Thursday, August 25, 2016

Even Painful Days Are Good

To the person who hurt me yesterday.
I will forgive you.
It might take me a little while.  
I'm only human.  I'm not magic.
I can't just snap my fingers and feel all better.  But I will get there.
It's a commandment to forgive.  
It's also a commandment not to go around hurting people--
telling stories that aren't true.
I will forgive you for not having enough integrity to come to me and talk to me yourself.  
I will get over you doing this to me--again.  
I want you to know it hurts,
and if you wanted to be my friend,
you wouldn't have done it.
I will forgive you,
but we can't be friends.
Friends don't do what you did.

To my friend, Joan.
The world lost you to cancer a year and a half ago.
It's not fair.  You're gone.  
You were too young. You understood me.
We laughed a lot.  You were smart and got my jokes.
We liked to talk about words in the dictionary and Shakespeare.
Who does that?  Nerds?  
Well, we did and I miss that.  No one else could ever be you.
You taught me so much, I will always be in your debt.
I'm glad you're not in pain anymore and that you're strong and healthy again. 
But it's not the same without you. 
Tell the angels "hi" for me.
Love you.

To my friend, Angie.
Thank heaven for you.  We've had so much fun!  
You inspire me to work hard, to reach high and work hard to reach any goal, 
How to be happy.
I always feel better after spending time with you.  
Thank you for your testimony, for your love of God and your good example.  
You are a gem and a joy.
Love you.

To my friend, Bonnie.
You're heaven sent. 
Twenty years ago we became friends and it's been a blessing to me every single day.  
Thank you for getting me.  For knowing how to teach me.  
For helping me be a good mother and wife.
For being the example I was missing in my life.
For being the most loyal friend a girl could ever have.  
For taking care of me when I've been sick.
All the Diet Coke runs and lunches of tostadas and chips and salsa.  
But mostly for being the older sister I always wished I had.  
Love to you.

I love you all.  

To my children, Al and Ains.
You are miracles.  
Truly, gifts from God Himself.  
Thank you for your examples of love and courage,
creativity and spunk, intellect and humility,
grace and strength, wisdom and testimony.
It's a privilege to be your mother.  
I have loved every minute of watching you grow.
Every stage has been a pure delight.  
And now you're grown, you are my friends.
It's the best feeling in the world, to enjoy my children so much.  
Love and blessings for you, forever.
You have my heart.
Forever, I will wub you mahups.  

To my love, John.
My champion and my hero.
My best friend.
My favorite person in the whole world.
The man who took a risk by loving a girl who didn't know who she was 
and turned her into a woman with a future and a smile.  
A bright and happy future with a beautiful family.  
There will never be words for what you've done for me 
or to say or show how much I love you.
You are the sand and I am the sea.
You are the earth between my toes and the rock that keeps me standing.  
You make me smile and you make me happy.
You have given me two beautiful children and a life
that I could have never have imagined when I was younger.
I always want to be with you, forever and always.  
I love you.  Always.

To my Savior and Redeemer.
You really did all that for me?  And you have never given up on me?  And never will?  
You suffered for my sins and felt all my pain and sorrow and then you died for me,
just so I could be with you again someday and with my family? 
You paid the price for my mistakes so I could be redeemed? 
Because you love me.
Because you said you would.
Because you kept your promise.
Because you are always true.
I love you.  I need you.  I don't deserve you.
But I lean on you, all the time, and you're probably tired.
I know you're always there for me.
Thank you.  It seems dumb to say thank you, but I'm so grateful.
I hope I know you when I see you.
I want so much to be true to you.  

To my Heavenly Father.
I can't wait for the day I get to see your face and remember who you are.
I want to be good so I know you.
You love me.
Please help me be strong.
Sometimes life is hard, but then again, you already know that.
Thank you for all my blessings.
For all the people in my life who have helped me and even those who have hurt me.
They have all helped me to know you better in one way or another.
I love you.  

Tomorrow will be better.
I just know it will.
My bed will hide me tonight until the sun comes up.
My dog will lick my face, saying "good morning!"
My kids will send me funny Snapchats and my husband will kiss and hold me.
I'll work hard and I'll smile.
It will be a good day.  Even a great day.
Because I'm so blessed and I have everything I need.
What a miracle my life really is.
Even painful days are good,
because I remember what's most important:
My God, my marriage, my family, and my friends.
And it's always a good day
when you see a little more clearly,
and you come to know who is really your friend
and who would never, ever hurt you.
Yes, even the painful days are good.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Wear What Looks Good on You---Not What Everyone Else is Wearing

I think I am one of the few people where I live not wearing the "maxi" skirt.  What does that say about me?  Maybe that I need to move to Italy?  Or at least to New York?  At least I'll take that as a license to exercise use of my passport. What happened to a nice tweed or wool skirt?   With stockings and heels?  It is February.   

Let's talk a little bit about individuality and style and even fashion for that matter.  Have you heard the saying, "Fashion is what you buy, but style is what you do with it?"  It's true.   Anyone can copy anyone else's Pinterest board or go to the mall and buy what is on the mannequin, but what do you do with it when you get home?  Can you only wear that item that one way that you saw illustrated for you?  I hope you don't think that.  It's about knowing who you are, first.  You have to know YOU. 

My little sister called a week ago, saying, "I want to 'become cream', but how do I know what my style is?"  I told her to go on Pinterest and start pinning what she liked, without thinking about it, just to pin what she instinctively was drawn to.  I promised her that she would see a pattern.  I told her that I had been quite entertained after recently setting up my own Pinterest account and going back to see that there was definitely a pattern to what I was pinning.  I am obviously a Seventies child, drawn to the long, flowing fabrics and layers of that era, along with the chunky boots, clogs, hats, bow-tie blouses, and collars.  Interestingly, it has transferred over into everything I buy today.  Even though the things I buy are new and fresh, there are definitely themes from the Seventies that I am attracted to, and I think they work well with my thin, 5-foot-11-inch frame.  Time after time, I buy flare-legged jeans, or at least boot-cut pants, with long and flowing blouses and sweaters.  I love layers--lots and lots of them.  Fall and winter are my favorite seasons where I can wear coats and sweaters and lots of clothes.  I loathe summer where other people strip down to tank tops and shorts.  I like to be covered up.  I love clothes and so I want to wear them. 

The point is, to be your own little self.  We are individuals for a reason.  God didn't make us all look the same.  He is the Creator, the Chief Artist, and He was not using a mold when He made you and me.  And, thankfully, the clothing designers do not make just one kind of clothing.  We are blessed to have an abundance of choices.  So, with all of the creative talent effervescing in design and fashion, why is everyone wearing the same things?  Just because someone starts wearing one trend, why does everyone else have to follow?   It's so un-creative. 

Are we afraid to be different?  I think that's what it really boils down to.  Do you want to get real about this?  Are you afraid that you might be the "weird one" at church or school?  You envy--yes envy--the woman who knows how to do it, and secretly wish to be her, but you talk about her as if she is odd to others, and complain to your friends that she must be loaded with money to afford her closet full of nice clothes.  It's not fair.  You could learn something from that girl.  You could ask her where she shops, or ask her to come over and help you.  She might love to help you.  She might even end up being your friend.  You might even find out she's a lot of fun, and not the selfish spender you think she is.  She just happens to have an artistic flair others don't and she might be able to help you find it in yourself.    The whole key is to get excited about being YOU, and stop looking to copy other people.

My sister started pinning outfits and said, "I guess I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.  How can you be stylish in jeans and a t-shirt?"  Guess what?  You can!  It's in the details.  In the shoes, in the jacket, in the bag and the cardigan and the accessories that go with the jeans.  I wear jeans every single day.  I just wear mine differently than my sister and she wears hers differently than me, because she's Jane and I'm Gina.  It's supposed to be that way.  Be yourself and wear what looks good on you, not what everybody else is wearing.

Do you have a special necklace your grandmother gave you that you are "saving" for something special?  Wear it now!  Do you have a collection of beautiful scarves?  Wear them!  What do you already own that shows the world that you are special?  You can tie those things into your daily wardrobe.  Maybe you have a few key pieces that you wear every single day.  Maybe a special necklace or watch and maybe you are known for wearing those pieces.  If so, make them your signature pieces.   Maybe you are known for carrying a unique green handbag.  If that's your unique signature, keep it--it's special.  Resist the urge to be like everyone else.  And, when you see everyone else kicking up their heels to follow a new trend, resist and hold out, and instead, start your own.  And if you can't get others to follow you, that's even better. 

Remember the story of the Ugly Duckling?  The poor little duckling was harrassed and belittled because he didn't look like all the other ducks.  He felt badly about himself, wishing that he could look like all his friends so he could fit in with them and better receive their affections.  Even the adult ducks scorned him and shamed him.  When it was discovered that he was not a duck after all and was in fact really a swan, a much more magnificent bird, the reasons for him looking differently were manifest.  Why would he ever have wanted to be an ordinary duck?  He was a glorious swan, the envy of all the lake, but he did not know it because he was too busy trying to fit in with all the ordinary ducks. 

So it is with us also.  We will not ever know we are swans if we are too busy trying to follow all the ducks.  Please have the courage to look in the mirror and in your closet.  Get to know yourself and what you like and what looks good on your body.  Try on all your clothing first and then throw out everything that doesn't flatter you and make you feel beautiful.  Have the strength to resist what the ducks are wearing and be the swan that God intended you to be.  Have grace and withdraw from the fashions that are unattractive and immodest.  Don't participate in any trend that you would not want your daughter or granddaughter to wear in your presence. 

There is beauty and strength that come from within when we have the courage to be the women God designed us to be.  The world would like us to all be the same.  When we are all the same, we keep each other down.  When we keep each other down, no one can succeed.  Where no one can succeed, we all fail.  This is not God's way.  God is the Master Creator.  It is His intention that we be like Him.  We are created in His image and so we are destined to also be creative.  One way we can do this is to be creative in the ways we present ourselves to the world.  Let us show God that we appreciate that He made us all differently when we were in Heaven and thus not try to all look the same now that we are here on the Earth. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Yellow Bike Ride

The bike was shiny and yellow.  The helmet black and sleek.  An old backpack that had been a lot of faraway places was strapped to the boy’s back and off he went down the gravel path on the first day of school.  He gave a big smile and a backward call saying, “love you, mom!" and "bye, Ains!"  But he did not look back.  At all.  He was ready and excited and off he went.  I watched as he rounded the corner, past the tall trees to where I couldn’t see him anymore, except the movement and a hint of yellow passing along the main street beyond the trees.  He was on his way.  This is when the tears started to come, but I fought them, even forcing them back.

I didn’t want to cry. I had a long drive and a lot of ground to cover to get back home.  I would cry at home, and I knew I would, when I got there and faced his empty bedroom.  He wouldn’t be home for dinner that night, and not for a long time.  It felt like the first day I took him to kindergarten, but this was his first day of medical school, 1300 miles away from home.  My daughter and I started the long drive that would take us back the way we had first come when we met my husband and son in North Eastern Missouri.  They had driven out together with Al’s little Honda Civic laden down with all it could manage: books, laptop, iPad, clothes, and even his prized guitar.

I was glad to be leaving the humid heat where my hair can’t be tamed and my skin decides to form pigment where it doesn’t belong.  I longed for my air-conditioned home and my husband who had gone home a week prior.  I had now been in Missouri for more than two weeks.  I was at the same time sad to leave this pretty place with green rolling hills and clouds that went all the way to the Atlantic.  My son would stay—where he belonged, at medical school with his childhood dream finally being realized.  Ains and I had stayed for the white-coat ceremony, a very big deal for new medical students where they take an oath of humility, earnestness, honesty, and diligence as they begin their journey to become a healer.  John was able to watch it via live stream so we were technically all there.  Now it was time to go home to my responsibilities, Ains to her new job as a junior high math teacher, and me to my darling husband who had to go home early for his new job and his calling as bishop in our congregation. But my heart hurt.  And it rejoiced.  Can it really do both at the same time?!

Two decades ago exactly, I was backpack shopping for a little 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, because she wanted to be like her brother.  Alex started kindergarten and Ainsley cried because he was gone and she had no one to play with for those long 3 hours each day.  I struggled to get all I needed to get done in such a short time on those kindergarten days.  I was barely able to exercise, shower, dress, clean the house, get a good idea for dinner, all before the little boy came home from school, back to play with Sissy.  On that first day of kindergarten, Al exclaimed, “school is so boring!”  Why?—I asked.  He retorted, “we learned about ORANGE!  I already know my colors!  I’m five!”  And thus began his years in elementary where he was completely bored out of his skull, quite literally, B-O-R-E-D. There are home videos of Al “singing” in the kindergarten program, looking around at all his classmates, who happened to actually be singing, with a look on his face as if to say, “we’re doing this, why?”

Once, in 9th grade Honors English, Alex begged me to talk to Mr. Webb and “let him out of Honors, back into regular English.”  I was so fatigued of the boy’s constant complaint of reading Charles Dickens that I humored him and brought it up at parent-teacher conference.  Mr. Webb would have nothing to do with it.  “No,” he said; “he can do it and so he should—Alex is too smart for ‘regular English.”  That was a fun car ride home, with a mad adolescent.  It was the beginning of where we are now, with him starting medical school.

There were the weekly violin lessons started at age five and ending at ages 17 and 18.  Twelve years with Alex and 13 with Ainsley.  That’s how long I sat at a violin lesson every single week for two hours.  Every single week unless someone had a fever, cough, or we were out of town.  I cried during the last lessons for both Alex and Ainsley.  So much of our time as a family had been wrapped up in music.  Traveling to fiddle contests around the country, staying in sketchy motels sometimes because everything else was already booked.  I went to every single event, performance, practice for music, baseball, basketball, tennis, 4-H, swimming, and science fair..  And now, I was there for the white coat ceremony and Ains was there, the loving little Sissy, cheering her brother on, and John at home, bringing up the rear and watching on TV.  High school graduations, college graduations, and now white coat ceremonies.  Next, we’ll have a wedding, when Alex marries his soul mate, Katlynn in the fall.  Ains will start her first full year teaching math at a junior high.

This morning, before Alex rode his shiny bike down the gravel road to school, we posed for some silly selfies to send to John.  I sat there with them as we tried to make each other laugh for the pictures and like a wave, it all fell on me at once.  Where had the time gone?  I mean, really?  It had escaped, I thought.   How could this really be happening?  We had prayed with and for our kids when their academic loads seemed too heavy to bear, when they faced stress and uncertainty about their dreams ever becoming realities.  We always told them to just keep going, one day at a time and it would all work out.  We encouraged them to seek to learn, to desire to share their learning with others, to lift and support their friends, to take care of themselves and have balance, to treat their musical talents as a gift that would make them happy and others joyful.  We’d taught them to make God and family their priority.  We taught them to work hard.  In fact, one of our family sayings is “we work before we play.” Now it’s harvest time and the fruit is sweet and beautiful. 

I remember the first time Alex went to Scout Camp.  He took off down the street to his leader’s house, his backpack strapped on, and he didn’t turn back.  He was confident as he nearly ran, he was so excited and ready.  On the day we took him to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) to begin his mission for our church in the Dominican Republic, his eyes were full of tears and his voice choked up, but he did not look back as he spun his suitcases forward into his new adventure. We would not see him for two years, but he was ready.  I kept looking, watching him all the way until I could no longer see him, but it would only be in pictures and four phone calls in those two years that we could talk to him or see him. 

Right now I’m on a plane, flying back home.  I hate how quickly it can take me away from my child. I can’t see Alex and he can’t see me, but that’s okay.  I know he will be safe, successful, and happy where he is in Missouri.  For reasons I don’t understand yet, I know he is supposed to be there.  I think it’s because of the people he has already met and will continue to meet, and for the first-rate education he will receive, for the history about our country and our church he will learn while living there, and for the people he will come to love and serve alongside his new bride.  This new home for Alex is as much about what he can do for others as it is for what he will gain by going to school there.  He is there to learn and to lift, to study and to share, to practice and to pray, to sacrifice and to serve, to love and make a family—a new family of his very own.  And the sweet relief is I know Al will be back, a lot, to visit, maybe even to practice medicine; and we have texting and emails and face time.  And there are planes and trains and cars that take mothers and fathers and sisters to Missouri to visit.

I have a lot to do at home.  My artwork has been sitting too long, needing to be photographed and cataloged, sold and shared.  My writing needs to come out of hiding and the images in my camera need to be uploaded and married with Photoshop.  My husband needs to be held and my daughter needs a back rub and help getting her new classroom ready. My dog needs some snuggling and my laundry needs doing. I have a job I love that I've missed and I'm excited to get back to work.  I do have a life to get back to, a wonderful life, actually.  It’s the life that produced two smart and capable, brave and kind children.  I’m proud of my life.  I’m thrilled that our family will soon grow and we will be blessed with a new daughter in our son’s soon-to-be wife.  Hopefully, one day we’ll be grandparents and we can begin the joyful journey with children all over again, just this time taking direction from our children.  It will be glorious when that happens.

Until then though, I’m going to promise to remember how I felt as we drove out of that town in beautiful Missouri this morning.  I felt completely at peace with a warm feeling up and down my whole body and all the way inside to my very soul, a beautiful and safe feeling that made me smile and shed a few tears.  Do you know what that feels like?  It’s the feeling God sends to us through the Holy Ghost to comfort us when He knows our hearts are about to be really sad or scared—to tell us everything will be okay.  I felt a distinct impression in my mind that told me, “I’ve got him, Gina—he’s going to be perfectly fine and you don’t need to worry.”   I trust that feeling completely, for I’ve learned that I can. 

Sometime this afternoon, while I’m having a layover in Los Angeles, Alex will ride his bike home to his new apartment and turn on the air conditioner as he makes himself a delicious stir-fry for dinner and begins his studying.  He’ll think it’s awfully quiet and he might be a little sad, maybe a lot overwhelmed with being asked to drink from the Mississippi all at once, but then the same warm feeling I had this morning will come to him and it will caress him and bury deep inside his heart where it will tell him how much his family loves him, how Katlynn misses and loves him, but most importantly, how much God loves him.  It will tell him that God keeps His promises—always—when we keep ours.  The special feeling will help him feel stronger, happier, safer, and like the Brother of Jared, if Alex will do the work and ask God to bless it, God will.  And that is why I can go home and pick up the things I’ve been neglecting as we’ve prepared to make this journey out here.  Because I know I’m not in charge and I’m grateful that I’m not.  I don’t have to worry because I have the best Emergency Hotline in the world.  So can you.  All you need to do is get on your knees, or even sit in a quiet place.  Close your eyes and either speak or think your pleadings to God--He is your Father.  I promise you that He will hear you and He will answer you, but it might have to be in His own time.  Don’t give up too quickly on Him---because God is never, ever late.

To you, dear Alex, my Independence Day kid:  You’ve got this.  You know who stands on your side.  You've got beautiful Katlynn--enough said!  You’ve got your family, both living and gone ahead, to cheer for and pray for your every success.  You’ve got amazing friends who will be praying for you.  You’ve got Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, who has called you to this mission to be a healer and so He will help you.  He will comfort you when it’s hard, and pick you up when you’re too tired.  You’ve got God your Heavenly Father, who knows all things and what exactly you need and when you need it.  You know as well as I do that He is never late.  Look at all that’s happened to prove it.  I love you and you know that too.  Four years from now when you’re ready to do your residency, you’ll say, “already—where did the time go?”  So, just take it one day at a time.  Love Katlynn.  Work  before you play.  Work hard.  Give it your all.  Get good sleep and eat well.  Play basketball.  Play your guitar.  And, pray.  And don’t look back, because you’re ready and we’ll always be here.  Forever.  Wub you mahups, Mom.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Devil's Radio

George Harrison, my favorite Beatle, has a song called Devil's Radio.  It's what George calls G-O-S-S-I-P.  (The YouTube link is at the bottom of this post, along with the lyrics.)  George got it right.  The Devil's Radio. 

Why do people do it?  Why, especially, do women do it----to one another?  And how is it that a woman can always tell when she has been the subject of talk at lunch?  Answer:  Women who gossip give off weird vibes.  They hold back after they've gossiped about you.  Maybe they even ignore you altogether.  One can usually tell.  A sure sign is when someone has been cordial before, but then they suddenly shut down.  Friendly one week, silent the next and the next and the next and the next.  It makes a person wonder.

If a woman is wise, if she has the power to discern, it isn't hard to put the pieces together.  Another slam-dunk clue is when people in the same circles all start shutting her out.  Do they think she won't be able to tell?  There is also the clue of who is in charge.  Who is calling the shots.  It's usually the one who's been around the longest.  Maybe she's lived in the neighborhood the longest, or been in the office the longest.  That is almost always your queen bee.  But then again, sometimes Meanie-Queenie gets tired and starts passing along some of her queenly responsibilities to another---one she deems as close to herself as possible---one who is her kindred spirit.  They collaborate and conspire.  New people come into the circle of influence and if they can be bought, they will be.  Meanie-Queenie will babysit, bring dinner, clean the flooded rug---if one will tune into her radio station.  If a person will be on her team, shun whoever Meanie-Queenie has decided deserves to be shunned. 

The new people in the office or neighborhood aren't necessarily to blame.  Meanie-Queenie is very charismatic.  She could make a cobra go to sleep with her songs of loving charity woven with huge chunks of untruths and misrepresentation.  Everyone seems to fall under her spell.  She even teaches others how to charm so her legacy goes forward.  Years can pass even, and the tales still are told.  People who never even worked in the office when something happened will take sides with Meanie-Queenie, never even having met her 'adversary.'  The songs continue.  Like the bad station the bus driver loved and you were forced to listen to every single day on the 30-minute trip to and from school.  Smart women put in their own earphones, turn up their own music, and tune out the gossip of others. 

It's one of the 10 commandments, not to gossip:  "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."  But people, especially women, keep it up like it's an Olympic sport and there are thousands of gold medals to be won.  Why do they do it--the ones who love it so much?  Is it because they've never been hurt by it?  Is it because they have been hurt by the Devil's Radio and now it's their turn? 

What can a woman do if she finds stories about herself playing on Top 40 of the Devil's Radio? 
1.  Stay away from the offenders.  Consider them a bomb in a mine field.  Now it's marked.  Keep your distance. 
2.  Be civil and respectful when forced to mingle, but be guarded. 
3.  Don't gossip about them---do not become like them. 
4.  Realize that a person who gossips is really a miserable human being and so give them your pity and your empathy.
5.  Pray for them. 
6.  Ask God to give you strength to make a blessing come from it. 
7.  Try to see the blessing that being the victim sometimes can be.  Now you know who are not your friends, so you can look for new, genuine, honest, and kind friends.  They are out there.
9.  Put your energy into positive things.  Get back to your hobbies.  Read a really good book.  Serve other people.  Set a good and happy example that gossiping is not the sport of a good woman. 
10.  Be a good woman yourself. 

The Devil's Radio is blaring more loudly than ever, it seems.  The only thing we can really do is turn it off, one radio at a time.  We turn it off by refusing to play the music of gossip.  It's everywhere.  It has become a plague.  Let it be your guide to the good friends that are out there.  Look for the women who don't share things about others to you, which is a pretty good sign they will never share things about you to others.  Look for the good.  It is there.  Be gentle in the world.  Be happy.  Play your own music that you make yourself.  Make your own playlist.  Don't do what everyone else is doing.  The Devil's Radio is for the lazy, mean, weak, and unhappy people.  They can have it.  The Devil's Radio was made for them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Motherhood has Blessed My Faith in God

I was almost 27 years old when I had our first child. I quit my job 2 weeks prior to my due date, hoping to finish preparations for our new little baby, but he was born the next day, quite in a little hurry to get here. He was tiny and skinny at barely 6 pounds, 22 inches. We were thrilled, scared, excited and happy.

The day we all went home, he was scrawny as he swam in the new car seat. We padded it with blankets to protect his little head, but he was still so small. With the awkward seat facing the rear of the car, I could not stand the thought of riding anywhere but next to my baby and so I did. My husband drove us home and all I could think about was how completely dependent this tiny little soul was on us.

That first night in our apartment, I did not know what to do. The baby was crying and obviously hungry. I wanted to nurse him, but my milk had not come in. He did not like the pacifier. He would not take a bottle. My husband got him to sleep and we fell into bed, exhausted. Only an hour had passed when we woke to a wailing little baby. I was scared. I could not get him to stop crying. I was so exhausted and too weak to walk the floor with him all night, frightened I would drop my precious baby. So I prayed. Like I've never prayed before.

I remembered the little infant seat we purchased to use for feedings and went to find it. I put my itsy-bitsy boy inside and covered him up. Then I collapsed on the floor next to him, gently rocking the seat back and forth with my hand, trying to help us both to sleep.

It was a long night. Baby would wake up, I'd feed him as best I knew how, put him back in the little seat, and stay by him again, and gently rocking him until my arm went to sleep. We did this several times through the night, all the time while I was praying to God. Please, I pleaded. Please, help me. My little boy needs me. You know what he needs, but I don't. Help me to help him.

By morning, my baby and I were bound to each other. We had made it together. He had been patient with me, his brand-new mommy, and I had protected him, my new little baby. And I knew that God had stayed with us all night.

Three years later, we added a darling daughter to our family. I was not afraid to bring her home that first night. I had learned how to listen to God about how to take care of new babies. I was more relaxed. I knew what to do. That night home, the four of us---my husband, our little boy, and our baby girl and me, we all celebrated and bonded as we shared the wonder of our little family together.

Our son is now 24 and is on his way to medical school this summer. Our daughter is 21 and will start teaching junior high this coming fall. How speedily the time has commenced. There have been terrifying moments when our children have been hurt and very sick. Our son served a church mission where he thrived and I survived. We have seen them hurt by romances and friends. We have seen them fall and pick themselves back up. We have celebrated their successes and watched them grow. It has been beautiful.

I thought I knew what faith in God was before I became a mother, but if I did, it was insufficient, or a different kind of faith. Perhaps merely the kind of faith that everything would all work out, as people often say. It changed suddenly for me when I held those babies in my arms, knowing I was their only earthly mother and my husband their only earthly father. We had a huge responsibility and needed heavenly help. I could no longer afford to believe, because now I had to know. I needed to know that God would bless and protect my children. I needed to know He was really there. I needed to get closer to God so I could know what He wished me to do. It forced me to pray actively, even begging a lot of the time, for help in knowing how to be a good mother. I am grateful that God answered my prayers, not always immediately, but He always did and still does.

What motherhood has done for my faith in God is given me more compassion for Him as my Father. If I love my children as much as I do, and I know that God loves them still even more, then why would He not want to bless them and look out for them? He is their Heavenly Father and He is also mine. I can and do trust Him. I feel confident that He knows all, and I only know a shred.

What I think might be best, God knows is not. He has the whole view and I can only see a few hundred yards. Having babies has helped me to know God, to rely on Him, count on Him, and ask Him. Motherhood didn't change my faith in God as much as it gave me faith in God.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Grandpa Joe!

Wow!  That fast and now it's Spring and today is St. Patrick's Day!  Now we're almost a quarter way through 2016.  When I was a kid, the thought of the year 2016 conjured up ideas of space men, metallic clothing, electric cars, and robots.  Well, here it is, and we're well into 2016 now.  Most people have smartphones, a few have electric cars, and maybe somebody has a robot.  I don't wear metallic clothing, but I like jewelry; does that count? 

I used to laugh when my grandparents would say, "when I was youir age we had to milk the cow if we wanted milk," and things like that.  Now, I find myself saying to my children, "when I was in college, we didn't have smartphones or Google or even a home computer--we had to go to the library and use the card catalog to look up something."  That makes me feel old.  It also makes me feel very lucky and very blessed.  Why?  Because I got to experience things at a slower pace.  Not as slow as my parents and grandparents, but slow compared to now.  And I'm grateful for it.  

I am missing these grandparents of mine today, the ones on my father's side.  My grandfather was of Irish descent.  I remember him as a kind a loving man, with huge hands from hard and honest work both on a farm and as a blacksmith.  He could make anything with those hands when he was a younger man.  He played the fiddle and loved music.  He especially loved The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and when I would visit on the weekends, we always went to church and watched The Spoken Word with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  He was old even when I was young, but I knew he loved me and I knew he loved Jesus Christ.  Church books and scriptures were always by his chair; that's how he spent his days---studying.  His face would light up whenever I came to stay and he never wanted me to go home.  He always asked me to play the piano and thought I was brilliant.  My grandmother was a princess to me.  She never said an unkind word to me.  She always told me I was smart and had a beautiful smile and that I should share it with those who didn't have a smile at all.  She was a schoolteacher and instilled in me a love of reading by always giving me books as gifts.  Suppers were simple there, consisting of bread and milk, fruit preserves, cheese, and onions.  On Sundays it was always a roasted chicken and sometimes pineapple pie.  What I wouldn't give to go back there for just one weekend by myself, to stay and be loved by them, basking in their elderly wisdom.  I love them and always will. 

Maybe it's because of Grandma and Grandpa that I still like to read real books.  I like to turn the pages and make notes in the margins.  I like how they smell when they are new and when they are old.  They can be expensive and take up shelf space.  Just ask my husband.  My biggest fantasy is bookcases covering entire walls in every room of the house, filled to the rafters with books.  As it is, we have bookcases in every room and they pretty close to filled.  There are books on tables and desks and everywhere you look.  We do read them, too.  We don't just look at them.  And I love the library.  I ran into the former head librarian of our local library a few months ago.  She has long since retired, but she remembered me and asked about my children.  I know they hated seeing us coming every week, each with our own bag filled with 15 books, there to get another 15, so 45 total.  Every week, for years.  Yes, I'm sure that's why she still knows our names.   

I like to talk to people on the phone and not text.  Texting is fine for, "I'm on my way home," or "can you pick up the drycleaning."  It's not good for conversations.  At least not if you want to have a healthy relationship with a person.  But there are also those who won't have a conversation on the phone and so texting can get tricky and people can be easily misunderstood, including me. 
I like to cook real food, from scratch. I love to go out for Indian or Thai food, true, but I really like to cook.  When I'm feeling up to it, I love to get in the kitchen and make mean Italian meatballs, or a killer lasagne.  Maybe Russian meat dumplings, or Irish Shepherd's Pie with real potatoes, peeled and mashed with lots of butter and cream.  I love to make cherry pie with the real sour cherries and crust from scratch.  My kids have never had maple syrup from the store.  We've always had homemade.  I like to sit out on our deck on summer evenings and eat with a plate in my lap, my husband and kids around me, and visit for hours, long after the plates are empty.  I like to draw and paint and make things with my hands.  I love to sew when I have time and don't mind the mess for a few days.  I love to write real letters on pretty paper and send them with a stamp.
I love the technology we have today.  It makes writing this blog possible and doing my work from home a reality.  It makes it easy to buy clothes, since I never have to go the mall.  The good stores deliver and I know what size works, so it's all just a click away.  Technology actually allows me more time to do the slow, old-fashioned things I prefer.  Because I don't have to commute to my job, I have more time to play the piano.  Because I can write this blog in my jammies and in bed, it's more fun to do.  And because of the internet, I have resources right at my fingertips.  No more Dewey Decimal System, even though I do miss those drawers full of musty cards. 

I turned 51 last year so now I'm officially in my 50s. That means I'm more than halfway done with my life.  I'm sure I won't make it to 100, so that means I'm on the downward slope to the end, but then again, these grandparents pictured above lived well into their 90s, so maybe I have a shot.    Sounds depressing, right?  It can be if I think about it in that way, but I'm choosing not to.  I'm choosing to look at this next phase as a right of passage, a reward for all that I have lived through and dealt with.  I think I've earned the right to speak my mind.  Not that I ever haven't, but maybe I hadn't earned it yet.  I think I have the right to expect certain things from certain people and situations.  I think I've learned how to listen to my heart and gut and know when something is true and when it's not.  I think I've learned a few things.  I know I have a lot more to learn and am always anxious to try new things.  
Here are some things I've learned so far:
1.  There are always two sides to every story.
2.  Karma is real.  What goes around really does come around, so be careful what you send around.
3.  People just want to be understood.
4.  If you keep getting burned, stop touching the stove.
5.  Forgiveness is between me and Christ; it doesn't mean I'm okay with what someone did to me. 
6.  Difficult things happen to good people.
7.  We all will die, it's just a matter of when, and we will meet Christ face to face. 
8.  People are inherently good.  We were all created in God's image.
9.  Getting married and having a family is the best decision I ever made.
10. Jesus Christ is real and loves you and me. 

It's March now and I love how spring is almost here.  Shortly it will be Easter.  A time for a fresh start, a new beginning, with thoughts turned toward Jesus Christ, I'm feeling happy and grateful.  Instead of stressing out about making a hundred thousand goals for this year, I chose to just have one.  It's kind of all encompassing, but it's easy for me to think about:  LEARN MORE ABOUT JESUS CHRIST AND THINK OF HIM, ALWAYS.  If I am more centered on Christ maybe I can be more patient, kind, loving, charitable, forgiving, meek, with more faith.  Maybe I can be happier and more trusting in my afflictions.  Maybe I will be able to focus more on things of an eternal nature and not on a worldly one.  Maybe the meatballs will taste better and the sleep will be sounder.  Maybe I can think more about what I can do for Him.  Maybe I can work harder at building the kingdom of God.  Maybe my eyes will be brighter and I can bear my burdens more easily.
I just want things to be simpler.  I want the world to stay away from me--I don't care about it.  I just want to read good books and sleep well, eat homemade pie and smell grape juice steaming in October.  I want to remain ignorant about what's on television and who is famous.   I want to listen to my "oldies" music and smile because it's actually real music.  I don't want to be younger than I am and I don't want to be older, either.  I just want to be 51 this year, and enjoy it.  I want to smell the flowers and take the hikes and be in the sun. The cold winter weather and its friends, ice and snow, can take a rest now.  My daffodils are up and the tulips are shortly behind.  It's going to be a glorious spring!    So Happy St. Patrick's Day and luck of the Irish to you!  Tonight I'm going to make a mean Shepherd's Pie and Irish soda bread.  I'll be making a toast to my Grandpa Joe.  I wish he was here, but because of Jesus Christ, I know I'll get to see and be with him again.  What a wonderful blessing!  Resin up your bow, Grandpa!  We're going to do an Irish jig tonight! 

If you're not familiar with The Corrs, you need to be!  One of my very, very favorite bands---an Irish family band.  Enjoy! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Christmas has come and gone, again.  We took our tree down last Saturday.  The dismal melancholy began to set in as I wondered where we would all be next year.  Would we be together?  How far would some or one of us have to travel to make that possible?  What should we do with our ornament tradition?  Should I box up my son's ornaments and favorite decorations, ready to be packed when he moves out this coming summer?  Where did all the time go?   Weren't our children just wee ones only yesterday when they picked out all these funny things for our tree?  I was plunging meteorically into woe and sadness when I decided to choose how to feel differently about it all. 
We had a lovely Christmas.  Our comforting traditions, even though small and simple, were meaningful to us in ways no one wanted to talk about.  I noticed my family lingering by the tree to just look at its lights more this year.  Christmas Eve was special with our nephew's beautiful family, but in watching his children, I really noticed how fast time has flown for mine to now be adults and his so very small.  On Christmas morning, I woke up at 9:00 to find everyone else fast asleep.  I had to wake them all up so we could enjoy our own traditions before going to visit Grandma and then to see Star Wars. 
I've thought all season long about all my many blessings, first and most importantly of all, my Savior, Jesus Christ.  And Christ is the reason I cannot be sad about one more Christmas being wrapped up and packed away until next December.  When I pack up my Christmas decorations and put away the gifts and sort through the cards, I never pack away Jesus.  He stays with me every day, in my heart, in my mind, and in my life.  He is my best friend.  Christ is the reason my family is forever and the reason we have meaning in our lives.  Jesus is the anchor of my soul and the cornerstone of our home.  Jesus is the reason my children have worked as hard as they have, in order to try to make the world a better place, because of His example and His trust in them.  My Savior is at the center of every day, not just Christmas. 
My husband and I did not raise our children to live in our basement.  I love the old saying, "a ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."  This is true of our children.  We have encouraged them to dream big, to work hard, to set goals and achieve them, and to fly away from the nest when it's time.  I know they will want to fly home whenever possible because they feel safe here and there is strong loyalty and love here.  I know they are looking forward to flying free on their own and are confident they can succeed, but I also sense heart strings tugging at the reality soon to be.
So, January, I'm ready.  This will be an exciting year for our family.  I want to stand side by side with my husband and best friend as we face the changes that come, with a grateful and happy heart and the thrill that comes from seeing our children bring to pass the very things they've talked about since they were 5 years old.  I love this month without much on the schedule.  It's very cold outside and there is a lot of snow on the ground, which makes it easier to use the crockpot, read lots of books, get back to my art, get some extra sleep, and do more thinking, prioritizing, and praying.  I'm resting to recover from a personally rough year in 2015 and to get strong for all the new adventures 2016 will bring.  And whenever I feel like I might cry, and I know I will do a lot of that this year, I will remember why we celebrate Christmas every year.  Jesus Christ.  He is the author of our salvation, the key to our redemption, the ticket to God's kingdom, and the Savior of our souls.  He loves us more than we will ever comprehend and He expects a lot from us in return.  Jesus knows we can succeed if we will humble ourselves, take His hand, and let Him help us.  On the day when we help our son move out to attend medical school far, far away, and I start to weep, Christ will understand me and He will comfort me, our son, and my whole family, as we embark on life's next chapters.
January is a gorgeous time.  Where I live, the snow is covering the trees and our majestic mountains are blanketed in white.  There are 366 days on the calendar this year--366 days to start again, to repent of mistakes, to make wrongs right, to love more deeply and more sincerely, and to choose where we want to be standing and whose side we will be on.  What will you choose?  What will you resolve?  I only have one goal this year.  To choose more deeply than ever, Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Will Stand in My Truth----It's Mine

So yesterday I succumbed to fear.  I let hurtful words of others paralyze me and ruin a lot of my day.  And it was my birthday.  I went into panic mode and took down my blog, the entire thing, for a period of time.  Bad decision.  I shouldn't have done that.  I have all of you wonderful readers who support me and write and tell me how my writing is helping you, or lifting you, or giving you courage to stand in your truth.  And I let you down.  A tiny number of people made me take down my platform and I lost sight of all of you that share and read and keep coming back for more.  To all of you, my dedicated and loyal readers, I apologize.  It will never happen again.

I stand in my truth.  What does that mean, exactly?  To stand in my truth means that I am owning and admitting that this is my perspective.  My point of view.  It may sound selfish, but that's all we know as human beings.  We only feel our own feelings and experience our own lives.  I believe in having empathy for others and I know that I do.  I have deep empathy and even pity for people who have let me down in my life that I might write about.  I don't write to incite or to inflict pain to those people.  I write to inspire you, my readers, to know that you are not alone.  That we can survive difficult things and then find our way to happiness.   In fact, I have so much empathy and compassion for these people that I have never divulged names, dates, locations, or even details.  I don't even write under my maiden name.  I have been intentionally vague, to protect both myself, and others.

I attended World Congress of Families IX and one speaker talked about the effects of the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce on the children, most of whom are adults now, but suffer the post-traumatic effects of this culture.  I found myself answering yes to nearly every bullet point on the slides shown.  But it gave me hope, surprisingly.  Hope, because I knew I had made it.  My husband and I had changed the situation in our home with our children, which means that others can do it too.  We don't have to be victims.  I never want to be considered a victim.  Not even a survivor.  I want to be known as a thriver.  Because I am thriving.  And it's because of choices.  I made choices that have allowed me to thrive.  When I actually had the power to change my stars, believe me, I did.  And so can you.  So many of you have.  That is why I write.  To share some of my stories of overcoming and standing in what is my truth, so I can stand beside you as you overcome and stand in yours.  

My truth is not your truth.  Your truth is not mine.  We cannot tell each other how to feel.  We absolutely are not allowed to edit each others' lives.  When people try to silence others from speaking their truths, abuse continues.  Abuse is protected, strengthened, and grows.  Abuse is rewarded.  I also learned at WCF-9 that we must stand up and say what happened to us, as survivors of no-fault divorce.  If we don't tell our stories, we can't help other young couples as they begin their own families and are tempted to continue in negative traditions they brought with them from their own homes.  If we stand in our truth, with the intention of inspiring and uplifting others, we should not be afraid of those who wish to quiet us.  They are threatened by our truth because it invites them to discover their own truths, which they are not willing to do.  

I am intelligent.  No one has to tell me that there are more sides to the pyramid than mine.  I have never, ever said that I was speaking for others.  I write about my life.  My stories.  My experiences.  My lessons.  My triumphs.  And it's not selfish.  I could keep it all inside myself so no one else might benefit from learning from my struggles and mistakes, joys and wins.  I only want to help others who might be like me.  I want to help young parents realize they can change their stars and they do not have to repeat the traditions of their parents or grandparents.  Even if it's not abusive.

Example: For Thanksgiving, I do not make the fruit salad I grew up with for my whole life. The one with red grapes, pineapple, apples, whipped cream, bananas, and marshmallows--I think.  I don't make it because I don't like it.  I hated cutting up the grapes and removing seeds for that salad and I never liked how by the end of the meal the cream had separated and mixed with the juices of the fruits, the bananas were brown and slimy, and it was a big, wilted mess in the Tupperware bowl.  I make Lemon Chess pie, which I discovered on a trip to the South.  I attempt to make the stuffing my mother-in-law always made.  I make the things our own little family has come to love.  We have kept the traditions that are spirit-building, happiness-giving, and comfort-lending and created others for ourselves that fulfill these goals, and thrown out the rest.  We have trashed the slimy fruit salad.  It's not on the menu here.  

That is the power of standing in my own truth.  I can make a different salad for Thanksgiving.  I can wear more than one coat of mascara.  I can wear jeans everyday.  I can do whatever I want in my own house and not get grounded.  I can trust that the people I live with will fiercely protect me, comfort me, and love me because I'm safe.  If someone out there doesn't like what I write, then I invite them to stop reading what I work hard to give.   It's not for them.  This blog is to lift.  To become the cream.  To find, defend, and stand in our truths.  Not to hurt, but to help.  

In the allegory of the cream rising to the top, and if you're unfamiliar with that idea, I invite you to go back and read my older post, "Why, Becoming Cream," where I shared with you about taking care of fresh milk from our dairy cow when I was a kid.  We had to be careful to strain the milk straight out of the pail.  Sometimes it was dirty, especially if the cow had been in the mud.  Sometimes it required more than one straining.  The milk passed through the paper filters, into a pristine bowl.  What was left in the disposable filter was surprising.  Hairs, dirt, small pebbles, hay, grass, etc.  Souvenirs of where the cow had been in the last 12 hours.  Nobody wants cow lint in their sweet and delicious milk.  Often, the bottom of the pail would have the most debris, the things that were heavy enough to immediately sink.  After the milk was filtered, it was pasteurized and allowed to cool in the fridge.  The longer it rested on the cool shelf, the more thoroughly the cream rose to the top.  Two or three days in a row, that milk would be skimmed from the top in order to collect the cream, the most desirable part of the product.  But it took time to rise.  It had to be left alone, to cool, to settle, to allow the best part of itself, its TRUTH, to rise to the top.  

Yesterday I disabled my blog, for a time.  To settle.  To cool.  To heal.  It didn't take me two or three days.  My husband and kids, friends, and family reminded me through their love and kindness, feisty defending of my character, and pep talks, to keep going.  To keep writing.  To keep on in my quest to become the best cream I can be and help you if you want to join me in this quest.  We must filter and strain, 100 times if necessary, and then sit in the coolness and allow God to comfort us.  And He will. Because God knows what is true.  And God inspires us to want to be better and do better and stand in our truth, but more importantly to stand in HIS TRUTH.  So, my birthday was ruined initially by a handful of unkind people.  But it was saved eventually by so many more beautiful people who love me, after I made the choice to focus on the plethora of blessings I enjoy instead of the few miniscule pebbles and hairs in my pail.  So I got up, washed out the pail, threw away the filter, and put the milk in the fridge to cool.  I enjoyed the rest of my birthday.  I gave thanks to God for all His gifts He has given me and repented for hurting anyone while standing in my truth, and received comfort and love from Him in return.  

So I stand in my truth.  This morning, there is cream atop the milk that I allowed to rest overnight and I feel like myself again.  Undeterred by haters.  I will write MY truth.  I won't stop.  It's my mission.  To become the cream and help others who want to be the strong, rich, dynamic cream instead of the thin, weak milk.  Thank you for reading and sharing and my prayer is for you all to have a very lovely and happy Thanksgiving.  With lots of whipped cream!  


Becoming Cream

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving

I love November.  I'm sure it's because it's my birthday month and also my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  I'm a turkey baby, though turkey is not my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.  I prefer the turkey leg as I'm partial to the dark meat.  Everyone told me I was a weird kid for that, as the popular choice is the dry, nasty white meat.  I love the homemade cranberry sauce.  I love mashed potatoes, with lots of cream, butter and salt whipped in.  In my opinion, they should be so delicious alone that you can eat them with a spoon, without any butter or salt because it's already in the potatoes.  And the pies.  You can't forget the pies.  I love them all, but lean toward pecan, lemon chess, and apple (all from scratch----no canned fillings here). For my birthday, I always asked for pie---never, ever cake.  I would often order apple pie, but one year asked for homemade creme puffs and another year, Apple Chop Suey, a family traditional favorite for the holidays.  I usually asked for Russian Perisky for my birthday dinner, another family recipe.  Even now, my mouth waters at the thought of that dish.  In recent years, I have made it myself, in honor of my childhood self.

In thinking of Thanksgiving this week and my birthday this month, I want to combine my thoughts and share some of the things I'm most grateful for, particularly in how they relate to my own life because when I was small, I never could see myself as an adult, let alone a 50-something-year-old wife and mother.  Similarly, it's hard for me now to picture myself as a child or even a teenager.  I have different perspective now and often wish I could talk to those former versions of me, to offer encouragement, advice, love and perspective.

To my little-girl self I would say:  There is no need to worry about the boogeyman, spiders in the basement bedroom, dead people, white dogs, or Paulina, the mean bully at school.  First of all, these things will make for some of the best stories you can tell your own children, young women at church, and sunday school teenagers.  Secondly, these are really small concerns compared to the other things you will face in your life, so chill out.  Ms. N. that checks your milk carton in the lunch room?  She has to check it; it's her job and she checks all the milk cartons.  True.  Warm milk is wretched, but compared to other things you'll face, it's cake.

To my junior-high self:  This phase is temporary.  You won't aways be the tallest girl and someday your mom will realize you will wear makeup and there is nothing she can do about it.  That's what school bathrooms are for, right?  The creepy boys that make fun of your full lips now will wish they hadn't later.  Right now they're not "in style," but believe it or not, one day women will PAY to make their lips like yours, and they still won't be able to.  Jeans are not evil, no matter what your mom says; they are the best piece of clothing ever invented and the more soft, faded, and flared---the better.  Just wait.  One day you'll be able to have as many pairs as you like.  You don't need a perm.  You don't know it now, but you actually have naturally curly hair.  You'll be perplexed one day when you decide to grow out your perm only to find that you never needed one!  You are smart and you can do and be anything you want.  Don't let Mr. A. in 7th grade math dash your dreams.  He is only a grown-up bully.

To my high-school self:  As hard as it is to grasp, these three years will never happen again.  Hallelujiah!  It seems like an eternity in hell right now, but it will end.  I promise.  Going to prom is overrated.  Yes, it would've been nice, but maybe you would have married that guy and your whole life would have turned out wrong, so it's a blessing.  Theater is not for you. You won't do that ever again after school is over, so stop wasting so much energy on it now, and all the "drama" those people in theater carry around with them every day.  You've got more important things to do.  You don't realize it now, but your seminary teacher, Brother B., saved your life, and you will thank him for the rest of it; he is a saint.  The friends you think are your friends, are not.  Look out for what you can learn, because you will see patterns later on for what to look for in true versus false friends.

To my college self:  Sadly, this time goes quickly in your life, so relish it all. It's a good chapter.  Remember to be happy.  Never forget what it feels like to be freed from high school and small town thinking.  Think often about the friends you make and the lessons you learn about yourself.  You meet your most important friend here, who will stand by you for the rest of your life, and together you will start your own family.  What a glorious feeling it is to come out and shine.  Don't quit art school!  Please don't let the cruel words of your mom resonate with you.  You are an artist.  You can do it.  You will make beautiful things and people will appreciate your talent.  Don't take it personally when your parents get divorced.  It's only the beginning to a long road of heartache with your extended family, but you're strong and God needs you to change the traditions of your own family and bring your own children up differently.  Pay attention.

To my young married self:  I don't need to tell you this because this is one of your favorite times of your life.  What a glorious time to be alive.  Supporting your husband in law school, eating frozen burritos to be able to afford your first house, and making artwork to sell for extra cash with your husband will be memories you will cherish for a lifetime.  You won't ever get the house in Federal Heights though, and that will be a blessing.  Love this time and hope it doesn't go too quickly.

To my young-mother self:  It's tough not having any help when your babies are born, but that just makes you an even more tender and devoted mommy.  Besides, you're smart and you can figure it out.  The kids will stop having ear infections and drawing on the walls.  You will strengthen your faith in God as you go through scary things like accidents and illness.  You wish for many children, but God will give you two, and that's a beautiful thing.  Someday you will know why.  They will survive scout camp and mean girls at school. Your children will make you proud and humbled to be their mom.

To my older-mother self:  It happened.  The kids did actually learn to drive and they can do things by themselves and it's a good thing.  They have good heads on their shoulders and you can be happy and at peace with whom they've become.  They know how to work and have achieved more in their young lives than you have, relatively speaking. They're pursuing further dreams and aspirations and they are grateful.  You're lucky and very blessed.  They will continue doing good in the world around them.  They will call and text you.   Everything will be alright.  You can afford the plane fare to visit them when they move away.  They are worthy and good and obedient.  You've given it everything and it is paying off.

To my bishop's wife self:  This too shall pass (praise be).  It's an honor and privilege to serve.  Your husband is a worthy and valiant man who humbly wants to help people, in the Lord's way. When he's away from home, he wishes to be with you, but other people need him sometimes.  A lot.  It's okay. It's another way for you to show Jesus how much you love Him.  The people that say hurtful things to you are hurting inside.  You don't need to know why.  And you don't need to take it personally.  It's them,  not you.  Many in the ward are praying for your husband and family.  God is blessing you in ways you can't even see.  This work is important.  Don't give up.  You've been married 30 years and your marriage and family are eternal.  Everything is worth that.  You hit the jackpot with your marriage.  You married your best friend and he loves you.

I am truly grateful for all the lessons I've learned in my life, and even for the pains and sorrows, because they have made it possible for me to know how much better it is to feel happy and peaceful.  God knows everything and for some wise and glorious purpose He has a plan for me, my husband, and my children.  I trust Him.  Even if things turn out differently than I imagine, God's plan for me and my family will always be better and more glorious than our plans.  He loves us that much.  So, Happy Birthday to me and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  What a wonderful time to be alive, when the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth and we have living prophets and apostles to lead and teach us.  Everything is good!

Here is my favorite Primary song of all time; the one where, on the day we learned it, I knew without a doubt that Heavenly Father really did love me and I still know it today.

"My Heavenly Father Loves Me"
sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Prayer for Paris

I have to say something.  About Paris.  What just happened to the beautiful French people, and others from different nations.  This has to stop.  What is the purpose?  I know the answer.  Hate.  And I'm tired of it.  It has to end.  What are we going to do to stop it?  What can I do from my corner of the world?  What can you do? 

I have never been to France.  I hope to someday make the trip.  But, I will tell you the story of my little girl, who dreamed of going to Paris ever since she was 4 years old and saw "Anastasia."  Her hopes and plans to see this distant city never waned over the years; they only grew stronger and more determined.  She felt drawn to this place of history, beauty, art, and love.  My daughter saved her money and in the Spring of 2014, her vision of herself gazing at the Eiffel Tower became a truth, a reality for her when she traveled there on a study-abroad trip with her university.  The trip of a lifetime.

My girlie loved her trip.  She visited Notre Dame, the Catacombs, the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Sacre-Coeur, "Love Lock" or Pont des Arts bridge, among many others her mother does not know how to spell or say.  She ate mussels, crepes, cheese, baguettes, and jam.  She was mistaken for being a little French girl and was often asked for directions from other tourists.  It was a tremendous compliment to her and she relished in it, hating to disappoint them when she spoke in an American accent, revealing she was not a native of France, but was French at heart.  This beautiful girl of mine came home more in love with France and its people than she had been before she even set foot there, which was a pretty immense love, I might mention.  She longs to go back.  The people were so generous, beautiful, and loving to her.  She saw beauty everywhere she went, and she mourned when the trip was at its close.  I know boarding that jumbo jet to come home was difficult.  She missed her family, but she never wanted to leave Paris. 
She has been busy this last week, with her student teaching, work, and a heavy school schedule.  We haven't talked about what happened and how it made her feel, but I already know and I knew immediately.  She was the first one I knew who changed her Facebook picture to have the French flag across it.  She posted an image of the Eiffel tower and the American flag stretched out with French soldiers saluting it and showing solidarity for the United States after September 11th.  I know inside her heart is breaking.  I know she is praying, for all her French friends she made but does not know their names.  For the landmarks and places she visited.  For the people who make the crepes and the pastries.  For all those locking their love on the bridge and throwing away the keys. 
I don't think I've ever been the same since my country of America was attacked on 9/11.  My husband and I were up for two weeks straight watching the news, reading the papers, and trying to just make sense of what had happened.  Our children were little grade-schoolers then.  I knew I could keep them safe, then.   At home.  With me.  But that is no longer true.  They are now adults.  Making grown-up plans.  Applying to graduate school.  Flying around the country on interviews.  Attending university.  Traveling on public transportation.  In large crowds.  Without me and without their dad.  Can I just say that I hate that?  I hate that I can't keep them safe by keeping them home, making cookies and reading their favorite book to them.  We have raised them to know that they could do and be anything they desired and their dreams and plans are coming true.  What does that quote say, "a ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for?"  Something like that? 
As a mother, I beg this world to stop it already with the hate that makes my children unsafe.  That makes every child unsafe, and every human being unsafe.  We are all children of God and He loves us all.  God hates it when we do these things to each other.  People hurting and killing and suffering.  Think how twisted it all is.  It makes no sense.  None.  My prayers are different now than they were after America was attacked.  They are a lot more intense, a lot more pleading in wanting us to have a safe and peaceful world where my children and your children, have a chance to do and be what God hopes for and needs them to do and be. 
In my tiny way, I thank France, all these years later for her love for America and her support after we were attacked.  I want them to know that I love them and pray for them and hope they can still find a way to be happy.  I cherish them because my daughter cherishes them.  I hope to go to Paris someday with her so she can show me all the things she wants to see again and those she still wants to see for the first time.
My little lovey locked her love for France on the bridge that day.  Not love for a boy, though there was one at home she cared about at the time.  No, she locked her love on the bridge that day for Paris, France and all its people and history.  And in a way, she locked mine too, because I love her so much, I love what she loves and care about what she cares about.  And she is the most guile-less person I have ever met in my life.  She doesn't like contention or conflict and loves everyone. 
So for my precious daughter, I beg you, world, to calm down the hate.  We can't have any more cities or people suffer.  All over the world, everywhere, people are hurting and have been hurt.  It has to stop.  And this love I feel for France through my daughter, also spills to every country and every people.  I want people to be safe and loved and have food to eat and clean water, without war and violence.  And there are places I want to go to someday, but now am afraid I will never be able to.  The world just gets more and more frightening. 
But, I want to feel again like I felt after 9/11.  The terrorists cannot win.  We can't let them.  And maybe the only control we have is with our love and our determination to live our lives, anyway.  We have to go to work and school and fly to grad school interviews.  We need to go shopping and to the football games and concerts.  And church.  And we must try as hard as we can not to be afraid because that is what terror is--fear.  We must go on.  The best we can.  And be courageous and bold.   In solidarity with and for each other.  I might not be able to fight terrorism directly, but I can love indirectly and pray for my brothers and sisters around the world.  Please, God, help us be safe.  I want to see Paris someday, too. 
I love this song, "Afterlife" by Ingrid Michaelson.
It expresses how I felt after 9/11 and how I feel today, still. 
You can watch the video here:
Permission for photos given by AKH, all copyrighted under Becoming Cream.