Tuesday, December 3, 2013

:::New Things:::

Tonight I met the family at an electronic store so I could help them get some iPad Minis (only one per household). When my brother in law gave me the cash I should have run out the door. Rent is due tomorrow, I'm just saying. 

We went to dinner afterwards, and towards the end of the night Molly got my attention and exclaimed, "Auntie Bekah! Guess what? Today I ate real fish!" She had purchased a hot lunch at school, and was under the impression that she had enjoyed a delicious chicken sandwich until her older sister clued her in later at home. It was a fish sandwich, and Molly was completely shocked. Real fish!

I have to admit that I was pretty proud of her since the only fish I eat comes in stick form, or of the chunk light variety. 

The thing about kids is that every time they learn something new, or try do to something that they've never tried before it just makes you so ridiculously proud. Sophie raised some lower grades up this last quarter, and I was so happy that she improved that it didn't matter exactly where on the scale she had come from or where on the scale she ended up landing, but that she had made some kind of improvement. Well, you know what? What mattered most to me was the effort she made to make the improvement. That she tried. Because even when you try sometimes you don't necessarily get the results you wanted, but it's the effort you make that shapes your character. 

On the Scott front, he stole one of the tortillas that came with my fajitas and thought I wouldn't notice. Thou fool. I always know where my carbohydrates are, my child. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

:::A Word For the Single Sisters - Babysitting:::

Don't ever ask me to babysit. Ok, maybe you can ask me to babysit. 

But probably not, because I will say no. And I will think bad things about you.

Here are three completely different scenarios.

Scenario #1 - A friend asks if I can watch her kids one night because she and her husband have an obligation that takes both of them outside the home. I have a personal relationship with this family. I hang out with the children, I hang out with the parents. They are good and kind to me. Will I 'babysit' for them? Yes. No big deal. Friends helping friends. Kumbaya, etc.

Scenario #2 - Someone from the ward asks me to babysit for them, and they are willing to pay me a substantial amount of money for my services, meaning, much, much more than they'd pay the 13 year old from the ward that they normally use. Will I babysit for them? Maybe, but probably not. It depends on the family. It depends on if I feel like leaving the house again after being at work all day. But, again, probably not. But I will think you are awesome for understanding that you need to pay a woman in her 30s more than you would pay a teenager. Bravo!

One of my last paying babysitting gigs was for the family of one of my nursery children back in DC. It was a great experience, one that I never felt belittled by. Prior to the night that I babysat for them, the mother had made an effort to know me as a person, and each time we talked she always spoke to me like an equal. Also, her children were awesome, real hepcats that I would have wanted to hang with anyhow. To top it all off, at the end of the night they insisted on compensating me as you would compensate a grown woman, not a teenage girl. That's how it's done, folks. 

Scenario #3 (the scenario for which this post is being written) -  Someone from the ward asks me to babysit for them because all the Young Women are busy that night, and I'm the next person they thought of. There will more than likely be no exchange of money, or if there is, very little. 


Let me begin with this - I haven't been in Young Women for 14 years. I'm not in some kind of extended release program just because I'm single. I promise, I'm a full-fledged adult. If I'm the first person you think of after you run through the list of Young Women in the ward, then you're an idiot you need to readjust your thinking. Especially, my dear, if I am older than you are. I am of the same level of adulthood that you are. I understand that being a parent stretches and bends and breaks and molds you in untold ways, but I have a deep testimony that there are many ways for the Potter to work the clay. I'm an adult, I promise, the same as you. I've just been doing different versions of stretching and bending and breaking and molding.

I'll follow up with this - I work. I have a job, just like all the husbands in my ward (and many of the women, for heaven's sake!). That job thing is what I'm doing with my life, and just like most men who work full-time, I'm not interested in babysitting as a side gig when I get home at the end of the day. Yes, many men (and women!) come home and parent at the end of a long day, but parenting isn't babysitting. Parenting is, hopefully, a choice. It is a role, a responsibility, an identity.

Babysitting is a job. If I wanted to babysit professionally, I'd babysit professionally. I do not babysit professionally. Herein take thy clue. So, again, unless we are tight, or you are going to pay me a decent amount of money for my time, please do not assume that I am the next logical person that you should contact when all the Young Women are too busy to watch your kidlets. I'm not sitting at home each night looking for opportunities to fake mother other women's children. 


This post was written after consulting two of my close single friends for their opinions on the matter. One of these friends had a sister-in-law who repeatedly expected her to babysit her 4+ children at nights and on the weekends. My friend's mother finally explained to this sister-in-law that one of the many reasons my friend wouldn't be interested in acting as her babysitter was that she had a very demanding and stressful full-time job. The sister-in-law then replied, 'Yeah, she works, but she's not busy like a mom.' I have no words.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

:::Long Shadows:::

Do you ever feel shame about the poor decisions you've made in the past? Even the ones that no one else sees as mistakes? Especially the ones that no one else sees as mistakes? Those are the decisions that eat me alive. I can't, I can't, I can't shake them.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

:::I'm Slow:::

Some notes on the frantic pace I feel I should be moving at:

• It is not for me. 
• It will never make me happy. 
• I will never be able to do enough to be able to rest. 
• It's not supported by the Spirit. 
• When I worry about keeping up with a frantic pace I get so worked up that my anxiety paralyzes me. Moving slower than molasses in January is better than not moving at all. 
• The Lord is legit just asking me to be myself. And myself is slow. Really slow. I wrote a résumé last week. After many days of rest and doing other things, I'm working on a cover letter this week. It's fine. The Lord is capable of ensuring that the things that need to happen for me will happen for me. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

:::Amarillo By Morning:::

Today is Willie Nelson's birthday, and I've been feeling sad all day.

My Grandma Lola passed away almost two months ago. She was, is, my mom's mom. When I was in middle school I gave her the nickname Hot Lot. Otherwise I called her Lola, or later on, g-ma.

Here are some random stories about me, about Grandma, and about me and Grandma.

Hot Lot and my Papa George were divorced many years before I was born, so I always knew her as a single woman. She used to run the kitchen at a high-rise retirement building in Long Beach, CA. We would visit her often, and though I can't remember her apartment there, I can remember that dining room with the decorative iron table legs painted white, and the big, industrial can opener in the kitchen. There was a giant pantry filled with #10 cans of lima beans and corn, and a big industrial mixer.

I remember one day we were all walking to the car after our visit was over. It was my mom, my sisters and I, just the girls. My mom was hanging back and talking to my grandma, and I raced ahead to where we always parked our blue Buick station wagon on the curb. While I waited for my mom to catch up, I decided to skip or run or dance around in the concrete courtyard near the street. I think there were square holes cut out of the concrete where plants and flowers grew.

At one point I looked up at her tall, tall building to try and find my grandma's apartment all the way at the top. This was part of our departing ritual each time we visited. As I bent back and tried to count up from the bottom to my grandma's floor, a lightly falling thought settled on my young, open mind. It wasn't a thought with specific words, more like a drawing sketched with impressions and heavenly knowledge that gave form to something far off in the future. The thought was, 'You will be like your Grandma. You will need to work to support yourself. You will be single longer than you'd like.' I was stunned for a second because I knew enough about life and expectations to know this wasn't optimal. Then I went back to being however age young I was.

That is what you would call a formative experience. Though I've never spoken or written about it before, it's always been there in my mind, whether I realized it or not. It's a feeling I've spent many years fighting against, and many previous years feeling sad, and angry, and hurt about. It made me feel different at church, and different as I moved through Young Women's, and later BYU, and later through those awkward single, post-graduate years. I don't feel guilty about those sad and tender years anymore. Life is designed to teach us it's most important lessons through hard and painful trials. Everybody has something, don't they? If it's not one thing, it's another, and once we know better, we do better. That's all that's asked of us.

Now about my grandma. Some of my favorite and most vivid remembrances of her.

She had this wrinkly skin on her arms and face that we called chicken skin. Like all the women in her family she knew how to cook well, and could more easily feed 100 than she could feed 4. She knew how to sew and would make us clothes. One time she made me a twirling skirt made out of white cotton fabric with red flowers printed on it just to wear for rollerskating. I wore it with a red t-shirt and felt so fantastic in it as I skated down our inclined driveway in the back of the house around to our front sidewalk so everyone driving by could see me twirl and twirl in it.

When I was very little she drove a Pinto, then a Taurus. The Taurus was grey with a thin blue accent stripe.

She grew up in South Dakota and her life was not easy. She married my Papa George and her life was not easy. But that's all bygones now and in the Lord's hands.

When she was a little girl she made dolls out of corn cobs and was afraid of chickens. In her heyday she was a fox who dressed to knock people's socks off. She worked, hard, her entire life. She supported her family. She made impossible ends meet.

She worked at the Disneyland Hotel and served Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. She and my Grandpa were avid bowlers and card players. Almost every year they took their kids on long driving trips from California to South Dakota. My mom said that during one trip she woke up late at night to find the car parked outside a diner and no parents immediately visible. Then she looked through the diner window directly in front of the car sand saw my grandparents sitting at a table eating pie. I love that so much. It always makes me laugh when my mom tells that story.

Hot Lot's heart was in the West. She loved Country and Western music. She had a framed picture of Willie Nelson in her apartment that I loved to look at. I thought it was so cool that my grandma had a crush on someone even though she was an old lady. Hot Lot never lost her spice.

She used an old brand of soap called Tone. She hung her ironing board on the back of her bedroom door. She collected bells and teaspoons, but mostly bells. She had a tiny, pull-out sofa that was purely magical to me.

She would have the radio tuned to an old country station more often than having the tv on, and I thought that was nuts. She lived alone and could have complete control over her tv, but her she was listening to music of all things!

Now about Hot Lot and me.

When she moved to another tall building in Garden Grove I used to spend the night with her on occasion. We would walk to the Circle K convenience store next to her building and she would buy my a big can of Chef Boyardee Beef Raviolis for dinner, and a Big Stick popsicle or Haagen-Daz ice cream bar for dessert.

When I was little she would let me have her old checkbooks from closed accounts so I could write checks for absurd amounts of money and feel grown-up and fancy. She had a roll-top desk. She had a gold pencil cup that she kept felt-tipped markers in near her telephone outside her kitchenette. She had a painted green parasol by her front door. She had salt dough magnets on her refrigerator that we had made her. She had a toaster oven that she used instead of her microwave, and I thought that was so marvelous.

Of all the country artists, Hot Lot loved George Straight the most. One time when I was a teenager she called our house and asked me to go online and look up information about tickets to one of his concerts. I was a brat about it, and like President Faust and the firewood, I will take that shame to my grave.

When we were done with a visit she would walk us to our car, then before we would pull out of the parking lot she would go back upstairs to her apartment at the very top and waive to us from her balcony. One time I forgot my coat upstairs, so she put it in a plastic grocery bag and threw it off the balcony to me. Fourteen stories! It came down like a heat seeking missile and hit the ground with stunning force that popped the tied-up grocery bag. We laughed and laughed. The next day in biology class I was wearing that coat when I put my hand in my pocket and felt shards of glass plastered to the pocket lining with something that felt like an abundance of dried paint. Then I remembered that I had put a bottle of blue fingernail polish in my pocket the day before, and it must have shattered when Hot Lot threw my coat down to me. I laughed and laughed again, then we called her later that night to tell her about it, and she laughed too.

Her apartment in Garden Grove was right next to the freeway on the way to Disneyland, so we would call and have her listen for our honk as we passed her building. We did this into my teen years, and she would always say that she could see our car, see us waiving, and hear us honk. Only now, as I type this, do I realize that she was more than likely lying. Hot Lot!

I get almost every ounce of my sass and sarcasm and sense of humor from Hot Lot. Through accident, of course, she taught me my first curse words.

One year she drove with my mom and I up to Utah to drop me off at EFY. I was about to have my gallbladder out, and she was having some of her chronic stomach pains, so we both ate cottage cheese and ramen noodles made in motel room coffee pots for every meal.

I've been to two family reunions in South Dakota, which was the place her family was from and the place that always had a hold on her, like Utah does for me. She and my mom and my aunt showed us the Black Hills, the swimming pool they went to as children that was fed by the local hot springs, and all the streets and turns and places that held memories for them. I like seeing them like that. They were just like carefree girls fishing through a thousand memories to find the best and happiest parts of their lifetimes together.

Because of my grandma I have a deep and abiding love for the American West. For never ending prairies and quite summer nights where you can't hear a thing at all except for all the stars and planets in the universe blowing by. The prairie brings up stalwart people. They survive by building themselves up with a heavy strength that is tough enough to withstand the unrelenting dwarfing of big, eternal skies and the constant beatings by racing, searching winds. But I know that this tough, outer strength also lends to a calm, inner peace born from knowing that no matter what blows through, you can take it. Like generations of your people have always done, you can take it. With time and some prairie ingenuity, you can get yourself and your family through, over, or around anything. I know Hot Lot had that peace within her heart all the way to the end.

Last Fall my sister Sarah moved Grandma down here to a home in Texas so she could keep a closer eye on her. Grandma had moved back to South Dakota a few years early, and while we have cousins there who took good care of her, it was getting to be about that time, and she needed someone to watch over her and manage her medical care on a daily basis. I went to her home to visit her, but not as often as someone else might have visited eldery grandparent. It was hard for me to see her that way. She didn't always remember who I was, and I didn't always know what to say. And though I will always feel bad about those George Straight concert tickets, I feel at peace with this. I think she knew it was hard for me, and I think she always wanted me to be the comic relief, the fun one, so I didn't need to be involved in the day-to-day. We never talked about serious things, we would just shoot the breeze about the same old thing at each visit. We always made each other laugh. Hot Lot and I got each other, and loved to tease in friendly ways. She would always say, 'Oh, you little stinker!' Or, 'You little brat!' For Christmas last year I gave her pairs of mismatched, neon socks from Target. She loved them. A quintessential Lola and Rebekah gift.

The weekend my grandma died my sister called me and my mom and told us the doctor said she didn't have much longer. I picked up my mom late Saturday night from the airport and we went to the hospital in McKinney. It was a beautiful hospital, and I'm glad my she spent her last days someplace so nice.

We stayed with her until the early morning, then I came home because I couldn't handle being there straight through. She had been having trouble breathing and was coming in and out of sleep long enough to say hello and point her crooked, arthritic finger at her nurses in a playful jab as they came in. A classic Lola move that she had been doing for many years. Even in her waning strength she would also raise her hand and jab that crooked finger at each person who came in.

On Sunday morning after a short but important, serious but heart warming talk at my grandma's bedside with her wonderful doctor, he reached over and removed her oxygen, then ordered an increase in her dose of painkillers. I only met him that one time, but I will always love that doctor for being matter of fact with us about what was happening, while still being kind and compassionate and reaffirming. I have never feared death or doubted that it was part of the plan for us, but in that moment I think we each needed someone who knew more to remind us that the death is as natural and blessed as birth. Death is just as right as birth is.

After spending the day in the hospital, I took my mom to my sister's house then came back to my apartment. I didn't want to be there for the passing, and we thought it would be best for my mom to leave as well. On my way out I kissed the top of her gray head and said goodbye, even though she had been in a deep, peaceful sleep for many hours. I knew I wouldn't see her again, and it felt beautifully calm and serene.

In the early morning hours on Monday, Sarah let us know that Grandma had passed as she was rubbing her feet and singing her Primary songs. The best way to describe the way I felt is, okay. As soon as I heard the news I felt okay. I felt the Spirit say, 'Okay,' and I heard Hot Lot, somewhere in my consciousness, say, 'Okay.' For years now I have wanted nothing more for my grandma than for her to be happy and at peace, and just okay. I couldn't have asked for more from that moment.

Hot Lot was met on the other side by most of her siblings and cousins, two of her children who passed away shortly after she gave birth to them, her mother who died when she was a small, small girl, and my son-of-a-gun Papa George. The next day my mom said that the predominate thought that kept playing through her mind was a moving vision of her mom and her dad, smiling ear-to-ear as they drove together down a long Western highway in a top-down old convertible. I believe, somehow in the expansive workings of the universe, that this thought was more than a phantom wish, and somewhere George met Lola and they found a peace that they had missed out on in this life. And I know that in that moment, most of all, they wanted their little girl to know that somehow everything was okay, and everyone was going to be happy at last.

While I was at home that Sunday morning and my mom and sister were spending some of my grandma's last waking hours with her, her closest living family members called to say their goodbyes. My mom and my sister held my sister's phone up to her ear and so she could listen as they told her their happiest stories from the old days. Then they kept the phone by her ear, and played her some of her favorite country songs, including Amarillo By Morning by the great George Straight.

I hope Hot Lot got to hear some Willie too before she died. Because of her, he has always been one of my absolute favorites. So today, on Willie's birthday, I have cried, and cried and cried and cried for the first time since my grandma passed. I still feel okay, but I know it's okay to just cry and cry for the ones you are temporarily separated from.

Hot Lot, I wouldn't have you anywhere else right now, but I miss you. I know at times life made you feel tired the same way it makes me feel tired, but I know you want me to keep going. Down, but never out,
always on our own two feet.