Sunday Firsts

Yesterday was Zinger’s first day in nursery at church. Since our ward meets at 11:00 AM, our strategy was to get Z to sit long enough for us to take the sacrament, take her for a ride so that she can nap for about half an hour, then bring her back in time for nursery.

We were able to get her to sit for the first 25 minutes of sacrament meeting. She wanted to walk around and play in the chapel, but we held her close and whispered to her how important it was to sit still. As soon as the bishop dismissed the priesthood after administering the sacrament, Reilly took Z on a ride while I listened to people bear their testimonies. I may have also briefly scrolled through Facebook and read comments in a Salt Lake Tribune article about black women in the Church.

When sacrament meeting ended, I walked out of the chapel and found my family. I asked Reilly if Z got a nap. He said no. I was nervous. We walked our daughter to the nursery room. We let her walk around, and there were a couple of times she tried leaving the room. Once the tables were set up the nursery workers put out some books and puzzles, and Z began to play. She also saw some blocks and played with those as well.

The nursery leaders asked for her name. We told them Z was tired and wasn’t really used to other children yet. They assured us they were good at getting the babies to calm down in case of tantrums.

Before we left her, we decided to change her diaper so that the next two hours for her wouldn’t be interrupted. So I took her to the mothers’ room and changed her. Reilly and I took her back to the nursery room. We opened the door, we said goodbye, and there were no tears.

Suddenly, we were free.

Reilly and I headed to Gospel Principles class. We sat down in the middle of a story the teacher was telling. One of the first things we heard the teacher say was, “And [this guy], he was homosexual.” Then she wrote on the board: [guy’s name] – homosexul [sic]. Then she continued telling the story, which offered a few more highlights:

  • “Many of their kids were homosexual. I don’t know if it’s hereditary or what.”
  • “And [another guy] was 70 years old, and he’s still homosexual.”

The teacher kept making eye contact with me, so I didn’t want to give even the remotest sideways glance to Reilly to express how weird I thought the lesson was.

But then came a story that had some context:

  • “My son came to me and said, ‘I have to thank you for something, but I’m not sure it was even you. My brothers were always beating me up. I was always on the bottom of a pile. But there were times I felt someone lifting me up above the pile, and I could see my brothers below me, and the next thing I knew, I was at the table and there were milk and cookies. I want to thank you for that.’”

My impression was that the lesson was about families, but we missed the first ten minutes, and with 20 minutes left in the class, someone came in and asked us to be substitute Primary teachers. So we walked out of our Sunday School class, being somewhat amused but not knowing for sure what we were being taught.

We found out that we were teaching the CTR4 class, which consisted of three boys. They were rowdy, as boys between 4 and 6 years of age typically are. Between Reilly and me, our combined powers of persuasion made classroom management pretty easy. (If other parents saw us, they probably would have disagreed.) We had a short lesson about missionaries. We colored pictures of children holding Books of Mormon. One boy looked at the other boys’ coloring jobs and said, “Dude, that’s scribbling.” We folded these pictures into paper airplanes, and Reilly refereed the races. We also played football because that’s always an appropriate Sunday indoor activity. I interrupted their fun to remind them if their moms ask what they learned in class to say they learned about being missionaries. Wishful thinking, I know; I should expect them to tell their moms that they played with paper airplanes and threw a football in class. The final activity was drawing on the chalkboard, which surprised me with how long they kept quiet. We ended the class with a prayer. While one boy was giving the closing prayer, another boy was talking. To whom, to what, I don’t know.

I tidied up the classroom while Reilly picked up Z from nursery. I asked how she did, and Reilly said that when he opened the door, one of her shoes was off. One of the nursery leaders was blowing bubbles, and Z was trying to catch them. I imagined her reaching above her head, trying to grab those clear, drifting orbs. I smiled.

It seems Z had a great first day at nursery, with nary a tear. She also didn’t nap the entire day. (Reilly and I each took two naps.) And she cried for about a minute when she had to go to bed.

It was an eventful day for all of us. If today’s gospel principles lesson was about families, then maybe we could take our day and talk about how our respective experiences have brought us closer together, either because they were fun (stacking blocks and catching bubbles) or slightly chaotic (teaching small boys) or didn’t make very much sense (listening to bizarre stories in Sunday School). I don’t think there will ever be another Sunday like this one. I really liked it.

A Dream about Lunch

Morgan Freeman was in my dream last night. He was homeless in Salt Lake City. I ate lunch with him every day. We didn’t eat by ourselves, though. About 6 other strangers ate lunch with me and Morgan Freeman. We passed around buckets of chicken and ice cream while we sat on a curb somewhere near the Gateway shopping center.

It took about a week in my dream to realize that I was eating lunch with homeless Morgan Freeman in Salt Lake City. Did the others know? Did they care? Once I knew that I was eating lunch with Morgan Freeman, I wanted to ask him all sorts of questions about his acting career. But no one else seemed interested in Morgan Freeman. They just seemed to enjoy sitting together at the same time every day to share lunch.

I don’t know where the food came from. It was fried chicken and ice cream every single time. And they came in large buckets. Not fried chicken buckets, but large industrial-sized plastic buckets with a metal handle. I don’t remember tasting the food in my dream. I do remember using a large metal serving spoon to scoop melted ice cream onto a thin paper plate.

No one talked during our lunches. The dream itself might have been completely without sound. Frustrating. Why have homeless Morgan Freeman in my dream if I can’t hear his distinguished Morgan Freeman voice?

During this dream, I couldn’t wait to go home and blog about having lunch with homeless Morgan Freeman. This dream was one of those moments that felt real, that felt like I was fully conscious.

So you can imagine as I emerged from deep sleep and broke the surface of wakefulness how disappointed I was that I didn’t really eat lunch with homeless Morgan Freeman. Think of the decreasing likelihood of the combination of these factors becoming a reality:

  • Homeless Morgan Freeman
  • Homeless Morgan Freeman in Salt Lake City
  • Homeless Morgan Freeman in Salt Lake City having lunch with moi
  • Homeless Morgan Freeman and I sharing giant buckets of chicken and ice cream on a SLC curb near the Gateway Mall

Virtually possible, but otherwise impossible.

Which is why it was just a dream.

The Poets I Know

My penultimate semester at BYU I took a poetry class as a complete novice. Along with the curriculum and the professor, a couple of classmates awakened me to the vast and diverse world of poetry. It blew me away, intimidated me. Our class would have weekly workshops and while they did have nice things to say about my poetry, classmates were often brutally honest and mercilessly constructive. It was hard not to feel discouraged.

I read a poem every day. Occasionally I’ll write down a tentative idea for a poem. I’ve fallen out of practice; it’s easier to read than write. It hasn’t always been that way. But it’s always been easy to write crappy poetry. Here, let me whip up a gross haiku for you right now:

vulnerable brain
months of oxidizing then
flaking rust matter

See? That took less than a minute. And not something I’d be proud to show even Stephenie Meyer.

There’s so much to love about poetry: taking it apart, slathering the language all over me, listening to it, reading poets’ advice. I support people who are good at it, who devote their lives to capturing beauty, tragedy in such a specialized way.

From my experience in the class, it seems some of the best poets also make the best academics. They think about issues from multiple and often-rare angles. With intense focus, they express themselves with clarity and power. I covet them so, so much.

But I also want to brag about my poet friends and acquaintances, because they’re brilliant.

My poetry professor, Susan Elizabeth Howe:

Imagination, as I have experienced it, can be part of and lead to spiritual growth, and imagination is the natural province of the poet.

Someone I knew as a computer person before he became a poet, Neil Aitken:

Neil Aitken is a poet of consummate grace and skill. His poems are acutely observed, unerring musically, sensual and lyrical. Filled with longing and subtle epiphanies, his poetry plumbs the depths of the human heart, and hints towards the heights of the human spirit. His writing accomplishes what Wallace Stevens suggested—that, in the best poems, “description is revelation,” for each of Aitken’s poems reveals the world anew for the reader.  — Maurya Simon

A friend I worked with at church in New York City, Javen Tanner:

. . . he thus takes up his poetic cross and wills us to follow as he forges a path through variations on these ambiguous realities to the end of preparing us for more lasting psychological and spiritual connections and consolations.

Former classmate and also a BYU soccer player, Conner Bassett:

When reading poetry out loud, you see the poem for what it is; half of the poem is the words, but the other half is the sound of it,” Bassett said. “Reading and hearing it out loud is a completely different experience.”

Another classmate, Kylan Rice. He seems to have a relatively new tumblr:

…Stop looking so
shocked at the grammy fat. Are we not
all a tapestry of garbled hearts?

I have a few other poet friends, but I’m having trouble finding stuff about them on the internet. Which usually doesn’t happen. You’ll just have to believe they’re also talented and incredible and very awesome.

Look these people up. During any time of crisis, these are some of the people you can listen to.

Part of a Conversation on Martin Scorsese’s The Departed — SPOILER ALERT

The movie won four Academy Awards. It’s dark, but it’s funny in the right places. It’s vulgar, violent and bitter. It’s not for viewers who like blatantly happy endings. Or even subtly happy endings. If you like rats, though, this is for you.

The following is an online chat about the movie. It has been edited for clarity. Skip the rest of this post to avoid spoilers.

person 1: you watch de-potted?
person 2: yiss
person 1: whatchoo fink?
person 2: he shooted him!
  they all shooted!
person 1: he shooted weo in da heed!
  did mawk wahboag and awick bodween meek you waff?
person 2: yiss
person 1: they funny–but they say the f wodes and the c wodes a lot
person 2: wots of bad wodes!
I don’t know why these people chat in baby talk. They seem pretty darn cute, though. And insufferably awesome.

Move Along, Just Another Vague Post Here

Could two men have been more polarizing?

Thanks to everyone who voted. To those who didn’t: really?

One time on facebook I posted a biased article about a politician who said a very dumb thing about the very serious subject of rape, and the writer presented the article such that the this politician’s philosophy represented his entire political party. We all say things we regret, and we all latch onto the mistakes of those we want to lose to feel a sense of winning, advantage. We stand on any defeat — at any cost — to gain even minimal height. Definitely, rape is serious, but I wonder just how seriously we should have taken one (or several) politician(s) with a relatively fringey opinion.

I should have been more thoughtful about posting that article.

It must be so, so hard to be the President of the United States. I was president of the Free Club with some of my college roommates, and it was hard. All we had to do was get things for free. We could go to grocery stores and try all the free samples, get rebates, win prizes. I didn’t know how much responsibility I had.

I was nervous for both men. I was ready to support both men. Throughout this election season, I thought secretly, if one wins, couldn’t he appoint the other to be an advisor or something? A member of the Cabinet? Wasn’t one’s healthcare plan modeled after the other? Wasn’t that earlier healthcare plan one of greatest achievements of the one candidate? Couldn’t one use his business expertise to advise the other about fixing the economy? If one wins, couldn’t one consult the other in foreign policy or legislation deadlocks? What would our divided Congress do if these two men actually worked together?

What if?

What the if?

That’s not how politics works.

But that’s how we can work.

If our nation continues to divide, I won’t have a choice but to run for president of my square block in Orem, Utah. I’d construct a soundproof highway barrier that would reduce freeway noise and would still let my citizens see the sunset. I’d also reduce rent.

If we can’t at least seek to understand other points of view and acknowledge when others try to understand ours, then our nation will continue its downward spiral into a pit of poop.

If we sidestep accountability and responsibility in our own lives, families will crumble, and entire communities will landslide into the pit of poop.

If we pray for our country but are unkind to one another: pit of poop.

Are these two men standing on opposite ends of this pit?

Or are a better state and happier times a happy medium of something less poopy?

States of America, we are supposed to be United.

Let us make that true.

On Voting

My very first federal election is coming up. After changing my name and residence for voter registration, I looked up my ballot. There are a lot of names I don’t know. The only political commercials that air on television don’t even apply to my congressional district, and presidential commercials don’t even air around here because not enough Obama voters live here, so I guess Romney’s using the money he saved from Utah to campaign like crazy in other states where Obama has a competing influence. Which I know is Mitt’s biggest concern. I just wonder where he gets and how he keeps his tan.

Anyway, here’s what my ballot looks like. I’m about halfway done researching the list, which sort of helps, but it’s mostly overwhelming. I recognize some of the names from billboards. My votes may just boil down to whether I like the spelling of names or if I can write poems from the anagrams of names or if my favorite letter of the alphabet that day is A. It is no coincidence that the initials of my new married name are the same as Mitt Romney. So, I could vote that way. Also, I like the Yes or No questions for the judges. Nothing about voting in Utah, America is confusing in the least little way.