Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Children Should Not Play With Demons

Right now I'm trying my hand in something I've never done before: writing fiction. The book is based off of a story by one of my best friends. She originally wrote the story to tease the silly girls in love with vampires and demons, but I fell in love with the characters and concept. We've reshaped the plot til it's almost unrecognizable, and we may be switching to first person narrative. I'm very excited, and I'm planning on posting portions as I go. So, here is the prologue (still in third person) for you enjoyment!

Myra was named after her great grandmother. Not the beautiful, and talented one that 80 years earlier had charmed her way into the heart of every young man in town. No, that honor was reserved for her younger sister, Clara. Myra was named after the great grandmother with wanderlust. The ancestor who had zigzagged her way across the American West before finally settling on the Oregon coast. That is, if you could call it "settle." Even through her old age, she spent most of her time roaming through unknown parts of the forest. That's why no one was surprised when they searched the woods for four days and still couldn't find her body.

     In fact, her disappearance was almost expected by the town folk. It was even a bit of a joke. "Old Myra spent so much time with the trees, she just up and turned into one". Unfortunately, Myra's favorite granddaughter, Ramona, had recently grasped the concept of death, and was terrified of the forest from then on. After the birth of her first daughter, whom she named Myra, Ramona's protective instincts kicked in and she declared a "no woods" rule for the family. So, despite living near 630,000 acres of national forest, Myra's family never went on hikes, and definitely never went camping.

Still, it was hard to keep Myra away from the forest behind the house; she always managed to creep right up to the border during play-time. She had natural courage and curiosity that wasn't deterred by even the worst of spankings. Ramona realized she'd have to pull out the big guns: The Brothers Grimm. After just a few nights of bloody German fairy tales, Myra developed a most intense phobia of the forest. Nothing and nobody could compel her to go near it, even though it was the quickest route from town to her house. 

     However, on one particularly dark and rainy September evening, Myra found herself crossing the road between town and the forest, more afraid of what of what she was walking away from than what she was walking into. Forest dangers and dead ancestors were the furthest thing from Myra's mind at the moment. Currently, she was so filled with fear that the only coherent thought in her mind was "GET HOME." And it so happened that the thing between herself and her home, was the very forest she had been taught to avoid.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I just finished re-reading "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane", by Kate Dicamillo. It's written very simply, and is only a 2 hour read at most, but it is a wonderful book. I highly recommend it. It is a wonderful book to read aloud, especially to a child that you love. It touches very poignantly on subjects of loss, death, love, and hope. It expresses the raw reality of life, while creating a safe situation for the young to learn. I always cry when I read it, and I'm sure that I will cry when I read it to any future children I may have. Go to your local library and use it for storytime tonight.

May your heart be open to love,


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Carry me Home

It seems like this week is the week all my professors set aside for lectures on child abuse. Yesterday, in Psych of Gender, I found myself disgusted at the horrifying things that mankind can imagine up. Today, in Child Development, I was surprised to find that there were even more disturbing stories to be heard. If I were to look on the internet I would surely be able to find one account after another describing crimes against children, which are, in my mind, the worst ones out there.

Sadly, I don't think many stories would surprise me, though thankfully they would still disgusts me. I have seen so many kids who come to school happy, healthy and clean. I have also seen many kids who come to school in their sister's filthy shorts and a shirt that has a starburst wrapper stuck to it. They seem to use snack time as dinner time and their cognitive abilities seem to be far behind that of their peers. These are just the neglected children, not the ones being actively attacked.

It seems nearly inconceivable that a child who suffers through sexual, physical, or emotional abuse can escape the cycle. But thankfully, only 30% of abused kids go on to be abusers. It's a high percentage, but I'm still glad that those who leave the pain behind are in the majority.

In Zenos' allegory of the olive vineyard, the master of the vineyard is struggling to save his tame olive tree that is decaying. He tends it carefully and soon enough the tree produces new branches. Because the main part of the tree is decaying, he has to save these new branches by grafting them into new trees. He chooses to graft them into trees in the "nethermost part" of the vineyard. After a long wait, the master takes his servant back to where he grafted the branches in. To the servant's surprise, the branches brought forth good fruit. The servant doesn't understand, asking:

How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard."

The Lord of the vineyard replied:

"Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit" (Jacob 5:20-22).

In this allegory, the master of the vineyard represents Christ. The new branches are His children and the poor spots can mean many things depending on who is applying it to their life. Many of God’s children have been put into homes and circumstances that may not appear to be conducive to growth. However, "Jesus’ teachings help us to have a correct view of life and our circumstances. Sometimes the solution is not to change our circumstance, but to change our attitude about that circumstance and its difficulties... God does notice us, and he watches over us" (Spencer W. Kimball).

My favorite part of the allegory is when the Master says "I have nourished it this long time" because I have felt Him nourish me as I grow in poor places. Christ has Atoned for all men so that they can be healed from the pain that the world throws at them. No child ever deserves to be abused. No child "earns" such pain. Pain is a part of life because the Fall allowed for pain to exist in this world. Christ Atoned for many people who brought sorrow onto their own lives through wrong choices, but he also atoned for the little ones who did not ask for such things.

Because of the Atonement, those who were abused as children can put their burdens on the Lord and be transitional characters in their family tree. Broderick defines a transitional character as
“. . . one who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The individuals who
grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to
metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it on to their children. They break the mold. They refute the observation that . . . ‘the sins of the fathers are visited upon the heads of the children . . .’ Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their lineage so that
generations downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives" (Carlfred Broderick).

I know that those who are planted in poor places are not on a determined course leading them to be abusive to their children. As Spencer W. Kimball said, "Environment need not be our limit. Circumstance may not need to determine what we can be". All of God’s children are born agents who can thrive, despite being planted in “poor spots”, when they allow Christ to nourish them.

Not only can those planted in poor ground be healed from the pain of their past, but they will find that they have learned truths not available to those who haven't had the same experiences. The Atonement allows man to learn in painful ways , yet not carry the pain with him for the rest of his life. Dan Messe's lyrics to "Carry Me Home" illustrate this truth very well. He wrote: "We were raised in the nettles, and they showed us how they grow,
where a poison comes to settle,
and what a poisoned man comes to know
." Man can learn some dark truths through being planted in poor spots. Once he finds that Christ is there to "carry him home", he can use these truths to recognize pain and poison in others and boost them up to be carried.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Worst Day of My Life

It turned out to be the most wonderful. No pain no gain has come to mean a lot more to me lately. When someone lets you carry them, an amazing thing happens. You learn that the person you thought you loved over all others can be loved even more. You learn that the person that occupies the greatest part of your heart becomes seemingly inseparable from your own. Not only has my love for Bradley grown because of the pain and growth he's going through, but my love for Christ and the Atonement have also grown.

Two weeks ago I found myself wondering whether or not to continue my relationship with Brad. If you know anything about me, you know that's a pretty weighty thing for me to ponder. About 6 hours a day are dedicated to me locking myself up in my room and talking to him on Skype. Not only did I feel so angry and betrayed by him, but I also wondered if everything I knew about him was still valid. Was the person I knew the best really that person?

I realized that it came down to two choices: either his problems were too much for me to support or I believed that the Atonement worked for people other than myself, no matter how dark their problem, and that he was willing to access its gifts.

I always believed in the Atonement and I had faith that it could work in my life, but I also knew what I was doing to work towards healing. My faith in the Atonement working in others has grown so much in this short amount of time as I see it work in Brad.

It's hard to put so much trust in another human being but, as vulnerable as we both are, it is worth it. It seems that now our struggles have grown as this experience has brought an unexpected and exponential growth in our intimacy that we don't know what to do with. Like Bishop Hiatt said about dating before a mission, "be careful, you might fall in love."

Yesterday Brad said "I don't know why I feel like I'm preparing for a mission and marriage at the same time, but I feel ready for both." He keeps suggesting that we talk to a couple that we love who went through a similar experience. I open the floor for suggestions.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Everybody Here is Tired

So last night I was faced with a predicament. I had promised Clara to watch Back to the Future (or some other movie we watched as kids) but I had also promised Laura DeGraw to come over and play after church. So, to make everyone happy, we had a sleepover at my house. So, in my tiny bedroom, 6 girls had a slumber party.

There I was (at 20), entertaining my little sister Clara (15+), her best friend Sarah (15), and Sarah's little sisters: Jessica (12), Katie (9), and Laura (5). I guess that I also ended up entertaining Bradley Gentry.

It was lots of fun watching Back to the Future III, but Laura and Katie didn't seem to enjoy the lengthy process of making popcorn or the sourness of the Limeade (hand squeezed by Clara and me hours earlier). But the important thing was that I ingrained in the small children's minds that the second actress to play Jenifer is an awful actress and not very attractive.

Then Bradley played "I'm Going to the Moon" with us via the web cam. We only played two rounds, both of which seemed to last forever because the little ones couldn't guess what the big ones could, and the big people (really only Brad) couldn't guess Dora the Explorer. The game was interjected with me showing off my stuff on facebook and with Brad playing music for us. At about 1 we (I) decided it was time to sleep.

At about 3 am I fell asleep, phone to my ear, bum in hammock. Did I mention that my room is the hottest in the house? Remember how I said there were 6 girls in there? Laura was afraid of having an accident during the middle of the night while she slept with me. Well, I woke up at like 5, my torso wet, whilst a small girl was lying directly on top of me. After a few seconds I realized that I wasn't covered in pee, but in sweat.

I got no sleep.

I lied. I guess I had to have gotten sleep because I had a nightmare about taking Laura, and my little brother Than to Spamalot but having to go out in the lobby after the first act in order to comfort Laura. I probably dreamt this because a few hours before this she was crying her eyes out and so I spent a decent amount of time singing to her and promising her watermelon, at a time when I'm usually on the phone with Brad. Ha ha. Actually, I was still on the phone with Brad, but I never really got to a team conversation with him. Every time I payed him a compliment I would soon afterwards be interrupted by Katie or Laura saying something awesome to me. So Brad just listened to me whilst I played make believe and discussed number patterns.

So some time around 7 I realized that the two tiny ones were awake and would stay awake. I wanted to stay asleep, but Laura was rolling around on top of me. My first plan was to turn on a movie for them and go back to sleep, but just couldn't. It's like something inside of me said, "Natalie, you can't be lazy. Go cut some watermelon. Clean up the kitchen. Spend time with the girls."

So here I am, 8:09. We're watching Beauty and the Beast. I seem to know every single line. I am super tired. I feel gross I 'm so tired. BUT, I was called pretty about a thousand times, I was told I was a good watermelon cutter, Brad said he loved me for loving kids, and (my favorite) Laura told me she wanted to be the foxy first Jenifer, but not the ugly second one.

I'm guessing that this is like the easy version of having kids. It's funny, but you can tell that these girls have parents who love the computer because they know exactly how to have a conversation with someone writing a blog. Laura says she had fun spending the night. Her favorite part was when we were talking to Brad and she told him twice to "shush." My favorite part was when she asked Brad if he was my boyfriend and he said yes cause he is.

Anyways, we're all wearing your pajamas.

Ain't no lie, baby pie pie pie

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's Only Love

Wanna know the funny thing? I get on here and read the last line of my unpublished post whilst I listen to Brad's cover of "It's about Time" for the first time. That's a lot of time. Time takes time you know.

You know what is ridiculous? That I yesterday I drove 10 and 1/2 hours just so I could get a fresh image of Brad in my mind's eye and yet I am still not completely open about my feelings with him. I mean, some people know I'm super crazy about him and yet often times I try to convince people that I wouldn't care at all if I never got another hug from him. When I meet an extra nice or cute guy I just happen not mention that I'll always be partially attached to someone else and this new guy will have to be awfully amazing job to get me to stop feeling guilty about liking him. When I talk to his friends and family I absolutely refute the idea that I'm crazy for him.

Why do I do this? I think a great deal has to do with the fact that unrequited love (or not-returned-consistently-in-the-exact-way-I-want-it-love) is very embarrassing for me. I mean, me and Brad have a hard enough time figuring out what the heck is up. Anytime I try to explain our very wonderful yet undefinable friendship I feel very nervous that people will judge my situation to quickly. I either get an, "Oh you guys are meant for each other," or a, "Oh sweetie, I'm sorry, you need to get over him and move on."

Do you wanna know why I start each paragraph off with a question? I don't know. I'm feeling extra cheesy. My point is that I shouldn't be embarrassed or ashamed of this wonderful friendship (though I have every right to be confused). So I'll admit that I love him and think he's wonderful. I listen to his songs just to hear his voice. He's my best friend who knows me better than I expect him to and with whom I always have fun.

That's all I can say. I can't say how he feels for me (I don't think he can properly articulate that anyhow). A big part of why I didn't shout the news when he said he was in love with me was because I knew that in five seconds he'd get confused. I wanted his kissing me and holding hands in church to define something, but I knew it didn't. Right now nothing can be defined.

Don't think I'm a silly girl for letting it be so. If given the choice to pick between being makey-outey with a guy who defines the relationship yet barely cares for me and being best friends with a guy who is horribly confusing and won't let me claim him yet loves me, knows me, and is so deeply concerned with my progression, I will choose to stay here for as long as I need to. Maybe that means waiting till he makes or a decision and maybe it means waiting till I realize that I can't stop the flow of my life.

Right now it doesn't matter though, does it? I really believe I need to be on that mission in a year. For a good long time this Brad thing was a big deterrence from me even going on dates. I don't think that was necessarily best for me, but the point is he's not keeping me from some other guy (that's my job).

A pie in the face of a clock

Sunday, June 17, 2007

When You're Back in Your Old Neighborhood...

My good friend Aaron says he actually reads my blogs, so I told him I'd make one soon. I guess this momment is soon enough. My keyboard keeps rocking though...

Right now I'm just wondering why my life doesn't feel as amazing as it has in the past. Everything that previously made my life amazing is still there, but it's lost it's sparkle and shimmer. I feel like a smoker who still eats her favorite foods but just can't taste them anymore.

Because I'm a girl, the aspect of my life that I'm most concerned about losing it's savor is my relationship with my best friend. I know that I love him and I know that we really compliment eachother, but my emotional convictions are weak in every area of my life currently, including romance. But it's not just romance either; it's the basic fabric of my friendship that I'm worried about.

It's not about time...

I never did finish writing this post even though I started it on June 17th

(Insert something about pie)