Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How I Feel about 'Merkah

So I was asked, for this job that I'm applying for to "write a one page essay about how I feel about America". Apparently its for this private school that has an "America-centric curriculum" and I guess they wanted to make sure that I'm not a dirty hippy.

Mom said that I should post my reply on my blog.

Here it is:

Life is a series of binaries, melodies and countermelodies of every kind. The governing one in a life is the space we try to live balancing our dreams and our realities. Both sides have claim on our mind, hearts and energies so we find ourselves in this space between, living in this benevolent, delicious and adventurous polarity.

This is what America is to me. It’s a crossroads of ideals, brilliance, energy and love mixed with a lot of blood, sweat, tears, pain, and hard work. There is a magic to this place. It’s an accessible magic ironically being the basic concept of space. There is space here. There is the obvious physical space but there is also emotional space, there is political space, there is intellectual space, there is spiritual space and there is enough for everyone.

The word I use for this is Liberty. We have a statue of it, a bell, the word peppers every founding document but I often wonder if it’s worth is really known. Many have sacrificed comfort, safety, families and even lives for it. It’s that costly because it’s that important and its what makes America truly great. Not Freedom, but Liberty. I think the two are very different.

Freedom, to me, is simply the state of being free from oppression from a malevolent source but Liberty is far more pointed and ennobled than that. Liberty is the chance to choose, to live a deliberate life, to have ownership over yourself and your future and in a beautiful dichotomy, those that were so ardently concerned about their welfare were motivated by true philanthropy. They loved themselves enough to fight for their rights in founding a new nation but they had a greater commitment to those that would come later and felt they deserved the same chance. That is a rare gift and one I marvel at everyday.

Because of this working reality of Liberty and Love I have hope everyday. I can feasibly hope and imagine changing whatever there is about my life and situation that I want to. I live and breathe the possible. There are few places where that is possible but here, it’s an everyday.

These everydays and the subsequent space they provide has led to everything else that I adore about America. We are an amalgamation of people from every corner of the planet that grew up one way but hungered for another. They were and are people with an instinct for justice, of brave souls. In turn we have grown up sons and daughters of heroes. We are a whole nation of fighters. Its no wonder the comic book was invented here, the car, the aircraft, the Internet. We’re all still exploring our world and trying to be the heroes of our own lives.

Naturally with so much strength we are constantly fighting for ourselves and sometimes with ourselves, but when called upon we boast some of the most courageous blood in the world and when we work together, nothing is impossible. The line between dreams and realities disappears. We’ve proven that to the world and ourselves again and again.

There is always a chance. There is always a way and most importantly there was someone who came before me that loved a faceless stranger enough to provide a way for me to find my own.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Some Additional Thoughts

So after having a few conversations with beloveds I think that I need to write a bit of a follow up blog to Pinching Things.

Firstly, like my darling Alfi in Impromptu so boldly declared, “ART DOES NOT APOLOGIZE”. So I shant. Those feelings are and were real. I don’t deny any of it, however, and this is a problem with blogs I think, that was just a snap shot of a bad day and quite a lesser portion of my entire emotional landscape. A painting is far more than the shading on noses and postures of patrons. It’s a whole composition and so am I.

I think, in background to that piece, I want to clarify that I am a very empathetic. I take on the emotional make up of people around me. Most times I don’t find the talent very convenient but I tune in to people very quickly and on very primal levels. It makes me a good friend, a resource at church dances and quite fun to chat with in large crowds, however, sharing a very small apartment with a wonderful and totally well intentioned, but emotional and hormonal new mother can sometimes make volcanoes out of steam burns.

Two, I feel compelled to declare how truly amazing my sister in law is. I felt like I kind of painted her on the insensitive/condescending side. That is not the case. I adore her. I am a very different person from her but we’ve come from two totally different worlds that share a similar vernacular so why wouldn’t we be different people. Those two weeks were so intense it seriously felt like I was on the mission with a missionary companion again. Spending 24/7 with someone is quite a task, especially in a demi-crisis.

Three, I want to just say that I’m sure her father is a good man too. I’ve met him on a few occasions and he didn’t come across as any kind of tyrant or abusive type. We all say careless things sometimes, careless hurtful things. I know I have and I’m lucky enough to have constructive and loving people around me to gently nudge me in a more positive direction. Some people don’t. Some people make reckless mistakes parenting. I’m fairly sure I will and my kids will have to grow and mature in spite of me sometimes instead of aided by me. Parenting is a messy scary thing, of which, truthfully, I only have a loose academic understanding.

I have my ideals too that I’m married to on the matter, along with other things that I use to bludgeon others and myself. I know this is unfair and I recognize it even when I’m in the thoroughs of whatever huff and puff I’m about at the moment. But what’s interesting to me is that even though I recognize it, my irrational commitment to those ideals trumps whatever prudence or caution I should apply to the matter.

Do you remember that MormonAd with a school hallway full of people with brown paper bags on their heads with different identities written on them like “Nerd”, “Cheerleader”, “Looser” etc and the caption said “Labels Hide People”. I think ideals function a bit in the same way. However, I still think they’re necessary for living a principled life.

I suppose like everything else it’s a matter of balance and charitable looks at things on a case by case basis.

However, I’m quite imperfect and my empathetic nature, compiled with my marriage to my ideals all complicated and multiplied by my justice seeking self sometimes gives way to emotional tirades about things I can’t control.

Also, I want to say, being able to relax here in this cozy tearoom in SLC and feeling quite myself and absent from any hormonal swings, that I do NOT think men are mindless size 2 loving simpletons. Men and their dispositions are as varied as women’s and are attracted to a number of things, like women, and have their preferences, just like women. Accusing half of the species of something and denying them anything but animalistic credit because it doesn’t fit MY ideas of how things should be/are (read: how I am) is quite silly and flat out unfair. I should apologize for that and I do. I’m not a shallow female who wants some millionaire football player and not all men are cheerleader chasers. Speaking in absolutes is dangerous and its easy to hurt people doing so. That is not and never was my end.

Working out being blindsided by grief and frustration was. That’s all.

I love you guys. ALL you guys. I really really do.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Utah and the Wallet

So - on the morning of July 15th I come traipsing home from my Harry Potter 6 midnight viewing endeavors only to discover that my sister in law had delivered my nephew 6 weeks early under less than ideal circumstances.

The following days I prepare to head up to Salt Lake City to go help my SIL and my brother in the aftermath and also visit and fall in love with my nephew. I get my oil changed. I get some new tires. I clean out and wash my car. I get my registration renewal and 2010 tags. I pick up some healthy eats from Fresh and Easy and some not so healthy ones from Target. I pick up Jonathan's requested Trader Joe's guacamole and some Cali avocados. I take my time packing (and even reference a few YouTube videos on Japanese folding techniques), I get a blessing from my dad, go pull $200 out of the bank and set out. I don't like using my debit card at random and unknown gas stations, especially in the middle of nowhere. There are meth addictions and credit-card number recording devices in the strangest of places so I had planned on doing the whole trip on cash. It's just easier that way, for me anyway.

I have a LOVELY drive up to Utah. I was singing along to Missy Higgins and Matt Nathanson most of the way and drinking in the phenomenal scenery. I think I've concluded that central Utah is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The drive to Vegas is heinous but it pretties up really well once you get past it. It had been YEARS since I'd made that drive. The last 7 times I've been to Utah I've flown.

It was getting late and it was time for my last gas up of the day so I pull of the trusty 15 to this brightly lit Chevron station. I'm thinking I'm somewhere in Cedar City because that's what the latest sign told me but in reality I was in Beaver, UT. Cultural icon of the world, Beaver.

As I pull in a smiley, scrubbed face 14 year old in a Chevron shirt approaches me and says
"You've come a long way, wash your windows?"

I was a bit confused because I wasn't aware I had stepped into an episode of Leave it to Beaver so I check my surroundings to make sure I'm still in color and not black and white and reply a bit confused and surprised
"Sure. Thank you"

So then this cheery chap starts making conversation as I'm getting out cash to go prepay for gas and he corrects me
"Oh - you gas up first here and then pay"

I again, look around to make sure I haven't sprouted a waist cincher and matte lipstick and say

and he replies as hes making himself busy
"That's how us small town folk roll around here. I know it doesn't make too much sense to you city types but it works for us."

I thank him, and start to pump my gas. I have to admit that this kind of disappointed me because I was very much in the having-to-pee way and was looking forward to going in, peeing, prepaying, pumping, getting change and going. I had sequenced that 20 minutes before I pulled off the freeway.

So now I was pumping (while doing the pee dance and making conversation with Beaver), getting my purse as I went in (like a good city girl should Rule #3 of Lady Urban Survival: Never let your purse out of your sight or if you do make sure it's not in anyone else's) and paid (whist still doing the pee dance), ran my cute self to the rest room and ceased the pee dance, washed up proper, walked out to my car, and finished the rest of the trek to SLC.

I met Jonathan at the hospital sometime around quarter to 1 in the morning. He parked my car while I did another mad bathroom dash and we had our reunions and the debrief, key exchange and directions to the new house orientation in the hospital lobby. April was sleeping up in the room and we didn't want to wake her. We made breakfast plans for the morning (as in what I was to bring) and I headed to the apartment to crash.

I got there without any issues and took all my stuff up in one trip, found the air mattress and crashed and burned.

I got myself up and ready the next morning and as I was looking through my purse I noticed the key feature if it wasn't there. My planner was, my Clorox wipes were, my bandaids and sewing kit and hand sanitizer and lotion and pocket knife and tums and aloe and tea bags and camera and make up and iPod and sunblock were all there but no wallet. Panic took me for about 5 seconds but I took a deep breath and

Thus started the 5 Stages of Grief

Stage 1 Denial: I couldn't believe it was gone. It had just fallen out of my purse. It must have been in the room, or in the car, or in the trunk. There was a huge shuffle the night before. So I start retracing my steps. I go back in the room. No wallet. I go down to my car. No wallet. I go through my trunk. No wallet.

I had just meticulously cleaned out my car and packed with Japanese precision so if something was out of place it would have been very obvious.
No Wallet.

At this point I was running late and Jonathan and April were going to be hungry so I called Jonathan and let him know the situation and he had the same reaction I did. "It must be somewhere". He had only lost his wallet a few days before and it turned up in the Hospital gift shop of all places so he had been through the scramble panic and it had come out all right within a few hours. He told me to just come to the hospital and we'll figure it out.

So I did. I drove without my license to the hospital and all my problems totally faded once I got to see April and that ADORABLE BABY! None of my problems ever mattered when I was at the hospital. It was kind of nice. The whole trip, whatever was pressing on me, it faded to naught when I saw that little baby. Nothing was more important than warming milk or doing whatever April needed to be done. It's amazing how that works.

So Jonathan looks through my car and luggage to see if he can find it. He compliments me on my state of things but finds no wallet. I revisit the car almost every day of my trip hoping I had missed something. I hadn't it wasn't there.

So I spend all of Sunday going back and thinking.
"It either fell out of my purse at the gas station when I gassed up or fell out when I was taking things inside the apartment. I combed the whole area between my bro's apt and my car and found nothing. So my conclusion was that since it wasn't there, if I had dropped it in the complex someone must have picked it up and since it was Sunday and the management office wasn't open they couldn't turn it in so I'd have to wait till Monday to interface with anyone.

So I decided to sit tight and try to not panic, or feel trapped or worry. I think I failed miserably at all 3 because when I talked to mom and dad that night with a hospital update it was messy.

The next day I call the Chevron I thought I was at (in Cedar City) and they have no clue about a lost wallet and I call the management office of the apartment complex to see if anyone had turned anything in. Nothing.

I called both places around 3x on Monday and nothing, thus entering Stage 2 of Grieving

Anger: I blamed Utah I hate Utah. It's Utah's fault all of this has happened. If Jonathan had lived ANYWHERE ELSE things would be so much easier but oooohhhhhhh nooooooooo. No nononononono. He lives in wonky, weird, silly Utah that KNOWS I don't like it there so to welcome me it eats my wallet and laughs heartily.

I was frustrated about so many things two principle ones being
1-My temple recommend was in there and I really wanted to spend some time in the temple while I was in Utah
2- I don't exactly have a large chuck of change sitting in the bank, $200 is a LOT of cash to lose for me

In addition to not having access to my money and my CDL and Drivers license possibly being out on display somewhere.

I kind of skip Stage 3: Bargaining and go straight to Stage 4: Depression
On Monday I was a barely contained mess. April came home on Sunday night and Monday was her first day back so I was trying to be as out of the way and helpful as possible but Jonathan saw me barely keeping it together and asked if I wanted a blessing and I burst into tears and said yes. He gave me an amazing blessing of comfort and love and peace. I was just what I needed. There are no words for how much I love my brother and how I love what a true Man of God he is. I don't know where I'd be without him.

On to Stage 5: Acceptance

So for the rest of the trip I just try to cope. I have a tiny bit of cash in my account and Jonathan and I have the same bank so I transfer it to his account and he withdraws it for me. I go get a new physical wallet. I call my bishop and he cancels the bar code on my temple recommend and sets up an apt for an interview for a new one when I get back. *Sniff* This is the first time since I've been endowed that I have been sans recommend and I DID NOT like it. I have no desire to ever be in that situation again. There is just a bit of psychological resting I take with that little piece of paper and knowing I'm worthy to enter the House of the Lord. I got to walk through the Oquirrh Mountain Temple during the open house while I was up there but it wasn't the same. I need my temple time but apparently I had other responsibilities while I was up there.

There isn't much you can do/replace without a license and its impossible to do so from another state and I was needed there. I couldn't just skip home. I just had to deal, and I did.

My Dad was a super star on the homefront too. I had to call my bank and not only get a new card but change bank account #s because I had checks in the wallet too so they sent all my new cards and bank account info to the house and dad had been keeping a vigilant eye on my mail and when the bank info arrived he overnighted them to me so by the end of the trip I had a temp AAA card (I never go more than 10 miles without that), my bank cards, and some cash.

My family, in all of their amazing was totally there for me too. Jonathan and April generously just gave me a chunk of change. Dad called me the morning I left and had deposited money in my account and even my Grandma and Grandpa from Ohio had called Jonathan, told him they wanted to give me some cash for the trip home, sent him a check for him to cash and he essentially shook my hand when I left with another chunk of change and said "this is from Grandma and Grandpa" and told me the whole love-filled exchange.

I was teary eyed and amazed at the support and love. I make the silly mistake of emotionally isolating myself sometimes but its an impossibility to stay there with a family like mine. They pull me off the ledge time and time again. I know I gush frequently about my family but I just can't help it. They truly are THAT wonderful. As you can see.

So I drive home and have a few compatriots for the journey, and it all ends up costing a fraction of what I thought it would. We pass by the SAME Chevron station and we stop and I ask again, if there has been a wallet turned in. The rather dim but sweet girl working the desk says no and I go on about my day, drive home, and am more than ready to start piecing things back together.

I get my temple recommend on Sunday and have a DMV apt 3 days after I get home to get a duplicate license. That proves to be a ridiculous conundrum. I get there all nice and early with iPod and book in hand and it turns out there was a traffic ticket that I hadn't completely handled and it had escalated to a Failure to Appear or FTA which put a hold on any further DMV business. So I went home, told Dad, he made an appearance for me in court and sorted out all that because he is a fantastic Daddy and a very capable lawyer. They tell him it will take 24 hours for the FTA to electronically drop off the record but the court charged him and gave him an abstract/affidavit for me to give the DMV for them to complete the transaction. I go BACK to the DMV that day (like hours after he got out of court), stand in line again, get to the window again and they say that they still can't do anything and that they don't accept the voucher the court gave. Its a great thing the court knows that/told us that and charged us huh? I go slightly mad. I did not make friends with any employees at the Rancho DMV that day or their supervisors I insisted on speaking with. It was kind of bad. But I resolve to come back the next day (sans appointment which means more line standing than normal) and am determined to sort it out.

So the next morning I get there, I check in again, I pull out my book again, I'm amazed at the number of children people bring to the DMV again, and I get to the window and the FTA is STILL on there. I react more like a lady this time around and instead of calling my Dad I just march down to the courthouse. They told me it would be 24 hours, they lied and I was going to tell someone they did. This whole situation had evoked the DivaLiz and you DO NOT lie to DivaLiz. Period. So I stand in line at the court house, clear everything up with them after some firm conversations, head BACK to the DMV (take 3) and I FINALLY get a duplicate but only in paper form.... which doesn't help me AT ALL recuperating anything else in my wallet.

So I go home at complete loss with bureaucracy and kind of exhausted. I conclude my lesson in all this is patience, flexibility and endurance. I go to sleep praying for all 3 and the next day I get a call.

"Hello - this is AAA. We have someone on the other line from a Chevron in Beaver Utah. He's claiming he has your wallet. May we connect you?"

"uuum - what? Really? Beaver?"

"May we connect you?"

"Yes yes - of course"

At this point I'm thinking that this can't be real. This doesn't' happen in this world. After 3 weeks of being off the grid it turns out my wallet had been picked up by a Chevron employee, given to the manager, and he had locked it up in his office (not in the front lost and found) and was waiting for a call. He finally decided to call on it and I asked him to mail it to me. It arrived on Monday and everything was still there. My license, my social security card, my Disneyland pass, everything. There was even some loose change that fell out. Ever last penny, receipt, and ounce of my lost security was returned to me by a simple gas station manager in a small town that employs a 14 year old to wash windows and is keeping a tiny bubble of honest Christian America alive and well.

Its nothing short of a miracle and I don't exactly feel deserving of it but I suppose my DMV penitence was enough for the powers that be.

I'm still trying to figure out a way to thank the owner and manager of that Chevron and his employees, because it would have only taken one to royally mess up my life for a long long time. I promptly apologized to Utah for all the mean things I said and thought and promised myself to pay it forward. This kind of goodness needs to be shared.

So that's it. that's the story of me, Utah, and the Wallet. Goodness still exists in the world and it DOES manage to find you when you're needing it the most and expecting it the least.

The End

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday Giggles

A snap shot of our policy making skills and why I want to punch California in the face today.

However, this is still giving me belly laughs... LOVE