Monday, November 21, 2011


In college I was an English major. It took me eight years to graduate from BYU with my BA (and a music minor) as we moved 6 times and had three children during that same time period. I did Independent Study, night school and online courses to be able to finish up while trying to be a mom too. I got quite efficient at writing entire essays during two-hour nap times.

My favorite online class was a 400 level Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy course focusing on the works of Tolkein and CS Lewis where I first read The Lord of the Rings. I never could have pulled it off without the support of my sweet mother who babysat for a couple of on-campus classes my last semester. After a long time and lots of struggle, graduation day was truly one of the most meaningful and happiest days of my life.

As you can imagine, I have quite a few poetry books laying around the house. These vestiges linger on dusty bookshelves and haunt me. I NEVER read them. I merely move them several times a year (see earlier post about my chronic furniture moving habits). But that is not to say that I don't love poetry. I do! It's just low on my priority list these days. Which is sad, because I used to really love poetry. But that was back when I had the luxury of being forlorn and winsome (I'm fairly certain Emily Dickinson never stayed up all night nursing twins followed by a full day of laundry and dishes).

Back then I preferred epic poetry. But these days, I think I'd be into Cowboy Poetry, "Everyman" Poetry, Poetry for the Masses. Think Anne of Green Gables turns Unsinkable Molly Brown (it's purely coincidental that they're both redheads).

Recently, my 17-year-old daughter needed a poem to memorize for her AP Literature class. I began fumbling through random books to help her. Clearly we were not on the same "page." She was going for deep meaning, hidden agendas, or at the very least, humor. I, on the other hand, kept stopping for simple, short, unpretentious.

She finally chose a great one that was just right for her. I wan't much help as I sat in the corner, devouring poetry for the first time in epochs.

One little gem unexpectedly stirred my heart. You know that feeling you feel when you can't describe in words how you feel? I felt that.

Here is the back story: We have nine children and we have no spare money. Ever. The End. However, sadly, I really love beautiful things. I'm not that crafty and I'm NOT a good shopper so I can't find things at DI and turn them into shabby chic perfection like my sisters. I hate savvy shopping and give up early if I'm ever forced to go.

However, for the last several years we have lived very frugally. We bought an older, smaller home and have adhered to a strict budget. This has been tough for me. Although we've been amazingly blessed in any time of need, it has felt sparse and uncomfortable. Life has been a little dismal, a little gray. Another reason for gloom is that my wonderful husband has been at work both night and day for the last two years trying to finish up his dissertation. We've been doing "tag team" parenting as we've run to and fro chasing everyone and every event and filling every responsibility we have. It's been exhausting, hard and lonely.

You should also know that I love music. Next to God and family, music is my life. Certainly it is my greatest passion and brings the most joy and color into my world. I especially love hearing my children or husband play piano while I work in various spots around the house. Even the bleakest day is made better when I hear that piano.

Not long ago, something in me kind of "snapped." I guess I officially got tired of all the drabness and chaos in my life. I decided to do SOMETHING about it, despite my lack of resources.

I admit that I went outside our budget and purchased some items that just make me happy. Like a trampoline and sheet music and coat hooks and storage bins and pretty baskets and matching kitchen rags and new bath towels and house paint and..... you get the picture. I suddenly feel very happy around the house! Things are brighter, cheerier, more organized, more musical! And my sweet husband hung up all the pretty coat hooks and I love him even more.

BUT, I was feeling kind of guilty about spending that money. They weren't exactly "necessary" purchases. Just little somethings to make life less miserable. Still, it wasn't as if we had suddenly come into inheritance money!

But then, that morning, I read the following poem by Robert Frost:

The Investment

Over back where they speak of life as "staying"
("You couldn't call it living, for it ain't")
There was an old, old house renewed with paint,
And in it a piano loudly playing.

Out in the ploughed ground in the cold a digger,
Among the unearthed potatoes standing still,
Was counting winter dinners, one a hill,
With half an ear to the piano's vigor.

All that piano and new paint back there,
Was it some money suddenly come into?
Or some extravagance young love had been to?
Or old love on an impulse not to care --

Not to sink under being man and wife,
But to get some color and music out of life?

Perhaps, even with my historical background, it is impossible to make you understand how I felt reading this sweet little verse. It was as if I were truly understood by the universe. And if not by the ENTIRE universe, then at least by one man (Frost). And even though he's dead, somehow I felt as if he were a kindred spirit. It seemed that everything was suddenly put into perspective for me. I knew that he knew why I bought those things. And that, when you're in your 40's, and you're the parents of nine children, it is vitally important "not to sink under being man and wife, but get some color and music out of life."

Truly the best "investment" we can make is in our relationships. All of my frivolous purchases were for the joy and betterment of my family. I am happier, the kids are happier, and my marriage is sweeter as we've enjoyed some color and music together.

Oh, while reading poetry, I burned the waffles I was making for breakfast! I added the picture so you could get the idea. :) No time for poetry? Make some time! And bring a little color and music into your life!

"Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart."

D&C 59:18

P.S. John recently mailed off his completed dissertation! Only the final revisions remain! :)


Julie said...

I loved this post, Stacey. What else can I say? Thanks for sharing it. I'll think I'll go read a poem or two. :)

Kristine said...

Poetry is the perfect art form for moms. Somebody asked Grace Paley once why so many of her poems were about 20 lines long, and she said that was about how long a poem she could keep in her head while she went around mothering all day. I don't write my own poems, but I do try (sporadically) to find one that's a manageable length to memorize.

Here's one of Paley's that I love:

sara jensen said...

My "poetry" is research, I feel so certain that women (especially mothers), need to find their soul's poetry and make time to "read". I am so happy for your new facelift at home- oh the joy a coat hook can bring!

johnthomjr said...

Thank you for reminding me again and again why I married you. I love your mind. I love your expression. I love how you give meaning to the little things in our lives. Thank you for _being_ poetry.

Shelly said...

I thought I loved this post enough on its own, then I read John's comment and just melted. Stacey, there is no one more beautiful a person than you and it's so beautiful you have a husband to sees that, too.

And why did I not get invited to the paint party? You know how I love it.

Teacherheart said...

Amen. Amen and amen and amen (to each of the comments).

If of mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.
(by MOSLIH EDDIN SAADI, in his book Gulistan)

Betsy said...

There's deep truth here. Made me cry. There have been times when Heavenly Father told me to spend money I didn't think I had--but when I obeyed, miracles happened, sometimes little ones & sometimes very big ones. Love y'all.

Betsy said...

Also, congratulations to the whole family on John's behalf!