read Part I; Part II; Part III IV. Stairway to Heaven We are entwined in bed when the phone rings. We let the machine answer, annoyed by the interruption but determined not to lose focus. Seconds later the phone rings again. Reed mutters something, and I silently curse whoever is lame enough to call repeatedly at 10:30 pm. When it immediately rings again, Reed lunges out of bed, grabs the phone from the computer desk and barks a hello. I brace myself on behalf of the caller, probably one of the kids’ clueless friends, who’s about to get an earful. But Reed doesn’t say much. All I hear is “yes” and “okay” and “thank you” in a tone of voice I can’t identify; I can see the outline of his upper body in the window’s faint backlighting but I can’t see his face. After half a minute he hangs up the phone and turns on the light. “Get dressed,” he tells me.
read Part I; Part II III. Day of the Dead When I come inside from lighting the jack-o-lanterns, the boys are waiting for me. “When are we going to go?” Sam asks from behind the white sheet of his ghost costume. “Yeah, let’s go,” says pirate Matt, swinging his pumpkin-shaped candy bag. He is eight and Sam is six. None of our older four kids are willing to be seen trick-or-treating with their parents. Matt and Sam would actually be pleased to have both of us tag along, but taking a long stroller ride in the dark is not our preschooler’s idea of a good time, so one of us will stay home with him while the other walks the neighborhood. I know Reed will refuse to take the boys more than a few blocks, so because I am I good mother, I volunteer. And because I am a bad mother, I bring along my iPod, placed strategically in my jacket…
read Part I II. Blue Boy The kids and I are decorating Christmas gingerbread men when the phone rings. I sigh, knowing that even a few minutes’ interruption could spell disaster in a kitchen full of rowdy kids wielding tubes of frosting. I head toward the phone, snatching the sprinkles away from twelve-year-old Ben, who’s sprinkling them straight into his mouth. My mother’s name shows on the caller ID; I pick up to tell her we’re in the middle of a mess and I’ll call her back. “I need you for just a minute,” she says, and her numb voice stops me short. When I ask her what’s wrong, she clears her throat and says, “I have some bad news about your brother.”
An essay posted in four parts. Originally published in Irreantum as an entry for the 2011 Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest. The deadline for the 2012 contest is May 31. I. Descent It’s an hour or so from sunset when we pile into the jeep – me and my roommate Stacey, her friend Dave, his friend Tim, and a couple whose names I can’t remember, who Stacey and I squeeze next to in the back seat. It’s the beginning of my sophomore year at BYU, early September, 1990—a few weeks since I met Reed, the man who becomes my husband eighteen months later. I’d rather be with him on this Friday night and I regret promising Stacey that I’d come along for a caving trip west of Utah Lake. Tim starts the jeep and I search in vain for a seat belt. The warm air pushes against my cheeks as we pull onto I-15 south and Tim accelerates…
The door is the first thing I notice: an automatic sliding door with three wide panels of glass. When I step on the sensor mat, the third panel slides back behind the second and the second slides back behind the first, leaving a doorway at least ten feet across. It takes me a minute to remember where else I’ve seen a door like this: the children’s hospital. The ER, to be exact. Not the main entrance, but the one in the ambulance zone, where EMTs rolled gurneys bearing little bodies into the fluorescent light of the trauma center. But this building isn’t a hospital. It’s a school.
Visiting hours ended at 8:30. I hugged my son goodbye and headed out of the adolescent unit, pausing at the locked exit for an attendant to buzz me through. Ben had been at the neuropsychiatric institute for nearly a week, following an acute mental health crisis. We visited him every day—either me or my husband or both of us. Tonight I was alone. Which meant that I was quiet as I took the elevator to the main floor and navigated the maze of hallways toward the main entrance—quiet enough to hear the crying woman before I could see her.
Fourth and last in a series of essays about female identity. Previous posts explored this theme in the contexts of air, water, and earth. It was snowing when I drove to the hospital, and it wouldn’t be daylight for another hour at least. The only person in the lobby was the woman at the information desk. She directed me to the laboratory down the hall, where I handed over my paperwork and sat down in the empty waiting room. On the wall-mounted TV, a news reporter announced that an escaped convict had been captured. He’d broken out of federal prison to visit his terminally ill mother. The tech called my name and motioned me to the blood-draw chair. She asked what procedure would be having that morning. I looked over my shoulder; the waiting room was still empty. “Tubal ligation,” I said.
(Part 3 of 4. Read the first parts here and here.) Once a year, right before our Christmas dinner, I practice the fine art of pomegranate seeding. If I’d let them my kids would eat pomegranates every day, but they’re expensive. And the juice stains. This year we have two of the fruits, spherical with thick skins of dull red. I choose one and use a serrated knife to saw through its center. The fruit falls in halves on the cutting board, revealing plump clusters of seeds separated by paper-thin pith. Juice seeps from the wound and runs down the edge of the knife. I’m glad to be alone in the kitchen—last time, my overzealous helpers splattered the redness like blood at a crime scene.
(Part 2 of 4. Read the first part here). Between the Washington Beltway and the Delaware coast lay 150 miles of waiting. Waiting, and watching, and sweating with boredom as my grandmother’s Oldsmobile slowly cruised Route 50. We took this road every summer, me and my brother and our Yia Yia Christine, leaving behind the Maryland suburbs for the Lynard vacation spot on Rehoboth Beach.
(part 1 of 4) A strange autumn. The gold harvest sky, usually so calm and calming, is full of unrest. Nervous pigeons cluster near the freeway overpass. Above them circle the gulls, those inland outlanders who should be pulling fish from the sea. Nameless small dark birds coalesce into rolling, chattering clouds before dropping to roost on rooftops and treetops and utility wires.
When I picked up my manual to prepare to teach Gospel Doctrine this Sunday, I figured it would be a lesson about the spirit of Elijah (second week = section 2 = turning hearts, etc). I was surprised and delighted to find that Lesson 2 is instead about the atonement, highlighting powerhouse passages in Doctrine & Covenants sections 19, 76, 88, and 93. While reading the material I was reminded of a favorite quote from Chieko Okazaki on the topic and had a hankering to share it.
“Gun sales in the waning months of 2008 saw a dramatic spike in Utah, a trend gunowners say is propelled by the election of Barack Obama and a faltering economy . . . At Kearns’ Impact Guns, assault weapons, such as AR-15s and AK-47s are out-of-stock after a post-election rush.” Will someone please explain to me why any civilian would want or need an AK-47?
In a recent ABC article, mother of three Robyn Paul has some good things to say about breastfeeding children beyond infancy.
As far as holiday food goes, Thanksgiving tends to steal the spotlight. At our home Christmas Eve dinner is a true feast rivaling the best turkey-centered spreads our table has seen:
I know, I know. There’s so much to love about the jolly fella. But he keeps getting in the way. Or not.
Any minute now, it will begin: first one car, then another, then another will drive into our cul-de-sac and park in front of the house across the street. As they do on every holiday, the Bishop’s children are coming home.
While the candidates have been talking the talk about cooperation and unity, a few humble LDS editors have been walking the walk.
Strangely enough, I didn’t catch the irony until just now, as my first- and sixth-graders ran outside to catch the carpool. First grader=John McCain Sixth grader=jihadist Afghani
I kissed a girl and I liked it The taste of her cherry chapstick I kissed a girl just to try it I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it It felt so wrong It felt so right Don’t mean I’m in love tonight
A few days ago, Russell passed around this quote backstage (yes, T&S has a backstage–that’s where the permabloggers hang out, fight, and make fun of you):
Naysayers regarding Sarah Palin’s promise to be an advocate for children with special needs can stand down for now rant all they want, but I’m still excited.
Thirteen-year-old son: Mom, can I watch “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”? me: No. son: Why not? There’s nothing bad about it. me: I disagree. son: Well, I disagree with you. me: That’s okay.
A good thing now comes to an end. We thank Wendy Ulrich for her fantastic guest posts, and wish her the very best. I’ve just begun reading her book, Forgiving Ourselves, and I can already tell that it will be a life-changing experience. Here are some of the chapter titles: The Spiritual Basis for Self-Forgiveness Defining Self-Forgiveness Receiving the Gift Repentance Shame and Pride Depression Anxious Perfectionism Self-Destructive Unselfishness Trauma and Abuse Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet Forgiving Ourselves as Parents Believing God Dr. Ulrich, thank you again. We hope you’ll come back and visit us soon.
Today’s Gospel Doctrine lesson: the conversion of Alma the Younger.
Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D., is a former president of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists, and the author of Forgiving Ourselves: Getting Back Up When We Let Ourselves Down, recently published by Deseret Book. She is the founder of Sixteen Stones Center for Growth in Alpine, Utah, offering seminar-retreats on topics such as spirituality, abundant life, loss, forgiveness, and other aspects of personal growth. She was a psychologist in private practice in Michigan for twenty years before moving to Montreal, Quebec to serve with her husband as mission president. They currently live in Utah. Welcome, Dr. Ulrich! We’re honored to have you as our guest.
Lucky me, I got to talk about Mosiah 15 in my Gospel Doctrine lesson today.
A few months ago I read Kate Braestrup’s excellent memoir Here If You Need Me, and I’ve been thinking about this passage ever since. My son Zach is the child of Unitarian Universalists, so naturally he didn’t know a lot about Jesus. But I heard a lot about Jesus at my Christian seminary, and a lot of it was pretty cool.
True or false: Mormons believe God is a married couple. (To receive credit, you must explain your answer. )
Don’t forget: Get a jumpstart on your holiday shopping by supporting the Gifts Outreach book fair at all Utah Barnes and Noble bookstores, Saturday October 13.
I was signing copies of GIFTS at a Barnes and Noble author event when a tall, brunette middle-aged woman approached the table. She peered at me and the stack of books at my elbow with curiosity. “Do you have any friends or family members with Down syndrome?” I asked. “No,” she said. “I’ve been lucky.”