Resurrection Eggs

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Right now my church job is doing Activity Days for the 8-year-old girls. As Easter is coming up, I decided to do a craft that would double as a FHE that the girls could do themselves: Resurrection Eggs. If you’ve never heard of these, I’m pretty sure the Evangelicals came up with them. You take 12 plastic eggs, and each one has a scripture in it along with an item that reflects part of the last days of Christ’s life on earth. My Southern Baptist friend had a set that I borrowed—and quickly gave back.  Most of the eggs were filled with implements of torture: a thorn, a nail, the cross, a whip. The rest were almost as depressing: three dimes/pieces of silver, dice to show how the soldiers wagered on his robe, a sponge with vinegar. I half expected there to be a tiny ear inside to represent Peter pulling a van Gogh on the dude who came to arrest Jesus. Maybe these eggs are suitable for Mel Gibson, but as a Mormon who sees Easter as a time of life, I just couldn’t foist these sadistic symbols on my little gals. Not that those events didn’t happen, but I think to tell the story only in terms of pain and sorrow is to rob Easter of its fuller meaning.  There’s a reason we associate bunnies and lilies and Cadbury chocolate with this holiday; it’s a time of rebirth and promise.  Yes there was pain and death but there was also hope. 

So I searched online for less morbid versions and found some good ideas, but none of them, not even the obviously Mormon ones, addressed the Atonement. I get it. It’s a hard concept, not one easily represented by something that can fit into a plastic egg.  And even as Mormons, I think when we teach kids about the Garden of Gethsemane we tend to shortchange what happened.  Just as Mormons feel the cross reduces the Savior to the crucifixion as opposed to the resurrection, we tend to make the Atonement all about sin when that is just a piece of it.  In Alma 7:11-12 it reads:  And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. If we only think of the Atonement in terms of Jesus suffering and dying for our sins, then we run the risk of thinking that if we can just keep from sinning then we don’t need the Atonement, as if it’s some insurance policy we are glad to have but would really prefer to never use lest our rates go up.  Maybe it’s age (or arrogance), but I feel like I SUFFER more than I SIN and have come to heavily rely on the Lord for the balm that the Atonement supplies.  I find great solace that Jesus experienced “pains, afflictions, temptations, sickness” and uses this knowledge to “succor” us. I want my children to know they can find comfort and peace no matter what the cause.

I settled on a plastic sacrament cup to put in egg #2 along with Luke 22:41-44 where Christ asks that the cup be removed.  It’s a bit abstract but it’ll do. The girls are delighted by the whole project, and we go through the scripture and importance of each object as we put them in our numbered eggs. It touched me to see them reenact the Last Supper and pass a loaf of bread around and each tear off a small piece for their own egg like sweet little deacons in pigtails.  Then comes the cup, representing the Garden and the Atonement. Third are the 3 dimes to show Judas’s betrayal. Fourth, a piece of twine as Jesus was bound by rope and taken to Pilate.  Fifth, a chunk of soap as Pilate “washes his hands” of it all. Sixth, a square of purple fabric to represent the mock royal robe Jesus was made to wear. Seventh, a nail to represent being placed on the cross. Eighth, tiny rocks to show that the earth shook and broke apart at the sadness of the Lord’s death. Ninth, a strip of white linen symbolizing the shroud the Savior was wrapped in by his friend Joseph. Tenth, a good size smooth stone indicating the rock that was placed in front of the tomb. Eleventh, cloves and bay leaves to show what Mary Magdalene and friends brought to anoint the body on Easter morning. And finally, the last egg is empty to represent the empty tomb. I made sure that final egg was the prettiest one. You can’t really overstate the importance of Life Eternal. One needs glitter for that.

And yet, for their day to day lives, I really pray the girls remember the power of egg #2. I took care to explain that the pain He suffered covered all of our sins—but so much more. I asked them to tell me about things that caused them pain. I got great answers: being teased, stubbing a toe, your best friend not liking you anymore, strep throat, pets dying, your dad getting mad at your when it’s not really your fault and on and on. After each answer I said, “Jesus understands that” or “He knows how bad that feels.” I want these girls to know that they have Heavenly Parents who get it.  They have access to divine comfort and healing. That is the heart of Easter.  Whether we are 8 or 80, we all need to feel like someone understands our pain and mistakes and loves us not just in spite of these weaknesses, but maybe even loves us a little more because of them.

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In Defense of Boredom

In Defense of Boredom

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As someone who seeks diversion, hungers for excitement, and insists on turning a trip to Target into an Adventure, I can’t believe I am about to spend the next few paragraphs exploring the virtues of boredom.  But I am.

I got to thinking about this over the summer when a bunch of us took our kids to Tanglewood. It was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 but you would have thought I was taking my kids to Gitmo for a night of waterboarding. I was mortified at how recalcitrant the 16 and 8 year olds were. Twenty minutes into it Bea, the 8 year old tells me it’s not fun and insists on leaving. I tell her tough luck. She then starts to retch and says, “but I’m so bored I’m going to barf!” “Then be quick and quiet about it because we are staying put.”  Honestly. No one has boredom-induced nausea! We all survived but it was not pretty.

The truth is nobody likes to be bored. But I feel like we have entered an era of “Boredomphobia” where tedium is a crime and dullness a sin.  Most kids have their own handheld electric buddy to keep them occupied between swim lessons and Kumon and the 15 other enrichment activities they do. And adults are no exception. The other day as I waited at the orthodontist for my daughter, I realized I had left my smart phone in the car and had no idea what I was supposed to do. There was nothing to read (other than a pamphlet on gingivitis), no solitaire to play, no news to catch up on.  It took me a while but I finally just sat there and was alone with my thoughts (the HORROR!).  And before Georgia emerged I had actually done a little bit of soul searching that never would have happened checking Facebook.  It reminded me that it’s easy to confuse busyness with productivity and growth.

Growing up in the 70s when nobody cared if you wandered the streets till dusk and the Walkman wasn’t around till late junior high, the neighborhood kids would just find each other and eventually the boredom would somehow spark creativity. Nobody ran to their mom and said, “We’re bored, what can we do?” If we said that our moms would rope us into some kind of housework. We knew better. So we invented skateboard Olympics, choreographed dances to Donna Summer, hiked to the waterfall (ie creek trickling two feet off a small rock) and searched for rattlesnake skins.  It’s easy for my kids to transform boredom into creativity with cousins at reunions, when a pack of kids with time on their hands is seen as a good thing. But it’s harder in our day-to-day life when we all feel so separate and programmed and everything feels urgent and play dates can be orchestrated down to the minute.  Sometime you need to think “what now?” before you can posit that great creative leap of “what if…”

Most family cars now have DVD players in them, which is magical, I’ll admit. But it seems nutty to watch 10 minutes of a movie as you drive to school (not that we haven’t whipped out the iPad while running errands). I remember those endless drives every summer from LA to Provo. It’s a dismal 12 hour haul. My siblings and I fought and irritated one another almost to the point of madness. That whole “I’m gonna turn this car around” is no joke! Our station wagon had a radio but no cassette—not even an 8track. But a funny thing would happen somewhere around the Pear Blossom Highway. Lee, the eldest, would invent a game, spotting license plates or seeing who could find the most things that start with the letter “P” and the four of us would bond in our boredom and transforming it into fun. I have seen this happen in my own minivan when even our many anti-boredom devices no longer satisfy us. Sometimes we play a game. Sometimes we tell stories. And sometimes we are just silent. But we have to be bored first.

Here’s my bottom line. Life gets dull and we need to make it work for us.  Mot of us are more interesting than we think we are; we just need a little while to get reacquainted with our thoughts. Stop seeing ennui as the enemy and stare it down. Embrace it even. If any people should have learned to harness and transform boredom it’s the Mormons. Who else has 3 hours of meeting every darn Sunday where we can practice transforming tedium into diversion and perhaps, dare I suggest, wonder?! So what I’m saying is boredom can be the gateway to creativity.  Or to reflection. Or to stillness.  But no matter what Bea says, it won’t make you barf.

What do you do to combat boredom? How do you embrace it? Do you think LDS are more or less prone to fear of boredom?

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Least Likely Christmas Lyrics to Appear on Holiday Cards

Have you noticed the trend in Christmas cards? Along with a family photo, quotes and lines from Christmas songs are splashed across the card. Among the most popular are: “Peace on earth goodwill to men;” “Merry and Bright;” “Have a  holly jolly Christmas;” and that old standby, “Joy to the world.” While sitting in Sacrament meeting this past week, my warped mind got to thinking about lines from songs that are LEAST likely to wind up on a greeting card. So with apologies to the families whose images I’ve swiped from the Googles, here you are.

10. Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

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9. You better not pout, You better not cry!

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Gratigories

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. You don’t get any nasty religious vs. secular fights; you don’t have to worry that your friend is going to show up with a gift wrapped turkey for you and you didn’t even buy her a sweet potato; the menu is basically set. It just doesn’t have the baggage and drama of other holidays (I’m talkin’ to YOU Christmas!). The only real requirement is that you count your blessings which is a rather enjoyable exercise. In fact, for Primary one year I invented “Gratitgories” (similar to Scategories) which in addition to being a fun way of talking about blessings is also competitive and placates those relatives that NEED to win, even in giving thanks. Here’s what you do: down the left side of a piece of paper write either THANKS or GRATITUDE and then have everyone write a word that starts wtih each letter, ie “trees” after T. You get one point for each unique answer. So if Aunt Sue also put down “trees,” no one gets a point. Try that at your table.

Here are my Gratigory answers: T-”The Good Wife,” that makes all the drama in my life disappear for an hour each week; H-Harry Potter, that provides endless examples for my kids of how to navigate life; A-Angela, my dear sister who is always happy to listen to my ramblings; N-nutella, the chocolatey hazelnutty spread that my kids adore that has a long shelf-life so even if the deli meat has gone bad, they can still make a sandwich; K-kitty, my furry pet that adores me like no one else (I secretly call him  Meowster Darcy); S-the Savior who truly is my Friend and helps me have a grateful heart even when my life is a mess.

And here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving memories:

-As a kid, all the family would congregate at 333 Dawson in Glendora, California for a huge feast at Grandpa Oscar’s. Often the kids’ table is the sucky place to be. But in this case it was the ONLY place to be. We were set up in the 3 season porch and left to our own devices. Every finger was covered in black olives and mayhem and knock knock jokes and armpit farts ruled the day. Oscar could magically cook a 30lb turkey in 3 hours, there was jello without nuts, at least 5 flavors of pie. I could count on endless games with Onry & Robinhood.

-Our first year in Phoenix, my husband’s grandparents Jean & Larry came from Denver. I awoke on Thanksgiving morning to find half the contents of my fridge on the counter and when I opened the fridge, EVERY BOWL I owned was in there, filled to the brim with jello. Strawberry jello with walnuts and cranberries and shredded carrots and cans of fruit cocktail. It was my worst nightmare but I could not stop laughing. This has happened to me every holiday we do with Grandma Jean. She is a jello junkie.


-The year we were in China was a wonderful feast. There was no turkey readily available (turkey in Chinese is “fire chicken” btw) so one of our students whose parents had a meat business told us they could locate a turkey. They showed up with gizzards and maybe a wing. Luckily we had also roasted chickens. My family always had lemon meringue but there’s no lemons in Northern China. So we made an orange meringue pie. Dave and I were so sore after making that pie. We had to whip the duck egg whites by hand for AGES to get it stiff as we were without an electric mixer. Our British friends hosted the event and had a huge banner up that read: “Merrie Thanksgiving all Ye Colonists!”

 

gerbilthxA few years back my husband discovered that squirrel were tasty and plentiful and added that as a side dish. I will not show the pictures I have because they make me queasy. Instead I’ll share a picture from the year we dressed our gerbils up in Thanksgiving attire. No rodents were eaten.

 

 

 

So go be thankful and overeat and shop or nap or whatever makes you happy. As long as your heart is grateful you can get away with just about anything.

What are you grateful for this year?

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A Thing with Feathers

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I’ve always been a sucker for wounded creatures. So when my husband let my seven-year old bring home a fledgling Cedar Waxwing that had been evicted from the nest, I loudly protested that it would not be my problem.  My 16 year-old son laughed in my face. Twenty four hours later I found myself in Petco, spending the last of my birthday money on a cage, baby bird formula, and a few toys for “Finn.”  Rationally I knew he couldn’t make it. But it didn’t stop me from rearranging my life so that someone could feed him every 3 hours. Or from scouring the internet for ways to get him flying. Because even though my brain told me that I was wasting my time and money, I could see how much it meant to my Beatrice, and in my heart I also yearned to see this little guy thrive.  It brought to mind some of my favorite lines from Emily Dickenson:

hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune-without the words,
and never stops at all.

 

If faith, hope, and charity are like three sisters from the Brady Bunch, then Hope is Jan, the oft forgotten middle child. (Can you imagine her saying in frustration, “Charity Charity Charity!”) But not surprisingly, Hope is the sister that I cling to.  During my last pregnancy (Beatrice), I was told early on that there was something severely wrong with the fetus. The genetic counselor said it was 60% chance of a genetic deformity, and 40% chance of a non-genetic problem, like a heart defect. When I asked what were the odds that my baby would be ok, she gave me a sad look that you might reserve for someone who can’t do simple math. The fall out was devastating on my soul. My husband, believing he was steeling himself for a traumatic outcome, shut down emotionally. I have never felt so alone in my life. But at a certain point I knew that I had to embrace Hope. Despite the outcome. Unlike her more confident sister Faith, Hope doesn’t make promises. But it “perches in the soul and sings the tune… and never stops.”  So I began nesting. In my home I readied the nursery; and in my heart I chose to hear a lullaby. Right before Thanksgiving we were blessed with a healthy baby girl.

 

Back to the birds. Did I mention that while we were trying to keep Finn alive, our two cockatiels, Pip & Merry (Lords of the Wing) were sitting on a clutch of 4 wee eggs? Did I mention both were supposedly male? Gender confusion was not their only issue. They were terrible parents, right out of “Teen Mom;” old enough to copulate, but too young to parent. They sat on the eggs sporadically, often pushing them out of the little cardboard nesting box the 11 year-old put in the cage.  I was not so secretly delighted. “Well, the eggs will never hatch but if they do you guys are going to have to take care of them.”  My four kids all nodded their heads in agreement but I could see that we all knew whom the big sucker was that would end up on baby birdie night duty. And just as Finn began to go down hill fast, losing feathers, not singing anymore, I awoke to a tiny chirp chirp and found an itty bitty piece of yellow fluff in the corner of the cockatiel cage, tiny enough to be wedged between the bars. I could not believe a chick actually hatched. When I put him back in the nesting box, Pip promptly used his beak to pick the baby up by the leg and toss him out. Teen parents indeed. You could almost hear them on their cell phones complaining about how irritating it was to have a baby, always chirping, always wanting regurgitated food, such a buzz kill when what you really wanted was to just eat a sunflower seed in peace! Dude!

 

I realized that we would shortly have two avian deaths on our hands. And I could not take it. I could not watch Bea go through it. So I had a heart to heart with Dave and told him the he had to take failing Finn to the nature preserve near us and help the little soul “fly away.” “You mean you want me to—“ I repeated my request and said I did not want to discuss it further. I had a cockatiel to try to keep alive. We all took turns feeding and holding the little guy. (when I posted about his arrival on FB, I requested a good LOTR name and these are a few of the responses I got: Gollum, precious, orc, Hobbit toe lint, and second breakfast!) He made it through the first night. That was good. The girls named him Hercules to try to imbue him with strength. But on night two, he seemed so cold. I went out to a party and came home to find my son typing one handed on his computer, gently cupping Hercules in his left hand. “My fingers are cramping, but it’s the only way to keep him warm,” he said. I sent Jonah to bed and took over bird watching. I lay down in front of a movie and knew what Jonah meant about the hand cramp. So I did what any mama would do: I swathed him a tissue and nestled him between my breasts, the safest, warmest spot I could think of. I knew he was going to die, but he would not die cold or alone.  When I went to bed, I placed him in a makeshift nest on a heating pad next to my pillow. But the damn pad turned off after 45 minutes so I set my alarm for every hour to turn it on again.

 

Bea woke me the next morning, sobbing as she held the tiny lifeless creature. I held her and we cried and buried him under the yellow daffodils that line our front walk and matched his feather color.  She told me that Hercules will wait for us in heaven with my Oma who passed away last month. I told her Oma will take good care of him and teach him to sing in German. This made Bea laugh. We sit on the front steps and listened to the different bird calls. 

hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune-without the words,
and never stops at all;

Robins and sparrows, chickadees and black birds. We hear a Cedar Waxwing and Bea is sure it’s Finn.  I hold her close and pray that we can always hear the song.   

 

 

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