Bri Colorful

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Inscribed on the wall of my midwife’s home that I frequented in the final weeks of my recent pregnancy was this little piece of wisdom: “If motherhood was supposed to be easy, it wouldn’t have started with labor.” As I pondered my own role of mother in the days leading up to Mother’s Day this year, I searched the bible for references to motherhood. The most interesting to me was in John 16, where Jesus teaches his disciples about his impending death and resurrection using a parable of a woman in labor. I quote the King James Version:

20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

Having recently experienced the “travail,” “sorrow,” and “anguish” that is natural labor, this spoke volumes to me. Pregnancy and labor are exquisitely painful. They try your patience and your strength until you are sure you will break.

My last pregnancy lasted 43 weeks culminating in a 3 day wait after my water broke for the hardest, fastest labor I hope I will ever experience. Every day waiting for my daughter to come was agony. I was full of anxiety and questions: Was I making the right decision to wait on my daughter; was she going to be ok; what was wrong with my body that it would not go into labor? And then the actual labor, which lasted a total of two hours from no dilation at all to opening my body and my soul to bring another person into being – it completely overcame me. I had to focus every fiber of my being on allowing my body to contract, relax, breathe, and open. Then the culmination of it all, the most pain I have every physically experienced,  when the largest part of her head stretched me, I literally screamed out “I am breaking!” and believed it, and I knew that the universe was shattering around me, and I was at the center being torn asunder… and right then, my husband firmly took my hands in his, gently pressed his head to mine and said the words that changed everything, “Very soon you will hold your daughter in your arms.”

That short phrase gave me the strength I needed for that final push that ended the agony of weeks, of months: something I am coming to understand as the pain of motherhood. Then the joy, the exquisite joy was more than I could take in: my perfect, healthy daughter was placed right on my chest, her strong cries affirming to me that we had made it, her anguish, expressed, both comforted me and reached out to me for comfort. And I knew from that moment what every mother knows: that her joy would forever be my joy, her sorrow, my sorrow. I would feel in a deep relational connection that I would never be parted from no matter what distance or emotion temporarily parted my child and me.

My friends, motherhood is full of exquisite pain and patience. It is this pain and patience that transform us into who we must be, that irrevocably connect us to those whom we gave life. It will hurt. It is the kind of hurt that cannot be hindered, hurried, or hushed by medication, apathy or avoidance. It is the kind of hurt that will haunt you in your sleep and will keep you up at night. It is meant to hurt. But the hurting, I promise, leads to the most exquisite joy, the deepest connection, that a woman can feel: “joy that a man is born into the world.” Joy in that tiny little person who gives you a raison d’etre! You will never be free of the responsibility, the pain, OR the JOY that is motherhood.

Today, you are celebrated. Today “your sorrow shall be turned to joy,” a joy, just like the joy of the resurrection that affirms that we can live again in the eternities with our loved ones, that cannot be taken from us. A joy that is wrapped up in travail, sorrow, and anguish because those things begat the greatest joy – that of loving others.

Happy Mother’s Day to all who suffer, who feel pain, and who experience the joy of mothering.

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Among the most precious gifts I received this Christmas, is a binder full to burst of memoirs, testimonies, old photographs, life histories, etc. of ancestors from both sides of my family tree (up to my great, great, great grandparents). The gift was inspired and drawn from work my aunt Mardi did on my maternal line this past year; my angel mother added to and organized further research for each of her grown up children.

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Tonight, for Family Home Evening, we decided to read about my paternal great, great, great grandfather, Alfred Henry Atkinson, born in 1849. His parents were converts from England; his father the branch president at Middlesex. We learned that they sailed to America in 1855.

My husband recalled to me that he had helped design a website at BYU called Mormon Migration about converts who voyaged to America. You can look up voyages by ancestor name, location, ship name, or dates. We quickly found our ancestors names listed among those who sailed on the Chimborazo from Liverpool to Philadelphia in 1855. I browsed through the different voyage accounts and read a few of them, including the account kept by the ship historian, Elder William G. Mills. I was touched by his account of the rapture the saints felt at leaving their homeland for a life full of promise, hearts so full they were singing. I was especially impressed by the hymn he wrote during the voyage.

When on our Mother Earth we trod
And oft admired her gorgeous robe;
When wandering thru life’s varied scene
At will upon the solid globe;
The goodness of our God we knew
And felt the power of His command;
We praised and loved His holy name
And owned this providential hand.

Thus now when on the watery sphere
When every wave is crowned with foam;
The Chimborazo’s “wooden walls”
Our temporary floating home;
With horizon of sky and sea
That circumscribes us like a ring.
We see the kindness of our God,
We feel the power of ocean’s king.

Then let our numerous voices blend
In songs of deepest gratitude
To him, whose hand controls the sea,
And guides us over the briny flood,
He claims our praise, so let us be
Humbly obedient to his word,
Be faithful now and evermore
To gain all blessings from our Lord.

May we still feel his favouring hand
While traveling over the trackless deep;
The winds in storms and gushing sound
or calmly over nature sleep
God bless our worthy president
The council, president & Saints,
The noble captain, mates and crew
And may we have no just complaints [p.11]

Oh! May we live as Saints should live
our walk & conversation good;
As living testimonies to
The gospel covenant received
Be cheerful Saints all will be well
Angels watch over our gallant ship;
And for the power that brings us thru
Let it be heard from every lip.

As I read on about Alfred and his wife, Mathilda’s lives, I marveled at how they took hardship in stride. They seem to have had no expectations that their lives would be free from trial, that their needs would be met. They took in so many people (at different times both of their mothers – They built an add-on to their home for Mathilda’s mother-in-law and her four young children when Alfred’s father died of cancer and in Mathilda’s own words: “There was never a cross word spoken between them” – not in all 19 of the years she lived with them before she passed away.) They probably thought their lives unremarkable, but I stand in awe of their patient acceptance of life as it came to them. There was little to romanticize about their lives but the way Mathilda writes and historian W.G. Mills writes…. it is just so obvious that they were grateful for every moment of joy and peace; they knew how to drink it in. They knew that life was beautiful. I am proud to know them, prouder still to be descended from them, and I yearn to know them better.

It’s been a week since graduation, and I am not even close to settling into some sort of routine. Life has not slowed down much, though it is nice to choose what I do with nap-time and have a few less deadlines. I thought I’d post about a few of my projects. 

  • My amazing mother-in-law Ramona (you may know her from her award winning blogs: Mona’s Gospel Musings or Mona’s Musings with a Hint of Romance or even the play she and her husband wrote and produced, With Mine Own Hand) is in the process of an entirely new enterprise which she has entitled WIFE-4-LIFE. She has researched over 35 books on marriage and romance and countless articles, blogs, and websites of professional counselors, mentored many young married women, and is currently presenting “Understanding, Supporting, and Appreciating the Men in our Lives,” a presentation she created in connection with this project, all over the Northwest U.S. and Canada. She has also started writing a book, WIFE-4-LIFE: The Power to Succeed in Marriage, which follows her own experience (one of turning a marriage on-the-rocks into one of 30+ years that inspires others) in an attempt to inspire, as well as instruct, women how to make their marriages S.P.A.R.K.L.E (an acronym you’ll want to learn more about). Her book gained the attention of a top literary publishing agent in New York who thinks it could be an important book in the market, but cannot get publishing agencies attention because Ramona is neither a Ph-D nor a celebrity. BUT this agent advised mom that if her Twitter, Facebook, blog, and website could gain wider attention (meaning more followers) that would change everything. I’ve read bits of the book and heard her speak on the subject and believe me, she is an important voice in this discussion, the mother-mentor that so many young women are missing. Thus one of my projects is working with my husband to help her create an online marketing campaign to gain support for her book. Stay tuned for more information, because I’ll be posting our process here. 
  • I’m going all out with our garden. My sisters, Kristi and Traci, and my husband and I have put dozens of hours into it already. I’ll do a post with pictures soon. 
  • Researching Digital Folklore (one of my passions from school) and posting about it here. (If you want to see how I got interested in the subject and my previous research, check out my school blog). 
  • And I’m starting in on my long-neglected reading list (I know, ironic for an English major, but there it is). I’ll try to post reviews here as I read. If you want to keep up with what I’m reading and network with what you’re reading, check out my goodreads account (also a widget in the sidebar). 
  • Come fall, I’m excited to start in on Grant’s grad school reading with him. Since we’re both interested in similar things (enhancing education through the use of technology), we’ll both get a lot out of his degree. 

 

Yesterday, Kristi and I began our first attempts at transforming the garden space, while Grant was out of town.

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(That wheel barrow ended up being a very good purchase. Light enough that Kristi and I could lift it into her truck together and tilts to become a dustpan so we didn't have to lift shovel after shovel-full of rocks into it.)

Before:

After:

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Cheerleader from the sidelines (he was actually asleep most the time).

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We kept working till Auntie Kristi smashed her toe between a wheel barrow full of rocks and those cinder blocks. Not a happy experience. But B-boy took good care of her (shown below).

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She highly objected to being photographed, obviously. 

 

We still have about half the rocks to go (another truckbed full) and we need to get it done before noon Saturday, when our wonderful farmer/ ward member is coming over with his industrial strength rototiller to help us break up the ground (now nice is that?). I think Kristi will sit this next half out though. 😉

Things are starting to take shape and I can really imagine the end product in my mind!

How has your digital literacy assisted your self-directed learning in the subject areas of this course?

Thankfully, though I joined this course late, I felt somewhat digitally competent before I joined. I was already using some online tools before this class and have started using many others. My husband is auditing the course and we share notes via dropbox and then talk about the class over dinner. I started using dropbox at his suggestion at the beginning of the semester and now I’ve got a handle on it and use it to store a lot of my documents in the cloud. At Sarah Wills suggestion I started using quizlet.com to study the major concepts for the exam; I shared my flashcards for the computing concepts section on my twitter account. I’ve also used google blog search to research topics that will be discussed in the next class. That’s how I found material to prepare for today’s class on emerging markets.

How has your creation of blog posts and digital media impacted your learning?

Creating blog posts within the parameters of the class has really forced me to be creative in how I present what I’m learning. Because I kept a blog before, I am used to writing what I’m thinking with the aim of keeping my readers’ attention. The class requires me to stick within a subject (though it is a broad one) and to post more frequently. It has been a challenge to synthesize what I’m learning in a way that will be interesting to those I know keep up with my blog. One of the posts I believe did this especially well was about the shift from scrolls to books to online books. I’ve also started a Twitter account. I can share what I’m learning in mini form and send questions out hoping for feedback

How have you connected with other class members and with the general public in these areas?

I’ve enjoyed being able to see how other classmates are thinking about the class and adding my thoughts to theirs by commenting on their blogs and diigo bookmarks. My husband and I talk about the class all the time and often get into conversations with other’s about things we’ve talked about in class. Because he is more immersed in the digital world with his job, he has explained several of the computing concepts to me. In turn, I share my knowledge of the texts we read with him, since I’ve read some of them previously in literature classes.

Last Sunday we were invited to dinner and had a long discussion with friends about open software and Apple versus PC. It was an impassioned debate and fun to see how important the issues are that we’re learning about. I find this class creeping up often in my conversations with others and even on my facebook status.

Season of mists and yellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run. . .

For literature class yesterday, instead of furiously writing down three different critical interpretations of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, our professor simply handed us each a single poem and sent us off to find a quiet spot outside to read it on our own. I had read John Keat’s To Autumn before, but yesterday, sitting in the warm grass with a cool breeze blowing my hair, in the midst of students rushing to and from their classes, it was different.

The poem is about the ripeness of life; the season of autumn. The first stanza describes the fruitfulness of autumn, the second personifies autumn visually, the last rids itself of all senses but that of sound.  Somehow, the last three weeks of trying to keep up with life at top speed were forgotten and all that mattered for that short hour was the warm sun on my back, the changing reds and yellows, the soft grass, the light flickering down through the leaves. I had to slow down to enjoy it and I didn’t want to leave.

So please, instead of listening to my ramblings for a moment longer, print this poem (follow the link), take it outside, find a peaceful haven and enjoy.

(Written August 4th, 2010)

This morning Grant woke up to a thunderstorm and couldn’t sleep. His fidgeting awoke me at 5 am. We cuddled and listened to the rain and thunder. It was so beautiful. Then we heard something moving around in our window-well (we live in a basement apartment). I had Grant go and grab a flashlight. It illuminated a sweet little bird who was trapped in the well. I cooed and loved at it and wished it were not 5 AM so I could go ask Brother Riddle for a net to save it.

As I shone the light upon it, it drew closer and closer to the window. I’m sure it couldn’t see me . . . only the light. I think it was comforted.

Finally Grant pulled me away from the sweet image before me, promising we would help our new little friend in the morning. Suddenly we heard a chirp (the first our friend had uttered). I raced over but the bird had gone, flying off into a graying dawn. I cannot help but think that the comfort it felt from the light, just knowing there was light, led the little guy on into the morning sky.

Sometimes I’m stuck in a window-well and scared of the storm and the dark. Then someone shines the light of Christ so purely that I can see my situation better. I take comfort and I am able to fly back out, refreshed, into the new day.


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