Sunday, August 31, 2014

Job's Sucky Friends

In Sunday School last week we had the lesson on Job. Normally I tune this story out because it's kind of depressing and gross (boils - eww). This time 'round, I heard the story in a new way.

Here's the story in a nutshell: Job is a perfect and upright man who worships God unfailingly. Satan challenges God that Job only loves Him because He has given him everything (wealth) and protects him from bad things. God tells Satan to go ahead and strip Job of his wealth and see what happens.

On earth, servants appear to Job, one by one, to inform him that his oxen, his sheep, and, finally, his camels have all been raided by enemies and stolen away. A fourth servant then appears to tell Job his children have all been killed in a windstorm. Job sorrows and worships God.

Satan next gets permission from God to try Job physically - eew, boils and rotten breath! It's so bad he lives out in the ashes (which I think is the burned garbage heaps). His wife urges him to curse God and die. He doesn't. His three friends then appear to "comfort" him by taking turns telling Job that he is wicked and that is why God is punishing him. What follows for several chapters are the back and forth comments and rebuttals between Job and his friends. Job insists that he has not sinned and his friends cite his trials as proof of wickedness. But Job never backs down. He knows he is good.

In the end, Job is validated by the Lord for his righteousness and his friends are chastised. Job is rewarded over and above what he lost and lives a long and happy life.

While the story was not new to me, an aspect I never considered was new: Job's relationship with his friends.

I had great friends growing up. The kind of girls I gravitated toward were really of high caliber - I wanted to be like them. They were smart, talented, funny, creative, and I was a better person for being around them. I'm not sure at what point I subsumed my own opinions in favor of theirs, but over the years, I found that I relied less and less on that little voice inside me and more and more on what my friends thought or felt.

I was in my late twenties when a good friend of mine asked if she could set me up with a man she knew. I agreed to meet him and spent an enjoyable evening with her, her husband and M. M was NOT someone I ever would have looked at twice, he being much older than I (10 years), a recent convert to the church (and therefore not temple ready), angrily divorced (yay for drama), and underemployed. He was nothing like my friends' husbands who were all much cooler. I was a little bummed that she thought he was a good match, but I ignored those feelings because of my friend's recommendation. I trusted in her more than myself.

What ensued was five emotionally tumultuous months of dating a man to whom I became more and more attached, all while finding out he wanted fewer and fewer of the things that I found important. At the end of the five months I was a wreck, having made more compromises than I dreamed possible in the hopes that we could work it out. Then he dumped me while we were on a road trip in my car. I had to drive him home afterwards while he waxed joyfully about how much better he felt. I pretended I was okay.

To say I was heartbroken was the understatement of the age. In truth, he merely used me emotionally and financially and was closer to me physically than I'd ever let a man be. I felt used and discarded, but no permanent damage was done. The worst thing was that I realized I needed to learn to trust the voice within me.

Job was in terrible torment. He had friends who opined about his predicament. In trials, it's so hard to think clearly - I would have sought solace by trying anything and everything. If my friends had told me I was sinning, I would have believed them! I would have been the sucky friend who agreed with everyone! Not Job. He stuck to his guns because he knew he was right.

I had one more trial run with a serious relationship before I met Brian. In that relationship, I also made mistakes listening to the Still, Small Voice inside me. But I was getting better. At least this time I was asking questions of God instead of relying on other people to tell me what I should feel. I was not perfect by any means - after all, that guy dumped me, too!

When Brian finally came along, I'd had enough practice being alone with my thoughts that I had the smallest inkling of how to listen to the voice within me. I find it interesting that God took that teeny tiny bit of faith and helped me make the biggest decision of my life - one that I heretofore had made badly more than once! - and make that decision well. The only person I asked advice of was my Dad - and I'd never asked him before. Earthly father and Heavenly Father. An interesting parallel.

A few months after I married Brian, I got an envelope in the mail from M. Within it was a check for the money he'd borrowed from me when we'd dated five years before. It paid for Brian's and my honeymoon to Disneyland. And that honeymoon gave us this:

My ability to listen to my inner compass waxes and wanes all the time. The important thing is to keep on trying and to be strong when I know something is true. Just like Job and not like his sucky friends.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Measuring Success

How does one measure success in life?

This is a question I have asked and do ask myself every day, multiple times a day. Alas! I am one of those who questions their worth constantly.

My Alas! face
I look at blogs and the number of followers each has. Is that success? I look at posts my friends make on Facebook and the number of friendly, comforting, commiserating comments they receive. Is the love others feel for them success? I see my women friends at church with their packs of children and wonder if fertility is a measure of success. And I won't even talk about their weight (or lack of it). How does one measure success? How do I measure it? In love? Admiration? Attention?

After we are baptized into the church, we receive a blessing of confirmation. In this blessing we are given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It promises us that if we live worthily we are entitled to the constant companionship of the Spirit. I remember the day I was confirmed like it was yesterday. I was SO EXCITED to be baptized and confirmed. I knew, even at only eight years old, that something special and unique and Bigger Than Me was happening. As the priesthood holders laid their hands on my head and gave me that sacred blessing, I felt Something incredible. It wooshed down from my head all the way through me. The veil was thinner between Heaven and me at that moment because I knew - I KNEW - that I was connected to my Heavenly Father.

Me, as an 8-year old. I didn't know it was picture day
Imagine this look on my face as an 8-year old. Not hard, is it?!

That memory has never left me and I often wish to feel that physical presence again. But the Spirit doesn't work that way. It is the Still Small Voice, the Comforter, the burning in the bosom or the feeling of peace in your heart. I almost imagine the Spirit as a quiet, unobtrusive helper who stays out of my direct line of sight, making things work as well as I let them, but is easily forgotten since I can't see them. If I stop for a moment in life and look over my mental shoulder, I'm aware again of the Spirit, guiding me and directing me. It feels a little different now than it did when I was eight.

First day of 2nd Grade
Kenneth has been taking the bus to school for the first time. He's not worried about it at all, but I have been making up for the both of us. The bus is supposed to drop him off after school at 2:55pm. Yesterday, it wasn't there at 2:55pm. It wasn't there 10 minutes later, 15 minutes later. My gut started wrenching and I was terrified that Something Had Happened. A hundred different scenarios involving a lost 7-year old worried at me. And then, for some reason, I looked over my mental shoulder and saw that, sitting quietly behind that fear, was peace. 

Yup. Right behind me.

My mind argued with me. How can you feel peace in this situation, it asked? The reality is that KENNETH IS NOT HERE AND PROBABLY SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAS HAPPENED. IT'S NOW 20 MINUTES LATE. THAT PEACE IS A FIGMENT OF YOUR IMAGINATION.

Yikes! Terrible things are happening!
 But I did feel the peace. And I recognized the feeling because I'd had it before. And those situations always worked out. The bus finally arrived (30 minutes late) and all was well.
And they lived happily ever after. At least for that day.

It nearly always is. But the fear persists because I ... well, because I let it.

After the incident, I kept thinking about the spirit of peace I'd had. I may forget the Spirit, but apparently it doesn't forget about me. Nor does it give up on me. Then I realized I hadn't given up on it.

Joseph B. Wirthlin used this quote in a General Conference address:

Genius is only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it; so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it...” (author unknown, Second Encyclopedia, ed. Jacob M. Brand, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1957, p. 152).

 Is success a final, permanent end result? As I sit here, I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea that maybe, just maybe, success isn't a destination, but a state of just getting back up and trying again anyway (even if you don't feel like doing it or feel that you are ever going to get good at it).

For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith. (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12)

And I hope I will be found successful.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Choices and Consequences - or, Why I Work


I was 37 years old when I married Brian Eddy.

In true LDS fashion, we did not have a reception the evening of our wedding (nudge, nudge, wink wink), but  held two receptions a week later, one in Modesto (my hometown) and one in Bakersfield (his hometown and our residence).

The Modesto reception took place in my old church building where I'd grown up. So many of my friends from times past showed up to celebrate with us. Two of my oldest friends, Christine and Susan, waved me over to their table to talk. "Are you going to ask her?" one said to the other. "Ask me what?" Christine looked at me and, with a smile on her face, asked, "Are you going to do it?"

Susan, me and Christine (and child)

I had been married a week already. They can't possibly mean THAT, I thought. Quick as a wink, I made a silly, slightly off-color remark that hinted it was too late to ask if THAT was what they were talking about. They laughed - "No! Are you going to have kids?"

It was a completely unexpected question. One of the basic tenets of the LDS faith is family and children. I'd always wanted kids and did a quick self-check to ascertain whether or not I'd implied anything to the contrary. "Of course! If I can..." It was one of my fondest hopes to have kids. At this point in my life, I was very aware of my diminishing chances.

During the desert years of my singleness, I'd given a lot of thought to my ideal husband and my future marriage situation. My dreams always were some form of being a stay-at-home mom with a ton of kids, a beautiful home and a perfect life. I wouldn't settle for less than The Ideal Mormon Family.

And then I was 37 years old and very aware of the old biological clock. My standards of 1) Must be a temple-worthy male, 2) Must want children and 3) Must be able to support me as a stay-at-home mom became more ... flexible.

I met Brian in person three weeks after we started writing. We'd agreed to meet halfway between our hometowns in Fresno. We'd go to the zoo and have a picnic lunch on the grounds. Very nice - totally public, very structured, all was good just in case he turned out to be a serial killer.

We had a picnic first - he'd brought sub sandwiches and we talked on a blanket on the grass. He was easy to talk to. At one point in the conversation, I asked him what books he was reading and, in a perfect Monty Python voice, he said, "I'm reading a book on William the BASTARD!" Right then I had the thought, Given the choice, I could marry this guy.

Then he kissed me outside the wolf enclosure at the zoo (fitting, no?) and I knew I'd never meet another man who kissed as well as he did. If he didn't marry me, I was doomed to a future with second-rate kissers.

I weighed the information I had: Brian was divorced (I figured that any guy around my age would have been married before anyway and I preferred that to having never been married). He did not have a college degree (but he was well-read, so that was sort of okay and he could always go to school later). He lived with his sister (well, family is okay). A hefty percentage of his income went towards child support. Uh oh.

Alex and Kenzie - Brian's kids - soon after we married

We talked and talked and emailed and emailed. There's not a ton you can learn about a person in only a few weeks, but there are things you can find out about what type of a person they are. Brian wanted to marry and be married. The divorce was not his choice, but it had been inevitable because of the volatile chemistry he'd had with his ex. I repeat, Brian wanted to be married and was willing to work for a marriage.

Life is all about choices. The weird thing is, they aren't necessarily choices between good and bad. Sometimes they are simply Choice A (with these trials) vs. Choice B (with these trials).  

Although I am dreamy and romantic, there is a solid core of practicality in my heart. I knew myself well enough to know that I wanted to get married and stay married. Divorce was only a last resort. I felt that Brian would be willing to make a marriage with me work. We may not have known each other well. We may have been caught up in the physical tornado that makes up the beginning of a relationship, but we were also two people who'd been hurt by others and were looking for someone we could trust. Because we'd both been so recently hurt, I think we were a little closer to God than we might have otherwise been, like a child who stays close to a parent after having recently been lost then reunited with them.

Only a few weeks later, Brian impulsively asked me to marry him. I answered as though I was listening to my voice from outside my body - yes. (He later made me a much more formal proposal so all was good. Judge him kindly.)

In the church, we are taught to pray about decisions. We are also taught how to recognize answers to our prayers - a stupor of thought if it is wrong and a peaceful feeling if it is right. I felt fine accepting Brian's proposal. That was it. Fine. I felt fine. There were no fireworks or burnings in my heart or spectacular manifestations that OH MY GOSH! HE IS THE ONE AND THIS IS ORDAINED OF GOD. I kind of worried that maybe God was tired of me constantly getting involved with one poor choice after another and was letting me make my proverbial bed and lie in it because He was done saving me from bad choices. I constantly checked for that peaceful feeling ALL THE TIME. I felt fine.

So I chose a man who was good and kind and willing to work towards eternal goals, but was not able to support me financially. 

As I looked at Brian across the altar on our wedding day, I told myself, "This is your last chance to get out of here - it would be dramatic, but it would be better to GET OUT if this is wrong rather than go through it and be miserable and have people say I told you so." Nope. I felt fine. I married Brian.

Nearly a year after our wedding, the little blue line showed up on the test. I was pregnant.

Two months pregnant - no morning sickness yet!
Already my dresses couldn't hold in the bosoms!

When we talked about After The Baby Came, the possible scenarios were grim. No matter what, I was going to have to go back to work. Someone else was going to take care of my little baby. Someone else was going to rock him to sleep and sing him lullabies and make him laugh and hear his first words and witness his first steps. I was going to work. I was not fine.

My father retired from the military when I was twelve years old. From that point on, our family endured years of financial difficulties in the form of unemployment and underemployment. My mother had to work and didn't like it. When I was in high school, my dad found A Good Job, but he had to commute four hours a day. As the eldest, I had a keen sense of the problems of money or the lack of it. Looking back now, I also recognize that our choices in how we cope with situations makes the biggest impact on family life.

I did not take going back to work well. It was not fair after everything else (I imagined) I'd suffered to make it to this point. My education was supposed to be in case of emergency, nothing else. Brian braved my emotions with strength and as much dignity as possible under the circumstances. I tried encouraging (you're a great man! You can find a better job!), cajoling (you'll be much happier if I'm at home), and finally, reminding him of the words of the prophets (wives and mothers should stay at home) - words imperfectly interpreted by a woman in spiritual  pain. I am not proud of how I acted. I hurt my husband with my worries and disappointments. I was not honoring the choices I had made.

The one thing we always have in life, no matter what else, is choice. Agency, the ability or right to choose, is a fundamental principle of the Gospel - one has a choice to either follow God or not follow Him. It's always that simple. I had a choice with marrying Brian: marry him and accept his financial situation or don't marry him and wait for another.

Regardless of the might have been, I DID choose to marry Brian and that meant nothing else mattered afterwards. Was I willing to hold up my end of the bargain with the marriage and work through the hard parts or was I going to make myself and my husband miserable with invective and bitterness?

Again, not all choices we are given are simply good choice vs. bad choice. Important to remember also is that one apparently ideal choice doesn't necessarily mean that life will be all rainbows and unicorns. Jobs can be lost, unexpected expenses can arise, spouses can become disabled, desert or *gulp*, die. YET - and this is a big yet, there is always something good which comes of everything. God makes things as easy for us as possible no matter our choices.

I was able to spend two glorious months with my new little baby, Kenneth Calvin George Eddy. Brian and I loved our little throwy-uppy baby. He was cute, he was funny, he was a joy to his brother and sister. He brought our family together - not just Brian and me, either. He united our extended families and strengthened the ties we had with brothers and sisters and friends and ... well, everyone.

I made the BEST thank you cards for baby gifts

While I hoped for a miracle, none came. On March 19th, 2007, I went back to work at the library, leaving my son with a woman friend who had terrible baby hunger. She told me that watching Kenneth would be the best thing for it as her husband was completely fine with the five children they already had. They lived right by the library and brought him in often.Small graces!

I had two memorable incidents at the library which added to my stress over not being home with my baby. One of my co-workers said, "I stayed home with my children after they were born." I pasted a smile on my face and said, "You were so fortunate! I wish I could be home with Kenneth, too. Unfortunately, our financial situation requires me to work." She continued, "Well, it took a lot of sacrifice for me to be home - we did without a LOT, but it was worth it/better for the kids/some other thing that made me feel awful." I just smiled publicly and cried privately. My co-worker wasn't even LDS and she knew the importance of staying home with her kids. And she knew I was Mormon and was working. Yay for hypocrisy. A second incident happened with a patron. She asked me where I'd been for the last few months. I told her I'd had a baby. She said, "Oh, you should be home with him."  **** you, I thought.

I'd never expected this situation in the choice I'd made to marry Brian. I raged against the Universe for the unfairness of it all. I'd lived a good life - I'd kept myself pure for marriage, I'd gotten an education so I'd be a good mom, I DESIRED to have children and raise them in the Gospel - and all for this? What did I have to show for my efforts?

Dang, he's good-looking. How'd I get so lucky?

I have a husband who is perfect for me in so many ways. There's no way to adequately explain why in this story. It's the sum of a hundred or a thousand little things. Some I can tell people, but some are too private (or incriminating). The feeling I had of peace when I decided to marry Brian has never, ever left me. Occasionally, it's been lost sight of in the mists of my anger or other negative emotion, but that is always my fault. Brian has never wavered and that's not an exaggeration, but rather an indictment of me. I'm very grateful for repentance and a forgiving spouse. 

I have a child who is a special soul. My sister in law has been kind enough to watch Kenneth for me since he was six months old. (My friend moved away) It is a blessing to have family care for your kid - they love him like one of their own and I never have once worried about him like I would have if he was with strangers. Kenneth has also never been clingy - he's out of the car like a shot (bye Mom!) when we pull up to his aunt's house. He even asks to go over there when I stay home with him for a day! Kenneth's personality makes it easy for me to do what I have to do - work to financially support my family.Again, small graces...

It took longer than I'm comfortable admitting, but I'm finally doing fine. My job schedule changed to earlier in the day (8-4:30pm instead of 10-7pm) and it made all the difference. I miss my kid while I'm away at work, but both Brian and I try very hard to make the most of our time together in the evenings and on weekends.  Heavenly Father made a difficult situation as easy on us as He could. It just took me a looooooooong time to see it.

How Brian uses his time with Kiff

So, to answer the question of why I'm a Working Mormon Mom, it's because I have to work, not because I want to. I'm not a martyr and I'm not a paragon. I'm just a person trying to make the best of a situation that has an inherent set of problems and trying to work them out the best I can. I am choosing to make the best of a situation. Fortunately, Heavenly Father is making it as easy as possible for me, too.

My marriage is the product of choices made by two people who made hundreds of other choices which brought them to the point where they asked each other, "Are we willing to make this marriage work?"

And the answer cannot be said loudly enough: yes.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

An Unexpected Journey

My mother married at 19 years old. My grandmother married at 15. I was hoping to be married as early as possible and felt it was my genetic right to do so. My home life growing up was difficult in many ways. As the eldest child of six girls and a boy (he was the caboose), my responsibilities were onerous. It didn't help that both of my parents suffered from depression and anger management issues. Still, they loved me the best they knew how and I have always been grateful that I was taught the Gospel from the minute I was born.

I left home at 18 to go to BYU. I planned on getting married as soon as possible so I would never have to return to family life again. It is painful for me to remember myself during my freshman year, so eager to love and be loved. I didn't realize it then, but I was ill-prepared for any kind of relationship, mostly because I didn't know how to have one. It's even more uncomfortable to remember when I recall a game my roommates and I played at the end of freshman year.

We all got together and made predictions. You know how things like that go - who will be the first married, who will have the most kids, etc. I put down that I would be married second or third of all us (we were six in Heritage Halls). Imagine my mortification when I saw that - without exception - every one of my roommates predicted I'd be married last.

I may have been ignorant of what traits made me unmarriageable, but I knew there was something about me that I had no idea how to fix.

My sophomore year I was a Resident Assistant (RA) in Desert Towers and was flying high on a new-found sense of self-assurance and confidence. I was a queen bee - happy, quick-witted and willing to test the waters of dating (finally). During the first week, I developed an attraction to the most popular guy in the ward. We flirted and danced around each other until the end of the year when I asked him to some Sadie Hawkins-type dance. Our relationship blossomed intensely and I harbored a desperate hope that he was The One. Before we parted ways for the summer, he told me about another girl back home. He told me he'd dated her, but now I'd thrown a monkey wrench into his plans. Yay me!

We wrote over the summer and I remained hopeful. Junior year started for me and I ran into my long-distance lover at the grocery store. With her. He stammered introductions between us and she put her hand possessively over his. Fortunately I looked amazing. He arranged for us to meet the next day and he explained what happened over the summer between the two of them. He asked that we could remain friends. I agreed because I could see no reason to hold a grudge. He expressed hope that I would find someone as well. I blurted out "Oh, it will be a long time for me." What in the world did I just say? It was as though my brain and my mouth were disconnected and I was listening outside of myself.

While I regretted saying the words, I knew they were true and I raged against the sure knowledge of them. How could something like that be true? I was actively searching for a spouse and was a good person. Why shouldn't I find someone?

But I didn't. I was at BYU for five and a half years, completing a degree in Fine Arts - Watercolor. If I thought honestly to myself, I felt that I didn't deserve to get married because all I wanted was security. I didn't know how to take care of myself. I was deathly afraid of not being able to take care of myself. My parents had made their feelings clear about me moving back home. My mother was very disappointed that I did not have a husband. Of course I felt like a failure.

Years passed and during that time I learned a ton. I buoyed up my spirits about being alone by telling myself that, whatever else, my Heavenly Father knew me and knew what I was going through and He had put me in the exact place I needed to be so that I could return to Him.

My desire to have faith in Heavenly Father was often tested by my despair at being unmarried. While I say I despaired, it was always privately. In public, I maintained a veneer of self-assurance and an absolute refusal to bemoan my state. It seemed that in singles wards, there were two types of girls - the haves and the have-nots. The have-nots were the older, often physically less-attractive types. Even though I was put into the have-nots category by others, I was never a bemoaner of my fate. I hated being around other women who complained about not being married or how all the good guys like horrible girls ("She's such a *****!).

It was hardest to maintain my confidence about getting married with my family. One time, when I was in my 30's, my mother said to me, "I hope someday you are as happy as I am with your father." Without missing a beat, I said, "Someday I hope you are as happy as I am." She looked at me like I'd slapped her. It was a very satisfying moment.It was the first time she'd ever considered that someone could be happy in spite of not being married. Ugh. It'd only taken her seventeen years to figure it out.

By now I'd gotten my Master's degree in Library Science and knew I could support myself no matter what. It was a further comfort that I could also support a family in case of the Unthinkable - death, divorce, disability of my future husband. I was feeling better about the idea that I could actually get married. Soon.

I decided to have weight-loss surgery. Looking back now, I know it was a stop-gap measure and something that couldn't be permanent because the reasons for my overweight couldn't be helped surgically. Regardless, the surgery was successful and I felt great. I knew the time was close for me to get married. I just KNEW it.

I saw BS one day at church. He was someone I'd known before ... when he was married. Now he was divorced and I just tingled when I saw him. One thing led to another and we were unofficially engaged in September 2004. Our first kiss was outside the celestial room in the Oakland temple. An auspicious moment that I was sure would be legend in our family. Mom and Dad's first kiss was in the temple. That means it was a match made in heaven!

One day in January of 2005, BS came to my apartment and told me that he loved me, but not enough to marry me. Always a team-player, a go-alonger, a put-a-good-face-on-anything kind of person, I gave him the key to his apartment (it was by my work and I was allowed to stop by and use it for my lunchtimes) and said goodbye. I was devastated.

I talked with my bishop a few days later and while speaking about the end of the relationship in a nonchalant manner, all of a sudden I really did become nonchalant! I didn't feel pain. That feeling that I was going to get married was still there. Obviously, it just wasn't to BS.

About three weeks after BS's announcement to me, I signed up for Within a week I had a string of suitors and beaus. I knew I would, too - it was so weird, that feeling. It was the week before Valentine's Day and I got an email from one particular man. He was from Bakersfield. If you're from California, you'll know that Bakersfield has a bad rap. It is the butt of all jokes. Anyway, he asked for my address so he could send me a card. I gave him my work address because I wasn't stupid enough to give information to probable serial killers. Even Mormon ones.

He sent me a card with glitter on it. And a CD with poetry. Oh my. He wrote poetry?

We started emailing and ....

Reader, I married him.

Brian first emailed me on February 7th, 2005. We got married in the Los Angeles Temple on July 9, 2005. The story of our courtship is another Long Story.

First Peek!
 Suffice it to say, the road Heavenly Father put me on wasn't one I would have chosen for myself or anyone - especially because I knew how long it was going to be (remember my sophomore year revelation?). I am grateful that my faith gave me this little happy ending. Knowing that Heavenly Father knows me is a fundamental part of my testimony and I love it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I read an article today about Mormon Mommy Blogs and the good that they are doing in the world to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one spilled sippy-cup at a time.

My life isn't the one they suggest aspiring to in any Young Women's class, nor is it the one I dreamed of when I was young. Still, I am in this set of circumstances for a reason and I believe I have a lot of good to offer --even if I am married (in the temple), have a kid (alas, only one...) and a job.

I am a working Mormon mom.