Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In My Heart of Hearts

I remember many years ago when John and I were starting to get serious, my mother said, "You don't want to marry him--his dad died of heart disease.  That could happen to him and you could be left a young widow."  I remember being wounded by those words.  Who can predict the future?  Who can know what tragedy will befall us or what disease will set in?  Who will lose their way and who will not?  Who will betray us and who will stay true?  Oh, that I would have listened to those words, all the happiness that I would have missed out on.  I am so glad I listened to my heart.

Recently, I have become good friends with my own cardiologist.  It seems that I am the one with a heart problem, not my husband.  Maybe I should have warned my husband not to marry me?  Should we have known that in the future my problem would arise and cancelled all the happiness we have shared and not had our beautiful family?

The way it all happened with me was quite frightening.  It happened all pretty quickly, within just a few days.   It was last fall and on the evening before a major procedure, I insisted we take family photos.  I didn't want to worry my kids, but insisted that the pictures be taken, arranging them for a Sunday afternoon, when everyone was available.  I needed to know we had these photos, that they would have pictures of us together.

The outcome now is that I have a chronic heart condition.  I've wondered, "why me?"  I'll admit I'm not brave enough to say, "why not me?"  I'm not that cool.  I'm still working on being that cool.  I have a brilliant set of doctors who are taking great care of me and we're working together to solve the problem.  I'm trying to be patient.  I'm trying to learn some lessons.  I'm learning my limits.  I hate my medications and their side effects.  I don't like my new routine, but it's been a good time to reflect and think about my heart--my physical heart, yes, but more so my emotional heart and my spiritual heart.  About all the things it has endured in the past, and what I expect some of the things are that it still must endure in the future.  About how I have been shaped by those experiences and how I hope I can be a better person for what I'm learning now.

What of the little heart-stopping moments in life?  For good or ill?  Or the ones that make our hearts beat faster and faster, like we can't get enough air?  The ones that make us take inventory of where we are in our journey.  That make us wonder.  That make us pause and breathe a little more slowly.  Are we on the right path?  Do we have enough faith?  Are we strong enough?  Are our relationships where they should be?  Do our children know we love them?  Do our spouses know they are cherished?

Unbelievable, I know, but this year is my fiftieth year.  And, in those 50 years it's impossible to list all the heart-stopping moments of my life, all the moments where my heart raced so fast I thought it might explode. But, here are some that come in to view, and please, keep in mind, these include some that are both heart-wrenching and heart-gripping for both the happy and the sad.  Moments where I thought my heart would break from utter despair and also burst with total joy.  Moments that scared me so badly I thought I would die of fright.  I guess it's up to you to decide how well you know me to decide which is which.  They are not in order:
  • when my grandpa died
  • when I knew I had a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of my very own
  • the famous car accident where everyone miraculously survived
  • moving to a new town and having to start going to a new school
  • winning the lead in the school play
  • finding out my dad was having an affair
  • my first kiss
  • getting engaged
  • the day John and I got married
  • my parents getting divorced
  • graduation from college
  • the day my husband graduated from law school
  • the day our beautiful son was born
  • moving to our first home
  • our son's horrible accident
  • the day our beautiful baby girl was born
  • when I finished the Book of Mormon for the first time
  • when our daughter starting choking
  • when we heard that my dad had had a heart attack
  • when our son opened his mission call
  • the first time the kids won a fiddle contest 
  • my first plane ride
  • the first time I used my passport
  • when my dad's wife died
  • my river-rafting accident
  • the phone call telling me my husband and daughter had been in an accident
  • sending our son on an LDS mission
  • picking our son up at the airport when he returned from his LDS mission (best hug EVER!)
  • the first time our kids drove the car alone
  • the whole time I was in the car with my kids while they were learning to drive
  • every time I listen to my husband and kids play their music
  • September 11th
  • when I decided to forgive my parents
I realize it's kind of a mishmash.  I could easily add hundreds of things, such as those that are just as important and defining, but are either too personal, special, or painful to share here, and so shall remain private. All of these together have shaped my heart, molded it maybe, making it beat the way it does, or not beat the way it's supposed to, or maybe even healed it where it was previously broken so now it does work better than it could have or should have.

If doctors are now testing junior high-age children for atherosclerosis, what does that say about our culture?  And, if it is already part of our culture and our diet and our heredity to have hardening of the arteries showing up in young teens, what about other signs of heart issues?  I had symptoms as a young girl, but no one ever took me seriously.  "It's just growing pains," they'd say, or my personal favorite, "well, she's just growing so fast."  It doesn't matter now.  Thankfully, doctors know things now that they' didn't know back then.

Do you think it's possible to die of a broken heart?  I do.  I'm convinced it could happen given the right circumstances.  There have been times in my own life where I was sure it could happen to me, where I thought I couldn't recover from things I thought were truly heart-breaking at the time.  Much to my surprise, I was stronger than I thought and I rallied to live another day.  I'm so grateful, too.  There are things, though, that I'm not sure I could or would not want to survive.  Maybe I'm a coward, but I wouldn't want to be the only surviving member of my family.  If it's only me left, then no thanks.  What's the point?  I can't do it on my own--I'll tell you that right now.  I have three reasons for living--my husband, my son and my daughter.  Take those away and I don't want to be here.

Well, if you can die of a broken heart, can you get better, or heal because of loving kindness?  Maybe.  I'm pretty sure you can. It's a curious thought.  A few weeks ago I was at church, feeling a little sorry for myself after a rather difficult week of not feeling well.  I told an acquaintance that I was having some health problems to which she responded, "well, you look perfectly fine!"  and went on her merry way.  I'm sure she meant no harm and probably even meant to console me by telling me I didn't look sick, but as I thought about it I thought of the words in the hymn, "in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see."  I started to look around me and wonder about all the hidden sorrows that people were surely carrying that I couldn't see.  Was I assuming that just because someone looked okay that they were?  Surely I was guilty of that myself.

In the fairy tale "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen, a little boy is wounded with a fragment of a broken magical mirror and has a sliver of it trapped in his eye and in his heart.  The mirror is the tool of an evil troll, the Devil, who has devised this tool as a means to get the people to see others as they are not, and to judge them wrongly.  As long as the splinter of the broken mirror is in one's eye or in one's heart, they cannot see or feel honestly about others.  It is only through his sister's love, through her compassionate tears falling on him as she cries over him, melting the ice in his heart and in his eye that the little boy is healed.  The story is a good one.  It illustrates that it is possible to have a heart so wounded that we lose our ability to see our fellowmen as they really are and also to see ourselves as we really are.  It also depicts that simple compassion, kindness and love, can and does have the power to heal our hearts and help us see ourselves and others in a new and honest way.

If I only think about the heart-racing moments in my life that were difficult and brought me pain, I can only remember the despair.  However, if I focus only on the the heart-stopping moments that brought me sheer elation and happiness, then I am filled with gratitude and joy, love and humility.  I know we must and do all experience both in our lives, both the difficult and the wondrous. We need to in order to grow and learn.  But, as I have pondered over these last few months about my own blessed little heart and the 50 years it has been pumping and working and carrying me along, I have decided that in order to help it along to get me to at least the 80-year mark, I need to focus more on the heart-stopping happy moments that have defined me and less on the moments that have been hard for me.  Now, I definitely would not trade the difficult moments--make no mistake--for they have shaped me into the person I am today.  I would rather they had not been so difficult though, for some of them were much too hard to bear, but they were mine and I accept them.  I learned and am still learning from them and I am truly grateful.  But, I would like to have more happy moments and I believe they are there for the asking and may even be there in the hard moments if we just look for them, for I have found some of them in my own trying times.  I know that in fact I have had MANY MORE HAPPY TIMES than hard times!  What a blessed realization!

Hearts, I am convinced, are miracles in and of themselves.  How they do their jobs day in and day out I do not understand.  Only God would know, for He is the one who made our hearts.  But I do know this.  My heart will only beat until God decides it should not beat any longer.  I surely do not want to waste those beats.  I fear I have already wasted too many.  Wasted too many on wishing I had done this or that or been better at this or that.  Well, if this is my 50th year, and it is, then I'd better get to it, kicking it, so to speak.  No time to waste any more.  I'd better make sure I'm as strong and faithful as I think I am.  The hard times are not over.  John and I are getting older.  There will be fun times coming with that, right?  Someone said, "gettin' old ain't for sissies."  If that's true, I'd better get un-sissied.  There will be weddings for our kids and the in-laws and the grand-kids and all the stuff that comes with that.  We need to be strong for our kids when they deal with their problems, because we know they will come.  What will the the world be like for them and their children?  I need to be strong and ready to help them through those times, but also ready and present, and excited for them to help them celebrate their successes and their joys, because there will definitely be more of those.  There is so much that John and I have to look forward to--traveling, serving missions, being grandparents, just hanging out together.  The party is just getting started!

Just when I thought I could sit back and rest my little heart and wait for it to heal, I realized I'm in a dead heat to get better as fast as I can.  Time waits for no one and there's too much at stake.  My kids might be adults and they are independent and smart and talented people, but they still need their mom and dad and John still needs me.  We all still need each other.  We might be a small family, but we're strong and we're fierce.  We love each other and we've got each others' backs.  You don't mess with one of us and not feel it from the rest of us, and likewise, you don't love one of us and not feel the love from all of us in return.  These are my favorite people and I need to be here for them.  I need to be ready for what's still coming---all that's going to be a challenge, but most importantly, all that's going to be gloriously wonderful and beautiful, as God's blessings to us, for I know His arms are open wide and He wants so much to bless us.

Last weekend I did a little work outside with my husband.  It was long overdue as we missed getting our fall clean-up done, mostly because of my health issues and all the other things happening around our house last year when the leaves started to fly.  I looked at the little daffodils that were blooming and the tulips that were getting ready to open.  The leaves on the trees are there, getting ready to green up and say hello.  Soon my trees will be all dressed in white flowers, fragrant and beautiful, reminding me that it is a new season of joy.  Time to spring into action, to be happy and joyful.  To anticipate goodness and great things to come.  To remember my blessings and the gifts that come from knowing I have a Savior, even Jesus Christ who loves me and wants to help me get back to my real home.

In my heart of hearts I know this:

1.  I have a physical heart that beats.  It is a heart that keeps me alive every day.  I am grateful for this heart.  It lets me do the things I do with my body and lets me be with my family, the people I love.

2.  I also have an emotional heart.  It has feelings and experiences things deeply.  It loves even though it has been hurt, and it loves truly and fiercely those it loves most.

3.  I also have a spiritual heart.  The one I am most grateful for.  The heart that knows God is real, that I truly belong to Him, that He is my Father and that I can return to Him when this life is done, if I am a good girl.  This is the heart that knows that Jesus Christ died for me and paid for my mistakes so I can return to my Father.  Jesus did that for me because He loves me.  This is my favorite heart, my heart of hearts.  This heart is the one that tells me my physical heart can heal, even if it is only in God's time or only in God's way.  I am okay with that.

In my heart of hearts.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beware the Falsehood of False Lashes

I like to observe things around me and one thing I've come to note of late is that a lot of women look like Muppets.  Miss Piggy has enormous, spider-like, all-encompassing false eyelashes and she is a Muppet, right?  Why would any woman want to look like that?  I am so perplexed by this trend.

The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers say that the false eyelash industry is booming.  One source said it made 44 million dollars in 2010.  Even with the threat of complications like infections and permanent loss of lashes, women are still lining up for this service.  I believe it because everywhere I look, I feel like I'm in a horror movie called "Tarantula" and women have spiders coming out of their eyes.  I keep a having a nightmare that I will be next.  But then I remember that I would have to actually drive myself to a salon, willingly sit in a chair for about two hours and then open my wallet for a couple hundred dollars first, and I would never do that.  What a relief!  Spending $10 instead of $7 on mascara at Target is when I feel like I've suddenly gone all crazy.

Really, though, doesn't just buying mascara make you crazy enough?  How is one woman supposed to decipher all the different formulas?  I never know if I'm supposed to want to try the volumizing or the lengthening or the curling or the deepest blackest black?  And then, there is the choice in wands.  It was much simpler when it was just Cover Girl and Maybelline and Max Factor.  Now, you can't even get Max Factor unless you live in the United Kingdom, which is terrible because it was always my favorite.  I digress.  The point is, we women have it hard enough.  We just need to get out the door in the morning and we don't need to worry about such trivial things.  Now we have to worry about wands and formulas and then when everybody else on the train or in the office is showing up looking like Muppets, we might feel the pressure to look like a Muppet too.

If you haven't guessed by now, I'm going to suggest that you rebel against looking like Miss Piggy.  I think Miss Piggy wants to look like a Kardashian, but who would want to look like that either?  Have you ever seen pictures of them without their makeup and their fake eyelashes?  You and I get up and we put on a normal amount of makeup, a mom's amount, a working woman's amount, and we go about our lives. How long does someone like you or me have to put makeup on anyway?  Five minutes for a regular day?  Ten if we're going out somewhere really special?  We have important things to do, people who need us.  We can't spend all day at the mirror.  They have to spend a week in a makeup artist's chair to look like we're used to seeing them, so when we see pictures of them in real life, we get scared.  Doesn't that make you feel sorry for them?  Don't you realize that actually makes you prettier than them because you don't need all that stuff to look like yourself?  Think about that and be grateful.

I have never had eyelash extensions, or spent money on Latisse, the prescription so many women use to grow their own lashes to ridiculous lengths.  My own mascara changes every three months, but I average $8 to $10.  The most I ever spent was on DiorShow for $25 at Sephora and that was a stupid decision because I couldn't tell the difference between that and the $8 mascaras.  I looked up some prices for lash extensions in my area and found they ranged anywhere from $450 for a full set for mink to $150 for synthetic and took two hours for the first sitting.  Fills were anywhere from $200 for the mink to $50 for the synthetic and took another 45 minutes to an hour, every two to three weeks.   That makes my $25 for Christian Dior seem like nothing, right?  Who has that kind of money to throw away?  Who has that kind of time to waste?  I don't think Melinda Gates wears fake eyelashes.  She gives her money away to help people.  She doesn't waste it on something so ridiculous. 

Well, here is how we revolt against this industry that is lying to us, telling us we have to look like the people in Hollywood:  Spend the money and the time on something else.  Something, or some things that will actually make you or other people HAPPY.  Do you want the truth?  Eyelashes do not make a person happy.  They don't.  They can't.  You are a smart person so I'm sure you can come up with ideas of your own, but here are a few of mine.
  • date night with your husband
  • family activities
  • music lessons for your child
  • music lessons for you
  • books for your child
  • books for you
  • books for the local school
  • books for the shelter
  • donations to the food bank
  • donations to your church
  • donations to the women's shelter
  • donations to any charity
  • donations to another charity
  • art supplies
  • art classes
  • cooking classes
  • ingredients to cook a gourmet meal
  • a new painting for your home
  • symphony tickets
  • concert tickets
  • sporting event tickets
  • new shoes
  • a really pretty dress
  • family vacation
  • second honeymoon
  • anything else but fake eyelashes
You get the point.  If you are getting eyelash extensions or spending $165 per month on Latisse, that money would add up very quickly for other much more enriching experiences and could be used to benefit other people, especially your own families.  

Last week, my daughter and I went to see the ballet, "The Sleeping Beauty."  It was magnificent.  We went to dinner first and all together it was cheaper than eyelash extensions.   Are the women of today's society trading lovely, cultural, social experiences with loved ones because they would rather have fake eyelashes?  Even if you had all the money in the world, could not that money be put to better use?   If we really have that kind of money to throw away on falsehoods, what does that say about our culture?  About the women of today?

About a year ago I went over to the home of a dear friend.  When she greeted me I actually was startled as I hadn't seen her new eyelashes.  They were very off-putting, jet black, miles long, and completely encircled her eyes.  She didn't look like herself.  I found myself staring at her the whole time we spent together .  She kept asking what was wrong.  I finally had to say, "hey, I'm not used to seeing you with those things on your eyes."  I felt like my friend was someone else.  She acted differently with them on, constantly batting her new Muppet eyes.  I didn't like her this way.  She scared me.  I began thinking, "gosh, do I need to get those?"  Then she told me it was actually kind of hard to see through them.  Really?  And they were expensive.  Well, I have a hard enough time seeing as it is with my dry eyes and I already have bifocals, so I didn't need one more issue.  Plus, it's hard enough just to get the darn mascara on in the morning and off again at night.

Is all this eyelash business changing who we are as women?  Is it causing us to attract the wrong kind of men?  Is it making us hide behind something that's not real and making us miss out on greater opportunities to grow our talents and experience the world?  Are we missing opportunities to serve our fellowmen because we're spending all our money on ourselves?  And is it scaring off our friends and associates because it makes us bat our fake spider eyelashes and nobody wants to get hit with those things so they stay away?  Are we missing time with our families because we are tending to our vanity?  And, do you want to really get scared?  What are we teaching our children--both our sons and daughters?

If we are to Become Cream we must not be false.  It is one thing to look nice and put on makeup and a nice outfit.  In fact, I think those things are necessary.  We should take care to put our BEST self forward each day, but please---I beg you, not a FALSE self.  I believe we are false when we we go beyond merely enhancing our natural beauty to lying about it.  We become creatures we are not, thus lying to those around us.  Will God ask us what we did with our resources, time and talents and our beauty, our natural beauty?  I would rather say my children had music lessons and lots of books and we took family trips and had lots of adventures together--that we spent time together. 

I would rather know that I looked more like myself with my makeup off than I did with it on.  Something to think about. 

To quote Shakespeare, "This above all; to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." 

This is how we Become Cream. 

Note:  This is not aimed at women who seek eyelash enhancement due to medical reasons.


    Friday, October 25, 2013

    Becoming Cream:

    All my life I have resisted being like everyone else.  In Sociology classes at the university I attended, I studied groups and the science behind what makes people conform and not conform.  It troubled me.  I didn't want to be sucked into a group mentality where mediocrity was the goal.  It did empower me because it taught me that I have always wanted to be a little bit different. 

    At my high school in the early 1980's, Vans were all the rage.  The preppy kids wore  Levi 501 jeans, Izod shirts with the collars turned up, and Vans.  I adored the jeans, but hated the dark blue wash that seemed to take an eternity to fade to the powder blue and white, dreamy softness that I thought was heaven.  I worked hard at fading my 501's.  I washed them constantly, left them out in the sun to fade, poured Clorox in the rinse cycle, and scrubbed them with my dad's sand paper.  It worked.  I had beautifully faded and velvety soft jeans while everyone else had dark blue and stiff jeans.   

    I liked Vans, but didn't like the checkerboard pattern or the neon colors everyone else was buying at Nordstrom.  I bought white ones and dyed them pink.  Just a solid color of baby pink.  I made a huge mess in the washing machine and even got grounded by my mother for it, but it was worth it.  Nobody else had shoes like mine.  Soon, people started to copy me, either by special ordering a similar color, or by resorting to Rit dye like I did.  That is when I knew I had the power to change a trend, or at least skew it my way. 

    I am the oldest of six children.  My father is a college professor and when I was growing up my mother did not work outside the home.  We did fine financially until my parents made the mistake of building a house they could not afford, in the late 1970's, at the time of the energy crisis.  I digress.  My point is that we did not have extra money lying around for high-school girls to buy clothes with.  I had to get creative.  I never really saw it as a bad thing--in fact, I loved the challenge of coming up with things that no one else would have. 

    I raided my mom's old bureau down in the basement.  It was full of old clothes she wore in the 1950's and 1960's.  Little cropped cardigans, skinny stovepipe pants, pencil skirts, wool coats with fur collars, blouses with all different kinds of collars and sleeves, and more.  I had learned to sew and so those skills came in easily.  I could let out a hem or hem something up, change the sleeves, take off the collar or change the shape of it, put darts into dresses, you name it.  I also altered my own clothes.  I cut khakis off and turned them into Bermuda shorts.  I dyed a brand-new pair of Keds from white to khaki (there was no such color available in Keds then), and I cut a dress apart and turned it into a skirt.  I was always doing things like that.  I started shopping at the local thrift store, Deseret Industries, and found a treasure trove of things I could either use as they were or alter in some way.  It didn't take long before I had a beautiful, eclectic, and classy wardrobe.  There were the snobs that made fun of my clothes, probably because they didn't have the creativity or confidence to come up with their own style.  I look back on it now and I believe some were really embarrassed for me, some were jealous of my ability to rock my own look, and some were just jealous of the clothes. 

    I have continued this hobby and love of showing creativity through clothing for my whole life.  I absolutely adore shopping at thrift stores.  My husband jokes that my closet has no middle ground--it's either Macy's and Sak's or thift store.  I have found stunningly gorgeous, pristine and classic things at the DI and other stores that I would never dare spend the full price on at the department store.  I have things from department stores and boutiques that I got on sale for ridiculously low prices.  I have things in my closet that I have designed and sewn myself.  And I absolutely love mixing vintage with H&M.  The point is that if I can do it, so can you. 

    There is a difference between fashion and trends and true style.  Wearing what is currently in fashion is not very difficult.  You get an InStyle magazine and copy what's inside.  Being on trend is even easier.  You look around at what people in your area are wearing and you copy them.  STYLE is harder.  It is individual.  It is your own.  You can copy themes or take ideas from other people, but it is really about coming up with your own signature look.  Style does not go out of style.  It can't because it is yours.  Your style belongs to you.  What has become my style will not look right on my sister or my friend. One of my favorite people to watch for her gorgeous sense of style and individuality (and modesty for that matter--thank you, Diane) is Diane Keaton.  No one else is like her, and that is exactly the point.  Thankfully, God made us all uniquely different.  I believe it is actually His plan for us to be individuals, to be different from each other, and to be creative and use our talents that He has given us to express to the world who we are.  

    The purpose of this blog is to share with you what I have learned over my lifetime so far about style, substance, individuality, beauty, creativity, and how we can best use these tools to make the world around us a more beautiful, colorful, charming and pleasant place.  I believe with all my heart that if we really know who we are and where we come from, we will want to present ourselves to the world in the best possible way we can.  It doesn't have to cost money or take up a lot of time, but it does require effort and conscious decision making.  We are all children of God.  He created us in His image.  Shouldn't we work harder on how we treat ourselves and each other and how we present ourselves to the universe each day?  

    I am just Gina.  I have no credentials.  I am lucky to have a husband who adores me and has encouraged me to do this, as a way of sharing what many, many women have asked me to help them with over the years.  If I can help those women, maybe I can help you.  I can't come to your house and go through your closet and make-up drawer, but I can share here on this blog.  My desire is to keep this positive and do it with a spirit of gratitude and rejoicing in the talents I have been blessed with and to share and learn from you and the gifts each of you have been given. 

    Be gleeful today!

    Next time:  Why "Becoming Cream" ??