20160113

Date: 13 Jan 2016

Trips to the potty: 6

Successful attempts: 4.5 (including poops)

Description of unsuccessful attempts:

I brought out a step ladder for Z to play on in the living room because it was cold outside, and I wanted Z to be able to have some physical activity. The first unsuccessful attempt occurred in the morning while she was playing on the ladder.

The second unsuccessful attempt happened while we were watching television. I was sitting on the loveseat, and Z was climbing on me. While she was standing on my lap, she let loose. I ran her to the toilet to complete the pee.

Poops: 2

Turds dropped on floor: 1

Description of poops: The turd dropped on the floor came, again, while she was playing on the step ladder in the living room. I wasn’t quick enough to carry her to the toilet, and I thought her little potty was somewhere it wasn’t. This disoriented me, and I lost focus. Z tried picking up the turd. She watched me pick it up with toilet paper, and I walked her to the toilet and let her see me putting the turd in it. She got to flush the toilet and say goodbye to the turd.

The second poop was successful, in that it was a matter of being alert and quick. I hope doing this consistently will pay off.

Other notes:

Not a perfect day, but not an utter failure, either. This probably has to do with my mother staying with us for the week, and I took her to the airport early in the morning, and Z noticed she wasn’t with us anymore. It may also have to do with Z being a baby, too. She’s doing great, though.

Adventures in Potty Training 20160112

Date: 12 Jan 2016

Trips to the potty: 6

Successful attempts: 6 (including poops)

Poops: 1

Turds dropped on floor: 0

Description of poops: This was an instance of being alert and quick. Instead of running to the toilet, we used her little potty that we keep either in the kitchen or living room.

Other notes:

This day was a perfect day, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath. Little Z is catching on, but she’s still a baby, so it’s better for me to keep expecting accidents, but also maintain a positive attitude.