Hyrum Ray Christensen 1920 - 2008


Posted on : 10:40 PM | By : Jennifer

No, this is not a movie title--I promise I'll get back to that on my next post.  This is the name of my paternal grandfather, who passed away last Thursday.  I'd like to talk about him a little bit.

Grandpa Ray and Grandma Lorraine are the parents of ten--yes, ten--children.  They spent their lives farming in rural Idaho, working harder than you or I can imagine and earning just enough money to support their large family.  Grandpa's faith in the gospel was unwavering, as was his commitment to living it.  He left behind no impressive titles, no big money.  No advanced degree, no lofty church calling.  He'd gained little of what doesn't matter and earned everything that does.  At the service, my aunt said that in one generation from now, Grandpa's posterity will likely exceed 500 people.  That number will, of course, multiply tenfold in years to come.  Today I listened to stories of the warmth, affection, gentle disipline, and tender teaching this man offered his family.  He'd given them all that he had, in every capacity.  My mind, quite on its own, drifted from the small country chapel to the greater country at large, and the political hysteria that's been racking it in recent months.  I thought of the many hopefuls on the local and national levels, and the god-like status they would be flung to upon winning their victories.  How loud their acclaim will be, how noisy their triumph.  My mind found it's way back into the meeting room, warm with the bodies and breath and tears of Grandpa's descendants.  In a few years, five hundred of us will claim his name.  Then one thousand...two thousand.  I wondered:  who is really shaping this nation?  And more troubling:  who am I allowing to shape me?

Distance is, and always has been, alluring.  Most of us yearn to attach ourselves to a cause, or at least a platform, larger and more sophisticated than ourselves, be it intellectual, political or otherwise.  Grandpa didn't have this luxury; he had ten mouths to feed.  He dealt in realities, and in doing so afforded his children, and their children, the unprecedented opportunity to deal in the abstract.  His progeny gets to learn from the safe remove of academic theory and self-imposed virtue about a variety of subjects that may have (probably have) little to do with their real growth and purpose, here and now.  Listening to my aunt's life sketch of Grandpa, I cringed to think how often my vertical quest for Self____ (insert noun here:  Fulfillment, Progression, Aggrandization, Gratification) precludes me from a horizontal quest to help others.  To understand, not influence.  To create, not consume.  I cringed to think how often I'd been seduced by the allure of the distant rather than thrilled by the immediate, which is all we ever really have.  I cringed to think about how, sometimes, I am more passionate about remote issues than I am about the people I claim to be most passionate about.

I once heard a mother of eight compare her life to a white frosted cake.  She said, "To the world, my life looks boring and plain.  But to me," she then swiped a bit of the frosting and licked it off her finger, "it's rich and sweet and spectacular."  I couldn't describe my Grandpa Ray's life any better. Simple to the onlookers, heavenly to the partakers.  Rich.  Sweet. Spectacular.

The Jane Austen (a.k.a) Relief Society Book Club


Posted on : 3:20 AM | By : Jennifer | In :

Have you noticed the chest-beating pride we Mormon Women take in our deathless devotion to all things Jane Austen? Kind of annoying, if you ask me (and it's my blog, so you're asking.) Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Jane Austen movies for many reasons: great dialogue, gorgeous scenery, good acting. But I wonder: what's the obsession? Why Jane and only Jane? And when did building an Austen video library become a legitimate example of Provident Living?

Funny how nobody even mentions the books anymore. (I'm chastising myself here. I read 
Emma a few years ago, and P&P in high school, but that's about it.) I own--and love--a couple of JA movies, but I have aquaintances whom I suspect watch only Jane Austen, be it produced by BBC, A&E, or Paramount. They own any and every Austen DVD available: old versions, new versions, versions based on her novels, versions based on her writing of the novels, versions based on people having book clubs about her novels. Desperate contemporary writers have even published "sequels" to Pride and Prejudice, or Darcy's Story (I swear it exists), telling Mr. Darcy's side of his turbulent romance with Miss Lizzie. And oh...to be Miss Lizzie. Every LDS woman's first(?) and finest fantasy.

C'mon, ladies...haven't we milked this cow dry?

It's just that it's become so predictable. 
LDS Mom=Jane Austin Devotee. I'm suspecting it has to do with losing ourselves in a world wherein women don't clean bathrooms or change diapers or even do their own hair. A gracious cook announces dinner is served instead of us serving it. Combine these savory morsels with the "clean" factor, and you've got a hit with maxed-out moms. Which is a good thing. Sure.

I'd just like to occasionally enjoy a movie that we haven't all seen seventeen times. I'm understating here; you know you've seen Emma many more times than that. I'd like to watch a good film that occurs in this century and hasn't recycled the same six actors repeatedly to fill the lead roles of it's innumerable re-makes. I'd like studios to produce clean movies, made for grownups, that rival Ms. Austen's wit and storytelling. I'd like to appreciate Jane Austen without only appreciating Jane Austen, as our particular female culture seems bent on doing. Every ward book group I've joined, every ward girls' night I've attended, every conversation about movies among LDS women, the main attraction is always the same: Jane, center stage. Time to think outside the box, I'd say.

This post has really worn me out. I'm gonna make some popcorn, grab a quilt, and pop in Sense and Sensibility. Forget everything I just wrote. Willoughby is hot.

Almost Famous


Posted on : 10:20 AM | By : Jennifer

A few years ago, the manager of the Welcome Center in our neighborhood asked if they could have my girls pose for some photos to put in their pamphlets, ads, etc.  Derrick works closely with the Welcome Center, as his firm does the all the civil engineering for our development, but I know that had nothing to do with this request.  I know that my children were needed for their dazzling good looks and me, for my legendary stage-mothering skills.  So, here's a glance back to good 'ole 2004 and some of the photos that ended up in the newspaper, Creekstone pamphlets and magazines, and even in some brochures on airplanes.  (An old friend called us from the airport, wondering what the heck our kidlets were doing on his flight!) So if you're one of the few people on the continent who haven't seen my child stars yet, here's a bit of what the (highly professional) photo shoot produced when Rache was just five, and Megan, three: 

Weren't they sweet?  Well, the Welcome Center beckoned us once again this year, and--sigh--once again I consented to having our good looks exploited for no pay.  (What can you do when your public needs you?)  Picture day just happened to fall on the same day as my half-misery-marathon, so these outfits were pulled out of the closet and not ironed about thirty minutes before shuttertime.  Literally, they were the only solid pieces of clothing in my kids' wardrobe, which is why a multitude of us ended up in brown.  (It hasn't happened yet, but someday I'll show up in something besides a plain T-shirt for my family portraits.)

Here is another completely candid shot of us frolicking in the clover while sharing secrets and giggles.  (A typical Saturday afternoon for our family, of course.)

I imagine these photographs will be splashed across every major magazine in the country, so be watching your Gap ads!  The upside is that we can keep these images at no cost.  So there's our merrychristmasfromtheSmithfamily photo, free!  (I am not kidding.  Expect it in December.)

The downside is that looking at the old photos of the girls made me nostalgic and slightly depressed about how fast my family is growing up.  I've really been struggling with this lately, as I seem to every September when school starts.  President Monson's talk today at General Conference , however, gave me a much needed perspective change.  The main goal I'm taking away from Conference this year:  to enjoy what I have, today, and not wish my time away on the past or future.  To stop trying to do more; rather, keep doing what I am already doing, more happily and gratefully.

I am now opening up the commentary for two answers I hope to receive from all of you:
 1.  What part of conference inspired you the most?
 2.  How cute is my family and how much do I look like I haven't aged a bit since you saw me last?  (Comments for #2 need be neither truthful nor sincere, obviously.)

I'd better run.  Our fifteen minutes of fame are almost up, and I'm gonna make the most of it.  Gotta go find someone to do lunch with!