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.