Saturday, February 6, 2016

To Vote or Not to Vote?

Just because I haven't commented much on the 2016 race for U.S. president doesn't mean I haven't had the Circus Theme Song playing on an endless loop in my head.

I made the decision in 2015 to not actively research anything about the candidates of either side. Life just seemed complicated enough without the added burden of encouraging a growing despair. Now that it's 2016 and the official election year, I have still not actively researched any candidates. I haven't needed to. It's in front of my face wherever I go on the websites where I choose to get my news. And I still trust none of them. None. (And what is up with stumping for Trump like slavering dogs??)

Even before the obvious voter fraud going on in the Iowa caucuses, my biggest question has been this: do I vote or refuse to vote in the national elections?

To vote means exercising my civic duty and right. But by voting in what has become a completely corrupt system, I give my tacit consent to this charade that my vote means anything anymore in an age of electronic voting and very questionable vote counting. By voting, I am saying, "Well, I have to go with the lesser of two evils, but hopefully, this time, the guy who promises to do stuff I like better will actually do it." And I'll then be able to complain and moan when he doesn't do it and things just get worse than before.

What if I'm done playing along? What if I'm calling it that the emperor has no clothes?

Anyhow, here's what it will come down to: at the end of the day, the only two candidates will be those the Establishment Powers That Be have decided are acceptable. Maybe after Obama decides the FBI is actually going to indict Hillary Clinton and legally halt her campaign, Biden swoops in and Bernie Sanders gets pushed out. If Biden gets into office, he appoints Obama as Secretary-General of the United Nations so that Obama can be King of the World at last. If Hillary doesn't get halted, she will either steal the nomination or assassinate Sanders and then take the nomination. That woman is as corrupt as they come.

For the Republicans, Rubio ends up being the candidate because he's a controllable RINO who believes in compromising your way to victory (which only actually works in Bizarro World, but a strategy that establishment Republicans seem to think is gospel). Why do you think Microsoft allowed him to surge into third in Iowa?

For my money, neither Trump nor Cruz is allowed to win the nomination, however that is accomplished. I would never vote for Trump, and I'm still suspicious of Cruz simply because he's a politician.

The end result: those with the power and money and control keep the power and money and control. The American public loses no matter who ends up in office.

While voting on a local level still might mean something, I have no faith in the integrity of the national elections. If you know voter fraud is the norm and politicians are speaking out of both sides of their mouths just to get elected, why would you continue to pretend? Where do you draw the line and say, "I'm not playing your game anymore. You can't fool me one more time"?

Since I don't have an independent nation island I can move to, I'm kind of stuck.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Latest Musical Obsession

I am obsessed with this piece. I listen to it over and over.

Here are the words and the translation:

Pulchra es amica mea,
suavis et decora sicut Jerusalem,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata.
Averte oculus tuos a me
quaia ipsi me avolare fecerunt. 

Thou are beautiful, O my love,
sweet and comely as Jerusalem,
terrible as an army set in array.
Turn away thy eyes from me
for they have made me flee away.

I bought a copy of this piece (along with several others I'm obsessing over) in order to sway my choir director to add it to our next season's list.

Friday, January 15, 2016

We Go Home When We Die

On Saturday night, January 2, at 6 pm, my sister got a phone call. On the other end of the line was a police investigator who had to inform her that her husband had been found dead while sitting in front of a slot machine at a truck stop in Nevada (he was a trucker, though on this occasion, he'd gone with some friends to Wendover, NV, to ring in the New Year). He'd simply leaned back, closed his eyes as if he were tired, gone into cardiac arrest, and never moved again.

The next day, when I learned the news from my mother, I knelt down to pray for my sister's well-being. I had barely started the prayer when I was completely washed in a sensation of warmth and utter peacefulness (which is how I usually experience the Spirit), and I could feel my brother-in-law's presence in the room. I'll call him Curtis.

It felt like Curtis was right next to me, and I could see him in my mind's eye, with his salt-and-pepper beard, his wide grin, and his hearty laugh. He wanted me to give a message to my sister: that he is fine; he's happy and he's free and he is in a beautiful place. He wanted me to tell my sister that he loves her and he is sorry for causing her grief. I continued kneeling by my bed until the warm feeling faded (I never like to shorten that experience, if possible), and then finished my prayer.

Later, I told my sister the message at our family dinner to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. My sister, who is one of the strongest people I know, burst into tears because the message was a huge comfort for her. A few days later, one of Curtis's young granddaughters told her mother (Curtis's daughter) that she had had a dream about Grandpa, and that he had given her a hug and told her he was very happy.

Once I got over that shocking childhood period that every kid goes through when they realize their parents will one day die, I haven't been afraid of death. I know the spirit that inhabits our bodies is eternal and merely leaves the physical body and goes somewhere else after death. My other sister, in fact, proved that fact when she drowned as a baby. Her spirit left her body, and even though she was a baby, she says that she understood that everything was fine, and she felt this all-encompassing sensation of love all around her even though she didn't meet any other people in her near-death experience. She was sad that she wouldn't have longer to live on earth, however, and after that thought, her spirit quickly re-entered her body while my mother was performing CPR. That experience stayed with her, fresh in her mind, all through her life. Now in her 30s, it still feels for her as if she experienced it yesterday. She says she has never had a fear of death, and she has always felt that she is loved and has a mission and purpose in life. It is what sustained her through many trying times, including 10 years of living with an abusive man.

I told you about my experience when my friend, Mark, died--how he came one last time to say good-bye before stepping through the portal to eternity. In fact, he came recently to visit me in a dream, where he told me he is very happy.

We go home when we die. It's a home we don't consciously remember after birth, but I think each of us feels a connection to that place in some way--even in life. Death isn't death, after all. It's merely a graduation. The people you love who have passed on before you are all waiting in that place to welcome you home. Christ is there, too, and it is His love people talk about feeling when they've gone there and come back.

So, good-bye for now, Curtis. I loved your presence and your sense of fun and your devotion to my sister and her son. We'll meet again someday.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dr. Seuss for $1000, Alex

Little Gary, who is eight, has begun requesting that I read Dr. Seuss's The Sleep Book to him every night. This has been going on for a few weeks now, and he doesn't seem to be getting tired of it. He won't let Husband read it to him, either. It has to be me. Plus, he notices when I change my usual inflection in any part of the book (and comments on it).

This morning, he said to me out of the blue, "What's in Culpepper Springs, Mom?"

I had to stop and think for a minute. Culpepper Springs...Culpepper Springs...I know that town name, but what's in it?

"I don't know," I finally answered.

"The Stilt-Walker's Hall," he replied pleasantly, and I suddenly realized I'd been Alex Trebeked. According to The Sleep Book, Stilt-Walker's Hall is where all the stilt-walkers sleep after a long day of stilt-walking. Then I wondered: he's eight. Has he reached that advanced level of subtle sarcastic pleasantness that most British people strive all their lives to achieve for the sole purpose of putting boorish Americans into their place without them being any the wiser? (If so, I'm so proud.)

You see, last night was the first night I refused to read the book since Little Gary started asking for it. It's a long book, and by the time I noticed how late it was (the girls and I were thoroughly involved in several scintillating episodes of "Boys Over Flowers," which Sophia has recently become obsessed with after Elannah started watching it again. HA HA HA HA HA! I'll comment on this delicious bit of irony later), it was after 10pm on a school night. He was upset, but he was too tired to make much of a fuss. Maybe he just saved up his frustration and poured it all into that question this morning. Or it could be that he fell asleep mulling over the fact that none of the stilt-walkers in Stilt-Walker's Hall seem to need a blanket to cover them while they snooze, and he just wanted to remind me of that fascinating little place.

Speaking of kids, I took both the boys to their swimming lessons yesterday evening. I was armed with a book (Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo) and was ready to happily read out the hour of lessons in the hot and humid environment of the city pool, when a woman walked up to the spot next to mine on the bench and started putting her children's hastily discarded outdoor clothing into neat piles. She had a baby on her hip and looked to be around my age. When she made a comment to me about the clothing she was folding and then asked what book I was reading, I recognized the look of a mother of young children desperate for adult conversation.

We chatted for the entire hour, and she asked if I'd be back today. I assured her I would be. I remember well the feeling that, when the children were very small, everything that came out of my mouth all day was things like "We don't put our heads into the toilet bowl!" or "You just asked for a peanut butter sandwich, so why are you crying when I give you a peanut butter sandwich??" People tell you to cherish the time when your children are small, but let's be honest: some things you don't really miss. Dirty diapers. Sleep-deprivation. The agony of shopping with multiple tired, hungry little children.

Reading them the same book over and over and over or watching the same kid's show over and over and over.

But I'm a lucky mom. I have survived the years of very small children, and I don't mind reading The Sleep Book to my eight-year-old--provided it is at a reasonable hour of the evening. He generally keeps his head out of the toilet, too, and sucks it up when I give him the sandwich he asked for moments before. And every once in a while, he says, "Remember when you used to kiss me all over my face?" so that I will kiss him all over his face.

I love that.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Red Plastic Cups

A late Merry Christmas and a right-on-time Happy New Year to you!

Christmas was fun. Family, food, the playing of games. The reading of the Christmas story. The opening of gifts.

Husband and I told each other that we weren't going to get gifts for each other. So Husband justified the little gifts he gave me because he gave me one before Christmas and one after. I, of course, had not even planned that far, so he got nothing. See what he has to put up with?

The pre-Christmas gift he gave me was a sleeping mask. He'd given me one several months ago, but the elastic band caused the mask to squish my eyeballs a bit, and you know how annoying squished eyeballs are. This new mask has little cups so I can blink my eyes even when it's on. No squished eyeballs!

Then, yesterday, another package showed up addressed to me. Curious, I tore it open and found 12 red plastic drinking cups--the kind you get in a restaurant. I started laughing with delight and gave him a big hug and a kiss.

Here are the red cups ready for guests--Sophia and Elannah are having friends over for New Year's Eve.

See, when my parents were over, we were reminiscing about old times, and I animatedly reminded them about how, when we lived in Idaho, they used to take me and my next younger brother and one of my sisters (who was then a baby) to a place called Keystone Pizza. It was a great little pizza parlor. I loved it so much. You got to eat pizza while watching old silent black-and-white movies of the hilariously slapstick Keystone Cops. And just as great: root beer in red plastic cups. It's one of my favorite childhood memories.

Red plastic drinking cups have forever been a reminder to me of that excited, delicious feeling of those occasional visits to Keystone Pizza. It might even be why pizza is my favorite food. Husband overheard that conversation, and like he frequently does, remembered it and decided to surprise me with something small but special. Thus, the box with the plastic cups that showed up a couple days after Christmas.

Happy New Year! 2016 is gonna be exciting!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lucky Mom

This is me with Elannah. Elannah has taken to snapping photos of me on the sly while pretending she's taking a selfie, and then Snapchatting them to Sophia (along with some sassy comment) while I demand that she quit it because I'm always caught making some sort of weird face or smooshing out my double chin. This is the first time (and probably the last) she actually let me pose with her. She just loves catching me unawares.

We were going to go into The Big City this evening to look at the lights on Temple Square, but Elannah had a ballroom dance team party she really wanted to go to. We decided to postpone the trip to see the lights until tomorrow evening when we'll all be home.

The boys were disappointed about not going, so Elannah, Joseph, Little Gary and I did some stuff around town, instead. First, the library, where everyone found some books they were excited about. Then the pet store, which is the next best thing to walking around the zoo (and warmer, too!). After we inspected all the animals and petted the massive tortoise that wanders freely around the establishment, we bought some bones for Marmite the Dog (who was as excited about getting them as we all hoped he would be). Finally, a stop by a fast food restaurant with a massive indoor playground. That's where Elannah snapped the above shot.

Isn't she pretty? Believe it or not, she just lopped six inches off the bottom of her hair. It was so long and thick she couldn't even put it into a bun for practices and performances, so she figured she had to cut it enough to be manageable but keep it long enough to easily pull it back. And those eyes! All the kids have Husband's amazing blue eye color. Mine are blue-green, but theirs are all pure blue. I love it.

This girl...she makes me laugh.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

People Say She Reminds Them of Audrey Hepburn

The rounds of Christmas performances are now over, school is out for two weeks, and the kids are anticipating many mornings of sleeping in and becoming bored enough to wish they were back in school (almost).

Today is also Sophia's 17th birthday.

After the high school's choir/orchestra/band concert last week, I happened to be standing next to Sophia's Show Choir director. After telling him what a great job he has done with the choir, I introduced myself as Sophia's mother.

"Oh, Sophia! She's a wonderful addition to the choir," he said, "but I can never tell what she's thinking."

"She's inscrutable," I agreed. "She has quite the poker face."

We laughed. I wondered why I used the word "inscrutable" in casual conversation.

But it's true. You can hardly ever tell what Sophia is thinking. She keeps her feelings hidden behind a neutral facade, and she's not a talker, even if she isn't necessarily shy. Maybe it's no wonder that she loves drama, dance, and music, places where she can safely express deep emotions without making herself vulnerable. When she's on stage, she lights up.

Sometimes she gets animated at home. This usually happens when large numbers of family members have turned up for dinner, and we all get to talking and laughing together. She's very comfortable with my parents and siblings because we lived with them for years--from the time she was three months old until she was 10. We all have a very similar sense of humor, so when we all start to joke around in our dry, sarcastic way, she joins in freely. And then she's hilarious.

You also wouldn't expect that she's an accomplished practical joker. In fact, she's such a great practical joker precisely because no one expects it of her. Now that Elannah is also in high school and in drama with Sophia, they cook up plenty of harmless but funny plots together, all of which keep us in stitches as they report on them.

As her mother, I can read her very well. I see the little facial movements that indicate happiness or sadness. I know that she is a deep thinker and incredibly loyal to her friends. I know that she likes it when I stroke her back while we're sitting and watching television.

This last week, I was asked at the last minute to provide a couple musical acts for the ward (congregation) Christmas party. Well, you can't exactly coordinate lots of schedules when you only have a few days to prepare, so Sophia got tapped to sing a solo, which she sportingly did even after only a couple hours' preparation and while she was worried about losing her voice after a full week of concerts, caroling, and play practices. Here she is singing "Winter Wonderland" at the party. She was nervous, but she did it anyway.