Monday, October 27, 2008

Linguistically Challenged

So, some of you may know that I'm a Canadian. I grew up in a suburb of Toronto and lived in Canada until I was twenty four years old, or so. Canadians think Americans talk funny. Of course we do everything the proper way: We speak properly, we have better manners and, truth be told, we are smarter. Don't shoot the messenger, I'm just stating the facts.

I used to think all Americans talked like they were from down south. I called them Ah-Mah-ri-cahns because of how round they made their vowels. I thought it was funny to hear them talk.

Now, when I came to the States, many people couldn't understand certain words I said. You might not think there can be a big difference between the two countries, but apparently some Americans couldn't understand what I wanted when I said "garbage" instead of "trash", "bag" instead of "sack" and "pop" instead of "soda." 

But the real problem comes when I pronounce any word that has an 'ag' sound in it, for instance,bag. An American listening to me, would think I said beg. So I made a concerted effort to pronounce things more carefully, emphasizing the long a sound in the word bag

Lately, though, I've been having a bit of a cunumdrum. For some reason, I can no longer remember how to pronounce words, and very often I find myself stuttering over a word because what comes out of my mouth does not gel with how the word sounded in my head. It's causing me a great deal of turmoil. 

Who am I? How am I supposed to talk? It's a life crisis of major proportions because I nolonger instinctively know if I should sound like a Canadian or like an American. You have no idea how much difficulty this causes me.

And, the turmoil runs deeper to my long-accepted understanding that Americans talked funny but Canadians did not. For all my thinking that American's talked like they were all southerners, and maybe a little stupid, I'm finding that Canadians talk like they have a lemon in their mouths and a stick up their, ahem, you know where. 

Maybe I just shouldn't talk at all. I'll take up ASL, or maybe mime. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover - or a Visiting Teaching Companion

Several choice seats were still available in the front row of Relief Society on a happy Sunday morning. But as I sat down, a girl I didn't know rushed up and said "Oh no, you can't sit here--I'm saving these for my friends."

Ouch. Couldn't I be a friend? Weren't we all supposed to be friends in Relief Society?

With my feelings hurt and my ire rankled, I slunk back a few rows and plunked myself down in a huff. I growled at that girl for the whole rest of class. My cup of human kindness had shattered into a thousand pieces in the kitchen sink. During that one class, over that one incident, I built up a very unhealthy dislike (read: hate) for that girl--Carol.

As luck would have it, within the week we got new visiting teaching assignments.

Guess what happened next. Can you guess? Come on, you can do it. 

Sure enough. Carol and I were assigned to be visiting teaching companions. 

I was so dismayed at the thought that I seriously considered asking to be reassigned. 

Our first few visits were extremely strained. It seemed our dislike for one another was intense and mutual. It was difficult to go on the Lord's errand when there were so many bad feelings between the two of us. I found I couldn't contribute to the conversation when Carol taught the lesson because I was working so hard at controlling my ugly feelings for her. I hated everything she said, even the way she said it. I was in a bad, bad place. And I was pretty sure she felt the same about me.

At first I prayed that we would get reassigned. "Please, Heavenly Father, bless me with a new visiting teaching companion."

But He didn't give me what I wanted.

Instead, He began to slowly change my heart. Soon, I found that my prayersbecame pleas to help me understand Carol, to be kind to her, so that we could better bless the sisters we were entrusted with.

As I prayed that our companionship could be strenghtened for the sake of our sisters, I found my heart was softened toward Carol. 

Carol, it turns out, was insecure and feeling like a fish out of water. She had moved to a new place with a young family and her husband travelled often. She was lonely.

As time passed, and my prayers to be a better companion to Carol were answered, I discovered a deep desire to be a better friend to her, as well. And she, not the horrible, awful girl I thought her to be, responded in kind. 

A friendship and mutual respect grew between us as we unified ourselves to serve our sisters. Our visiting teaching visits grew in meaning and we often felt the Spirit in remarkable ways during them. 

A year later, Carol was one of my truest friends, a friend for life. I had grown from this experience and learned that there is good in all things, even the hard things, if we let Heavenly Father join with us, to work with us.

In particular, He belongs on our visiting teaching visits. This is His work, afterall, and we ought to include Him when we go out.

When I felt such dislike for Carol, we had a hard time saying prayers together before we visited our sisters. But when I sought Heavenly Father's help He freely gave it. 

President Thomas S. Monson said, "It is the Lord's work, and when we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to the Lord's help." 

Had I not asked for His help in dealing with my awful visiting teaching companion, I might not have discovered how wonderful she was. She was a diamond, but I couldn't see her shining. I needed Father to clear my vision, to open my heart, so I could see her as He saw her. How much I would have lost, if I had never had Carol as my friend.

Sometimes we get difficult companion assignments. We feel it is a burden to spend time with the other person, we feel they hold us back, or there's something else about them that we feel we would be better off without. But I testify to you, that our assignments are made by divine inspiration and that very often there is a good reason why the two of you are together. 

A good companionship can truly bless the sisters they are assigned to teach. But a companionship that does not strive to have the Spirit of the Lord with them, does nothing to enrich their sisters lives. 

So, if you find yourself now, or sometime in the future, assigned with a companion you think you just can't stand, please, pray for her. Pray that you may come to love her. Pray to see in her what Heavenly Father sees in her. I know that He will bless you with inspiration into your companions character and heart and that your eyes will be opened. You will be blessed with an increased ability to love your companion, to care for her, and to respect her.

And with that love and respect, the two of you will truly be able to do the Lord's work and bless those sisters who have been entrusted into your care.

For more great articles on how to improve your visiting teaching efforts, please visit Jen's blog today for her Visiting Teaching Carnival!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Touch of Human Kindness

I wonder, where has the smile gone?

The "hi, how ya doin'?" 

The tip of the hat, the nod of the chin, the friendly hand shake?

Today the family and I went for a walk around a lake. It was lovely, the lake smooth like glass, the sky clear like aquamarine, just perfect. The lake is surrounded by a boardwalk, and it was busy with families enjoying the day.

I smiled at everyone we passed. Is that so strange?

If not, why then, did no one smile back? Well, to be fair, one lady did smile at me. 

But why only one of the dozens I passed? What has come of us, that we can't look outside of ourselves for a moment to brighten another's day? 

This is a trend that I have been noticing more and more of lately. I feel that I am alone when I'm out among others--they don't see me, and I'm not supposed to see them. Except, I am a human among humans and I like to feel like I'm a part of something. 

Tell me, where have the smiles gone? Where has that touch of human kindness gone that makes us so special?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Behind The Wheel

I've been doing a lot of thinking about road rage lately and what my attitude is when I'm behind the wheel. It's made me curious about YOU and how you feel when you're out on the road.

I don't get road rage. I can honestly say, I've never felt that surge of adrenaline that urges me to chase down another driver and sock it to 'em. 

I find driving a rather Zen-like activity. I'm trapped behind the wheel of my car. I can neither go any faster nor slower than the speed limit tells me (don't get me wrong, I'll take my 5 mph headway, thank you very much, but not very likely will I will I take much more.) If I get stuck in traffic, it's one of those things I cannot change, so I don't feel inclined to take it out on the driver in front of me.

Sure, I've been late. Sure, I've been stuck behind a driver who drove like Miss Daisy and failed to go when the light turned green thereby making me miss the light or ... you name it.

Yes, I've been cut off or in some other way endangered by another driver's inattention (or just plain rudeness) and muttered a choice word or two under my breath. 

But has it spurred me on to outdo them in the rudeness or violent driving category? No. I just keep on keepin' on.

But as I said, I'm fascinated by what it is that goes on in a persons mind when they get offended on the road and then feel that they just have to take it a step further. That it just isn't enough for them to flip another person off, or even to shrug it off--they have to run the offending driver down and make sure they know how ticked off they are.

If you have insight into the road ragers' mind, I'd love to hear it. Tell me, too, what your attitude is when you're out on the road. Are you dangerous? Are you a passionate driver? Impatient? Or are you pretty even-keeled? Do you have a ke sara sort of attitude?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Surprise! And ... surprise.

Last week was a week of surprises.

  1. We had problems with our main bathroom toilet leaking. We pulled up the toilet and discovered a horrible rotting mess underneath it. We had a plumber come take a look at it. His verdict? Mold. And he couldn't touch it.
  2. We called our insurance (thanks to my neighbor friends! because I hadn't even thought of calling them) and they sent out an adjuster. Turns out it is totally covered and all we need to pony up is our $500 deductable. Sweet! So we'll get our bathroom totally redone, new floors, paint, new fixtures and such, and all the work will be paid for with our insurance (we have to pay for the fixtures etc., but the 'base work' like the repair work and the floor and painting we will not have to pay for.)
  3. I took David away for the weekend. The boys and I managed to keep it an entire surprise ... I drove up to the hotel with David and he went "oh!" He figured I was taking him out to dinner to a place I wanted to keep secret, but he had no idea how it was really going to turn out!
  4. We went shopping at the Gateway on Friday night. I have been having a terrible time for a year now with my skin. It's mostly hormonal, but I have also been having a hard time finding a good skin care regimin as my old one no longer worked on my 'new' skin (a la hysterectomy and hormonal changes). So I went into the Apothecary store at the Gateway and after some discussion with the sales girl, decided to fork out $125 in skin care products. Bless my husband's heart, he didn't blink an eye. He wants me to be happy and if this stuff was going to help me, then he'd pay that and more. I had a hard time with it though ... that was a lot of money and I've never spent that much for that sort of thing before. 
  5. We enjoyed an evening of walking around the plaza and ended up at Barnes and Noble to buy some books (of course. No birthday excursion is ever complete with the purchase of copious amounts of books.) While at the store, I set my bag of very expensive lotions at my feet. My arms were full of books and I was feeling tired. I walked down the aisle to look at more books. When I turned back to retrieve my bag ... it was gone.
  6. I cried and cried. We looked everywhere. The sales staff was less than helpful. It seems that stolen things is the norm there. They sort of looked at us like we were nuts for thinking our bag could be safe (even though we were in the same aisle).
  7. We were really surprised at the difference between downtown Salt Lake City and the suburbs. If I had left my bag at the Jordan Landing store, I'm sure if someone saw it, they would come up to me, and say "Excuse me, is that your bag?" and/or they would turn it in to Customer Service. Downtown, however, whoever did it decided in a split second to grab the bag and, well, split. 

So that was our week of surprises. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I'm happy to report that I did not let the theft get me down for too long. I was pretty sad most of Friday night - feeling guilty, mostly, that I had spent that much money, that I had been careless with it - but David was beyond sweet and I got over it because he let me. We had a great weekend and are now enjoying a loud and disorganized house as our remodelling work gets underway.

Oh, and I forgot another awesome surprise! Saturday night I had a story idea! I haven't had one for a while and it's been making me depressed, lol. Not that I need any new story ideas because I already have a file full of novels waiting to be written, but this one is unique and special. I'll enjoy writing it some day!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I Always Knew I Was Hot

I'm a Porsche 911!

You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology. You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win.  Performance, precision, and prestige - you're one of the elite,and you know it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Plea from an Innocent Driver

Dear Mr. Scarey Man,

Today I fell in behind your large, shiny blue truck. I noticed you were having difficulty staying within your lanes, and I wondered if you were ill. Until I realized you were in the middle of a very dangerous game of chicken with a bulky carpet van.

I let my speed slow as much as I dared to do given the traffic behind me and the fact that we were on a 65 mph highway. 

When you violently pulled your truck alongside the carpet van; when I saw you lean across the passenger seat and raise your hand in the shape of a gun; when I saw you pretend to shoot the driver of the van, I actually began to feel afraid.

I am not a violent person. I suffer from some post trautic stress because of a very violent childhood. Once, I was pulled from a car by the jaws of life, only narrowly escaping death itself. Though I wouldn't say I scare easily, perhaps I am more sensitive to threatening situations than others.

But in that moment, I seriously began to wonder if I was witnessing something more than your average episode of road rage. 

I've had my share of honks or birds flipped in my direction. I've certainly seen it happen around me often enough. All of us make careless mistakes from time to time. I'm sure most of us do not intend any offense by our actions. 

However, today, what I saw you do, how I saw you behave, made me think that it was very possible something terrible was going to happen. 

After you pretended to shoot the guy driving the van, you drove in front of him and slowed down so hard that he was forced to hit the brakes too. Though I was following a safe distance behind his van, his sudden action caused a reaction in me. The car behind me was not following so safely and had to veer off the road in order to avoid rear ending me. 

Now, sir, I'm sure you could not have known this, but I had two young boys in the backseat with me. Your actions almost caused them their lives.

I thought that was the worst of it. But just moments later, the van either forced you off the road, or you were trying to share the same lane as him (I'm honestly not sure which, and I'm not trying to judge), because you went flying into the small island that separated the southbound ramp from the northbound. I took the northbound, but when your truck flew onto the sandy island and coughed up so much dirt and debris that for a moment it obscured my vision entirely, I hoped you would have enough sense not to take your anger out on me.

Please, I prayed, let us pass.

Thankfully, your intent was entirely on the carpet van. But to what purpose? I have no idea what happened between the two of you that caused you to become so very upset. However, I do know that your behavior, and yours alone (because the van's drive appeared to be driving perfectly normally with the exception of his required responses to your behavior), put my family in jeapardy.

I was an innocent driver on that road today, sir. And my children were innocent passengers. We did our best to avoid close proximity to you in your moment of frustration and anger, but despite that we came perilously close. Your driving may have cost us our lives. The fact that it didn't is, in my opinion, no excuse.

I would ask you to consider others as you use the roadways. Even if one person offends you, please don't let your anger cloud your good judgement. For, even though you had a Calvin sticker on your van, showing the plucky youngster peeing on the ground (and gosh, but that's just so cute and classy) I'm sure you don't really want to piss on others around you. I'm sure you want to be treated decently, just as I expect to be.

So next time someone offends you while you're behind the wheel of your car, please remember the rest of us, us innocent drivers, who share the road with you. 


An Innocent Driver

Monday, October 06, 2008

Our General Conference Adventure

Well, maybe it wasn't so much an adventure, but the title sounded well, adventurous and I wanted you stop by, lol! 
David and I were expecting company late Friday night for the weekend and we had a date planned and our house was a mess (courtesy of homeschooling and my inability to get everything done that I need/want to get done in a single day.) Oh, and we needed to get groceries.

We did manage to get the house tidied up sufficiently before our date, but we didn't get home from our date and shopping till almost midnight, Friday night. Then we had to put everything away, get everyone's clothes ready for the next morning and get our bag ready for the trip. Oh, and we needed to figure out whether we were going to drive or take the train.

Charlie had a pretty good case of the sniffles before we left for the date and though it might be sacriligious to admit out loud, or at least in writing, I secretly hoped he would have a full-blown cold nad we 'wouldn't have to go.' Naughty, eh?

We were so tired when we finally went to bed, and it was nearly two o'clock in the morning that when the alarm went off at 7:00 and it was raining outside I fully expected that I would hit the off button and slide on back to sleep. But, I did not!

Glory, Hallejuiah, I was awake! We decided to take the train because we couldn't figure out where the parking lot was that we had a ticket for. It was raining and gross, but we made it to the train in time, downtown on time, and into our seats reasonably on time.

The boys were fascinated by the people gathered to tell us how wrong we are in our beliefs. Bless them, they knew enough to realize that what the people were saying about us was untrue. 

They behaved well during the conference--perhaps even better than the teenage boy who sat next to us texting someone the entire time, or the pre-teen girl behind us who kept dropping things really loudly and was doing the full-on pout and whine for her parents. 

Thanks to all the advice on what to bring! I was able to keep the boys entertained and they did just fine.

Charlie said, "I'm sorry for complaining about coming to Conference. It was really fun!" He also had the big heart to realize that Grampa probably would ahve really liked to come and next time we should bring him. (I did ask him, but he said he couldn't sit in the seats long enough.) And he said he hoped we could back again some time.

Xander didn't say much, except that he was glad we went.

This isn't a very good picture - it was raining really hard when we got out and I had to make due with my camera phone.

Oh, and on the way home there was standing room only on the train. I got to teach great lessons to the boys about how to behave on a train ... like how they should give up their seat to a lady should there not be a seat for her. I was shocked at two men, a dad and his teenage son, who sat, carelessly, while two women in high heels tried to keep their balance by hanging on to the hand-loops. Where were their manners? 

We went to Denny's for lunch and talked over what we had learned. Then went home, got changed into our pj's and watched the rest of Conference at home with the fireplace on. Nice!

All in all, a great day, despite having running on very little sleep. It was a great blessing for all of us and I'm so glad we made the extra effort to go. It was totally worth it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

General Conference Questions

I need to poll all my LDS readers out there.
My family and I have the opportunity to go to the Conference Center for the Saturday morning session of General Conference this week. We wanted to go, while we had the chance, because after our move to Massacheusetts, we may never get this opportunity again.

But, I've never been to a General Conference session in person before, and I'm not sure if there's anything I can bring for my boys.

For instance, at home, we have a very well established tradition of staying put and listening to every session of Conference. However, they get to play bingo, draw and color, write in their journals ... you name it. As long as they are in the same room and are generally quiet, they stay very busy.

Can I bring a journal or notebook for them to write in/draw in during our session? I sort of assumed yes, because I had hoped to take notes myself, but ... if they are drawing, will people become offended?

I understand they can't kneel on the ground and write on their seat like they might at church but ... what do you think?

If you've ever been to a General Conference session with young children, I'd love to hear about your experience. Thanks a bunch!