July 2006

Someone mentioned this book in their blog and since I’m ever in search of something new to read, I thought I’d give it a shot.  I was especially intrigued to learn that the main character and her family is LDS.  I wondered if the author was LDS and if not, where she got off trying to write about us.

It’s a catch-22.  I want to see more LDS characters but I don’t want them written by people who don’t have the “right.”  *shakes head at self*

My verdict on the LDS-ness of the characters: she tried and she didn’t do too badly.  Honestly, if I ever write a story with a character who is deeply part of a religion that I don’t know, I’ll get someone who was from that religion to read the pertinent portions first.  It’s not so much that she got it wrong as it’s kinda tilted.  In discussing Ronnie’s (the character) relationship with her non-LDS friends, she mentions things she can’t talk about with them, not just the things she literally couldn’t talk about like the rituals.

Rituals.  Oy.  There are so many reasons that’s off: we would say “temple ordinances” instead of rituals and the impression that I get from the narration, at the time the character says this she’s too young to have participated in more than baptisms for the dead.  (On the other hand, the story is told in a retrospect that’s hard to gauge; it’s both part of the charm and a bit of an annoyance that it’s not always clear whether the character is speaking of herself at that moment in time or from the vantage point of the implied years.)  It’s not a big deal but it is something that makes me twitch.

Check me on this: a child born to parents who were sealed in the temple does not need to be sealed to the family as they are already born in the covenant.  That’s another slip but overall inconsequential.

She says that we believe we become gods or goddesses when we die; the main character, in dressing her little sister’s body for burial, dresses her in her “Cindrella” dress because she imagines that the little goddess will want to twirl around in the puffy skirt.  Again, not entirely wrong but just that much off.

The author’s difficulty “talking the talk” notwithstanding however, I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would.  Reviews said it was very sad and I usually prefer upbeat books; however, this was one of those rare books that takes you through the valley of agony and darkness and leads you out again feeling changed.  I can’t say “better” or “brighter” because I don’t know yet.  I just feel… different.  Touched in a good way that (ovbiously) I can’t describe.

She even made sure Ronnie got married in the temple.  That’s one LDS touch that I’m very glad she put in.

No wonder so many educators and others are lamenting the lack of knowledge our children exhibit.

Lynette: Do people dress up for Pioneer Day or would it be weird?

Me: My mom used to dress me up for Pioneer Day.

Lynette: Were you embarassed?

Me: (thinking about the cape and elfboots I wore to church in my teens) No–

Lynette: (interupting) But that’s right, you were IN the pioneer days.

Me (and the other teachers): *die*

Teacher next to me in an aside to me: Then I must be from the Dark Ages!

Telling myself that I wouldn’t be allowed to watch “Fantastic Four” and eat pizza with my husband until I’d planned my lesson, I hauled out my Sunday School bag and scriptures.

To my joy and relief tomorrow’s lesson is a simple, straight forward one on keeping the Sabbath as illustrated through the miracle of the manna in the desert.  Some lessons I find easier to connect to the specified scriptures than others.  Thank God for prayer and inspiration!  So I planned this one out easily and with confidence.  (Oooh, confidence!  What’s that?  I sure don’t have much of it!)  I just hope the girls don’t fight over and break the pitcher and glass I’m bringing to help illustrate the spiritual resevoir metaphor from one of the enrichment activities.  (On the other hand, my husband who hates the set of tulips hand painted on glass that we got as a gift, kind of hopes they do…)

Then I sat there and wondered what else I could do to make the lesson seem special.  I usually reward (ie, bribe) them with a treat at the end of the lesson if they’ve been good.  I’d been planning on making a cake/brownie thing with chocolate chips but inspiration of some variety or the other struck.  The scriptures describe manna as tasting like a wafer made with honey.  So I looked up “honey” in my cookbook and found a recipe for honey cake.  Perfect, right?  Even more perfect when I read the part that said the recipe was based on an Eastern European one called “lekach” in Yiddish.  Yiddish?!  Was I on the right trail or what??  That is, until I came to the part about two cups of coffee.  Heh heh.  No.  I could have used decaff I suppose but I’m not sure how I feel about that and I sure don’t want to confuse the girls.  So I hit the internet and googled “honey cake” and “lekach.”  It took a lot of looking– they all seemed to either call for coffee, brandy or spices I didn’t have and wasn’t willing to buy for an untried recipe.  Eventually my husband helped me substitute some of the spices for ones we do have.

So tomorrow, my students (of course, I may be assuming a lot with that plural) will have manna.  So that your students may also have manna, should you wish, I’ll share the recipe.  It came from here but I’m putting it in my post just in case the other site ever goes down.

  • 1/2 cup (125g) soft margarine
  • 1/2 cup (125g) soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125g) honey
  • 1 egg 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 level teaspoons ground ginger (er… I forgot the ginger…)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed sweet spice (I used cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in the warm water
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas No. 5 (375F / 190C). Arrange 24 greaseproof baking cases in patty tins.
  2. Put the margarine, sugar, honey or syrup and egg into a bowl or food processor. Beat until smooth. Finally, add the flour sifted with the spices alternately with the bicarbonate of soda dissolved in the water. The batter will be thin. Put a level tablespoon of the mixture into each case.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes until a rich brown and spongy to gentle touch.

If your oven hates you as mine does me, keep an eye on them.  They’re very small and might not need the full time.

The Stake Teacher’s Training held a month ago was interesting and fun but in the end didn’t really give me any new teaching tools.  Lots of great ideas for props and ways to make the classroom a more homey, comfortable environment but unforutnately not much discussion on how to handle students who appoint themselves each other’s keepers or how to deal with disparate age, knoweldge and skills in the classroom.  To be fair, the person doing the “Valiant” class session had to leave early and so I missed about half of the opening session.  I may simply have missed that part.

Anyway, I’ve been applying the “Come Alive Classroom” principles.  I hit the dollar store and bought a little lacy valance for the window, just to dress it up a bit.  I got a green tablecloth (no lace) from the same place but I’ll probably try to replace it with something cloth.  The plastic is just too crinkly.  I also bought a bunch of foam paper and made a sign that says “Valiant Girls” in blue and has a green-and-white CTR shield in the middle.  I just got that up today– not that the girls commented on it.  *sigh*

On the other hand, they may not have seen it.  I chose to simulate the curse of darkness that the Lord inflicted on Egypt so I turned out all the lights in the hallway and the light in the room.  The girls loved it.

I’m not sure how much of the lesson they got– but then I’m never sure how much they get.  I just look back on my own Sunday School experiences (I was no model child) and pray.  Today’s lesson focus was the power of the priesthood and I tried to focus on that.  Unfortunately, I’d rather expected them to ask sharp questions about why the priesthood was given to males and not females.  They didn’t and all my careful preperations for that went out the window and I had to make the rest of it up as I went along.

Children that age are so fickle.  Sometimes it’s a good thing.  I had to come down pretty hard on Natalie and Lynette and Lynette was pouting.  Class was pretty much over so I told them to tell me one thing they appreciated about the priesthood and I’d give them their last star and their treat.

For their treat I’d made challah bread and as Lynette munched away she beamed at me.  “You rock!” she said.  Yeah, fickle is good.  Sometimes.  heh.

I went to the University of Maryland, College Park.  We had a pretty healthy Institute and YSA branch.  It was a five minute walk from my dorm; if my dorm had been a taller building and my room on a higher floor I could have seen it from my window.  I attended a few times but the strangeness overwhelmed me.  Some if it is my fault, I know.  I should have tried harder and gone to more activities.  However it was those activities that scared me.  I knew no one.  I didn’t know how to change that.  Even after the blessing that had been high school (transferred to a different district and made a solid group of friends in the band), walking into a room full of strangers still made me feel like prey.  So I quickly became inactive.

Not that I recognized it at the time.  Anytime I was home for the weekend I went to church with my family.  I still counted myself as Mormon; I still thought about Mormon things.  I still said my prayers and read the scriptures.  I just didn’t go to church.

I’m not blaming anyone for this.  I think it some ways it was a natural path for me to take at that time, as I sifted through and examined what I truly believed and felt and what was just habit.  However, I keep wondering about what might have happened, how my life might have gone differently, if I’d had regular Home and Visiting Teachers then.  It’s entirely possible I would have wandered away anyway.  On the other hand, I’m always so grateful when someone is friendly to me; if I had seen more of them, would I have attached to my teachers?  Would that connection have been enough to help me ease into the ward there?  I’ll never know.

That’s why, as introverted as I am and hating new situations as much as I do, I try to do my Visit Teaching.  I make no claims of ability here; to be honest, I’m very bad at it and rarely get it done.  But I want to get it done.  I myself, in the ward I’m living in now, though I’m active again and even teaching in Primary, haven’t seen a Visiting Teacher for two years.  For two years, as I waited out Immigration and then began the struggle to find employment, I have rotted in my basement, alone, bored and unable to afford anything else.  So I try and make the effort to Visit Teach because I don’t want to leave anyone else feeling like this.