Tuesday, December 30, 2008

See No Evil: A Sermon

We spent almost a week at Greg's parents' house and just got back Monday night. While we were there we took the opportunity to go on a date. Okay, fine. We didn't really celebrate our anniversary, and were waiting for our trip when we would have built in babysitters (we don't have any in Mielec) to do something special to celebrate.

Greg looked in the newspaper for a suitable event for us to attend. He was delighted to find that The Magic Flute was playing in a theater in town that night. (he loves the music from it and he is very interested in Freemasonry, and aparently there are lots of references to it in the opera) He called to reserve some tickets for us but was not able to over the phone. Finally he decided to drive all the way into the city center to get the tickets. When he returned he said that they did have some tickets left, but before he bought them he saw the poster advertising the opera and that it was fairly pornographic. He learned that some of the actors played nude. Oh. Okay. We decided not to go. Well, "decided" is the wrong word, as we didn't really turn this over in our minds. Let's say rather: We didn't go.

Because it was just after Christmas there were no concerts or anything else we would really have preferred to go to, so we decided to try a movie. The newspaper only listed the titles in Polish so we really had no idea what they were. We decided to just go and look at the posters and decide that way. (Welcome to life without the Internet!) We were super lucky to arrive just as Four Christmases was starting and decided to watch it (not knowing anything at all about it beforehand).

I spent the movie alternating between cringing at the crude and laughing too loudly at the hilarious (and eating my chocolate covered cherries and strawberries). Greg reminded me about 4 times during the movie that we weren't in America and you don't really BURST out in very loud laughter here. I mentally reminded myself that you don't really do that, even in America. But I couldn't help myself. It was funny. Very. And crude, too. (I just looked at the reviews and see that we are in a very small or non-existent minority of people who found this movie to be funny. Whatever.) I'm not sure we would have watched it if I'd known it was so heavily sprinkled with vulgar jokes and references. (but we still both loved it)

So this all got me thinking about my personal views of what's appropriate to watch and what isn't. I remember being surprised when someone I thought I knew well was upset when a group I was watching a movie with decided to shut it off because of the sexuality/innuendo, proclaiming, "That is about love! What is wrong with love. You think this is bad to watch, about people who love each other? It's much better than watching people killing each other!" I remember thinking, "But are we choosing between the two?" (and BTW, I was a teenager, but I'm fairly sure this was nothing R rated, as we didn't watch those then, and I don't now, either)

After that I had a long think about it. Of course I knew that we were not watching people who love each other. Or if we were, it wasn't their love that we were feeling. It was a different L-word. Maybe the characters loved each other, but those scenes were not included to help us understand that they loved each other.

I hate violence in movies. I always look away. I often wonder if people even DO watch it. Why do you want to see those details? It's yucky. It doesn't help you understand the story much, either. Sometimes, maybe a little, but you really don't have to have graphic violence to understand the trauma and horrors of war.

That being said, I think that violence, while clearly evil, is so clearly evil that many of us will never be tempted to emulate the actions we see depicted in an action movie. Not too many of us will be tempted to think about comitting murder. On the other hand, seeing "love" shown on screen is quite different. I think far more people are prone to sins against virtue. It is something that is becoming more and more acceptable in our society, and beyond acceptable. Only the prudest and most old fashioned people today would think anything wrong with watching those things.

I believe that adultery referrs to relations outside of marriage. That's before, after or during marriage (fornication is a form of adultery). Anyone to whom you are not married. I also believe Christ when he says that whole "looking at a woman to lust after her/comitted adultery with her in his heart" thing. I don't understand how pornography is accepted in a Christian society. The same goes for nudity in films (much less things the naked people are doing).

I live in Europe. I think I can safely say that I saw more naked bodies in my first month here (on accident, of course) than I did in all my previous 24 years of life (remember, no rated R movies). It was shocking and disturbing. I felt pretty outraged. Now, it's fairly normal. I still get a little ruffled, and am surprised, but I know that when you go to an office or small business, it is very possible that there will be a picture of a naked woman on the wall. (and for some reason they are never regular naked women. They're women with unnatural bodies, usually). Recently a law was passed here that pornographic magazines have to be kept out of reach/view of children or have to be covered, but there are still contraceptive devices sold in all gas stations and most stores that are usually kept in plain view right near the cashier the packaging of which is covered in uncovered women. I also know that if you flip through channels after 11 pm you will almost surely see something pornographic.

I believe that what happened in the Garden of Eden really, actually happened. I believe that the commandment they recieved as the first people on earth to "multiply and replenish the earth" has not been revoked. I don't believe that people who choose to have more than a child or two are irresponsible. Well, of course, some of them are irresponsible, but just the act of having a large family does not make one irresponsible. I believe that God's commandment for Adam and Eve to "dress and to keep" the Garden carries over for us today. I'm not big on the whole global warming fanatacism (update: my apologies if I just inadvertently called you a fanatic), but I do believe that we are meant to be responsible in our relationship to the Earth we've been given for a home. (Oops, I got going on our early parents, but here's the part I meant to say, which relates to the subject of this post:)

I feel that when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and were able to distinguish good from evil, it is very important to note that once their eyes were opened, the first thing they did was to clothe themselves. They recognized that in a place where good and evil exist side by side (before they ate of the fruit they only knew of the good) we must cover our bodies. I can only believe that it was because they had the desire from the beginning to choose good over evil, and they understood that nudity could somehow bring an evil influence.

I know I'm a major idealist (and a "prude" which is one of the ugliest words in our language; right up there with "puberty") but I can't help but think how less vivid people's imaginations would be if they never saw naked people. If a husband saw only his wife, and desired to keep his appetites in check, how likely is it that he would cheat on her? I'm probably pretty naive about this (and many other things) but I would be really curious to know how many men who don't view pornography, or even pay attention to lingerie adds, cheat on their wives compared to those for whom other women's bodies are commonly seen. Maybe it could be argued that those with more exposure would be less likely to be unfaithful. I would argue that they already were being unfaithful.

I certainly don't believe that the human body is evil. I think it's beautiful. This, however, is not a kind of beauty to be shared and "appreciated" by all. In order to be truly appreciated, I think this kind of God given beauty should be shared in His way. I think it makes people happier, marriages stronger and families closer.

Once we were with a couple we are very close to and on a TV in the restaurant we were in there was some fashion show going on. This, of course, means that here and there breasts could be seen through the sheer fabric of many of the, um, what shall we call them? shirts? Dresses? No -- let's use "creations," as someone surely created them, and it's not as controversial as calling it "clothing". Greg made some comment about how it would be nice if they would change the channel and the man we were with said, "Oh, come on! Don't tell me you don't want to see that!" Greg said something to the effect of, "It depends on your definition of 'want.' Does a part of me want to see it? Yes, I'm a man. But a better part of me wants to steer well clear of it." (okay, he didn't sound as preachy as I'm making it sound.)

Many say that there is no harm in it. I believe that there is, as it encourages our base desires, and passions that we are meant to bridle. It is also becoming more apparent that it is addicting and can cause great unhappiness and even 'ruin.' I wish people would take God at his word. He wants us to be happy and his commandments are not outdated, no matter how hard people in today's society try to convince us otherwise. Jesus wasn't "just saying that" when he mentions this subject in his Sermon on the Mount. He only talked about the important stuff there. Yes, he taught us to love, to serve, to pray, and to give, but he also taught us things that it is important for us NOT to do. Today many of these things are cast aside, and seen as nitpicking. I think picking and choosing what parts of that powerful sermon we consider to be important and throwing out the rest (and even laughing at those (prudes) who don't throw it out) is a real fault.

And that concludes my sermon, with a disclaimer that I know I have all my own ways that I don't follow Christ as well, but I'm trying! And I don't fool myself into believing that doing those things is okay, even if it might be considered "normal" by many others.
The End. Really, this time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Three Levels of Christmas

The Poland Warsaw Mission has a fantastic president.  His name is President Engbjerg (he's from Denmark) and he is a great guy and has a wonderful family, too.  Two weeks ago he gave a talk in Sacrament meeting that Greg and I both just loved, so I thought I would share what I remember and call it my Christmas post.  He pointed out that there are three levels to Christmas:

Level One:  Santa Claus

This is the part of Christmas that most everyone enjoys.  It is most readily seen, tasted, and smelled of all the levels.  It is Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, the lights, the decorations, the presents. It's the fudge, toffee and divinity, the cookies, cakes and other treats.  It's the smell of the evergreen living (dying?) in your living room, cinnamon simmering on the stove or a clove puctured orange.  It's the jingling of bells, the Ho ho ho of Saint Nick, and the ever present lull of Christmas carols.

Everyone loves the Santa Claus level.  It tells us Christmas is here and brings a different feel to our lives.

Level Two:  Silent Night

Many people also appreciate this level.  They recognize what it is we are celebrating.  It is the story of an angel appearing to Mary and Joseph.  It is their journey to Bethlehem and their stay in a stable, because the Inns were full.  It is the birth of their most important of all babies.  It is the song of the angels to the shepherds on the hill.  It is the shepherds joy and desire to see this new born King.  It is the brightest star shining through the dark of night guiding the wise men to visit this young child, the Christ, the King of kings.

We teach this level to our children.  They love the story.  They remember it.  It is an important part of Christmas, and one we strive to remember on top of all the excitement of level one.

Level Three:  The Adult Christ

This level too often gets left behind.  Is not how we celebrate, or even what we are celebrating. This is why we are celebrating. It is the true cause of rejoicing. Without level three there would be no need or purpose for levels one or two.

It is a entire life lived for my benefit; for your benefit.  It is a Savior!  It is the most selfless of all men, our perfect, loving example.  It is a teacher, a leader, a comforter.  It is a God.

It is a life given freely.  It is patiently born suffering.  Suffering for my sins, weaknesses and insecurities, for my pain and mistakes and insufficiencies.  Suffering for yours, too!   And it is the agonizing physical suffering on the cross, that lead to death.

But what death?  A powerless death!  A momentary one.  A death overcome by life!   Real Life. This is not a fairy tale.  This is true.  Our Savior and Redeemer did this for us!  He lives!  And he has shown, by his life, the way that we may also live.

Level three is about a Gift.  It is not the gifts given under the dictates of level one on Christmas morning.  It is not the well known gifts given to the infant Christ child.  It is God's gift to us.  It is his son, and His gift to us.  It is what brings happiness in this life and joy in the world to come.

I pray that I can use this gift every day.  That it can be a more central part of my life, and not one of the presents that gets pushed to the back of a little used drawer and forgotten about.  Or one that sits on the counter, remembered, but unused.  

I hope that you all enjoy all three levels of Christmas, and remember that without the Adult Christ, there is no Silent Night or Santa Claus.  May these thoughts warm you through the holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Part VI: A Relationship (Becomes Forever)

One could say that this is the sixth part in my finding and catching my man story. Or one might just call it an anniversary post. Actually, there are any number of things it could be called. The story begins here but if you're not up for six posts, the last one was here. I'm only saying this because some people actually do go back and read them all. I'm that kind of person, too.

I left my nannying position. I had made my peace with the family I was leaving behind, and if I felt unsure and a little sick about the new nanny I'd found for them, they didn't seem too concerned. I had to be okay with it, too. (I'm leaving that subject but I just have to say that a little while after we were married I talked to the sister of the nanny and asked how her sister was doing with little Ali. She told me, "Oh, she hates it. She says Ali is such a little bratt!" If I hadn't been full of the glow of newlyweddedness, I would have had a really hard time getting over that. Ali! A bratt!? Cutest, smartest, sweetest little Ali!?! Especially since a child's level of brattiness usually is a reflection of the kind of care they are getting.) When he dropped me off at the airport, the dad handed me an envelope and told me it was to help us get started in our new life together. It contained several hundred dollars. It reminded me somewhat of the muffin he'd offered early on in our coming to understand and forgive each other. Excellent closure there.

I arrived in Provo on December 13th, exactly one week before my wedding. I stayed at my old apartment with some old roommates and sometimes at the studio apartment Greg had found and rented for our first little home together. I remember very little about that week. I don't think I did any planning or anything; everything was taken care of and Greg was in the midst of finals.

I bought a very simple but elegant white dress that I would wear for my wedding and use as my temple dress thereafter. The night before the wedding I stayed with my family in a hotel in Salt Lake City while they did last minute planning of who would sit where during our wedding brunch.

In the morning I met Greg in the temple. He had washed his recommend and a few very early morning calls had to be placed to bishops and stake presidents, and then we were a go.

This was just the first of many, many sealings I would do in the temple in my life, but I was so very glad it was the first. Is not the sealing ceremony and the covenants made and blessing promised the most beautiful and glorious of all? I almost couldn't take it all in. I really felt as if my Father was there, making this as real as any heavenly visitation. Of course He was there. I was, afterall, making these covenants with Him as well as with my handsome groom.

We were married. We were happy. I was only slightly aware of the unusual way we were doing it. I didn't even wear my white dress outside the temple for pictures (it was too simple and would have looked silly, I think). I just wore a red velvet dress that I had worn as a bridesmaid a year or two before. I know, how wrong does that sound? But it wasn't wrong! We came out of the temple and my family and our friends were gathered there to greet us. It felt, again, like heaven. So many smiling faces of people I love, and the man at my side that will be there forever.

I really, really love and appreciate this man. It's amazing to think of how much we have grown. Moving away from my home and family, while not always easy for either of us, has brought us so close together and has really brought out the very best in him.

He is a great Pole. He is a patriot. He loves and fights for his country in his way every day. He is a hard worker, which I posted about long ago. He is a spiritual giant. He has such a passion for truth and knowledge. He loves his Heavenly Father and his Savior and he relies on the spirit for guidance. He is often overwhelmed with the grace of God.

He is handsome. He is smart. He is funny (understatement). And he is modest about these qualities. Put these together and you have the recipe for the perfect man! And that's just what he is!

He, like me, is slightly anti-social. Well, he's anti social, and I don't have a great need for a lot of social contact. Yes, that's a better way to put it. When he bought his glasses a few month ago, I was shocked that he would want to buy thick plastic frames (I loved them but I didn't think he'd ever wear them) He explained that he was hoping that now people would just look at him, see the glasses and figure he was an introvert and not try to talk to him. Nice! :) And it's funny that he's "anti-social", because he sort of beams in some social settings. For example, put him in a group of young single adults here in Poland, and he is the life of the party, without meaning to be. They look up to him, and I'm glad they do, because I hope they'll all become just like him. Or much like him, anyway. He is also like this at work. He is a wonderful manager.

He is a terrific dad. He loves to teach the kids interesting things. He shares his talents and interests with them, things they could never learn from me. He is hard on them when they need it. He is loving and sympathetic when they need that.

He is the best husband I could ever ask for. I just realized that the things he gives me a hard time about are things like not always keeping my keys in the same place all the time. Or not finishing my sentences or expressing myself clearly. Sometimes I think he is so unfair about these things. How funny. How very, very silly of me!

He forgives me my biggest, most obvious faults. He trusts me. He knows that I want to be a better person and lets me get on with that, without giving me a daily rundown of the things I keep doing wrong. How does he do that!?! How does he see me neglecting things that need to be attended to and just know that I am aware of them, and therefore resist the urge to call me out on them? He is merciful.

He is supportive. He has always told me I'm the best mother in the world. I'm sure husbands just say this, but he really means it, even though he's wrong. He has allowed me to raise the kids the way I see fit (with only a tiny bit of compromise) and has even adopted my methods and now swears by most of them. He makes me feel so empowered.

Because, as I mentioned, I don't need or desire a great deal of social contact, and because I am lazy and have not learned to speak Polish as quickly as I should have (and therefore have made few friends), and because we live far away from a church congregation, and because that congregation doesn't have any women that I can relate to anyway, and because, despite all the rest, I still like to talk a lot and give all sorts of detail, Greg gets dumped upon on a daily basis. He hears it all. Even when I do meet with friends and have great discussions, all that means is that he gets a play-by-play of the conversation (both sides), and not that he's spared a little of what I shared with those ladies.

He is my visiting and home teacher, my circle of friends, my family, my book group, and the Relief Society sisters that bring dinner when I really just cannot cook a meal tonight. He rarely tells me I'm beautiful but constantly compliments me on my mothering, cooking, and sense of humor, the things I actually care about.
He loves me.
And I love him.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Polish Christmas Traditions

This post is in response to Sue Q's question last month.
Christmas in Poland (or at least in our smallish city) is a much simpler affair than it is in the United States. The holiday is observed with at least as much reverence as it is in the States, but there is far less hoopla surrounding it.

On the radio over the weekend one of the deejays was talking about how in Warsaw he has already seen people driving through town with their tree strapped to the top of their car. The tradition is that you put up and decorate your tree on Christmas Eve, and we had more than a week and a half to go!

Stores do very little (if any) decorating for Christmas, just something simple and nice. You don't see Santas all over town. Hardly anyone decorates their houses with lights, and no one decorates it with anything besides lights. This makes it a real treat to see a house lit up. I've gotten used to it, and I actually like it (I really, really missed this the first few years here, and still do).

The most celebrated part of the holiday is Wigilia--Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, as I say, the tree is decorated. Then, when the first star appears, there is a big feast. Tradition calls for 12 dishes to be served for this meal, so I think the Poles have Americans beat for amount of time spent preparing the dinner. There is meant to be one extra place set at the table for any poor wanderer that may chance by and be in need of a warm meal. Also, there is a bit of straw strewn across the table and then covered by the table cloth to commemorate the birth of the savior in the manger.

Before the meal is eaten, Poles have a custom that I think is wonderful. There is a large rectangular wafer (about the size of a face card) that is embossed with a Nativity scene. The eldest member of the family breaks this wafer into pieces, giving one piece to each member of the family. Then each person goes around to the others exchanging broken off bits of their wafer along with hugs and well wishes for the coming year. Very often the wishes are almost memorized, "I wish you health, and happiness and success in your endeavors. . .etc." but they are taken quite seriously and there is a wonderful spirit in the room during this exchange. It is during this exchange that people often shake off grudges and forgive past wrongs. It is really lovely and sets a beautiful mood for the meal that will be eaten together.

As Poland is ninety-five percent Catholic, this holiday (Christmas Eve) has been a day of "fast" (no meat) for generations until it was changed just a few years ago. This means that the big meal is comprised in large part of fish. About a week before Christmas, stores put up pools full of live fish. Big ones. You come in and choose and buy the one you want, and it is perfectly normal (and also completely hilarious IMO) that many Poles have fish swimming in their bathtubs for days before Christmas so they can have fresh fish for this meal. Of course, this causes those of us who don't appreciate sea food to feel less than excited about the dinner. Fried carp. Pickled herring. Stuffed pike. Makes some people's stomaches growl and others' turn. At least there are other delicious dishes served alongside the fish. Things like borscht, cabbage with peas (which is absolutley nothing like what it sounds like. At all. It's extremely delicious.) and pierogi. And for dessert there is the famous poppyseed cake I've written about before.

Later there is present opening. As long as I've known them, Greg's family have opened all the presents on Christmas Eve. There is no "exchange" of presents. The gifts are marked with the name of the person it is for, and they are handed out in a general way (usually our youngest child does it). It is said that all the gifts are from Santa. This means that you can spend as much time as you like finding the perfect gift for someone, but they won't necessarily know that you're the one who bought it. I love this tradition, as it demands that we seek no glory in our giving. I also hate this tradition as it demands that we seek no glory in our giving. I think it is more normal to open most of the presents on Christmas day. The 25th is Christmas day and the 26th is the second day of Christmas. Apart from visiting family members, I am unaware of any traditions observed on these two days.

So Christmas is a time for family to be together. It is a time when people spend days cooking in preparation for the Christmas Eve dinner and then spend a memorable evening enjoying it together. It is an evening of singing Christmas carols together and sharing gratitude for the birth of the Redeemer.

I have never been home for Christmas in the eight years that we've lived here, and I have become used to the Polish way. There are many things I like about it. Polish Christmas carols are absolutely beautiful. the music as well as the lyrics. There isn't all the bustle and stress that you sometimes feel in America (althought there are things I like about that as well). Still, in our home I keep most of the traditions that I knew as a child. "Santa" fills stockings and we read about Jesus' birth in the scriptures. We play games or watch a Christmas movie in the evening. But I am glad that we also stay with Greg's parents and share in their Polish traditions, as well!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Adventure

Let's be done with this story, shall we? It was meant to be a one post thing and here I'm dragging it all through the Christmas season. Sheesh. The story begins two posts ago. (I've just come back after writing this and it's full of far more detail than I meant to include, but I'm leaving it. We'll call this one of those journal type entries that you are very welcome to ignore)
We explained my travel plans to the doctor. He helped us figure out our options. I could have a D&C and after spending a day in the hospital, I might be okay to travel. This almost sounded like the only way to make it work. As it turned out, Greg didn't feel comfortable with this procedure (it didn't sound very comfortable to me, either, really) since the doctor said there was an itty bitty chance that the embryo could still be alive (he said maybe a 1% chance). Greg really wanted to let things happen naturally for that reason, and I definitely wouldn't be comfortable doing something that Greg wasn't comfortable with. I would miscarry within two or three days.

Now to figure out if I could travel! My doctor advised against it. He did see the dilemma, though, and said it could be done. We decided to get a second opinion, just in case, and ran to the nearest big city (an hour away) to visit a very well respected doctor there. He confirmed everything my doctor had said. He was very kind and talked me through what might happen if I decided to travel. He also talked about what complications may arise that would cause me to need medical attention in America. Here was something new to think about.

I went home and called my sister and my mom and told them I had been pregnant. They were so excited because they hadn't known and sort of thought we weren't having more kids. Once they got over the excitement/disappointment they helped make plans. One sister found out that if anything happened while I was in the states that would cause me to need a D&C, my only option would be to go to the ER and pay $1800 at the very least. I figured that our non-refundable tickets cost a fair deal more than that, so it was worth the risk. Most likely I wouldn't need any medical help at all.

I was ready. I spent the next day getting everything ready and we set out on our four hour drive at 1 am the next morning(that night). On the drive I could tell that the closer we got to the airport in Warsaw, the closer I came to my other big moment. We had decided that if it happened before we got to the airport we would just head back home and I would stay home and rest.

Everything seemed okay. I was praying that I would make it the 10 or so hours it would take for us to make it to my sister's house in Maryland. We crossed the border in the airport, waving good bye to daddy as we went. As soon as we were out of sight of him I broke down a little. I couldn't really believe I was doing this. I sort of needed him right now! What was I thinking?

We waited for our plane, my mind racing as I tried to keep myself calm and talk to the kids, so I couldn't think too much. The bus that would shuttle us out to our little plane arrived(which would take us to our connecting flight in France) and we climbed on and rode through the snow. We stepped out of the bus and it was time for me to shepherd the children through the wind and snow and up the stairs with the crowd of anxious (and therefore pushy) Poles. It was our turn to start up the stairs. I stepped onto the first stair, and the moment came. I was so nervous and my heart was racing. I needed a bathroom! I found our seats and sat the kids down. I told them that there was something very important that I had to do and I would be in the bathroom and not to worry about anything at all and to push the button and ask a stewardess if they needed anything (they had already had plenty of airplane experience even though they were only 4 and 6 years old).

I ran to the bathroom and lock myself in. (leaving out all the details, of course) I waited until the very last second and then raced back to my seat for take-off. I was shaking, and trying not to cry. Of course there was a row of young men right next to us, way too close for comfort, but I tried not to care. I NEEDED GREG. I asked Evie for a hug and gave a half explanation of what was happening (based on what she already knew of menstruation) and told her that I was a little worried and that I needed a hug. She gave me the best hug anyone ever received while buckled into tiny airplane seats and I just started bawling. She was the sweetest little helper and David kept looking at me and giving me smiles of encouragement, too. I love those kids. Also, if I ever accidentally made eye contact with the guy sitting right next to me across the aisle, he always gave me a very sympathetic look, almost like he knew what I was going through, an not at all like he thought I was a psyco lady for leaving her kids alone for a long time and crying off and on.

As soon as the fasten seat belt light went off I ran back to the bathroom and stayed there for the whole flight, checking up on the kids once. I realized that this pretty much happened at the latest possible moment for me to be able to still take this trip. Any earlier and we would have been heading back home right now. I was sort of glad. And sort of sad. Home sounded really good right now.

I dreaded running with the kids through the Charles de Gaulle airport in my weakened state. I decided to talk to a stewardess about having some help getting my kids and myself to our connecting flight. She was super sympathetic and said that all they could do was have me pushed in a wheelchair. I'd been hoping to travel on one of those little carts you always see driving through the airport. Oh well.

Two young (I'd be surprised if they were working legally, really) guys came and I got in the wheel chair. They did not offer to help with the luggage. Evie and David dragged our carry-ons behind them as they raced to keep up with my wheel chair. Seriously the kids were behind us the whole time. I kept telling the guys that I need to be able to see the kids and that they (the kids) couldn't run the whole time, but I was still looking over my shoulder to see how they were managing the whole time while one guy pushed me and the other chatted with him as we went. Poor Evie and David! Finally we came to the entrance/exit. Apparently we would have to take a shuttle to another terminal. Oh great.

Our shuttle came late and the wheel chair guys left us there. I had to ask one of the passengers to help get our luggage into the van. I'm sure I could have done it myself, but I was supposed to be taking things as easy as I could. At the next terminal a nicer guy met me with a wheel chair, but saw that I could walk and asked if I wouldn't mind walking to the gate, since it would be hard to make it through the crowds in the chair. I agreed. Little did I know that it was FAR away and the crowds were awful. The guy was racing through as fast as he could and I was trying to keep tabs on both Evie and David and keep them moving fast enough. I lost sight of our guide once or twice, he was so far ahead of us. I felt like I was going to pass out. I really, really hated it. I was fighting back tears (again). But we did finally make it to our gate. Everyone else had boarded already, so maybe the rush was necessary, but of course we got on the plane and waited 10 minutes until we shoved off. (do airplanes shove off or just boats?)

This was the longer flight on the bigger, nicer airplane for the transatlantic leg of our journey. It was comfortable. I was surrounded by laughing Americans. I felt a little at home. This flight wasn't nearly so bad. And at the end of it, was my sister! Well, actually, it was her husband who came to pick us up and I told him that it had happened on the plane and that was really all the detail I shared with him on our hour long drive, besides assuring him that I was doing alright.

I was so happy to be at my sister's house. She took such wonderful care of me! They all did. My brother in law kept coming home with new treats that he knew I missed. "Look, Lisa! It's sour cream and cheddar potato chips! Eat up!" and "You just have to try these Krispy Kreme donut holes warmed up in the microwave!" etc. etc. I gained five pounds in the week or so that I stayed with them. (I broke all my dietary rules and pigged out. Between my sister's amazing cooking and the brother in-law's constant shoving of delicious stuff in my face, I couldn't help myself.)

I didn't have any real complications, just a few concerns after a few days, which I called my doctor about. Everything went okay.

The next week I was in California, and at our family get together, instead of announcing my pregnancy as I'd been planning only days before flying out of Poland, I just mentioned it to one of my sisters in-law briefly on the way out the door. I was literally in the doorway and someone had been saying something about pregnancy or something, and I sort of mumbled to her that I had been pregnant last week. That was sort of dumb. Okay, very dumb. She was surprised so I just told her that I had miscarried on the plane on the way over and she did a little, "Oh my! That must have been fun!" and then we each got whisked away in our separate directions.

That's my story. I was starting to feel bad about how long this post got, but I think I at least like it better than the version I gave my sister in-law.

Within six months I was pregnant again (without having lost the five pounds I gained on our trip). We told the kids early on and then told everyone else. This one was for real, and we knew it. Nine months later, on Easter morning, we had our little Aaron.
The End.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Um, Now What?

Continued from the previous post. You might want to skip this one if you don't like people over-sharing on their blogs (but I'm posting it because I'm comfortable with anyone reading it who wants to).
I was so happy to be pregnant again. It had been so long. I'd had my body all to myself for more than two years now, after 3 1/2 years of sharing it with my little ones, and it felt great to be sharing again. Well, not literally. It actually felt pretty awful, but I was glad, and that was the part that felt great.

Of course we didn't tell anyone. Since we weren't feeling perfectly confident in the outcome of this pregnancy we were keeping things to ourselves. I scheduled my first appointment with my OB/GYN at ten weeks. At this time we were planning our yearly trip to the states (just me and the kids). My appointment fell on the day before our flight out of Warsaw. It was a crazy time planning that trip, it always is, and we bought our tickets just a couple of weeks before we would leave. I was excited. Very. I always am.

A few days before the day of our departure, I started feeling more confident about the pregnancy. I was almost at week ten. That's pretty far! I knew there were a couple more weeks before we were clear, but I was still happy. We were going to be in America for a few weeks and I planned that when my family had our big get-together I would tell everyone that we were expecting. It was perfect.

The day before my doctor's appointment (and two days before our flight out) I started spotting. Oh! This had never happened during my other pregnancies, but I'd read thousands of times that it wasn't a definite sign of anything (but of course I had all kinds of thoughts swirling around in my head). We called the doctor and switched my appointment for that day.

We met him at the hospital, where he worked and where I always had my ultrasounds, and went into the darkened room. He squeezed the freezy-cold gel onto my still flat tummy and started looking. He knit his brow pretty early on and it stayed that way while he squashed me around for a few minutes. He said he couldn't see a heartbeat. He measured the fetus and proclaimed that it was a seven week old embryo. What? How could that be? I was almost ten weeks along!

He started explaining and the term "missed abortion" popped into my head, from one of my pregnancy books. That's what it was. He said I would miscarry any day now.

Hmm. "Any day now" I had other big, important plans, too. Expensive ones. Exciting ones. Physically and emotionally draining ones. But now we had something to factor in, and I was feeling the difficulty of following through with both of these plans that were to come to fruition "any day now."
***Click here for continuation***
I want to type more but we're supposed to leave in fifteen minutes for a weekend trip and I have a head of hair to cut, a suitcase to pack, rolls to bake, a shower to take and a baby to get ready. Think I can do it? Also, since I have to leave the story here, please remember that I was already emotionally prepared for this. The real stress and difficulty at this point, was reconciling my trip with my medical situation. Probably sounds bad but, as I say, I look at things practically.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How Many Children Can We Handle?

When Greg and I were first married we both wanted a large family. I had always wanted 12 kids (since I read Cheaper By the Dozen when I was maybe 12 years old) and Greg was hoping for 11. We had this constant little "fight" over how many kids we would have. We were so cute.

A few years later we were struggling with our two little children. When David was a newborn I learned that it was possible to shout at the sweetest little girl in the world (this is no exaggeration) when she had done absolutely nothing wrong except try to tell me something (in the most darling voice ever) while I was juggling a baby and trying to make a cake. That moment is imprinted in my mind. I sort of feel like if that moment had never come to pass, I would never, ever shout at my children, as it became all too normal after thatf (this, of course, is not true, as something else would have triggered it at some point).

Greg and I struggled with a colicky (though not very severely) baby and a two year old. We had no idea that it could be so difficult to be good parents. We are blessed to have such a similar parenting style. If he (or I) had been more of the permissive type, we would have had some really serious problems, but we both have the philosophy of giving our children very clear boundaries, and that is something we have always supported each other on and we have seen the children respond really well. Still, in those sleep deprived, stress infused moments that came all too often, we found tiny little differences to nit pick each other about. We each took our turns being either the impatient one or the one wondering why the other couldn't just calm down and pull their self together.

It was rough. I had never pictured myself being this kind of mother or wife. I know I wasn't doing everything wrong, and was probably doing more right than wrong, but it was still a shock to feel how immature I was. Greg declared that this was as big as our family would get. I thought he was just stressed and I was too, so I didn't worry about it.

After a while I started wanting another baby. Any time I mentioned it, I could feel him tensing up. He is smart. He said he would rather have two children with a semi-sane father than any more than that with a crazy one. I saw the wisdom in that and half agreed. I was afraid of what kind of mother I might be to three or more children. Would it get progressively worse with each child? I felt that my fear of finding out was almost balanced with my desire to have another baby.

Almost, but not quite. I was so baby hungry. I saved all the kid's old clothes and when David moved out of his crib onto a bed at age 2 1/2 I saved the crib. More than once Greg asked why I was keeping those things. I had stopped talking about having more children about a year before, so those were the only times I gave any hint that I was still hoping.

We were doing really well. Evie and David were best friends. They were so darling together that I almost had a heart attack a few times every day from the sweetness and cuteness of their interactions. I was taking good care of myself and felt thin and healthy and well put together. I kept the house clean and even tidy. I was experimenting more in the kitchen. I was happy. Life was excellent.

One day when David was three and Evie was five they were being as cute as ever and Greg and I were listening from around the corner and giving each other the look we did multiple times every day; the one that says,"Have you ever heard/seen anything so cute in your entire life? I think not." David said something with his darling stutter/consonant switch around and I turned to Greg and said, "Doesn't it make you want to have another one?"

He said, "Yes, it does."

Now this could have just been an affirmation of how darling David was, but I didn't think so. That was too sensitive a subject for him to drop a "yes" if he didn't mean yes.

This was seriously one of the happiest moments of my life. I started planning everything out right then and there. Greg hadn't meant, "let's get pregnant immediately!" He meant more, "let's start thinking about it." I had some check-ups, had my teeth taken care of, including the horrific surgical removal of a wisdom tooth (pretty!) and was feeling ready. Greg still wasn't, quite yet.

This is the part that will sound strange. I am the most practical person about pregnancy that there is. I have always wanted to hear every detail of everyone's story and everything about all their unusual side effects. Often women would say, "I won't go into details because I don't want to scare you." (like the woman I talked to-when I was heavily pregnant-who had just given birth and nearly died of blood loss after delivery) and I would always beg them to go into the greatest detail they felt comfortable with. I feel that the more I know, the less I will ever be surprised, and the less I will have to fear.

I knew that the rate of miscarriage is very high. 25%, I believe (but that might be for first pregnancies?). I had had two children with no miscarriage, and every sister or sister in law of mine had miscarried on their first pregnancy (I think it was always with their first). I was feeling very strongly that our number was up. I expressed this to Greg and he agreed, which is why we decided to get pregnant before we both felt perfectly ready.

Maybe that sounds awful. But I was thinking in terms of having a baby as close in age to the other children as possible, and I felt that it would be a while before one would come. I don't remember if we prayed specifically about this, but I just know that we both knew. The kind of knowledge where you pretend you don't know in case you are proven wrong but you both know that you know.

And then one day, very soon, we found out I was pregnant.
***Click here for continuation***

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some Days Are Like That

Yesterday was a funny day. A day when I realized how truly hilarious I am. Over and over. Do these sound familiar?
Just like the ones I knew before.
. . . fake snow fleeced on.
I edited the first one as soon I recognized it. It felt wrong as I typed it, but not wrong enough for me to think any harder about it. It's scary, really. I've heard and sung that song countless times every year, even in Poland.

And exactly how many DIY shows do I need to watch in order to remember that it's called flocking? I guess at least 39 because I'm pretty sure I've seen 38 or so episodes wherein they "flocked" something. At least the wrong word I used was also sheep related.

And last night I went down to check out the tree and guess what I saw? That you can't really see the dust on there. So much for that idea. And for yesterday's entire post. (I swear, judging by how much was on there three days after it was put up (and Greg vacuumed it before we decorated it) It was sure to be white for Christmas!)

Also, I took part yesterday (and the day before) in a blog/email "conversation." A fairly important one in which I repeatedly left out or added words and then misquoted someone. I was so wonderfully awesome.

I couldn't help loving myself a little more than usual yesterday. I am just so funny.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Stuff Christmas Carols Are Made Of

Every year we put up our tree on the day after Thanksgiving. I love this. Unfortunately it makes it a little tricky to have a real tree, so we rarely do. But I love having the house decorated for so long.

There is one other little thing about putting up the decorations so early. Actually, there are a lot of things. A whole bunch of almost invisible individual things that, when combined together make having decorations up early a bit less pleasant.

Last Christmas we were in the same apartment we'd been in for seven years. There was only a moderate amount of dust there. Or maybe between moderate and heavy. I would remove all the presents from under the tree once or twice a week in order to vacuum up the dust bunnies that had nestled so comfortably around them. I'm trying to remember if I dusted the tree itself. Maybe I did a little here and there with the vacuum, but not much (until it was time to take it down, of course).

We are spending our first Christmas in this house. This excessive-amounts-of-dust producing house. Three days after we decorated I looked around and realized it was time for some dusting, and it wasn't going to be easy with all the tinsel and extra stuff around. I inspected the tree and could already start to see a little dust on its branches. Ask me how excited I was at the prospect of dusting my Christmas tree a couple of times a week. Go ahead. Ask.

I started thinking. If, in three days, the dust is almost visible on the tree, imagine what it will look like in a week! Two weeks! In four weeks for Christmas!! That is absolutely disgu-- WAIT A MINUTE!!

A layer of dust that thick will look almost white. Doesn't everyone dream of a white Christmas? I know I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. Just like the ones I used to know. And I could have it! INSIDE MY HOUSE! And all I would have to do is not dust. This seemed like a small price to pay (hee hee) to have a snow frosted tree for Christmas with none of that fake snow fleeced on it. This is a real, natural alternative*!

Isn't everything today about the real, natural alternative? Isn't it about keeping things simple at Christmas time? Isn't it about having a white Christmas? Then DON'T DUST. Like me.
*I mean it's an alternative to FAKE snow. Nobody wants to fill their homes with the real deal. But you could SAVE MONEY AND ENERGY (another of the things we're aiming for) and turn your thermostat way down, so the dusty snow seems even more like it could be the real thing.Just don't let anyone touch it. Or sneeze by it. Oh. Maybe this isn't the best idea after all.
Okay! I get it! Only dorks dust their Christmas trees! I really never have, as I say but if you saw the amount of dust this house produces. . . I swear you wouldn't think I was such a freak!

And Also

I received two new blog awards lately! The first came from Erin at If You Give a Mom a Moment (and I must insert the rest of it as seen on her header). . . she will probably sit down and blog. How true is that? Thank you so much Erin!

I'm awarding this one to Melancholy Smile. Partly because the graphic automatically reminds me of her (with the slimness and the yellow(ish) and black and the fashionability* of her) and also because I really do think her blog is fabulous, with a mix of her thoughts and reflections, some about her family, her hobbies and passions (including art and fashion--which really is an *ability with her). It is quite a charming blog. She's a good writer, too. I think that her little blurb on her profile is a great description "Artist, wife and mother, I'm finding joy in life despite a gloomy disposition." And she shares the joy.

The next award came from Barbaloot at Barbaloot Suit, and she's really quite a hoot (sorry, I couldn't resist).

I'm passing this one along to Jen of Jen's Jingle. Jen is a super smart mom and a great writer. I think I feel like we have a lot in common. Ha ha ha! Do you get it? I just said that she's smart and a good writer right before I said that we have a lot in common, implying that those are the things that we have in common. Really, I think we're more similar in our eating habits (skipping dinner in favor of dessert in order to keep the calorie count about normal, since we'll eat enough calories at dessert for a huge meal whether we eat the meal first or not. She explains this a whole lot better on her own funny blog). So there, Jen. I really am lovin' your blog (even more than McDonalds)!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Blog Friend Visits!

This weekend is the first time one of my blog friends is visiting. How exciting! He brought me malt powder and chili powder and mint extract. He brought books and DVD's for all of us and a t-shirt for Greg.

When he saw our "library" and my desk and laptop he asked, "Is that were it happens?" More than once in conversation he mentioned something I'd written about in a post. He even confessed that ever since he read about our most excellent washing machine he's been searching for any means to get to Poland so he could try it out!

Well, really he just says those things because he's funny and nice. I loved when he first got here last night and he said something about seeing a blog friend in real life. The truth is, he knew Greg (briefly) before I had ever met him (Greg). He was a missionary in Poland when Greg was a new member. Then, he and his lovely wife and their first little newborn moved to Poland for a year soon after we moved here. We stayed in their home sometimes on weekends because they lived in Krakow where we went to church. His wife helped me through my pregnancy and taught Ewelina in nursery.

So we did actually know each other before. And the food was actually from his wife (who will hopefully be able to come with him on one of his trips soon!). Still, last year when he came for a visit we were trying to catch up on each other for much of the time we spent together. Then, later on, we both started blogging and now I feel completely caught up on his family and it's wonderful to meet when we know just what's going on in each other's lives.

And one other thing I might want to mention, briefly. He was invited to give a talk at a university in Budapest on Thanksgiving day. Then he gave one at a university in Vienna; and finally he has come to Poland and given one at the Jagiellonian university in Krakow, all while he gets in as much research as he can. So I suppose there may have been a tiny bit of motivation besides our washing machine, but I think it really was a, "Oh! While I'm in Europe to see The Washing Machine, maybe I can get some scholarly stuff done, too." kind of thing. Smart people do that, the whole roasting-two-hot-dogs-on-one-stick thing. And he's smart.

Thursday, December 4, 2008



Helplessness, confusion, inadequacy.

The realization that you can do nothing to solve this problem. The knowledge that, even given a chance, you wouldn't know where to begin or what to do. It is out of your control and you are left destitute.

Sitting, overcome by darkness.

Grasping for any flicker of light. A small spark of hope. Anything to help you see your way through.

You call upon your very best attributes, searching for a trait that will make a difference, finally realizing that there is only one virtue that can get you through this. And it's one you fear you possess only in small quantities.

Patience. Powerlessness can be overcome only by patience*.

I think we've all felt this before. I know I did on Tuesday night when the electricity went out in our neighborhood for about an hour. What would we do without POWER!?!
*unless you're the guy fixing the electrical lines, that is.
Well, what I did without power was search in the dark EVERYWHERE for the dang matches which are always where they weren't that night. After groping in the dark for over 5 minutes (completely messing up my cupboards) David says, "Hey!! Let's open the fridge!" I give a big laugh of relief and say, "DUH!! Perfect!!" as that scene from Wait Until Dark flashes through my mind. He starts to open the door, but even before we experience the lack of light it releases, all of us say, "Oh yeah." And we all start laughing.

After creeping slowly around the house for 15 minutes we found matches and lit the candles. We sat in the living room enjoying the candle light. When we realized that this was going to be a pretty long black-out, Evie starts doing her homework by candle-light. She comes to me for help with a story problem. I twist and turn my brain and can NOT figure out how to solve it. I say, "Gosh Ev, I have NO IDEA how to do this!" She says, "I know. My teacher from math knows how to do it." Which causes me to laugh hysterically for some reason. Really? Your teacher can do it? (This also made me realize that she's never heard anyone say "math teacher" so she just translated literally from Polish. Her teacher from math. Funny.)

I tell the children of days gone by. How,like in the books I love most to read, they spent every evening by candle light. How they would "call on" each other. They played cards and listened to each other play and sing music. They conversed. And all in lighting similar to that which we were sitting in. The kids were fascinated by this. After a while, though, David said, "I want to go to bed." It wasn't yet seven o'clock. About fifteen minutes earlier Aaron had come to me and kept saying, "Night night. Niiiiight night." It made us sleepy, that dim, warm light.

And soon thereafter the power came back on. Empowerment? I guess so, but we were sad to come to the end of our adventure.

The bright light hurt my eyes.

Electricity is boring.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

She's Younger and Faster

. . .And that's why she tagged me. I've mentioned before about Olivia, who I babysat along with her twin sisters when I was first married. I gained invaluable experience from that "job" (it wasn't work, mostly pleasure) and made some really invaluable friends. They are a wonderful family.

I am dying a little because not only is Olivia in JR HIGH now, she recently had a birthday and I think she must be thirteen! AAK! How old am I!! So Livvy keeps a blog (a great one, private though) and she's tagged me. I'm going to do this tag because it was fun to read Olivia's and also in hopes of receiving forgiveness for all the times I yelled at her when I was babysitting. Oh wait. I never yelled at her. That was back before I knew you could yell at kids. Lucky Livvy!

This tag is full of the vaguest questions imaginable. So vague, in fact, that I was unable to call on my imagination for such a monstrous task. But I did have fun. And I really enjoyed how there were apostrophes in all the wrong places throughout the questions, like in the middle of the word "were" when it didn't mean "we are." It added greatly to the entertainment factor. Plus her answers were great, too. Sorry, but I edited the entertainment factor out of the questions. I answered these last night:

Where is your phone? On the stairs where it belongs.
Where is your significant other? In the living room where he belongs.
Your hair color? blond gone horribly wrong (read: dark)
Your mother? is short and wise
Your father? is tall and fitter than a man his age (or any age, really) should be.
Your favorite thing? Nothing general about this question. Food? Blogging? Reading?
Your dream last night? Do most people remember their dreams every night? If so, no fair.
Your dream/goal? to have patience
Your hobby? Um, I'll give you a hint, it's the main thing you know about me. (Besides the living in Poland, although that is certainly one of my hobbies. One which I'm pretty good at. Better than you, for sure. Don't worry, though; I'm sure if you tried, you could be good at it, too.)
Room you're in? The library (really a room full of piles of books and papers.)
Your fear? I'm fearless. Okay, being eaten by a dog.
Where do you want to be in six years? Same place I always want to be. Wherever I'm supposed to be.
Where were you last night? in the living room having a makeshift Sacrament meeting and Primary because David was too coughy to go to church so we all stayed home (a downside to having church forever away)
One of your wish list items? Don't you read my blog? SHELVES!
What you're not? an elephant
Where you grew up? Utah until age 11, California after that. And usually in my house.
The last thing you did? Well, I just scratched my nose. Swept the stairs.
Your TV? Fine thank you. How is yours?
Your pets? non existent (we're away from home too often!)
Your computer? poor and old
Your mood? tired
Missing someone? Always. There's a list.
Your car? In the garage in desperate need of a washing.
Something you're not wearing? a wig
Your summer? ended a while back
Love someone? Hmm. Nope.
Your favorite color? PERIWINKLE
When was the last time you laughed? Right after I typed Nope. (I'm being honest here. and really, what kind of question is "Love someone?" unless you're asking Lucifer, answers shouldn't vary all that much.)
Last time you cried? Wow! I can't remember! That means it might have been more than two days ago! Definitely some sort of record.

As far as tagging, I'd really like to read answers to these questions from all of you. Maybe you can just choose one question to answer in the comments? Except not the "Love someone?" one because it will be way too easy to tell by your answer whether or not you're Lucifer, and you maybe don't want everyone to know that.
Bonus points for anyone who answers ALL the questions on their blog!