"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
April 17, 2013
More Perfect Measuring
by Marian Stoddard

For various reasons, we are in the process of downsizing our lives, and getting ready to sell the house where we have raised our family and lived for over thirty years. That house was a blessing straight from God when we got it, and now His direction is that the time has now come to leave it behind.

We found a little house to rent, single story, so much better for us than an apartment would have been. One shock to the system may be all I can handle at a time! Combing the listings for something that we could live with and that would be within our budget was discouraging. Then we were led to this place, and our application accepted.

It took some sleuthing to locate a record, but I discovered that this house was built in 1902. That makes it a dozen years older than the tall square two-and-a-half-story house we’re leaving, as well as about half the size. But it has a basement (though no interior stairs to it), which gives us needed storage. No counter on the side of the oven for my crock of kitchen tools or drawer for potholders, and the upper cupboards are very high. The kitchen counter is only seventeen inches deep, and it’s amazing how much inside cabinet space that means you don’t have, looking at that long horizontal expanse. There is also a definite shortage of electrical outlets — only one in our bedroom.

Nothing works quite the way it did where we have lived for so long. That’s inevitable, in any move. I can’t remember where things are or where I last saw something I’m now looking for.

The house is old and far from uniform. I am learning the topography of the floor as it rises, dips, and tilts. If I had a marble and a smooth floor (instead of carpet), I think it would roll in a different direction from any place I put it down!

The path from the front entry into the living room is a discernible rise upwards; and there is one small definite hollow in the dining room, just big enough for my foot to find it as I pass through, downhill again, from the living room towards the kitchen.

In a moment of whimsy in the first few days, I thought that one almost needed to have “sea legs” to walk about, with the rolling gait of the sailor automatically adjusting for the rise and fall of the deck. Mine doesn’t move, of course. But I now anticipate the contours as I move from room to room.

There’s still a lot to do to unpack and organize here and clear out over there, but we getting more settled every day. The bookcases are set up and filled, the audiovisual systems as well. The couch is comfortably familiar, and the living room now has curtains.

And we have started to hang the artwork. We actually have more available walls, as this house is laid out, for putting up our prints and paintings.

My husband carefully assessed the spaces, the sizes, and the juxtapositions of style and color that we wanted, as we set up a plan. The biggest simple wall was in the dining room, and I wanted a particular watercolor, very large and dramatic, to hang there. It’s heavy, and he wanted to be sure that he did it right, so he bought two triangular hanging pieces for it: three nails go into each, an inverted V, after you place them by measuring and sticking them on the wall using the hooks. He checked for the studs and was pleased to find that he could indeed center the painting onto two studs, thus spreading out the weight while placing it where we wanted.

The space was above a small bureau, so he pulled that out a little and got out the tape measure, while I stood ready with a pencil. He indicated the first spot, I marked it, he pushed the first hook onto the wall and we stood back. Look good? Looks good — okay, now for the other one. He measured up on the other stud to the same height, I made the pencil mark, stood back as he pushed the second hook onto the wall and said, “Wait, that’s crooked!”

He said, “It’s exactly the same. What do you mean it’s crooked?” but he stepped back, looked at it and agreed. How could it be crooked?

I said, “Maybe the floor’s not even.” We pulled the bureau out completely from the wall and I stepped along the edge, back and forth, and sure enough, there was a dip right there. He couldn’t tell in his shoes, but I could feel it in my stocking feet. “Measure it down from the ceiling,” I suggested.

“Who says the ceiling isn’t crooked?” he sputtered for a moment. “There’s no telling with this place.” Well, I pointed out, the ceiling is what you will visually identify with, and it should actually be straight. Measuring down from the ceiling, he moved the hook placement and we looked again. It looked perfect, and he tapped in the nails in each of the picture hooks, and we carefully placed the back wire onto them and centered the painting. Beautiful!

The experience left me to muse that measuring from the earth is unreliable, but measuring from the direction of heaven works perfectly.

There is a lot of noise all around us, of people protesting what’s not fair, what should work differently, how they demand change according to earthly, mortal, fashionable, social perspective. “Be not conformed to this world,” Paul counseled the Romans.

True understanding is found through revelation from above, not through majority vote or louder voices from below. Too many times people are measuring from uneven ground, but don’t realize it. When this clamoring world and the Eternal God measure things differently, it is God’s measure that will hold true.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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