Saturday, September 29, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I also like commericals that make me think. Like this one. It makes me feel sick when I think about this beautiful place we've been given stewardship over. I guess that is the whole point, right. The next is a commercial put together by Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty. Nemesis first pointed this out to me on this post.
My kids are also getting pretty commercialized. Scallywag said to me the other day just before bedtime, "Mom, I would like to watch the all new Build it Bigger. It is on at ten pm eastern." The other thing he informed me the other day is that he'd like some Aquadots, though you had to be eighteen or older to call and get them. If you have been watching Nickelodeon lately, you know what I'm talking about. And if you don't turn off Nickelodeon at seven minutes to the hour and half hour, there is time for your kids to see about 14 commercials. Perfect.
And while I'm linking stuff that just makes me laugh like crazy. Go ahead and check out this one. If you like George Bush or hate Will Farrell, skip it. Anyway, hope this post is good for a laugh and a chance to share your favorite commercials or just vent at the media.
Of course, with me being a member of the Church of the Hallway these days, not having a Sunday calling is actually a pretty great blessing.
Now, the irony of this is the conversation we had last week about the purpose of RS activities. Spiritual or social? Or both? Or is social spiritual? Lots of you weighed in on this and I suppose I will now have to think a lot about these questions.
So now that I've heard your thoughts on the purpose of Enrichment, and church activities in general, I would really like to hear your favorite Enrichment ideas of the past year or so. Give a few sketchy details as well so that if I wanted to re-create them then I could. Also, if you know any websites or blogs with ideas, fill me in.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
There is so much anger in the world--people fighting one another over things that are both silly and things that are serious. There are sick people out there, people who are mentally, spiritually or physical ill, or some combination of all three. Sometimes I feel like I am trying to row a wooden raft up a raging stream of difficulty. I struggle and struggle and the shore never seems any closer. This will undoubtedly sound familiar to some of you. And I so admire my many friends who seem to push against the rock with such cheerful attitudes!
I'm sure most of you have heard one of President Benson's most oft-quoted remarks about how the world would take the people out of the slums, but that Christ could take the slums out of the people, who then take themselves out of the slums. He also said that while men can work and fight to change human behavior, only Christ can change human nature.
I've been thinking much the last few days about the nature and power of the atonement. I have been thinking about what it means to be born again by degrees. What it means to accept Christ's sacrifice in exchange for a little more of ourselves each day. It is a hard and painful process. There are days it seems too hard. This week it seems too hard. But then, a couple of days ago, I was reading a very noisy blog that I haven't read before. The tone was combative and political and hardline. Most of the comments on the blog echoed her sentiments. I was most disturbed when I realized that this was a group of LDS people having this mean-spirited discussion.
And then I remembered a thing that happened to me many years ago, probably almost exactly ten years ago this month. A thing which I have carried in my heart these many years. A thing worth sharing when I think there is no way to combat the rising, evil tide threatening to engulf the things I hold dear . . .
I was street contacting people in one of the busiest walk-malls in Sydney. Missionaries were out there daily. This was not my typical area, we were there for the day because of a zone conference. The meetings would not begin until afternoon and we needed to work. My trainer took me out to this busy street and I thought I would wet my pants when she told me what we were going to do. Tracting was hard enough, but at least we were in a quiet country town with houses spaced some distance apart and contacts that hadn't been spoken to by Mormon missionaries every day for the past decade.
And the hecklers . . . .
Okay, it was HARD. One of the hardest things I'd ever done in my life up to that point. The only miraculous thing that happened that day was something that probably benefitted only me. I was getting eaten alive trying to contact walkers, so I began approaching people who were sitting. I approached one particularly swarthy looking man and began speaking to him. When he heard my American accent, I thought he would spit on my shoes.
He was from Iraq. He had gone into exile in Australia not long after the first Gulf War. I knew very little about that part of the world at the time, but I understood enough to know he blamed the Americans for the unraveling of his country. Saddam was bad, but the US led UN sanctions were strangling his people. He railed and railed.
I swallowed hard. I could have walked away, but I felt brave and I knew the Lord was with me. In perhaps my first, powerful missionary moment I began talking to him about the gospel. I told him that I knew he hated me and my country, but that I was in Australia representing only the Savior. My country didn't matter. What mattered was that I had come with a message of love and peace.
We spoke for several minutes. He became noticeably calmer and was even willing to engage in conversation. Suddenly he exclaimed that he felt good, he felt peace. He said, "Something tells me that if I came out here every day and just spoke to you, I could always feel this good, but you will go away and it will be gone." His anger immediately gave way to despair. His hopelessness was palpable and I could see a glimpse of his true inner self in a way that nearly broke my heart.
No! I insisted, it was the Holy Ghost that was testifying to him that I was teaching him truth. I told him that he could have that feeling any time he wanted and encouraged him to stop the missionaries or to attend our local building. My trainer came looking for me just minutes later, saying it was time to go. As I was only going to be there one day, follow-up would have been virtually impossible. I am quite sure that this seed I tried so desperately to plant fell by the wayside where it wasn't nourished properly.
But what this experience did for me . . . .
Well, that is the real crux of my message tonight. I knew, in that brief few minutes I spent talking to him, that Christ's love can heal any ill. I knew that any human heart, no matter how jaded, hard or bitter, is capable of feeling the Spirit if the moment is right. I knew that the atonement could transcend any real or imagined cultural and political barrier to heal hearts. If enough hearts are healed then nations can be too.
I know that my sphere of influence is not large, but if enough people decide to be a force for good, then the evil doesn't have a chance. I know that it is easy to look at current situations in our world and say, "It is inevitable. Nothing can change these circumstances," or my favorite, "It is all prophesied anyway, what can I do to change the outcome?" Maybe that is true. Maybe war and contention is inevitable. Maybe we can't do anything to ulitmately change the decisions of kings, rulers, tyrants and presidents.
But we can pray.
We can pray every day that the hearts of evil men will be softened and that good people will be heard.
We can pray for our enemies as well as our soldiers.
We can pray that cooler heads will prevail and peace will be seen as the first option, not the soft option.
We can pray for the orphaned Iraqi and Afghani children to find solace and comfort.
We can pray that men and women of all religious persuasions will discern between true inspiration and false tradition.
We can pray for those who don't know to pray for themselves and speak for those who don't have a voice.
CS Lewis was once asked why he was praying so earnestly for his wife's recovery from cancer. Did he really think he could change the will of God? His reply was that he didn't pray to change God, he prayed to change himself. Maybe this is what we need. Prayers of pleading for soft hearts and busy hands and kind words.
In the next Spencer Kimball lesson there is a great quote about what a glorious thing it is to be a righteous woman, particularly during the winding up stages of this last, great dispensation. I carried this quote as a bookmark with me for many years. In the lesson, in two or three different places, he likens our sisterhood with the men's priesthood.
Dear Sisters! There is power in our prayers and in our love for one another. Let us, in some small way this week, each look beyond our immediate concerns and families, to find a way to bless somebody in desperate need of Christ's love. Even if we just take time to pray for violated women in refugee camps in Africa, for hungry children in Bahgdad, or ignorant girls in Afghanistan . . . . let us not forget that we are all children of God.
We have been blessed with so much. As we pray for the Lord to change hearts, lets allow him to work that change in our hearts too.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Last Sunday I decided I wanted to be a real person at church again, as opposed to "just" a nursing mother in a baggy tee shirt and skirt. To achieve this end actually wore a dress. It is possible to nurse in said dress, but it is a little tricky and not exceptionally modest. I've always been a little bit clumsy when it comes to getting my tykes latched on anyway, and have never been one of these women that can nurse in sacrament without even taking her eyes off the speaker.
That is the set up. Anyway, we woke Captain Tootypants up to get to church on time, and I just decided I would feed him right when we got to church so we could be on time. Of course, in the parking lot, I realized I had failed to bring a blanket and only had a burp rag. Again, more points against modestly nursing, so I bee-lined for the mother's room, knowing that there are few babies in our ward and I would likely be alone.
(Aside: This is the nicest mother's room I've been in. Rockers with ottomans, books to read, a sink, a changing pad and a basket of diapers to share, it is no where near the bathroom and there is a frosted window and a good sound system.)
I push open the door and see the curtain pulled back. I hear a woman say, "Okay, you guys have to get off the chair. I told you that if a mommy came to feed her baby, you'd have to get off." I walked around the curtain to see a very harrassed looking mother feeding a baby and three kids aged about 9, 7 and 4 standing there. They followed their mom's directions to get off the chair, but they just stood there. The four year old boy parked himself on the ottoman about two feet from where I sat down and just stared at me.
Thinking she'd ask them to leave in just a moment, I bounced CT on my knee for a moment, knowing that at any minute he was going to start wailing. She explained they were in the other ward (which had been out for half an hour) and her little miss wouldn't make it home without eating. I smiled and made a polite reply. She said nothing to her older children who were still just staring at me.
I bounced the baby another moment or two and said, "And are they going to stay here?" as I nodded toward her kids. She told them all to get behind the curtain. Bear in mind that the whole room minus the cupboard is maybe 7 feet by 5 feet and there are two large recliners in that space. The area behind the curtain is only a few square feet and wedged behind the door. She's got three good sized kids. One of the three made a move to get behind the curtain, the others just stayed where they were. My baby started to fuss.
There was almost a momentary stand-off. I was smiling politely, but trying to communicate that there is NO WAY I was going to disrobe with her children standing in the room. She was giving me the look like, "Lady, you have NO IDEA what it is like to take care of four kids!"
She blinked first and started stammering excuses about Dad, and how he was somewhere in the building (I'd had a fair amount of sympathy before this, thinking she was a single mom or something and not wanting her kids to run around the church.) She then stood up, unlatched her baby who began really wailing and glared at me as she said, "C'mon guys, we'll go find and empty classroom or something."
I apologized and said, "I didn't mean for YOU to go."
"It doesn't matter. We're leaving."
She was quite admanant and very huffy as they left. I felt really badly. If I had known she was in there in the first place, I would have waited outside walking my baby until she left. Nor am I sure how I could have handled the situation better. The mother is not in my ward, but I feel compelled to figure out who she is and let her know I'm sorry for the bad feeling caused. There could also have been some kind of extenuating circumstances that made her feel like the kids had to stay in there with her.
Now, when I say I felt bad, however, it is because of the awkwardness caused and the knowledge I may have offended someone who is probaby a very nice person. I do not feel bad because I think I did anything wrong. But until I was in and sitting down, I didn't realize she intended those kids to stay. And it wasn't like they were little kids. I think the oldest girl would have been entirely capable of keeping her younger brother and sister in check for a few minutes. Also, the door does say "Mother's Room," and it is a very tiny place. Just because she has no qualms about nursing in front of her children, doesn't mean that she should expect a total stranger to feel the same way. I don't even nurse in front of my own kids if I can help it! I'm just really modest (or maybe uncomfortable) when it comes to body stuff.
Now, I have a few really diehard nursing friends out there. I'm not saying that nursing is immodest or uncomfortable in any way, nor am I critical of women who choose to nurse in public. I just am not one of those who can. While people need to be sensitive and not critical of mothers who nurse, I think nursing mothers also need to be sensitive to the fact that everybody doesn't regard the practice with the same level of comfort.
So, advice? Funny nursing stories?
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Even now, it is hard for anyone to be around him more than a few minutes without saying, "There is just something about him . . ." I was convinced he was a daughter because I felt so close to him the whole time I was pregnant. We put off having him about six months because the timing was so much better if we waited, and of my three children, his was the birth I craved with every part of of my womanly heart. His labor and delivery was the best and fastest of my three. He spoke early and often, his vocabulary still often outstripping his understanding. He is quick to overcome his two year-old moods, often apologizing within minutes of bad behavior. His name, which will not be shared here, is my favorite of three exceptionally fabulous names and when written out in its entirety it looks like Scandinavian poetry, it is so beautiful and uniform. His spirit burst into our family with such a blaze of glory that I still tear up sometimes when I think of how important he is to me. Even my pediatrician said he was one of the most perfectly proportioned babies she'd ever seen and called him the cherub.
Have I waxed poetic enough? Anyway, I don't have favorites among my three excellent little men, and will (and have) undoubtedly gush(ed) over the others in posts future and past, but today P. Pirate takes the cake.
Yesterday I did my twice annual clothing swap and clean out. I went through six Rubbermaid containers of clothing yesterday, putting away almost too small summer things and pulling out almost too big winter things and deciding what new things need to be purchased, thanking my Heavenly Father again for the mellow personality of my second child who seldom gets anything new, and probably never will. Anyway, he found his too small snow boots from last year and insisted on wearing them most of the afternoon. Somehow the snow boots did not get back in their bucket in yesterday's rearrange and Poopy Pirate found them again this morning. He, of course, wanted to put them on again, but this time they ended up OVER his plaid jammy bottoms. I love kids. So here are pictures and the video that took forever to upload. Skip it if you want, but it really is pretty cute if you have a minute to humor a mother who I hope is guilty of too much love for her little freckle nosed boy.
I've also posted some pictures of my kitchen herb garden. A thing I've always wanted. This house has two things I've always desired--a light right above the sink and a large, sunny window for growing herbs. I think the sink light is the coziest thing in the world for reasons I may one day share, and the herbs fill my kitchen with the most pleasant smells and freshness. I've got rosemary, cilantro, chives and basil. The lovely varigated ivy is just an added bonus.
Monday, September 17, 2007
To combat this feeling of having been left adrift 700 miles away from my family, I instead will focus on the happy memories, hoping they will sustain us until the next visit. Because, as awful as "home"sickness feels, how much worse to NOT have a family I missed!
This is my mother talking with the Honey Hippie and his wife at the local farmer's market. This place is awesome. Plantboy has been telling me about it for weeks, but we haven't gone yet. The organic produce side was incredible and the smells in the air were divine, but even more fun was the arts and crafts portion. I have such a love for silly, dangly earrings in all their forms and it was a homemade jewlery paradise. I passed on the tarot reading, however.
Plantboy took our picture while we posed under this huge, double hanging basket. The inside of my house is nearly settled, the next job will be to get going on our yard. If I can get past the snakes and spiders, gardening here will be heaven.
STM's Dad posing with Poopy Pirate and Captain Tootypants. We spent several minutes trying to get CT to smile, but he just kept looking at me with the dazed over face that said, "Too much flash."
Scallywag Plankwalker wanted to be a farmer after church on Sunday, after a discussion about where carrots come from, so I got him all dressed up. Then he decided it was more fun to shoot bad guys than to plant crops so he added the hat below and became a cowboy. An Aussie cowboy; Plantboy doesn't have a real cowboy hat. The one below is from his Indiana Jones phase.
Next time my parents come we want to spend a day at the coast and hike to the lighthouse, or maybe see the Sea Lion Caves . . . so I will look back with fondness and anticipate the future with hope and look for small happinesses from day to day.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
This is completely apalling to me. Still, I had to laugh at how airbrushed these guys look. Please view and comment. Now this is a discussion worth having.
You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!!??!!??
But I thought that might show my opinion was set in stone, when I really do want to hear some arguments on the other side.
A little background first--my mother's ward is a normal mix of older and younger women, lots of kids of all ages, and a fairly active Relief Society, so Enrichment attendance is high. Like a lot of wards, when the Enrichment format changed, they started a book club. I've never really patronized the RS book clubs--mostly it has been a timing problem. I've also been careful to never advertise any book club I was a part of in church.
For one thing, if you start talking about it at church, you give an open-ended invitation. I don't know if this is always a good thing. My book club in Texas nearly imploded when we had 15 people show one week. Also, that first book club was started with the idea that we would try to look outside church-genre books to read things we weren't used to and that were worth discussing; books you grew richer for having read. We also read some just for fun books. I've always felt pretty strongly that if it is a church-sponsored book club, you had to be VERY careful what you read--church books, squeaky clean YA literature, or old classics, that kind of thing
Anyway, my mother calls the other day to tell me the book club in her Relief Society is reading TWILIGHT.
This is where my brain exploded. I think this is wrong on so many levels:
a) Just because the author is LDS doesn't mean this book was published by an LDS publishing house, who, for all their other faults, do at least try to publish things within the parameters of LDS doctrine.
b) If this is happening in RS book clubs even across Utah, this is going to mean loads of money for Mrs. Meyer. After all, the waiting lists are a mile long and if you want to read it this month you have to buy it.
c) Other than a brief discussion on agency if you are really stretching, there is nothing in this book really even worth discussing. (The Logan book club--not church affiliated--did read this and our discussion much more revolved around "Why do women like this kind of thing so much?")
d) The book is about VAMPIRES for crying out loud. Even with Meyer's rather clever twist, and Twilight being much less gothic in tone than New Moon, it is just freaky subject matter.
e) The whole icky tension sleeping NEXT to my boyfriend but not WITH my boyfriend thing because I'm Stephanie Meyer and I do have to maintain a minimum level of chastity here scene ought to exempt it forever from mention in church.
f) With the whole wide world of really wonderful books out there, is this really what RS should be reading? The word is ENRICHMENT.
So, while I'm unloading all my grievances on Plantboy, he counters with, "Well, isn't the purpose of the new Enrichment program to socialize; to come up with focused activities that women really want to attend?"
That is the sound of my mouth open and nothing coming out of it. I didn't really know what to say to that. It is the same "argument" we use to have when I was on the YW board. Is mutual primarily spiritual or primarily social? If you say spiritual, you plan activities that don't attract nearly as many girls, but they are wonderful for the ones who come. If you say social, you pack in more kids, but what do they really take away besides some fun? Should they be taking away something more? And the social activities often alienate kids who aren't as socially adept. So the compromise is a combination of the two, which is what usually happens.
But my real question is: Can't activities be both? Can't we increase sociality and spirituality at the same time? If reading and discussing books is something that can "enrich" us, then can't we choose books that will enrich us spiritually and socially?
I must admit, over the past two months I've been pretty grouchy about the whole vampire book love among LDS women, but I actually liked Twilight. New Moon was entertaining enough, although I must say that afterward I felt kind of dark--suicide, a city of vampires preying on stupid tourists, her misguided attempts at throwing some religion into the narrative, werewolves who maul their girlfriends, months upon months of depression--there is just a lot there that doesn't led itself to cheerfulness.
Anyway--lets get some feedback here so I can try to get a clearer idea of how I feel about things: The point of church activities? Is a book club, particularly a church-sponsored one, obligated to be more than just pure entertainment? Do share.
Friday, September 07, 2007
I think my lengthy comments inspired by her post must be in context of a personal situation and I can only do that on my OWN blog, so here goes.
For those of you that have read here for a while and know me, you know that I was engaged to be married within a few weeks of being home from my mission, and was unengaged a month or so later. We dated for a few more weeks, fizzled, and he was engaged just a couple of weeks later to somebody else. For all the great experiences I've had and my usual ability to laugh off awkward or difficult situations soon after they happen, this broken engagement is not something I've ever been able to laugh about. My decisions leading up to the engagement, some of my actions during the engagement and my severe depression afterward revealed things to me about my character. Things that scare me. The scriptures tells us the weak things can become strong; I wonder if the Lord means that those weaknesses keep us close to Him as we fight against them . . .
Anyway, after the engagement was broken I was speaking with a friend, who had the "wisdom" of four or five years of marriage behind him. I was thoroughly confused and questioned, "Why did this not work out? We were both impressed strongly that it was the right thing. How could it not be the right thing now?" It sounds a little desperate to say that this was my attitude, but he was, after all, the only boyfriend I'd ever had in five years of dating eligibility and he had waited for me on my mission, I was six months from graduation and living with my grandmother. I thought I had missed my ONE chance for marriage in this life.
My friend explained something very powerful to me that I've never forgotten. I'll quote him here, but it is an obvious paraphrase as his exact wording is lost, "When the Spirit speaks to us, we are obligated to act. When we don't act on promptings, when we doubt, when we refuse to move forward with faith and confidence, the Spirit will cease to work on us. Just like on your mission, a baptism slip is a terrible thing. If a person doesn't act on the Spirit, and moves into the realm of doubt, it is that much harder for them to feel the promptings again, by not acting, they move away from the peace the Lord would have given them had they continued forward. By harboring doubts, even after he asked you to marry him, by not being faithful to you and his commitment, the Spirit stopped whispering peace to his heart."
In the Doctrine and Covenants its says, "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning this matter, what greater witness can you have than from God?"
Why this is relevant to Nem's post (if you didn't read it) is that a misguided object lesson in Relief Society inspired her post and a slough of very touching, personal and difficult comments. The central issue, at least to my mind, behind all this discussion is, why are relationships between men and women so confusing and difficult? The comments read like a laundry list of the many things that can go wrong. And, in most cases (my own certainly included) the quick comments try to simplify a very complex issue.
On further reflection, I think my thoughts stray back to what my friend said all of those years ago when I was in such need of answers. Maybe when it comes to marriage and parenting and serving and friendships and covenants, the Lord is less in interested in if we are ready and more concerned if we are willing. Because the truth is, we'll never be ready. I'm eight years and three kids into this journey called marriage and there are very real days when I don't think I'm going to survive another one.
I know this sounds like another simplistic explanation, and not a fresh one. We hear all the time that men are afraid of "commitment" and I agree that the above paragraph sounds like semantics, but the spirit of it is different. The unwillingness to commit is a psychological, or even biological label for the difficulty people having in getting and staying together. I'm talking about something spiritual. I'm talking about two people looking at one another and saying, "Okay, you aren't perfect, not even close, but neither am I. Still, I'm willing to show up every day to make this work if you are."
My husband was attractive and sweet and worthy when we first met, but he is so much more now. In another forty or fifty years, I imagine he won't be so attractive any more, but he will be even more wonderful. And it won't be because he married me! It will be because he will have kept his commitment with faith every day, even when it was hard. And when he or I or any married or single person falters away from that commitment in any degree, there is repentance to get us back on track so that we can "learn from our mistakes without being condemned by them." (Elder Hafen, from a conference address about three years ago.)
I don't think we need more psychological solutions and surveys to explain why it is hard for marriage to survive our culture of cynicism and immorality, I think we need testimonies of the atoning blood of the Savior and the restoration of His church and its principles. We need to teach our young people--the young women AND the young men--to love themselves enough to make choices that will guide them through times of loneliness or difficulty. Such times will abound in our lives, and it is only by acting in faith that we can receive the peace we all long for and seem to find so elusive in these times.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Now, lest some of you Austenphiles out there say, "Who?" I will explain: About six months before her death, Austen began a manuscript titled Sandition. The heroine in a girl from the country who, through a fortunate set of a circumstances, comes to spend the summer in a minor (fictitious) beach resort town called Sandition. She wrote 11 short chapters in three months and then never wrote any more. She died in June of that year. The manuscript survived and was passed to her family. Literary critics have always considered the incomplete novel as a "minor" work. Several people, including a relative of Austen's have attempted to finish it. The one I read was published in 1975, though Amazon lists a reprint in the 1998 that is the same. Anyway, the result is really excellent. The link above is to the copy I read, and apparently is the most popular. Knowing it was written mostly by a second author (whom the cover refers to as "another lady" and even Wikipedia acknowledges that there are at least two different names for this woman) forces me to see that it doesn't have Austen's subtely or sedateness, but it is very witty and the plot is, well, delightful. Sandition falls somewhere in between Austen and Georgette Hyer. (If you haven't read Heyer, I suggest reading The Foundling first. Less comedy of manners than Austen, more heavy on crazy plot twists.)
I've seen on several blogs people linking to a website that lets you figure out which Austen character you are. The problem is, that as I read the questions, they seemed to be written by a person who has merely seen movies made of Austen's books without actually having read them. For this reason, you can only become an Austen heroine who became a part of a screenplay. Also, I have seen these movies often enough to force my answers to turn me into Elizabeth Bennet, which character I've always wanted to be. But after reading Sandition, I think it must be Charlotte Heywood. I'm less polished than Miss Lizzie and certainly have even more provincial background than the Bennets. Miss Heywood is practical, average and fond of observing the foibles of others. She also completely falls apart when she falls in love. She reminds me so much of myself in my early 20's that it is almost uncanny.
Maybe I should do the screenplay for Sandition . . . .
Monday, September 03, 2007
Where was I?
Oh yea, the Mormon people have always had work as a major cornerstone of our whole culture. After all, you can't take a swamp and turn it into one of the most beautiful cities in Illinois in just a few years without some serious sweat. This concept of work is so ingrained in us that I think I'm not alone in saying that I often feel guilty if I am just sitting or taking leisure time. Even my hobbies feel like they need to be justified--blogging is journaling, scrapbooking is family history, reading is self-improvment and so forth. So I have been thinking a lot about the various jobs I've had over the years. The funny, gross parts of each job as well as what I learned. So from time to time when I have nothing much else to blog about, I'll give an installment from each of my various minimum wage jobs. And if anybody has fast food stories to share, do tell, do tell. I never had to ask anybody if they wanted fries with anything.
Just before my 15th birthday, my dad came home from home teaching one night to tell me that he had found me a job. My reply, "I was looking for a job?"
Anyway, the man he home taught ran a tiny restaurant in our home town and he was switching from serving breakfast and lunch to lunch and dinner and was looking for afternoon help. It is important to note here that I was already mortally terrified of this man, not my dad, the owner of said establishment. Lets call him . . . Chef Grouchypants. I only knew CG from church, and I'd never been in his restaurant. He generally smiled at adults and wore a bland or furrowed expression in regards to every child he saw. He had a spotty past. At least, I thought he did, that was never very clear to me. Oh, and one of his arms was skinnier than the other; like all the muscle had been stripped from his forearm. Maybe that is why he was grouchy?
I went in for the "interview" which was a formality because he really liked my dad. I probably didn't realize that at the time and I wanted to wet my pants while I sat through the interview. During the interview he gave me pointers on how to interview. In fact, I think part of his mission at the cafe was to educate high school kids on the miseries of the work place. He scared me to death.
I washed dishes and bussed tables for many months at just over $4 an hour. I ruined several shirts because all of our dishes had to be double rinsed--once in a bleach solution. When mom coulnd't drop me off in the mini-van I rode my bike to work. Nobody "cool" ever came to eat there, and I was overcome with embarrassment every time I would see somebody from the ward there. Especially my parents. My job was everything that was the opposite of working at a really glamorous minimum wage job, like the GAP.
As organized and careful as I am now, I'm amazed at the number of times I looked at the schedule wrong and either came in late or not at all and had to be called. I was embarrased and apologetic every time and I know Chef Grouchypants thought I was the biggest flake he could have possibly hired. I had blonde hair then and put up with his stereotypes.
After nearly a year of this, I found out that my friend who worked at the diner was going to be trained as a waitress. This friend will figure a lot into this story, so lets call her Pocohantas. (I actually was her college roomate when Disney's Pocohantas came out and she really looks a lot like her--build and everything.) I was shocked beyond belief. She was almost exactly my age (neither of us were 16, though she looked 20) and had started work several months after me. I "screwed all my courage to the sticking place" and decided to CONFRONT MY BOSS about this. Even at 15 I was fairly assertive, if a little flaky and not very articulate. The conversation follows. What I thought during this exchange will be in paranthesis
Chef Grouchypants' reply? "You showed no interest in becoming a waitress."
"Of course I'm interested." (Of course I'm NOT interested! I just think I'll make more money that way and I'm talking about a sense of rightness and fairness . . .)
"I haven't always felt you've been very committed."
"Oh, I'm committed." (Keep the sarcasm out of your voice, keep the sarcasm out of your voice.)
"You asked for all that time off for the play. It seems that you are much more interested in other pursuits."
"I won't have anything like that come up for some time." (The play had been five months previous, I'd asked for 3-4 afternoons for practices and 3 days for performances almost a month in advance.)
It went back and forth like this for some minutes and in the end he finally agreed to train me. And he was probably right; it must be said that Pocohantas was a MUCH better waitress than I was. I don't know that she had much more common sense than I did when it came to that sort of thing, but she definitely knew how to please people. I didn't. And I didn't much care when I didn't. Oh, and her boobs were bigger. We could work the same type of people the same shift and her tips would be twice as high as mine. I never quite perfected the nervous giggle at stupid jokes that she was so great at.
Waitressing didn't pay much better, for me, than bussing, our chief demographic being old people and/or Mormons. We were also seldom that busy. I put up with it for a few more months, Pocohantas (she really was my friend despite my snarky attitude. We actually went shopping every week and spent most of our tip money on the clearance rack at the GAP and then spent half the year sharing clothes, which always looked better on her. But I degress again.)
Pocohantas ran for and made junior class office (I didn't; I ran I just didn't make it) and walked in to work in late August of that year and requested every Friday night off until December. She couldn't miss a football game. That meant, of course, that I would work every football game. I'd been 16 for four months and never been on a date. I thought working every Friday night would be tantamount to social suicide, because, of course, a social life in high school is the foundation for the rest of your life. I gave my two week notice. I thought Chef Grumpypants would kill me. And, it must be said, that he spent most of that shift banging pans in the kitchen.
I cried like a baby when I handed in my brown polyester jumper. Not for any remorse over never darkening the doors of Food For Thought Cafe again, but because I'd only managed to put about $200 dollars in the bank in two years and I had ten dollars in cash from my last two nights of tips. I also knew I'd burned a bridge. Pocohantas spent the rest of high school there, got offered a lucrative commission-job as a wedding dress fitter/salesperson by a couple that she waited on almost every time they came in to the cafe. She was able to work there weekends through college; they let her work any weekend she could because they loved her so much.
I learned some pretty lousy things there. I learned that if your boss doesn't like you, especially in the case of a personality conflict, you can just forget about having decent treatment at work, even if you bust your chops. I learned that sometimes you just aren't pretty enough to get the big tips. I learned that some adults never really grow up and even seem to take pleasure in bullying kids. I learned that some people can eat clam chowder every Saturday even in the dead heat of summer just because it is their habit to do so. Halibut and beer batter makes the best fish and chips. And nothing says "Pack in the Old People" like advertising stuffed pork chops for dinner.
However, Chef Grouchypants also taught me that if you want things done the right way, you have to work really hard and not give up too much to other people. (This can also be a bad thing, I suppose.) I made some good friends there. I went to my first concert with TWO of our dishwasher boys, whom I thought were both exceptionally cute. Unfortunately they both wanted to DATE Pocohantas, but I seemed to be better friends with them. Pocohantas became a lifelong friend and later a college roommate. Where yes, she continued to get all of dates and I'd become friends with all the leftovers. I learned that disappointment and coming in second doesn't kill you. It makes you tough.
And I learned something else from Pocohantas despite this story making it sound like she got everything I thought I wanted. One day, after payday, she and I planned to go shopping. We stopped at her house first. She had just bought her first car, a Supra from the mid-eighties that she'd saved and saved for, and we were just changing before heading to the nasty old Ogden Mall. Her mother picked up her paycheck and said, "Ooo. . . is this one mine? I need some groceries." I gritted my teeth to keep my mouth from dropping open. My friend replied, "No. This one is mine." She later confided that it was the first paycheck in several weeks that she was refusing to give up. So her family could eat.
Pocohantas now has a lot of money; she is a doctor. Whenever I feel any pang of jealousy for that big house on the hill I think of that one interaction I witnessed and I remember how hard she has always worked, and how much was handed to me that I never earned. And I don't feel jealous. I feel proud to know that she and I shared our first job together. While our lessons were obviously different, there is one person out there who shares my feelings exactly for brown and peach polyester.
Wow! If you made it through you are a real trooper. But remember, I'm justifying my blogging as journaling, so today I decided for a little life history. Stay tuned for the next exciting installment called "Are You My Mother?"