Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eva Aurora: Indiscriminate Smiler

I am a smiler. I smile at people. I smile indiscriminately at people. I've been an indiscriminate smiler for as long as I remember, but I made a conscious effort to smile at people for a reaction during my LDS mission in England. People in England are not indiscriminate smilers. In fact, they can be very conservative about doling out smiles to strangers, and sometimes in that often gray and rainy country, I just wanted someone to smile back at me. I took a liking to that infrequent and startled genuine smile some fellow pedestrians or mass transit users would flash back at me -- a woman with small children, an old man in somber black shoes and fedora, a college student caught up in his internal thoughts. I smiled then and now at men, women, and children. Especially children. Who can't smile and make funny faces at a baby sitting in a grocery store cart? What greater reward than that sudden, explosively honest grin of an innocent toddler? Extra points for a giggle.

Occasionally, my habit as an indiscriminate smiler gets me into trouble. For example, one evening I walked into my local Walmart to grab a few groceries. On my way through the entry, a Walmart employee, whom I have seen several times stocking shelves and who has smiled and acted as if he knows me (though I have tried and failed to remember ever having any conversation with him at all) happened to be walking toward me. I smiled at him, as I always do, in what I -- perhaps, erroneously -- imagined was a neutrally friendly way, and he walked right up to me and said, "Hey, beautiful. I'm going on break right now, but maybe after that I'll see you around here." Then he walked off.

Say what?

He said it so quietly I almost didn't hear him, and he didn't say it suggestively. It was like we were continuing a conversation we'd had earlier, as if we were familiar. Except I've never talked to him. I have certainly never winked at him.

I'm not used to being hit on as a woman of nearly a certain age with six kids and some stubborn baby and pizza weight to lose, so I freaked out a little bit. I forgot half the things I went in to get because I was suddenly very anxious to leave. I waited in a busy line that was surrounded by tall shelves of impulse buys rather than the more visible express lane, and I left through the opposite exit, walking through the parked cars in the lot instead of taking a straight shot to where my car was parked. It wasn't that I felt threatened by his demeanor. I just felt really, really stupid.

I told Husband about it later, thinking he would laugh. Oddly enough, he seemed a little upset at first, but that may have been because I went for the "exaggerated for grand effect" approach by starting off with, "So, it seems I'm dating someone at Walmart." I got the "What does that mean?!" without an accompanying "laugh of disbelief awaiting the inevitably humorous explanation." I told him what had happened and how stupid I felt about it.

He said, "Well, you do smile in a friendly way at men."
"But I smile at women, too!" I said.
"Yes," he answered. "But the men don't know that."

The reason I've cultivated an attitude of indiscriminate smiling is two-fold: I genuinely enjoy getting a smile back, and in the back of my mind, I'm making mental notes all the time about who is more likely to smile at a stranger. I had a friend in high school who once said to me with some exasperation, "You're always conducting an experiment, aren't you?" He was right, though I only conduct my silly little social experiments in a very benign sense.

Do you want to know the results of this years-long, unscientific study? It's harder to make eye contact with women (probably because I am a woman and therefore subconsciously uninteresting and non-threatening to other women), but when they do make eye contact, they are quick to smile back, although if they're very preoccupied, they'll only acknowledge your smile with a little forehead twitch while they're thinking about something else. Men are generally a little startled by eye contact and a smile but they almost always smile back. It's a cultural thing, too. Americans are simply more likely to smile or grin frequently, which makes us seem like superficial idiots to people from cultures where smiling is reserved for special occasions. In some cultures I frequently come across, eye contact and a smile is obviously considered a come-on from a woman, and I'm always forgetting that in my indiscriminate smiling habit. This may be where my troubles at Walmart lie.

Children of all cultures smile readily, up to a certain age, where the strong heritage of their parents begins exerting influence.

Husband eventually saw the humor in my dilemma, and I have decided to be more circumspect in my smiling habits. It will take a lot of constant inner dialogue to break that habit, but while I may not smile indiscriminately, I will still smile.

Neutrally Friendly? Or Just Too Friendly?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Man of Integrity

I just added another link in my Blogs I Love to Read sidebar. It's called Gay Mormon Man, and I stumbled across it when researching information for an article I had to write about blogging. I was really impressed by the viewpoint of the author, a man who calls himself Calvin Thompson, and who describes himself as a somewhat conservative Mormon man who is also gay. Cal is married and has children and his wife is fully aware of his sexual orientation, but Cal is also convinced that the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are true and wants to be in full fellowship with the church (which, I might point out, doesn't mean that any person would ever be forced to be married, gay or not!). He seems also not to be anti-gay because he doesn't loathe himself and all others who undergo same sex attraction.

With all the hubbub of California's Proposition 8 (which was passed and which states that marriage is defined as between a man and a woman), Peter Vidmar's resignation as the Chief de Mission of the US 2012 Olympic Team over the issue of his having voted for Prop 8 and contributed money to the cause, and the question of whether or not homosexuality should be considered absolutely normal and healthy as a lifestyle, I have thought a lot about what it would be like to be gay and LDS. Cal's blog is a great example of one man's decision to accept himself and to also accept that he is in charge of his own happiness.

I don't know the author at all. I also have no idea what it would be like to have same sex attraction. I have to rely on the experience of others to gain some insight, therefore. I absolutely believe that every single person on this earth is a child of God, no matter their skin color, economic status, or sexual orientation. I certainly don't care to have the burden of judging anyone else's heart, and I'm relieved that Jesus Christ repeatedly stated in the Bible that His is the job of judgement because He does not view us by sight or sound alone. He knows us better than we know ourselves; He knows our hearts, and He will be absolutely fair and just and also as merciful as He can be with each of us when we stand in front of the Judgement Bar and account for our mortal lives.

While I uphold the LDS Church's stance on chastity, which applies to all people, both heterosexual and homosexual, my heart has often cried out for those who feel same sex attraction and who also want to be a worthy, temple recommend-holding member of the Church. How awful it must be to undergo not only the questions about the value of one's own self as somehow "broken" but to get through it while often hearing insensitive and hateful remarks from others around them, and also to be consigned to a state of eternal singlehood if they choose not to marry. Singlehood can be hard on heterosexuals, of course, but for a homosexual with a testimony and who wishes to receive all the blessings of the temple, that state must also be accompanied by the knowledge that to have a relationship that is more than just friendship with someone of the same sex that they are attracted to is forbidden. I imagine it must be a horrible and lonely burden sometimes, even if they are seeking to follow the Spirit and have a strong and abiding testimony.

To me, Cal is not a hero for being homosexual, just as I would not choose for a hero anyone else based on sexual orientation. Cal is a hero because he has reasoned and pondered about his options and has chosen to follow a path that may not be easy but means that he is living what he, personally, believes. Consistently living what you believe means having personal integrity, and that integrity makes a person heroic. I'm sure he's been vilified by those who believe that when you accept your homosexual orientation fully, you should also fully embrace the proscribed lifestyle or you are somehow a traitor to your kind, as well as other "well-meaning" individuals who have too much judgement to spare when it comes to knowing who is going to hell and who is going to heaven. I can't say I'm sorry that I'm spared this particular test in life, but I admire people who can go through it with as much grace as this man.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It's about time Joseph learned to ride a bike. He's nearly seven, and the thought that he can't yet ride a bike might be horrifying in the extreme to many parents out there. As if we haven't fulfilled our parental duties and he will be scarred for life!

Please. Get real. We've just saved him a couple years' worth of accidents is all.

No, seriously, we didn't teach him before because he wasn't willing. Always a cautious child around bikes, swings, teeter-totters, and other pain inducing technology, it's only recently that he's come out in favor of his own bike riding lessons.

Since I'm putting pictures in today, let's see what else I have. Oh, yes. The back splash in the kitchen. Husband measured it all out, and somehow I ended up doing the actual work. I had a good time and learned a lot about laying tile. It ain't perfect, but I was learning as I went. Note the glass canister on the top shelf. It's got half a batch of Husband's brown sugar fudge in it.

When we went to The Big City, I was gifted with something I've been sighing about for a very long time (just ask Husband). My mom's neighbor, with whom she was very good friends, recently passed away; the son offered a lot of her things to my mom. One of them was a glass cake stand with a glass dome. I saw that on Mom's counter and just gasped. "Ohhhh! Cake stand...with a glass dome! Ohhh!" Mom laughed and graciously gave it to me on the spot. She did remind me that with it comes a very important responsibility: because her neighbor always had something in it, though it wasn't necessarily a cake, it was now my duty to have something to keep in it at all times.

Right now, it's holding half a fresh coconut, which isn't shown here. Hey, I didn't have time to bake.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm So Blue

It's blueberry season. I don't think I need to say much more than that, as I'm sure you're all scrambling out of your seats and heading for the blueberry patches or the grocery store. If I had a blueberry patch nearby, I'd probably be grabbing my buckets that I had stored in the garage for this very purpose and then spending a long, sunny day stripping bushes of their blue bounty. As it is, I have to rely on the grocery store. Expensive, but soooo worth it.

Sooo worth it.

I'll see you later. I have a date with a bowl of blueberries.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Truly Horrible Poetry, But With Meaningful Intent

Late owls salute dawn.
Honeysuckle scents the breeze.
A mouse-blessed cat leaps.

I'm back outside getting an early morning constitutional these days. I go despite my tired eyelids and my neck, which is still a bit painful. Funny, but after Sian, Husband, and I had an hours-long relaxing and humorous shopping trip in The Big City yesterday, my neck was just fine. I woke up this morning and it was painful again. I imagine that has to do with getting back to work with the addition of all six kids now being out of school and gearing up for whiny boredom.

To counter that small stressor, I composed the above pathetic verse during my walk/jog today. I would have added something about "The incongruous sight and sound of a trim, red minivan blasting gangsta rap," but not only did that very real experience not evoke the bucolic imagery I was going for, but I couldn't figure out how to include it within the restrictive syllabic requirements of a haiku.

I walk naked, but only in the sense that my ears are not stuffed with music-conducting electronics. I used to run with music, but I gave that up long ago in favor of quiet contemplation -- and you can see the inerudite results. Still, it's very peaceful to concentrate on the movement of your arms and legs, listen to your breathing, savor the mental observations about the world around you, and let your thoughts take you where they will. If bad poetry is born of such contemplation, well, there are worse things in the world. (I think.)

As I mentioned already, Husband, Sian, the two little boys, and I took a trip to The Big City yesterday. Our purpose was to shop, and to obtain our goal we needed to drop off Joseph and Little Gary at their grandparents' house. I thought that taking them to The Big City was a better idea than leaving them at home, where their sisters might not enjoy watching over them as closely as they require. Grandma and Grandpa were happy to spend some time with them, so Sian, Husband, and I embarked on a journey for new birthday clothes for Sian.

Five and one half hours later, we were still looking for the perfect pair of jeans that didn't also cost as much as next month's mortgage payment. Sian was getting very discouraged when Husband suggested we stop in one last store at the mall. At Sears, we found jean perfection and steep sales, a happy combination. Sian walked out three pairs richer, with a smile on her face.

To Sian (Though She Already Knows This and Lives It)

The true beauty of a girl
Cannot be measured by the makeup on her face
Or the brand names sewn on her clothes.
True beauty is not defined by her body measurements
Or the money in her bank account
Or the adornments hanging from her ears, encircling her neck, or sparkling on a finger.
The true beauty of a girl
Is measured by the light she carries inside,
Which grows brighter each day
That she recognizes her inherent and divine worth as a daughter of a loving
The world measures beauty in fickle terms,
And to be beautiful to the world is but a fleeting and empty accomplishment.
True beauty is lasting, and rich, and meaningful,
And will only be found through study, prayer, a joyful heart, and loving service.
But the promise of true beauty is that it transcends the fickle, worldly measures
To adorn a girl as she becomes a woman, and a woman throughout the decades of her life,
Until she stands once again before her Father and offers to Him the whole of her heart
To be encircled about by His arms and hear the words, "Well done, my darling and beautiful daughter. Welcome home."
That is true beauty.

(The above was written on Tuesday, May 31)