Sacrament Meeting Today

A lot goes on in a sacrament meeting in my ward. Babies cry and parents take them out of the room to calm them down. Toddlers toddle in the aisles or between pews. People play games with their smart phone. There are always a lot of announcements and someone is always in the hospital or had a baby or received a mission call. We sustain and release people to and from callings. With everything that happens, we can certainly appreciate the quiet moments during the meeting.

Today, people used the 70-minute block to bear their testimonies of the gospel. We do this every first Sunday of each month. The same things that happen every week in the congregation also happened today. Two rows in front of us, a dad took his fussy son out. I exchanged smiles with a flirty baby while watching a little boy waddle up to the podium to join his father. I caught glimpses of few people sending texts or playing games on phones and tablets.

Everything amused me and at the same time edified me. But in a distracted way. However, I also tried to focus on the meeting. I brought my French hymnbook to church and compared French hymns to their English counterparts. In an effort to learn the names of people in the ward, I wrote down the names of people who bore their testimony. The only people whose names I didn’t know were visitors. I was grateful to be making some progress.

The testimonies themselves were quite impressive. They were heartfelt and inspired. One in particular struck me in a way the others didn’t. The bishopric reminds the congregation that you can come up and bear your testimony as long as you can do it by yourself. Because of this, not many children have born their testimony, at least as long as Reilly and I have been in the ward.

A little girl and her visiting cousin came up to the stand. The cousin bore her testimony first, then the little girl. The little girl had just gotten baptized yesterday, and she expressed her feelings with such confidence and calmness. It occurred to me how virtually sinless she was, and her simple and powerful testimony heightened the spirit in the room. A palpable sweetness swelled and touched my distracted little heart, and tears flowed instantly from my eyes.

Even though this girl wasn’t the first to bear her testimony today, I’m grateful that she set the tone for my Sunday experience. I’m grateful for her example and especially her parents who strive constantly to give happiness to their family.

I hope to have this kind of influence someday.

Guns, You Guys

I don’t even know how to formulate a decent argument about this, you guys. You would think I would learn what not to do by observing all the sloppy, lopsided “discussions” out there. I think I know a good argument when I see one. I try to consider opinions I disagree with; I try to understand why I disagree with certain opinions.

I recently watched this appeal by Senator Gabrielle Giffords. They gave her the floor, they let her make her powerful point in 13 sentences, but I wonder if her efforts are futile. I wonder how many people dismissed her or even the idea of her once she finished speaking.

I recently read this essay by Stephen King, which felt like a pretty even argument and a realistic perspective on what to expect with gun legislation.

I recently saw that David Mamet recently published his opinion about the gun issue. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to, probably tonight.

ETA: I read Mamet’s essay, and it definitely provides contrast to Stephen King’s perspective.

It’s impressive that the gun conversation has lasted this long. More children have died in the meantime. It won’t be as impressive if nothing ends up getting done about it. I wish I could argue this decently; I wish more that I felt that I didn’t have to argue this. I wish I understood those who insist on doing nothing. I wish the argument could lead sooner to a real solution than to more of an argument.

I’ll quote my high school friend Brian who perfectly expresses my frustration: “It bothers me that this argument always boils down to ‘I could kill a bunch of people at a school no matter WHAT you do.'”

Of Bonds

Next Sunday is the Super Bowl. People gather together in different parts of the country to watch the top teams from the two divisions face off against each other. There’s food and laughs and yelling at the television. Sometimes there’s trash talk. Sometimes there’s betting. Many families have the tradition of watching this yearly event. It’s a big deal who gets to sing the National Anthem and who gets to perform at halftime. Often fathers and sons bond over the sport.

My brother and I watched a lot of sports when we were growing up. We learned names and stats; we executed plays with the nextdoor neighbors. When we played inside, I was the quarterback and Frank was the wide receiver. I’d throw his teddy bear toward the couch and Frank would make a diving catch and land on the couch for a touchdown.

Last year Reilly and I watched the Super Bowl at one of his friend’s house. There were burritos and other finger foods and a general lightheartedness within the group. The game went on as scheduled.

As I try to recall details from a year ago, the only thing I can remember is seeing a news ticker run at the bottom of the screen while the game continued playing. I was reading that Josh Powell had retrieved his sons from their grandfather. He locked his children and himself in their house in Washington state. He caused the house to explode, killing himself and his sons. He destroyed any knowledge of the truth of the disappearance and death of his wife, the mother of their sons.

If I think hard enough, I can remember who won the Super Bowl last year. It doesn’t matter who sang the National Anthem, who performed at halftime. Many families and friends had gathered together to enjoy each other’s company, to relish relationships. As much as I try to understand what kind of bond Scott Powell thought he had with his sons, I can’t.

Future Names

Sometimes Reilly and I like to think of names for our future children. Sometimes they’re not serious names. Sometimes we do this during church, and it’s not very reverent.

We’ve already decided to name two future dogs Albus and Chad.

Just to keep track of names we think of, I’ll list possible names of future children here. These are in no particular order. And again, some of these are not serious. We merely asked what if we had children with these names? You can also tell by the Puritan-sounding names that at least we were halfheartedly paying attention during church.

Acer
Dubious (Doobie)
Goodly
Prudence
Bliss
Padme
Mirth
Sobriety
Constance
Dalliance
Gumption
Compass
Ignominious (Minnie)
Ignoramus (Ramos)
Edifice (Oedipus)
Hosanna
Awe
Humble
Treat
Seeus Lewis
Shamus/Seamus (Shame)
Igneous (Iggy)
Fiery
Simplicity
Middleburg
Lapsy
Contemplation (Template)
Dionysus (Nice)
Twins: Sentiment and Sediment

Our church has so many children, and I wonder if I can learn all their names. But this weekend I have seen the tired eyes of  parents and wondered if they have had to answer the big questions that have come out of Friday’s elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I am so sad and angry, and my heart is heavy.

So many lost lives, so many grieving parents. How our hearts suffer.

I feel guilty sometimes at my anger. It has to be so hard to lose a child, someone so young with her whole life ahead of her. Someone whose curiosity and compassion were starting to unfold. I know parents miss their little ones; I know they are sorrowful. And this is by no means any consolation, but those 20 were spared. They don’t have to worry anymore about losing their lives to nature or someone’s bad decisions or other circumstances. Their families remain to suffer. The rest of us are left to deal with the conflict and the debate about mental health awareness and treatment as well as the conversation about gun control/regulation. We’re left to wonder why and struggle with our faith in God and humanity. We wail and cry ourselves to a shallow sleep, but those kids don’t have to struggle anymore.

At the same time, we realize in the substance of our struggles that those kids were also very much robbed of their lives, the opportunity to learn hard things, do fun things, and discover who they are. Their families were robbed of the chance to watch them grow up and find an added measure of joy through these young lives. I wish they were still here so they could be here to smile wit their families. They could have offered this world so much more innocence and purity and inspiration and love.

Of course we wouldn’t name our children Ignominious or Ignoramus or nickname them Shame. It’s a wonder that we even discuss the possibility of children on the very weekend of that dreadful, heartbreaking tragedy. I attribute that to hope. We talk about future names, but what is the name of our future? There is so much to look forward to and live for in this world. With sacred hope, we pray our children can experience those things. We hope for answers, happiness, and peace. With deep reverence, we hope our lives will heal from heartache. It keeps us alive. Without knowing what tomorrow may bring, it’s the best we can do.

Just Treatment

Scenario 1: At a church women’s function there’s an activity where we have to find the oldest and youngest ladies at each table, and then from those ladies, we have to figure out the oldest and youngest in the room. When we identified the oldest lady, she stood up and announced, “Yes, I’m [somewhere in my 70s]. And I have 25 grandchildren to prove it.”

Scenario 2: In hundreds of conversations I’ve had with different people, this happens:
Me: So, do you have siblings?
Other person: Yeah, I have [at least four] brothers and sisters. What about you?
Me: Yeah, I have a younger brother.
Other person: So it’s just the two of you?

HOLY COW, PEOPLE, THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION. Yes, families are uber-central to our (Mormon) society and culture, and I know that children become our world once we have them, like how my parents focused on mine and Frank’s happiness as they raised us; how even my brother and I looked out for each other when we were kids, and we are probably more protective now.

It’s not “just” the two of us. There are two of us, and we’re awesome.

Reilly and I have been talking about when we’d like to have kids. Are we going to have “just” three, or “just” two, or “just” one? What if we end up only having one? “Just” one sounds like a disgrace, a failure, an implied incompetence. If we have one child, he or she will be awesome. If we have more, they’ll be awesome, too.

What if I can’t biologically have children? Are we going to “just” adopt, as if it’s a lesser alternative? As if parents use an inferior stash of love for children they couldn’t physically give birth to? Do these parents tell their kids that they’re “just” adopted? Will other kids tell my kid(s) “So, there’s ‘just’ one of you” or “So you’re ‘just’ adopted?”

BLEEP NO. You don’t win all the contests, because THERE ARE NO CONTESTS.

Sometimes people don’t even realize what they’re saying. And maybe I could be less annoyed. But should I be less sensitive when it comes to my family and my potential family? Are you really going to sit back and take it when I say that you have “just” a boy or “just” a girl or “just” twins or they got “just” Bs on their report cards? First, you know I wouldn’t think those thoughts, let alone say them. Secondly, you would defend your children if someone made these statements, because you love your children, and they’re awesome. That’s all it takes.

Think about what you’re saying. Think about the implied devaluing and belittling in that one little word. Be mindful of the context in which you use it. Make an effort to stop using it in the situations I’ve mentioned here.

Just stop.

Now (Again) I Can’t Sleep (Still)

KING LEAR
Be your tears wet? yes, ‘faith. I pray, weep not:
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong:
You have some cause, they have not.

CORDELIA
No cause, no cause.

I worked on a final paper today for my Shakespeare class. While rereading certain parts of King Lear, I realized that I have lived this passage.

And tears surprised me.

So.

Dad.

I Like This Movie

This movie is truly one of the best child actor performances I have ever seen. Of course Lee Pace is cute and stuff, but the little girl really steals the show. Her innocence, her role melts into her being. It doesn’t even seem like she’s acting.

In other news, my life seems to be crumbling before my very eyeballs. That is, if I kept my eyeballs open long enough to notice. I’m overwhelmed and frustrated, and sleep is my newest and best friend. It doesn’t judge or yell; it just lets me be.

Six weeks of class left. I don’t know, you guys.

Some Facebook Message Exchanges – Kids from Key West

From this friend, who found me:

Hello-

I grew up in Key West and lived in military housing. I had a very good friend named May and I’m trying to see if that is you. If so, do you remember me? My name is Kathy Bruening and I lived on Spaulding Ct in Poinciana Housing. We would have been about 9 or 10 years old I think.

My response:

Kathy, I remember you like it was 1984. You were a year older than me, and you had this amazing Cabbage Patch Kid collection. Your dad was a chief, and you guys drove a minivan. You have an older brother. James? Sorry if that’s wrong. I lived in 1622A, which was kind of in the cul de sac, and you lived right where Spaulding Court opened up.

I blogged briefly about us one day.

So, yes. You found me. What a thrill!

I hope you are well.

And, here’s an inquiry to someone else I remembered:

Hey, I was wondering if you ever lived in Key West, Florida? And, if you lived in military housing? And, if so, if you did for an elementary school talent show you did gymnastics tumbling passes to the Genesis song, “Sussudio”? I know that’s random, but that is all.

Thanks.

Her response:

Oh my word yes thats me. Did you live at 1622 A Spalding Ct.? Did you go to Gerald Adams? That [sic] I think I know who you are. I may even have a picture of all of the neighborhood kids.

What would happen if that wasn’t her? What if I just posed an absolutely bizarre question to someone I mistook for someone else? That’s a very specific memory. Plus she has a unique name. So, the chances of my guess being right were pretty high.

Dude. Back handsprings to “Sussudio”! No one else in the world would have done that. She should have won that talent show. She took second place. First place winner was a 5th grade girl who sang Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.” To be fair, she rocked it. She sounded fabulous for a 10-year old.

Also, I hope, hope, hope  my old friend posts that photo of all the neighborhood kids. If she does, I promise to share.

Boo-Boo

1987. You'd better being "aww"ing, or I'll punch you.
1987. You'd better being "aww"ing, or I'll punch you.

I was going to write another entry about Girls’ Camp, but my brother put this picture on the internet. I saw it on Friday, and I laughed the way you do when you see something from the past that triggers a million good memories. My heart smiled. I called Frank Saturday morning to ask if I could use the photo for this blog, and he didn’t even hesitate. “Yeah,” he said, the way he says it.

This is his school picture from kindergarten. Did Mom lay out his clothes? No, she did not. Frank got up and got himself dressed in a fine, pin-striped suit. Made for a 5-year old boy. I like to think he took one last look in the bathroom mirror and adjusted that Windsor knot, or at least made sure the clip was secure in the collar, before he walked a mile to the bus stop along a dirt road. In his dress shoes. The vest was a nice touch; not too formal, but still keeping some sophistication.

You can tell the summer was winding down. Frank’s brown hair with darkish blond streaks along the hairline implicates the Caucasian in him. He combed his own hair and parted it the way Mom and Dad taught him. He’s been out in the sun. His bronzy tan hints he probably had a good summer of playing in the neighborhood, and the thought of starting school so far from his mind, because forts and treehouses and soccer in the front yard were priority. As they should be.

I wasn’t going to point this out, but would you take note of the size of that boy’s noggin? I’m sure his shoulders kept nice and cool beneath the shadow of that considerable skull. If I had known about bobbleheads 21 years ago, I would have tried tapping Frank’s head as often as possible to see if it would bounce up and down from the neck, connected so obviously by a spring. This is probably the reason he didn’t give a toothy smile: he was too focused on keeping his head still.

When I talked to Frank on Saturday about the photograph, he told me he didn’t even know how to smile, at least for a camera. He kind of has a monkey mouth here. But you can still see his dimple. And you can see the earnestness in his big, brown eyes. Because he’s five. This was when we could still call him “Boo-boo.” That was a nickname he had ever since he was born. I figured out that term could be slang for a mistake, and I’d go around announcing my brother was a mistake, having no idea what I was saying.

Can you see the scar in his right eyebrow? That’s from when TIMMY YATES SHOT HIM POINT BLANK WITH A BB GUN. If I think about that too much, I feel as if I still want to show that Timmy a boo-boo from my foot to his teeth.

When Frank was in kindergarten, I was in sixth grade. I was a member of the student patrol, and the last 10 minutes of school every day I stood at my station to keep the students from cutting corners, walking on the grass and running all over campus on their way to the buses. I wore a fluorescent orange plastic/vinyl belt with a badge pinned to the cross-strap that ran from the shoulder to the waist.

Sometimes my post was close to Frank’s classroom. When the dismissal bell rang, my brother’s class exited from the portable in a nice, orderly line. He would see me, break form, walk up to me and give me a hug. And sometimes I did not always welcome his affection. I sometimes pushed him away, because I had to keep my eye on all the deviant children who were so intent on stepping on the grass. Because they’re kids.

It wasn’t until well into the second semester of that school year when I started hugging Frank back. It took a while for me to realize he might like seeing his sister at the end of the day. I certainly liked seeing him, and I wasn’t embarrassed. I was actually more ashamed of pushing him away so I could do my awesome and incredibly important job on the school patrol. I wasn’t as cool as I thought I was, and I’m glad Frank woke me up to that.

I can’t remember if we went to the bus stop together, or if we walked home together all the time. Frank matter-of-factly recounted to me once on our walk home – or maybe it was while we were in line to board the bus – how I held his arms behind his back and pushed him forward and he fell on his face. And all because he said to me, “No skips, bubble lips!” He laughed pretty hard relating this story to me, by the way, like two hours ago. Because he’s twenty-six and just relived a kindergarten moment – not the hurt of my pushing him so much as his cleverness that provoked my anger. Because he’s that way.

And so it continued as we grew up. I began junior high school and the homework really started to pile up. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my homework and Frank irritating me somehow until I got up from my chair and Frank took off laughing and I chased him around the house until I could get to where I could shove him pretty hard onto the couch. Which was what he wanted.

I remember making him so mad he chased me around the house and I locked myself in my parents’ bathroom and then a moment later I looked down at the floor and saw a knife blade sliding side to side from under the door, and I’d hear him laughing, and I banged on the door until he left the door and returned the knife to the kitchen. Nothing was child-proof in our home. (You do remember all the horror movies we watched together, right?)

Whenever our parents weren’t home we’d do backflips on the couch or have wrestling matches, with our stuffed animals as an audience. We’d play catch with my brother’s stuffed bear, Allen (David John‘s BFF), pretending it was a football and dove into the couch for the completion. We’d play Houdini or something like it, where we’d take turns trying to escape from having our wrists bound behind our backs. We’d stay up late until we saw our parents’ car pull into the driveway, then we’d turn off all the lights and run to our rooms and pretend to be sleeping.

When Frank was about eight years old, he went right up to my dad and requested not to be called “Boo-Boo” anymore. This felt like a really significant moment in our family’s history. I could sense a shift of gears: my brother was growing up. And this could mean that he could nearly crack his skull open while diving head first into his friend’s shallow pool and my mom freaking out at the clinic where the doctor sewed up the gash with eight stitches. Because he’ll always be Boo-Boo.

We got along more than we fought. It was just the two of us, and I’ve always adored him, even when I behaved like the Mean Big Sister. He always forgave me. And I always forgave him, and we resumed playing until we fought again, and we forgave and hugged and talked and bonded and grew up and became the best of friends who happened to be related. The overall effect of this photo is downright fetching. You can’t help but notice Frank’s cute, little-kid cheeks, the way he looks directly into the camera, the depth of his eyes. If you have the chance to speak to my brother for the first time today, you would have no problem believing this is who he was, because he’s the same person now. Because he’s my brother.

Yeah.

About the Userpic

This is David John Anderton. I got him when I was about 8 years old. I might have been 9. I remember saving my allowance for a long time, and I remember really wanting a Preemie, because I wanted a baby, and I knew the ones with long hair and pet dogs and ponies were NOT babies. I lived in Key West at the time, and I can’t remember the name of the department store where we went often. An entire aisle was reserved for Cabbage Patch Kids. My friend Kathy Bruening had something like 8 or 9 of them, an assortment of Preemies and older ones, AND she had a pony or two. At that age I knew better than to wish I had as much as her; I knew her dad was a chief in the Navy and made more than my dad, who was only a first class. E-5, I think is the designation. So Dad parsed out to me a weekly allowance that I stowed away in a special place to accrue. I knew this Cabbage Patch doll was going to mean a lot. 

I wanted an all-out Preemie, one with no hair whatsoever. I remember as we passed through that aisle I saw the one I wanted with the perfectly bald head. However, when I finally saved enough money to afford one, the money was already burning a serious hole in my pocket, and my parents took me to the department store. I could have waited, I suppose, but I did not want to take the chance of all of the dolls being sold out forever. I hoped and prayed that my Preemie Cabbage Patch was still there.

Alas, he was not. I wanted a brown-eyed boy because I had brown eyes. But all those were sold out, and not a lot of Preemies had been stocked that day. So, I pretty much had my choice of the coiffed, full-grown dolls or the Aryan Preemies. I knew I still wanted a Preemie. I was 5 pounds, 4 ounces when I was born, and I wanted someone little like me, so that’s what I got. 

He’s still in good condition. I mean, he’s 23 years old, and he’s moved several times, and I’m sure Frank got a hold of him a few times while we were growing up. In fact, David John was best friends with my brother’s teddy bear, Allen. I hope Frank still has Allen.

The first time I changed David’s diaper, the fastening tape got stuck on the plastic of the diaper, so I ripped the diaper, and I couldn’t replace the tape, and Frank was out of diapers by that time. (My parents potty-trained early.) And I wasn’t about to ask my parents to buy diapers for my UNALIVE doll. So David doesn’t have a diaper.

I TRIMMED MY NON-DEAD doll’s hair regularly. The hair is made out of regular braided yarn, so I would unbraid the yarn and brush it, and if the yarn frayed, I would trim off the strays and give him a nice, clean cut. I’d shape his hair to make it stand straight up, and I would cut it straight across to make it look like a military cut. 

He went to sleep with me, and I’d give him kisses good night. From my bedroom window, we watched the neighborhood: kids playing, cars pulling in and out of the parking lot. We got to watch that one hurricane back in 1985? Something like that.

He came with me to BYU. I figured I would need the company and someone to talk to. And having him around would be closest thing to co-ed living I’d experience at that time. Are you believing any of this paragraph? I did NOT still talk to my doll when I was 18 years old. But he did still have sentimental value. Of course I took him along, because it was like having a part of home with me 2,000 miles away from my family and best friends.

If I could still fit into my clothes from 23 years ago, I’d probably still have them. Some may say keeping David isn’t all that practical. I disagree: he sure holds a lot of memories. And, he sure does make a great profile pic.

For the past few years, he was in storage. Then Mom sent him to me a little while back. I can’t even think of throwing him away. 

I am definitely NOT 8 years old in this photo.