Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Time Passes: Diane Helen DeLucia Jensen

My Dear Reader,

I apologize for being a day behind; I was traveling yesterday and couldn't get to a computer. I also apologize for being too late.

I've been meaning to write this post for a very long time, because I believe that I have a unique experience that, once shared, can comfort others. I have delayed writing it because I know that putting my feelings into words will be very painful for me, as it is a topic that has already hurt me very much. As I hardly know what to do with my own feelings in this case, I will understand, Gentle Reader, if you feel the same way. Let's get through this together.

I've mentioned that my grandmother, Madre's mother, suffered from Alzheimer's. It's a fairly publicized disease, so I'm sure that you know about it. What you don't know is what it feels like on the outside, because experience is the only way to learn that truth. I hope that you never do.

I must start out by telling you that my grandmother is one of the greatest influences on my life. In fact, both of my grandmothers are. Throughout my life, I was always very grateful for the women that my Heavenly Father gave me to be my parents' mothers. All of my Madre's family lived within thirty minutes of where I grew up, so I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Madre's mom. She is half-Italian, and her heritage has contributed greatly to the culture of my extended family. I remember making raviolis with her by hand as a child. I remember having chicken caccitore every Christmas. I loved how Italian my grandmother was, and I always wished that I had more Italian in my blood, if only to be more like her. She was the successful mother of seven, raising each to value God, family, and virtue over everything else. She was also an artist, who sent me a beautiful water-colored birthday card each year that she had made herself, just for the occasion. She spent thirty years directing musicals for the local Mormon community, having such a great impact that you could tell at a glance who was in my grandmother's stake and who wasn't by their passion for the arts. She believed that children made the world better, and had a rich, personal relationship with each of her thirty-four grandchildren, making each of them feel loved and wanted. She never stood still, always working, always fighting in her own way to better the world around her. She was so beautiful, and so strong. She was everything that I wanted to be. I cannot express to you how much I admire that woman. The only other person that I have ever admired as much has been my Padre's mother, who shares many of the same qualities. These two women are my heroes.

I didn't believe HermanaMayor when she first told me that my hero had contracted a crippling disease. I didn't want to believe it, and I tried to deny the reality for as long as possible. It wasn't until I watched a movie with my grandmother and had the same conversation five times in as many minutes that I admitted the truth to myself. She was slipping. By this time, I was going to school in Utah, while she was living in California, still in the home where she raised my Madre. I only saw her once or twice a year, each time getting a snapshot of a vanishing soul. She would ask the same questions over and over again, never satisfied with the answers. She was constantly agitated and anxious, moving from one place to another, never sitting down for more than a second, always acting as if she was awaiting some horrifying news. In short, she was in constant agony.

My grandfather was always there for her, and when asked, he told us that his wife of fifty years had done so much to care for him in his lifetime that he was humbly grateful for the opportunity to return the favor. There are few in this life who are called upon to suffer as greatly as he has. He lived with the pain that I only came to terms with on a semi-annual basis--watching her suffer without the power to help her. Soon, she was unable to take care of her own hygiene, and he dressed her up in a baseball cap to hide her unkempt hair. Her yellow, greasy nails grew so long that they looked like talons on an animal. In a few years, she was no longer my beautiful, tidy grandmother. She was not the strong woman who faced challenges head-on without showing a hint of fear. She was an impostor, someone who has taken over my grandmother's brain and was holding her for ransom deep inside the recesses of her mind. A harsh blow came the day that PetiteSoeur and my brothers went to stay with them for a day. She turned to my grandfather and said, "There are kids in the house," in the same manner as if she were informing my grandfather that a man in a ski mask had a gun to her neck. He told her that my siblings were okay, that they were her grandchildren, and this seemed to calm her down a bit, though she obviously didn't understand.

I stood there across the street that day, watching her hover around my grandfather as he was putting up Christmas lights, and was unable to stop myself from crying. PetiteSoeur hugged me and comforted me for what seemed like forever. It was just too much. This was my grandmother. This was my hero. She was the strongest person that I knew, and she was gone forever, her soul trapped somewhere inside a rapidly deteriorating shell. It would get worse as time passed, and only weeks ago she was confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak or even chew food, and being spoon fed baby food and Ensure by my wonderful aunts. How are you supposed to handle that? How are you supposed to help her, like fixing her glasses when they fall down as she gazes vacantly at the television, without dying inside?

I'm not a crier. I don't cry in movies, though I feel moved, or anything like that; it's just not the way I express most things. I especially don't cry in front of people, much less on the curb in front of a stranger's house. But I knew, as well as my family, that we were watching her die, and there were a lot more tears to come. We also knew that out of all of the people in the world, she deserved this the least. She didn't deserve to be in so much pain, to be so confused and alone, not when she had her crowning achievement, her family, standing around her with outstretched arms. But if I know God, and I do, I would think that He wouldn't have done this unless there was something that we were supposed to learn from it. And if I know my grandmother, and I do, I know that she would give her whole soul if she knew that it would be for our benefit. I don't pretend to know what the lesson is, but it's there. I know it is.

My grandmother, Diane Helen DeLucia Jensen, died on Saturday, January 17th, 2009 in the arms of her loving, devoted husband, Willis Boyd Jensen. I had the great honor of attending her funeral on January 23rd, to see her for one last time, and to go to the place where she was finally put to rest. My brothers were her pallbearers, along with my uncles and grandfather. It was a strange experience, from watching my uncles cry to seeing how confused the little cousins were with all of the sadness around them. My youngest cousin is only a year old, and I feel a pain in my heart thinking of how they will never know her, and how my future husband and children will never know her either. But the funeral really helped. We were able to celebrate her life, and we were given an opportunity to truly mourn her passing. HermanaMayor felt my grandmother's presence there, and I felt a spirit of love and companionship that permeated the entire ritual.

I was able to spend some time with my sisters and my cousins Rachel, Katie, Julia, and Ciara and discuss all of this over lunch, and let me tell you that we all share the love, admiration, and respect for my grandmother that I have expressed to you. We talked about how we, meaning my entire family, had given everything we had to help her, but it wasn't enough to cure her, and it barely scratched the surface when it came to repaying her for her service to us. That said, it was comforting to know that her suffering was over, and that she was in the arms of the Supreme Healer, her Creator, and that she was being taken care of. We still miss her, though. Most bitterly.

My greatest comfort stems from my faith in the prophet Joseph Smith and his teachings, as well as the teachings of the prophets that followed him. They have taught us that family bonds, through blood or marriage, are stronger than death. They are so strong, in fact, that they remain in tact after civilizations have crumbled and millennia go by. This means that not only is my grandfather still married to his wife, but that I still have two grandmothers, and nothing can take Diane Helen DeLucia Jensen away from me. Our bond is stronger than this separation, though it will be a long, long while before I see her again. But I will. We all will. And I know, without any doubt, that the next time I see her she will be stronger, working even harder, and even more beautiful than she was in this world.

Even as I write this, I wonder if I don't know what a tiny part of that lesson is supposed to be: love. If I have learned anything from this experience, besides the meaning of suffering, it is the meaning of love. Watching my grandfather sacrifice everything for a wife he could never heal, I have learned that romantic love is more than a physical attraction or an enduring obsession. It is essentially loyalty, but of the highest and purest quality. It takes countless years of careful nurturing to develop, and though it is found at the greatest cost, it also produces the greatest, sweetest rewards. If you aren't willing to sacrifice everything, even yourself, and if you don't get the same level of sacrifice in return, it isn't love. This goes for every other kind of love as well, one of the most important lessons being that love is so precious and so necessary that we need to do whatever it takes to surround ourselves in it, at any price. The purest and best kinds of love will give you a harvest of the price you paid, a hundred fold. A thousand fold, perhaps. That's what my grandparents did, and that's how they created the kind of family I am very blessed to have.

It's really a miracle.

In loving and solemn memory of the greatest grandmother and grandchild could have,

-Cecily Jane

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Jolly Green [g]od

My Dear Reader,

Our celebrity class is one of the most morally corrupt groups of people on Earth. We all know it; the evidence is there every time we turn on the television, or read the newspaper, or get on the internet. When it comes to morality in the celebrity class, things are topsy-turvy with respect to the rest of the nation: deviance is the norm, morality is the minority. In this day and age, you have to go looking for the decent people among the celebrities. We watch them spit on religion, drink until they vomit, sleep around, cheat on their spouses, divorce-remarry-divorce, do drugs, beat their girlfriends, and break the law in more ways than we knew were possible.

So why do we let these people tell us what to do?

Why do we let these people tell us how to vote or what to buy?

Why do we let these people tell us that we are bad people of we don't do what they want us to do?

I bet you could come up with plenty of ways that these same celebrities (and remember, the more morally corrupt ones are the ones who get the most attention) influence us. But recently these people have come off their sets and catwalks and have planned a new way to get into our heads, and it just flabbergasts me. They have decided that they are all going to come together and tell us that we are bad people if we don't, as they say, "go green."

Now, I'm not anti-green. In fact, I believe that one thing The Holy Bible teaches us is that God gave us the Earth and charged us to take care of it (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:15). I just think that there are limits. Bruce Wayne knows what I'm talking about:

Yeah, that's right: people come first, lady. You tell her, Bruce.

Anyway, without debating the merits of the green movement itself, I have to say that I've been concerned when I see that those who are the most vocal about going green just happen to be the worst offenders in the morality department. It probably wouldn't bother me if they didn't get all high and mighty about it, as if they had the credibility to tell us the difference between right and wrong. According to them, if you don't buy the right light bulbs or put your thermostat they they want you to, you're a bad person. It's like getting a lecture on the merits of chastity from a person who is in the act of committing a bank robbery. No thanks, buddy. I'm not taking directions from that moral compass.

After all, the green movement isn't a substitute for the kind of moral structure that is traditionally found in religion. There's not some jolly green god that says that it's okay to drive drunk if you do it in a hybrid. These are the people that told us not to judge them on their choices. These are the people who told us that we weren't allowed to tell them how to live their lives. If we did that, we were bad people. So when did it become okay for them to judge us, and say that we're bad people because we don't all have solar panels?

Whether global warming is was it's supposed to be or not, it's incredible (read: unbelievable) that we give certain people a free pass, only to let them come back and wag their fingers at us. I say that we don't let them. I say that we make our decisions on our own, and not because they told us what to do. I say that if they ignore our way of life, we're free to ignore theirs, if we want.

Of course, I also think that they should have just done the right thing in the first place, but that's just me.

Oh, and am I the only one who's gotten sick of the word "green" already?

Regards, best wishes, and making good choices at all times, in all things, and in all places,

-Cecily Jane

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Country First

My Dear Reader,

Out of respect for the historic inauguration of the first man of color as the President of the United States of America, I have decided to postpone the post I was planning to make today, which is of a decidedly different nature than the festivities which are taking place in Washington D.C. today.

Let it be said that despite my personal political leanings, I feel honored to see the day when the thickest, highest color barrier on Earth was shattered, and I congratulate President Barack Obama for making it happen. You have earned your day, Mr. President.

Regards, best wishes, and a renewed commitment to equality,

-Cecily Jane

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sarah Palin, Katie Couric, and MSNBC

My Dear Reader,

First, I'm sorry that I'm writing another post about politics. This was too good to pass up.

Second, I've been wondering about something lately. I am fairly certain that you, Gentle Reader, are aware that Sarah Palin gave a pretty bad interview to CBS's Katie Couric back in September. There were a lot of parts that didn't make Sarah Palin look that great, but one part in particular has been criticized more than the rest. When Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin what the Governor reads, and that the Governor declined to give what many have considered an acceptable answer, saying that she reads, "everything."

Out of all of the questions asked in the interview, even when Sarah Palin declined to give Katie Couric an example of when Senator John McCain acted as a reformer, this answer is the one that has been rehashed over and over to the point where I personally stopped watching whenever a news commentator mentioned it. I mean, is it really that big of a deal that she didn't give a list of every single magazine and newspaper she subscribes to? Did Couric expect her to start quoting Shakespeare? Sure, the governor could have given a better answer, but do we really need to scrutinize this small moment so closely? Do we have to keep asking her again and again, each time incredulous of her answers? And why does MSNBC, which didn't even conduct the interview, be the top attack dog?Thinking about this, I realized why MSNBC was so enraged: it was, essentially, a question about how much Governor Palin cared about the media, and her answer made it at least appear that she was indifferent, at best.

Of course, MSNBC isn't doing very well right now, financially speaking. It wasn't doing well ratings-wise for a very long time, especially when you consider that until 2006, their main rivals, FOX News and CNN, got three to four times the ratings they did. To their credit, they have increased their ratings in the past two years, but now they have another problem: MSNBC's parent companies and affiliates are the ones who aren't doing that great, with even the mighty GE feeling the pinch of the financial crisis. The New York Times is hurting even more, not to mention Newsweek. Since all of these corporations are tied together, it would seem to me that MSNBC would have needed to find out a way to get GE, The New York Times, and Newsweek to be more profitable back whenever they found out that this was a problem.

And then came along the Governor Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interview.

If I were an executive of one of those underperforming companies, I would think that the one Sarah Palin quote would be an excellent opportunity to make media, especially print media, look pretty good. If Sarah Palin could be branded as a non-consumer of my product, and if the public was made to believe that being a non-consumer was stupid, irresponsible, or perhaps even dangerous, than maybe I could push a few more subscriptions. And since most people aren't the governor of a state, if her actual experience and record could be downplayed enough, it would work even better to my company's advantage.

Given that logic, the real turn of events seems awfully convenient. Remember, Sarah Palin isn't a part of the social class that your average national level politician is, in fact, she was the only person on either ticket that wasn't a millionaire. That, combined with Governor Palin's lifestyle makes her a perfect symbol for middle-class America--the target audience.

In the end, it seems to me that MSNBC isn't discussing Sarah Palin's qualifications or character as much as it is exploiting this one instant to promote themselves enough to keep their heads above the water. The question is: if they're exploiting this, what else are they exploiting for their own benefit?

Regards, best wishes, and integrity in journalism,

-Cecily Jane

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Welcome, 2009. You'd Better Do Better than the Last Guy!

My Dear Reader,

I, for one, could use a really good year. Do you agree? How about a year where I have a job and my life seems to actually be going somewhere, for starters? Oh, and no more pesky economic meltdown might be nice. And if Obama actually changes some stuff, and that change turns out to be change for the better (which, as you recall, he never explicitly promised*), then I think I'll be pretty content with the world. Of course, if all of those terrorists were miraculously converted to the simple, peace-loving ways of the Amish, I'd just be ecstatic**. Is there a precedent for sending wish lists to that New Year Baby? Maybe mine will get passed along if I send it care of Santa.

What are my New Year resolutions, you ask? Well, mine is simple: be even more awesome. I know, I know--you would think that this is impossible, but I am determined to prove it otherwise. Oh, yes. I'm pretty resolute on that. It even comes with some built-in subsets that include things like putting some actually good fiction up on this blog. Or something.

You know, it's kind of funny how such an arbitrary thing such as when a calendar year starts and stops hold so much meaning and expectations for us. I mean, who decided that the year should start on January first instead of the first of any other month? And it is kind of silly to expect a year to do something for you, since it's really people who generally make things like economic crises happen, and since we really can't change anyone except for ourselves. Still, that baby is so exceedingly adorable that I must believe that it has limitless powers. I just must.

Anyway, I have this feeling that people are expecting a dazzling performance from 2009, and we surely could use one, if only to distract ourselves from the massive problems that have been oozing all around us. Oozing menacingly, even. Remember: the best way to solve your problems is to blame Fate and expect Fate to clean up its own mess. The second best way is to distract yourself with something shiny.

Regards, best wishes, and actual change for the very much better,

-Cecily Jane

*The people of Tennessee recently experienced a massive "change," in the form their houses being enveloped in toxic coal sludge. I'm sure that you will agree that things were different post-sludge when compared to pre-sludge, and yet, I have a feeling that you wouldn't vote for coal sludge as president.

**After all, the world always needs less terrorists, and it could definitely use more Amish people. This is win-win. Think about it.