I am so in love with Halloween. It brings in the season that my family and I love most. I love the crisp air and the fresh smell. I love the beautiful fall colors. I love the fact that my air conditioner is no longer running.
These are some of our fun October memories this year.
The makings of taco soup, our favorite fall meal. Except for the ground beef, which was cooking on the stove and still looked raw and gross.
Western Day for Red Ribbon Week!
Har! Crazy Hat Day!
Anna and Alex. Pumpkin time!
Gunder considers his options.
Abi sacrifices her hands to the pumpkin guts.
Aw yeah! Jengo Fett and Luke Skywaker. They are the cutest friends together and I love that they have so much fun. This was taken right before I dropped the boys off at a Halloween party that had all the makings of a fabulous time but which ended up freaking out Gunder after he walked, sobbing, through the spook alley. When I picked them up from the party, Luke Skywalker told me that if he had walked through with Gunder, he would have told him to stay away from the "biting place." I almost started sobbing, myself, at that point. (*disclaimer* The party was thrown by a wonderful classmate's equally wonderful mother, and my poor son has his mother's horrible imagination that occasionally has a hard time differentiating between real and make-believe. I was also assured the children were not bitten.)
Trick-or-treating last night was awesome. We did the trunk or treat at the church parking lot and then hit a few houses on our street. Finished the night off at my sister's house with bowls of my brother-in-law's famous and utterly delectable chili and a viewing of "Sleepy Hollow," which never fails to delight. (The Tim Burton one, not the cartoon, although I do love the cartoon as well.) It's hard to go wrong with Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken.
And just because:
"Sleepy Hollow" brings to mind images of classic Tim Burton. The dark scenes, everything blueish--the gross orange blood that spurts everywhere. Very "Sweeny Todd." Which also brings to mind the time my husband went with a friend of his to see "Sweeny Todd." ("Dude, did you know this was a musical?")
Recent discussions with friends got me thinking on the subject of talents--we've probably all heard it before but I think, as women especially, we need reminders.
The scriptures tell us that we are all blessed with talents, diverse and varied, and we are expected to do something with them. A few years ago, I was involved in my ward's Enrichment Night celebration of talents. There were a wide array of us, sharing the things we'd accomplished and basking in the glow. We had a combination of writers, artists and composers.
There was a problem.
I heard later that one of the sisters told her husband she'd never attend another meeting like that one because she came away feeling like such a loser. According to her own assessment, she couldn't write, draw, paint or compose music. Ergo, no talent.
This couldn't be farther from the truth.
Not all talents produce a physical, tangible product. A loving Father has blessed us with talents both outwardly impressive and quietly crucial. Drawing on experiences of women I know, I'm going to show you what I mean.
Woman "A" is a stay-at-home mom with three beautiful kids. She's younger than I am and really has her stuff together. She has a testimony but knows how to relate in the "world," to find joy in the world. Her children are smart, the house is amazingly decorated, she cans food, knits beautifully (and learned only last year!) and gives attention to her callings while still maintaining an awesome homefront. She does these things on a shoestring budget as her husband finishes grad school. She knows who she is and is comfortable in her own skin. She's also incredibly funny and sarcastic. This makes me love her even more.
Woman "B" is dependable, gracious, lovely and generous to a fault. She cares for others despite her own illnesses. She volunteers, serves, takes care of family, delivers beautiful fireside messages, writes roadshows, and often crashes when it's all said and done because her body often can't keep up with her spirit. Now granted, she is a writer and that's one of those talents we're not discussing here, but take away the writing piece and she's still one of the most amazing people I know.
Woman "C" is one of the most beautiful and glamorous people I know in real life. She has four gorgeous kids and a gorgeously decorated home. She is put together at all times, in all things and in all places. Her attention to detail is second to none and her taste is impeccable. She is also one of the most genuinely nice people I know. I mean NICE. The first time I met her she was new in the ward and came to visit teach me with her companion. I made a snap judgment upon first clapping eyes on her, only to have it dissolve within the first five minutes of conversation. I've known her for years and that has never changed. She is genuine, classy, smart, funny and so very kind. She is more beautiful on the inside, even, that trust me, that's saying something.
Woman "D" has five children and she and her husband want one more. She is runs a home of delightfully chaotic organization and is an awesome mom. She plays with her kids, she is calm about spills, she loves her current role and is doing a darn good job with it. Having so many children and running an efficient house are skill sets that I do not possess. I have only three children, two of which are nearly adults, and I still can't find socks or a room in my house that's consistently tidy and organized.
I could go on with women "E" through "Z," but I hope you see where I'm going with this. Kindness is a talent. Organizational skills are a talent. Amazing church and community service, that is a talent. As are the following: compassion, dedication, dependability, charity, a strong work ethic, humble spirituality, seeking for and attaining knowledge, the ability to make others smile, a good grasp of life's priorities, etc.
Those talents that aren't so easily visible in terms of outward appearance are those I refer to as "quietly crucial." They are the crux of life, for they almost always mean some sort of service to others, whether in the community or within the walls of our own homes. Love is usually the root motivator, and love is pure.
Now. Let's say you've always wanted to be a photographer. Or to learn to sew. Or write poetry or your life story. Your life story in poem form. Just because you didn't leave the womb as an expert in these areas, does that mean you shouldn't try? I believe that we should spend a lifetime examining and reaching for talents we may not even know we have. We should do what we can to learn about the topic and then not be afraid to try it.
Woman "A" I mentioned above learned to knit last year. She is amazingly good at it. And we have another friend who is THAT MUCH MORE amazingly good at it, and she also just learned how to knit last year. So let's say we have me, we'll call me "good." We'll call Woman "A" "better," and we'll call Amazing Knitting Prodigy Woman "best." Does this mean I don't have a talent for knitting. No. What it means is that if I want to continue to grow and develop this talent, I must work at it. Just because my talent doesn't have me at the top of that particular game doesn't mean I don't have the talent for it.
Talents take work. With the possible exception of Mozart, I've not heard of anyone whose talents didn't require practice and honing. And truthfully, Mozart certainly progressed throughout his life--he didn't write Eine Kleine Nachtmusik at the age of 8. (Although he did write other music that I can't begin to replicate at the age of 8. Let's not talk about him anymore.)
In the New Testament we find the Parable of the Talents. One man did amazing things with his, the second man did good things with his, and the third man buried his talent. Talents, in this story, refer to currency, but the point is the same. If we bury it, it stays as it is and is of benefit to nobody--not family or friends, and not ourselves. Certainly not to our Father, who gave us those talents in the first place.
I have homework for you. Your job tonight (or tomorrow night, or anytime this week you have a few free minutes, but for sure before Sunday) is to make a list of your talents. I'm not talking about the ones that produce something tangible. First you start with you, and you list the things you ARE. Then continue the list and write down those things you produce. Maybe you're really good at canning or gardening. Maybe you can put together an awesome scrapbook. Maybe you read the newspaper front to back each day and can tell me exactly what's going on in Libya. Perhaps you know how to sew aprons on a machine. Perhaps you can give one heck of a presentation to your boss and colleagues, with or without the Powerpoint. Maybe you're the one in the office who remembers everybody's birthdays or notices when someone is down and you buy them an African Violet. Unless it's a man who's down...you buy him a chocolate doughnut.
You keep this list in your journal, and if you don't have a journal, you grab a notebook or staple some computer paper together and start one. And perhaps on the other side of this list, you will write down a few things you'd like to do, a few talents you'd like to grow. We may have talents buried that need digging up.
My heart is so full, and has been for the past couple of weeks. Thanks to participation in an ATC program, Nina is already graduated from high school! Words cannot express how much joy and pride I feel in her accomplishments. She has worked hard, has not always (hardly ever) enjoyed that hard work, and I hope I've expressed to her how proud I am to be her mother.
Anna transferred to Ogden High and is happy. I've never seen her so happy. She has a very sweet best friend. She just got her grades in the mail the other day--ripped open the envelope and stuck it on the fridge. She is proud, and we are delighted. All A's, two B+'s. She has always been my Annabelle, snuggly and feisty and fun. It is a joy to be her mother.
Gunder brings home 100% scores pretty consistently on his PRE-tests for both Math and Language Arts. He's reading more every day. At PTCs, his teacher told me how well he is doing, and I am so pleased. He also just finished a wrestling class that Mark's been taking him to at the high school, where his coach and older fellow wrestlers are so incredibly patient with a little guy who very much wants to be a big, cool guy. He has melted my heart from the first moment I heard his heart beat, and I have been enchanted with him ever since. I so love being his mother.
Sometimes motherhood sucks. Sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world, and it's no mystery why some species choose to eat their young in the nest. Children take the best we have to offer and suck us completely dry. We worry, we fret, we steam and stew, we swear, we get murderous, we lose brain cells from the moment we first bring them home from the hospital or the birth mom.
And it is the most glorious of gifts. The love a mother feels for a child goes beyond all comprehension. It defies description. Sometimes you just grab and kiss them, amidst a flurry of protestations and noises of distress. You look at them when they're scrubbed and clean, even when they're 18 and 16, scrubbed and clean, and feel a connection, a sense of overwhelming emotion. You remember when you brought them home and you think that maybe the loss of a few brain cells isn't such a bad thing.
I know. I know! But I love it, I do. It's been the most amazingly fun toy I've received in a long time. I have a gazillion books at my fingertips and if I'm not in the mood for the one I was reading last night, hey, I can switch at the push of a button.
I swore I'd remain a purist, and I did, for a long time. But I've found, to my delight, that there's room for both ebooks and the real physical thing in my heart. For books that I don't really care to own but do want to read, the Kindle is great. What's more, I can put it in my purse and read any old thing I want while waiting in line, waiting in the car, waiting...waiting...waiting...
But for those books whose mere physical makeup is a work of art, in whom I must underline, ponder, turn pages and smell, those are the books I will still enjoy owning and buying. I confess, I was a bit worried at first because I fell so in love with my Kindle, and so quickly, that I wouldn't care about going book browsing anymore...(What? What?)
But I went to lunch with some of my favorite author friends the other day--well, ok, I'll name drop-- Jennie Hansen, Kerry Blair, Gale Sears and Cheri Crane, and after chatting and laughing, we went to Barnes and Noble because sweet Kerry wanted to buy my newest book so I could sign it for her. She made a fuss in the store as I signed her book ("It's such a good thing the author is right here to sign this for me! There are a couple more on the shelf; you'd better grab them soon...") and I was blushing and laughing.
The thing that I loved so much about being in the store, though, was the euphoria I felt looking at all of the new releases--the artwork, the fonts, the covers, the smell. It was as though an old lover had taken me back despite my infidelity. I was in heaven.
I bought Sarah Ban Breathnach's Peace and Plenty, Cheri Priest's awesome steampunk, The Boneshaker, and the most recent issue of Writer's Digest magazine, which is my favorite writer's reference of all.
It was delightful and heady and I felt like a very happy bigamist as I rode home on the train with my Kindle in my purse and Sarah's new book open in my lap. The experience would have been utter bliss if I hadn't fallen asleep as I was trying to read, which is no reflection on the book, itself. It was the lull of the blasted train.