Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thank You For Being My Friend

How do you help someone who is going through probably the roughest time of her life?  What can you say to lift their spirits?  To make them smile?  To tell them, in all honesty that, while you don't really understand how they feel, you want to try.   And then, what can you do to try to really empathize with them?  So your words aren't an empty, "call me if you need anything."  Is it possible to even try to help take away someone's suffering? 

My friend, Joan, has cancer.  I hate cancer.  It's cruel and selfish.  It takes what it wants and doesn't care who it hurts.  But, with my friend, Joan, it picked the wrong person.  She isn't cruel and she isn't selfish.  I was trying to think about how long I have known her.  It's' just been a long time, since our kids were really young.  This girl is the smartest and funniest woman I know, with a wit that is fast and sharp.  She sees puns everywhere.  Even in her pain, she sent me a picture of something she found on an invitation, showing me the pun.  Always searching for the happy side of things, the humor in life.  And, she finds it. 

Joan has taught me so much.  She has been an amazing example to me of being a good mother and wife, of putting in the extra time to make a homemade meal instead of cheating and getting it pre-packaged.  Of not being afraid to work hard and pay your dues.  She is a nurse, both a physical and a spiritual nurse.  There was a time when she helped me nurse my wounds after I was hurt through gossip and the choices of others.  Her counsel was witty and honest.  For a long time we shared scriptures, quotes from famous scholars, and my favorite, Shakespeare passages.  One summer, Joan taught my kids how to play tennis.  It was a blessing for my children to get to know her on that level.  She was patient and encouraging, positive and fun.  It was a great experience for them.

I believe people come into our lives for a reason.  I knew Joan in high school and even had her brother for my English teacher.  But it wasn't until she moved into our neighborhood and we became friends that I really got to know her.  She has taught me a lot.  She has been an example to me of how to be patient when things are tough.  How to see the humor in every situation, because at the heart of it all, there is humor.  How to make really good Jell-O when you're pressed for time.  How to be yourself even though other people might not agree.  How to support your husband in his church assignments, even though it might be a sacrifice at home.  How to really love the Lord and be humble before him.  We have helped each other through some tough days and tried to see the silver lining.  Something we used to talk about a lot was "it will all come out in the wash."  It's funny how that is actually true.  She is an example of how to be an amazing daughter; the way she has taken care of her elderly mother is truly an example of charity and love. 

Right before Thanksgiving, we went on a small adventure to the local drive-in in a neighboring town where we both are from.  It's called Kirt's and they still have car hops there.  As we sat there on that warm November day and enjoyed milkshakes and onion rings, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this woman, my friend.  Even though I know she was in pain, she was all smiles.  We even went on a little shopping jaunt to Smith & Edwards for some penny candy and kitchen gadgets.  I watched her tear around the store on her crutches like she owned the place and I knew this thing called cancer was not going to get the best of her. 

Like is always the case with Joan, she asked about my kids, about me and my husband.  She genuinely wanted to know.  She told me of her triumphs, even small ones, and beamed when telling me about her children, husband, and missionary son.  She glowed brightly as she shared stories of her faith with me.  It was a time to be cherished.  She taught me so much that afternoon, just like she always has, but this time it was special because I knew she was going through a lot.  To still be able to take the time to inquire about others is one of her gifts.  I felt her love for me through her smile, through her excitement at seeing the fancy gadgets to cut a pineapple into the perfect ring, and as we rifled through the penny candy and loaded up our shopping cart.  It is a day I will always treasure. 

This is what I mean when I say, how can you help someone who is suffering, when, in spending time with them, they help you in your own suffering?  In trying to cheer up my friend, I was the one who probably benefited the most.  This is what it's like to be a light to the world.  To be able to be kind, generous, patient, uncomplaining, happy, and even funny, even when faced with adversity.  To all who know her, I know you will agree.  Joan is a strong lady.  She is noble and honest, faithful, true, and loyal.  If you tell her something in confidence, she won't share it with anyone else.  She is fearless and grateful.  Happy and hilarious.  Possessing charity and compassion, wisdom and grace.  She is my friend.  I am blessed because she is my friend. 

I know God is a God of miracles, that his promises are sure.  That when we are humble and ask with sincerity and real intent, he answers our prayers.  When we bend our will to his, we are blessed.  I know that God knows best.  After all, he is our Heavenly Father.  I know that Jesus Christ is God's literal son, that he is our Savior and that through him we can live eternally, forever with our families.  I know that faith in God and Christ can make miracles occur.   I know that if a miracle is what is best for us, then we will get the miracle after much fasting and prayer.  My prayer is that my friend will have miracles.  A miracle of healing, a miracle of no more pain, and a miracle of a speedy and full recovery.

If there is anyone on this planet strong enough to go through what she is facing, it is Joan.  She is one tough lady and cancer should never have even thought about messing with her.  She is an inspiration to all who know her.  She can beat this and then what will cancer have to say for itself?  It will say, "never mess with Joan---she kicked my butt!"  

To all who have or have had cancer or loved someone with cancer, I know you understand.  Prayers for all of you and prayers for a cure.  I'm sure one day soon there will be one.  Until then, let's get this thing done!  Cancer, get out of the way!  Didn't you hear?   My friend Joan is in town.

Click and watch the music video below.  This one is dedicated to you, Joan.  Love, Gean

Thank You For Being A Friend--Andrew Gold

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bliss = Eggs Over Easy

Happy January everyone!  I hope your holidays were lovely and peaceful.  Ours were and I'm grateful.  Now it's January and I love this month!  I've been cleaning out closets and drawers, throwing things away, selling clothes I don't need and hardly ever wear, and trying to simplify my life even more.

Do you like simple things?  I do.  I love beautiful things that are simple and honest, without a lot of hype.  Food that is delicious, but not hoity-toity.  Clothes that are classic, well-made, and will last for years, but that not everyone else has.  Shoes that are comfortable, but also pretty.  A home decorated by our family's adventures and experiences, personal art work, talents, and achievements, instead of purchased from the store.  The perfectly soft and squishy, down feather pillow.   A car that gets good gas mileage, blazes through the snow, and will last to 200K miles.

I've been thinking about lessons my family and I learned in 2014.  Many were happy and exciting, others were sad and difficult, leaving wounds still waiting to heal.  I don't make resolutions.  I don't like the word.  I like goals, but I don't ever set more than one or two at a time, or they won't be accomplished.  I also don't usually share my goals with other people because I don't want people having expectations of me.
I want to have my own triumphs and accomplish things for the right reasons.

One thing I learned about myself in 2014 is that I like runny eggs.  Please bring me poached eggs and eggs over easy, and some rye toast to dip them in.  And, please kill me now because for my whole life I have missed out on this lovely, simple, and beautifully yummy treat.  Oh, the humanity !  At my house when I was a kid, when frying eggs, my mom poked the yolks so they would cook hard.  The scrambled eggs were really little yellow crusts.  I grew up paranoid that runny eggs were raw eggs, or bad eggs.  One day last year I realized that although I have never been a picky eater, I had never even tried the runny eggs.  I had been pre-conditioned to think they were bad and gross, so I had always ordered something else or prepared them differently for my own family.  Although, to my credit, I don't make gross, yellow crusts for scrambled eggs.  My husband is the scrambled egg king.  His eggs are super delicious.
I digress.

One day when out to breakfast I decided to live dangerously and order eggs over easy with a side of rye toast.  Can I just say, oh my heck!  It was so delicious, I had no words!  I couldn't believe that as a child I had been robbed of this yummy-ness and that it took me 50 years to decide for myself to try runny eggs.  Each bite of the toast dipped into the egg was like a bit of warm, summer sunshine in my tummy.  Bliss.  Then, as often happens when I get excited about something, I became obsessed with making the perfect eggs.  I wanted the perfect combination of soft yolk, but enough of the runny egg for my rye toast.

Voila!  It happened as a little miracle just this week.  I had a doctor appointment south of downtown and had a lunch date with my handsome husband afterwards.  I had an hour to kill in between so I wandered into Crate & Barrel to have a look-see.  I gave myself a small budget to spend, hoping to find some treasure to inspire my new culinary goals for the year.  Then I saw it!  A pan made just for poaching eggs.  I knew I had to have it!  Then I found a crepe pan, straight from France, and knew that was on the list also.  So I left the store with my egg-poaching pan, my crepe pan, a new French wire whisk, a jumbo spice ball herb infuser, and a bright, new, and happy apron.  I was ready to get cooking.  Dinner that night would be crepes and eggs.  I stopped at the store for some berries and Nutella.  Soon I was home, washing and preparing my new culinary tools.  Happy face!  The crepes were beautiful, light and delicious.  A real French hit!
But, the eggs were beauty personified in yellow and white.
Four minutes was all it took for heaven to slip out onto toasted bread.
A symphony of warm, yellow goodness.

I have already made eggs three more times.  It makes me happy.  I'm actually glad it took 50 years to discover this simple and delicious new taste and now skill.  I wonder, what else have I been wrong about for 50 years?  Just because someone else, like your parent, doesn't like runny eggs, doesn't mean you can't like them.  And just because your mom hates cats doesn't mean you have to.

Why a post about eggs?  You might say, Gina has lost her mind.  Maybe I have, OR, maybe I've found it.  Bottom line, people.  We don't have to like or dislike what others tell us to like or dislike.  We are all created to be unique individuals and with our own set of talents and gifts.  We are not supposed to be copycats of one another!  Just because my neighbors all go to Disneyland 27 times a year doesn't make us want to go.  We don't care about Disneyland (gasp!)  We would rather see Alaska, ride the ferry to the Outer Banks, go on adventures looking for lighthouses, study the tide pools of Oregon, eat North Carolina BBQ (vinegar!), go river rafting, go whale watching, go to Chinatown (Sam Wo's), eat at Houston's, ride motorcycles in the Dominican Republic, swim in the Caribbean ocean, hike waterfalls in the rainforest, and pile 22 people in a broken-down Toyota Corolla taxi tied together with chicken wire.  If Disneyland really speaks to your soul, I guess that's up to you, but don't go there 42 times per year just because everyone else does, and don't go there just because it's the only place your parents ever took you.
Maybe they were scared to have other adventures.  Maybe they were scared of runny eggs.

One thing about my upcoming 2015.  It's now runny eggs all the time.  No more hard, rubbery, gross yolks.  I want to be in the warm, glowing sunshine.  Obviously, hard eggs are served to us on lots of days because things happen to us that we don't choose.  But, when I can choose, and I believe I can always choose my attitude about things, I will choose the eggs that are sunny-side up or over easy.  Life is hard enough to eat hard eggs.  Eggs over easy sound a lot more happy, a lot more doable, a lot more fun.  The way I see it is, if I am given hard eggs, I will be grateful and I will eat them and appreciate them for what they can do for me.  But when I can choose, I will always choose eggs over easy.

Here is hoping that 2015 will bring us all blessings and happiness, even when eating the hard eggs served to us through others' choices and actions, failing health, or just life itself.  On those days, I will remember eggs over easy and how it only takes 4 minutes to make them perfectly, how because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, even my hard-egg days can be made easy again because of His love and sacrifice.
I just have to choose His way, which is easy, or the world's way, which is hard.  Which will you choose?  For this girl, it will always be eggs over easy, with a side of rye, dry.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wanted: Sure-Footed Horses and Sure-Footed Men

This post is a followup to "Cream Doesn't Settle, Or It's Time to Dump Your Boyfriend." 

I am tired of young women not feeling safe.  All women, in fact.  I'm tired of them being unappreciated, mistreated, abused, lied to, taken advantage of, and taken for granted.  I'm worn out with all the young men who aren't taking life seriously and who refuse to 'get in the saddle' when it comes to love, marriage, and family.

After talking with my husband about this, he woke me up when he said, "the problem is that these guys are not sure-footed."  Wow!  Instant imagery came to my mind like a movie.  He was right.  What is the difference between a young man who meets the right girl and finds a way to make things work so they can get married and start their journey together and the guy who just keeps jumping from girl to girl, dating some for several months before dumping them and others only once or twice, refusing to take things seriously?  What about the guy who is pretending to date, but is really still hanging out with his buddies, but brings a girl along once in a while?  What about the one that likes a girl, a lot, but still 'breaks it off' so they can 'be friends,' thus avoiding responsibility?  He still gets the benefit of her company, but he is suddenly relieved of any pressure in the relationship.

I have decided that real men, sure-footed ones, are hard to find anymore.  So many young men are playing around, refusing to set goals and achieve them, delaying important decisions about marriage and family, and just trying to extend their childhood for longer and longer.  They insist on group dates, but they are in their 20's.  They don't call, they text.  They won't buy a girl a present or send a card.  They don't realize that dating doesn't have to be expensive, but it does require some thoughtful planning.  They are putting their lives on hold for 'someday,' which for them may never come.

Last December, our family went on an adventure to the Dominican Republic where our son had served his mission for our church.  It was an amazing, forever life-changing trip.  We saw such beautiful people and breath-taking scenery, ate such delicious food I never wanted to come home, and swam in a turquoise sea.  One of the things we did was ride horses to see a waterfall.   We needed horses and guides to take us on the treacherous trail.  The waterfall was nestled deep in the forested jungle at the end of a dangerous trail that crossed a river twice and was covered in clay and giant, slippery rocks.

It was a beautiful, sunny, Caribbean morning.  The humidity was 100% and the heat was 85 degrees F.    We left the hotel and hired a little broken-down taxi to take us to where the horses were.  After seeing the horses and meeting the guides, we paid our pesos and were ready to go.  I was a little concerned because the horses were skinny, without any shoes, and only blankets tied on with ropes instead of saddles.  Our guides were small, sweet, Dominican men with big, happy smiles.  They chose the horses for each of us and who would be our guides.  Soon we were each on our horses, ready for the trail.

At first the trail was just a steady, even slope.  Quickly the terrain changed and the trail was very steep, with large and smooth stones covered in wet clay.  It was very slippery.  I was feeling terribly guilty that we were on these horses while the little guides were trudging through the slippery mud and on the clay-covered stones.  They just smiled and gently followed the horses, whistling once in a while, or swatting the horses on the backside with a bundle of grass.

We crossed the river and the horses stopped to take a long drink.  It was pleasant and cool there in the river, but soon it was time to make the ascent back up the slippery trail.  In some places the trail was almost a vertical slope, it was so steep.  Large, jagged rocks covered with sticky clay looked like a disaster to me.  The horses lunged forward to keep our weight properly balanced.  They knew the trail and exactly where to hug the edges, where to gather speed to gain momentum, and where to take it slowly and carefully.  The guides were not leading the horses.  The horses were in front with the guides behind.  The guides were simply encouraging the horses in a loving way with kissing sounds and swats on the behind with their plumes of grass.  The horses just needed the positive encouragement to get up the rough and rocky mountain.

We finally reached what appeared to be our destination, only to have the guides show us the waterfall, still off in the distance.  We were told the horses could go no further and we would have to hike the rest of the way.  When we saw the trail before us, a straight decline of very steep and muddy rocks, I started to wonder how this was going to happen.  The guides said they would go the rest of the way with us, to help us on the dangerous trail.  We were not accustomed to it, but they seemed to glide over the danger with ease.  My little guide was in tune with me needing some extra help.  We had been staying on the coast where the heat was not as intense and there was a steady ocean breeze, but here in the mountains, it was intensely hot and humid.  My heart was truly pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest.  Papa held my hand the whole way down the trail.  He moved things out of my way and pointed to the safer places to put my feet.  Papa was an old man with ragged clothes, but he smiled bigger than I have ever seen and kept calling me Senorita.

We reached the waterfall at the bottom of the slope and spent some time there wading in the pools beneath it.  It was truly beautiful.  A prettier picture than I have ever seen in National Geographic.  Even the pictures we took do not do it justice.  Our guides held our shoes for us while we went wading and rested.  They knew we needed our strength to get back up the mountain.  Soon we finished our picture taking and swimming and knew it was time to start the climb.  It was hard for me, but my family was patient as I needed to stop many times to catch my breath.  John was concerned and tried to help me, but he was new to the territory and needed his own guide for help.  Papa kept stopping and forcing me to rest.  He waved leaves over me to help cool me off.  I told him in my very limited Spanish that I had a heart condition and he immediately took even more care to help me rest and wait.  Finally, we made it back to the horses and had to start the journey back the way we had come, over the slippery, steep mountains. 

It was an exhilarating experience to be so close to danger.  It was both terrifying and exciting to know that if any one of us fell off our horse, we would probably be killed.  We were in a third-world country, tucked away deeply in the jungle, and hours away from Santo Domingo and any hospital.  Even though I am prone to be anxious, I never worried while on that horse.  I trusted him and I trusted Papa.  They both knew the way.  I wasn't anxious for my family because I trusted their horses and their guides.  I also trusted God.   I felt deep humility in that place, with our new friends, surrounded by the Lord's creations.  They had made me feel safe because they were sure-footed.

Well, what does a sure-footed horse and a sweet Dominican guide have to do with dating and marriage?  It has everything to do with it.  To you sweet young ladies, watch and wait for the sure-footed horse who trusts his sure-footed guide.  For you young men, make sure to be the sure-footed horse and trust your sure-footed guide. 

Women need to feel safe.  We need to know that you are not looking at other girls.  If you love us, you shouldn't even see other women.  We need to know that when you find us and know you love us, that you will want to make us yours and protect us.  We don't want to have to worry about whether or not you are confident enough to lead our family.  We want to know you are ready for marriage and a family, to make the sacrifices with us and for us that will help make our family successful.  We need to feel safe with you and know that you will never put us in harm's way, talk badly about us to your friends or mother, or find reasons to be away from home.  We need to know that you are worthy of the guide behind you, the one who knows the trail even better than you do, and the one that ultimately is cheering for our safe return, together.  When we find the horse that is sure-footed, we will know, immediately.  All sense of anxiety will be lost.  All fear will be gone.  We will feel at peace with you and know you love us because you will show us by your actions and your words.  We will feel safe because you know your guide and you trust Him.  We will want to be only with you because of how good you make us feel.

If you are sure-footed:
  • You are prayerful in your quest to find a good girl.
  • You are humble and recognize God's hand in helping you recognize her.
  • You are prepared to take steps to move forward with marriage and a family.
  • You aren't afraid of getting married; you want to be married and you want a family.
  • You have faith that together you can figure things out so you can start your life together.
  • You won't insist on inviting her to hang out with your friends and you realize that group dates are for high-school kids.
  • You have goals and plans to achieve them.
  • You are careful with your money.
  • You know how to work and you work hard.
  • You know you are a Child of God, that you are valuable to Him, and that He needs you to be a righteous and obedient example.
  • You have a desire to serve God and your fellowmen.
  • You have clean hands and a clean mind.
  • You have a loving and soft heart and want to be good.
  • People look up to you because of the way you make them feel.  
  • You have hope for the future. 

Young men, take courage!  You are good and you are strong.  You are working hard and you are accomplishing great things.  Please let finding a sweet, happy, smart, modest, educated, young woman a priority.  Please stop listening to the world tell you what is important.  The only thing that will matter when we are gone from this world is our family relationships and our obedience to God's commandments, our testimony of Christ, and our service to others.  Please have hope that you are confident enough to help that special girl along the way.  She can't make it without you.  She needs a partner; a sure-footed, strong, faithful, committed partner to compliment her and who she can compliment.  She wants to help you.  She wants to find you, too.

Next time you see a girl you're interested in, take action.  Ask her out.  If you like her, ask her out again, and again, and again.  Talk about deep things.  Get to know her heart.  Appreciate her gifts and talents.  Encourage her to be her best.  Take walks.  Write her a letter.  Look at the stars.  Tell her your dreams and plans and ask about hers.  Get interested in her life and get her interested in yours.  Talk about the future.  Make plans together.  Work things out and buy a ring---a real diamond, even if it's small, and real gold.  Don't start life together with a fake ring.  And propose!  If you're a sure-footed guy that makes her feel safe and she loves you and you love her, she will say yes.  Then you can have the magnificent experience of joining with another person and starting a new life together.  It is God's plan.  It is God's commandment.  It is God's way. 

When I met my sure-footed horse, I knew him because he was different.  He wasn't like all the other boys who only wanted to make out or watch TV.  He treated me with respect and made me happy.  He made me feel safe.  He became my sure-footed husband, who continuously and unselfishly is always helping me and our children feel safe.  I know he loves me, that I'm the only woman he sees, that he wants to be with me when he isn't, and that he still has bright dreams and hopes for our future together.  He is my sure-footed prince, my trusted friend who trusts our Guide and is helping me, walking along next to me, on our journey up this trail of life.  He leads our family by example and love.  He loves us and protects us.  I love him with all my heart.  I know if we all do our part, we can all make it safely back to live with God.

Ladies, hold on and wait, for the man that is sure-footed.  If you are prepared to recognize him, you will know him when you meet him. 

Young men, be sure-footed.  Trust your Guide.  Be about doing good.  Be prepared and humble and when you meet that special girl, you will know her.  Then lead her safely home. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You Can't Take It With You

Well, this week it happens.  My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, gets pushed aside for 'black Friday.'  The mass frenzy to buy things we don't even need explodes.  It suddenly becomes okay to max out the credit card because, "it's for Christmas."  What a shame.  First we toss aside Thanksgiving, and then we use the holiday to honor the birth of Jesus Christ as an excuse to go all crazy at the mall. 

I've been reflecting on what is really important.  Not just at Christmas and Thanksgiving time, but ALL the time.  What would we really grab first if our house was on fire and we had 30 seconds to get whatever we could out of the burning structure?  We all say we would get our families out, and I know that's true, but then what would come next?  And what if we were home alone when the fire started?  What then?  If we had nobody we needed to get to safety, what would we run around and grab? 

I love our home.  It's where we have made all our memories since our children were very small.  It is like your house---filled with treasures and mementos, photos, journals, furniture, clothing, electronics, and the necessities of life.  It's also filled with a lot of stuff we don't really, truly need.  For instance, we don't need the Nintendo Wii.  Nobody uses it.  It just sits there collecting dust.  Why we ever got it, I will never know.  It was my idea when the kids were out of school one summer and I thought it would be fun to get Rock Band.  We did have fun with it for about a week and then we slowly moved back into the things we were most accustomed to doing---reading, playing music, or just talking to each other.  What about the 14 million coats that I seem to have accumulated?  I really only need one or two.  

If we needed to grab and go in an emergency, do we have our most precious and important things in a place where we can access them?  Do we even know where these things are?  Are they too heavy?  Can we really get them out of the house?  

Then I think about really "going."  When it's my time to go from this life into the next I won't be able to take anything with me.  My spirit will leave my body and return to God and my body will be returned to the earth.  I will be physically unable to take anything tangible with me into the next life.  All of it will stay right exactly where it was the last time I used it, or didn't use it.  To collect dust, or be thrown away, or sold at an estate sale, or given to other people.  The point is that all of it, every single thing, even the clothes I am wearing when I die, will stay here.  Nothing, nothing at all, goes with me.  What I do take with me when my life is over is what is really important.  My spirit, my personality, my testimony, my faith, my talents, my deeds--both good and bad, my love, my relationships, my knowledge, my obedience, and my real, honest, bare-naked self.

Five and half years ago, my stepmother died of melanoma.  It originated in her eye, which she had removed to save her life 10 or 11 years prior.  Then in 2008, she had surgery to remove her gallbladder, which was thought to be the cause of her new troubles, but upon investigation during the surgery, it was discovered that the melanoma had returned and was now in her liver.  It was inoperable.  She had chemo and all kinds of other therapies, which appeared promising until the tumors started to sprout up overnight, everywhere and anywhere.  She was started on an experimental treatment, but failed to respond.  Hospice was called in and she slowly withered away.  She lost so much weight and was so frail.  She remained optimistic and fought a hard fight, but succumbed to her attacker 17 months after the metastases were found.

Watching her slowly fade from a vibrant and healthy woman to a frail, thin, and weak little creature was very difficult.  What made me just as sad was her realization that she had so much 'stuff' that she wanted to give away in order to see it go to the right people.  She began having her neighbor sort through her many, many different rooms full of things she had collected over the years.  It became a huge burden to her and my dad and it seemed to consume both of them.  She personally was able to give many, many things away, but she had so many things that it was impossible to unload them all.  

On one of my regular visits to help her, she sat down with me on the sofa and opened up a large box of jewelry that she wanted to give away.  She said I could choose a piece, but she had one piece in mind for me that she really wanted me to have, but she wanted me to choose.  It is interesting that I chose the piece she wished to give me.  A beautiful, solid silver and genuine turquoise, Squash Blossom necklace made by the Navajo.  It had been a gift from my dad on one of their many adventures.  I love that necklace and I cherish it.  I am careful when I wear it and careful how I store it.  It's one of the most beautiful things I own.  But just like she couldn't take it with her, when I die, I can't take it with me either. 

One week after her funeral, my dad's basement flooded due to a broken sprinkler.  He called all of his kids to come up and help.  We had to carry out everything in that basement so the carpet could be torn up and replaced.  I have never in my life seen so many trinkets.  Her home had been a lovely home because she had been an interior decorator before teaching biology.  She had exquisite taste.  The home looked like it was right out of Better Homes and Gardens.  But, as the years went on, the need to collect stuff grew and grew, without anywhere to put the stuff.  Slowly the house was not as attractive and seemed to overflow with the latest shopping trip's finds.  When we had to haul everything out of the basement after it flooded, it completely covered their very long and spacious driveway and filled the garage, back yard deck, and my dad's shop.  It was horrifying to look at it all.  Too many things to count still had price tags on them, set aside for future gifts or future projects.

On the day my stepmother died, my dad called all of his children to offer the sad news.   It was on a Sunday afternoon and I remember grabbing the emergency overnight bag I had packed weeks before, for this specific purpose, kissing my family goodbye, and rushing to his house.  During the seemingly endless 20-minute drive, my heart pounded hard and fast.  It had really happened.  My stepmother was now gone and I had watched her slowly wither away.  I had never seen a dead person, except at the mortuary for viewings.  Now I was approaching my dad's house and I was afraid.  I didn't want to go inside, but I didn't want my dad to be alone.  I will never forget that experience for as long as I live.  I walked inside and Dad took me to her side.  She was on the bed, looking peaceful, but so very small.  The reality of what had happened started to envelop me and I broke down.  She was perfectly still.  No more pain and no more suffering.  She was now suddenly free and happy again.  We sat with her for a long time in the quiet, just me and my dad.  Then he asked me to start calling people.  That was hard.  I had never done that before.  Her children came and her sister, and I think her mom.  I think only one of my siblings came that day; the rest chose not to for some reason.  I am so glad I was there.  It was very heartbreaking and difficult, but I learned so much. 

My dad called the mortuary.  "It's time.  You can come and get her now."  They sent an attendant in a nice, big, unmarked van.  He brought in a small stretcher with a black plastic bag on top.  After the papers were signed and we visited for a few moments, it was time to do what I will never forget.  He placed the plastic bag next to my stepmother on the bed and very professionally and gently began moving her into it.  I will never forget what she looked like, wearing a lavender t-shirt and a purple sarong tied around her waist.  My dad removed her jewelry and gently kissed her face before the bag was zipped all the way up.  Then the bag was kindly placed on the stretcher, wheeled outside to the van, and seemed to quietly disappear.

This beautiful, smart, and gifted woman who had been a mother, wife, interior decorator, artist, teacher, scientist, and world traveler, left her beautifully decorated home and took nothing with her.  I know that when she died only her spirit returned to God, but even when her body left her physical home, it took nothing.  No jewelry, no books, no photo albums of her many adventures to Africa, Peru, Thailand, Belize, the Amazon rainforest, or Australia.  No overnight bag or toothbrush.  No phone or computer.  Just her frail little body gently wrapped in a purple sarong. Later it was her family and friends that had the burden of distributing her things and putting the house back together.  It was good to look through her things in that way, to remember experiences and adventures, but it was also a somber thought, knowing it all stayed behind.  We had a large garage sale and sold most of it.  The rest went to charity shops and antique dealers to be sold to others.  She was able to give away her favorite treasures to people she cared about, in person. 

We have all heard, "you can't take it with you."  Well, it's true.  We can't and we won't.  I'm sure we won't even want to.  There is no need for those things on the other side.  I have a feeling that while we were all removing her things from the house and basement that day that my step-mom was looking on, embarrassed, apologizing profusely for creating that burden.

Whenever I buy something new or think about buying something new for me or my family, I always think, "where are we going to put that," and "do we really need that?"  I don't want my stuff to be a burden on my family when it's time for me to leave this earth and return to God.  More importantly, I don't want my existence on this earth, during this critical time of learning and developing, to become controlled by my stuff.
After Hurricane Katrina, I think most people pondered the idea of how much stuff they had and how much they really need and don't need.  It could all be taken away at any time, but we could also be taken away from it.  What is really and truly most important to us?

In the Bible, Matthew 6:21 to be exact, it says:  "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."   I want to make sure my heart is not in my stuff---my tangible belongings, my collection of things in my house.  I want my heart to be in my God, with my Savior Jesus Christ, my marriage, my children, my family, my faith, my knowledge and wisdom, my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, my love and kindness to others, my contribution to building the kingdom of God, my scripture study, my family history work, my service to my fellowmen, my obedience to God's commandments, my loyalty to my covenants, the submission of my will to God's. 

How do I do this, really?  It's overwhelming to think about it and try to do this all at once.  I think it's important to simply think about it.  To desire to HAVE less.  To truly desire to BECOME more.  When it is our heart's sincere desire, we will be attuned to what we need to do.  Our time won't be spent in the trivial things, but on the things that are of eternity.  We need to cherish and protect our marriages, our relationships with our children, our friendships.  We need to try hard each day to make the world a better place with a smile, a kind word, a simple gesture, or even just a happy and cheerful attitude.  When we take the time to put God first in our lives, the other worldly and trivial things will not consume us.  Maybe by the time I reach the end of my life I will have it all figured out, but for now I just have to try a little harder, every day, one day at a time, to put God first.  All things will fall into place after that. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Searching for Thanksgiving...........

I am sad.  It's Thanksgiving time, but all around me I see Christmas.  Don't get me wrong--I love Christmas.  I love it all--Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, the Fourth of July.  But, I truly love Thanksgiving the very most.  It's a combination of all the wonder and beauty of this time of year.  I'm lucky enough to live where we enjoy seasons and I love the changes that come.  The autumn leaves and chilly air.  Pulling out my favorite sweaters and jackets and my soft, worn-in, brown leather boots I've been rocking for more than 10 years.  How about piling blankets and quilts on the bed and washing up the homemade afghans for the sofas?  Or putting away the deck furniture because the yucky summer heat is finally over?  Making cocoa and piling it high with marshmellows.  Using the crockpot all the time because it makes dinner easy and it makes the house smell good all day long.  I love it when it gets dark earlier just because it makes us all want to hang out at home more.  Cuddling  under the afghan on the sofa with my hubby and a good book or a good movie.  Just the pure and simple smell of the air.  What about pulling out the soft woolen mittens, hats and scarves?  I love that! 

I am trying to enjoy this beautiful time of year.  I''m trying to slow down and be thoughtful about my life and my place in God's world.  Please don't bombard me with Christmas trees in Macy's and ads for Black Friday.  Please stop the psych-out threats that prices will "never be lower."  I'm not stupid.  The prices are the same on Black Friday as they were on Labor Day and they will be that low again because the stores have to sell their crap.  Please forgive me if you love Black Friday, but I don't understand the maniacal way people behave just to save a few cents on a pile of stuff they didn't know they "needed" until the ads told them that they did.   Can we agree that we shouldn't see Christmas trees until December?  It makes me sad that while there are still turkey and stuffing leftovers in the fridge and pie on the counter, people are running out like mad men looking for a pile of stuff!  We are all sleep deprived and need to slow down so why would people be so willing to give that up?  Thanksgiving has been swept aside as just a shopping day for Christmas. 

In 29 years of marriage I only remember ONE Black Friday where we participated.  And, I went alone, bright and early to Mervyn's to purchase a Seiko watch on sale, but only to replace mine because it had been stolen.  My husband saw the same watch in the ad, for a price we could afford, and sent me to the store to replace my stolen watch.  I needed a watch so I purchased a watch.  Then I came straight home and went back to bed with my good-looking husband and enjoyed the day with my young little family. 

I'm sad about what this says about our society.   Hey, I love to go shopping as much as anybody, but I don't want to fight crowds and have people mow me down at Target at 4 a.m.  I love bargains too, but I love my sleep more.  I love going Christmas shopping, but not the day after Thanksgiving.  I think it says that our society is lost.  Just a bunch of sheep following the merchandisers who tell them what to do.  Who decides what the "it" toy for the year is going to be anyway?  How would it be to have that much power?  And, don't even get me started about how now it isn't even Black Friday anymore.  Now it's Black Thanksgiving.  The stores are open ON Thanksgiving!  Why would anyone want to stuff themselves full of food and then run out to the mall?  It's that exciting that it can't wait 12 more hours?  They wouldn't rather just be in the moment on ONE single day to do a little meditating, connecting, and appreciating?  It's sad we only have one designated day of Thanksgiving, but why not honor that ONE day?  And what about the poor employees of those stores who are forced to miss Thanksgiving because they have to work?  So twisted.  So wrong.  Are we really that self-absorbed that we can't stop for one single solitary day and just give thanks and be with the people we care about the most? 

I love Thanksgiving.  Sometimes we are with a large crowd.  Sometimes it's just our little family and Grandma.  Sometimes I cook and sometimes we go to a relative's house, and sometimes we go to a grand buffet and a movie after.  It's all wonderful.  I love it all.  But one thing is for sure--we are not shopping, either in stores or on our tablets or computers.  I don't even look at the Black Friday ads because frankly I don't care.  We are just trying to enjoy one day where everyone is home and nobody has to work or go to school.

Two years ago on Thanksgiving, our son took an elbow to his eye, splitting  his top eyelid wide open while playing basketball with all his friends home from college early that morning.  Our eye doctor was so gracious.  I texted him a photo of the injury and he said, "Yep, that kid needs stitches, but don't take him to the E.R.  They won't do a good job and he will have a scar, plus you'll be there all day and miss your Thanksgiving dinner.  Meet me at my office in one hour.  I'm out on a run, but I'll go home and shower and meet you there."  Wow!  Talk about something to be grateful for.  That year dinner was at our house.  John drove our son to the kind doctor's office while I worked on dinner. They were back with a perfectly glued-shut wound in an hour and a half, with half of that time being from the drive alone.  That was such a blessing and a tender mercy.  Our son's eye itself was perfectly fine and the wound was closed and has healed without even a scar.  The doctor really acted happy to help us and actually said it was a pleasure.  How cool that he didn't resent us for disrupting his holiday.  That was a wild Thanksgiving, but we will always remember it.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying each others' company, not planning the next day's shopping trip. 

I will get real here for a minute.  This last year has been extremely difficult.  So many challenges for each member of my family including health problems, car wrecks, college stress, extended family stress, work stress, and new responsibilities for my husband.  I'm not going to be sad to say goodbye to 2014.  It has brought me to my knees with grief, worry, and sadness, begging for help from my God.  The silver lining is that I have learned a lot.  These are a few of the things I have learned this year.

  • I have learned a lot about people, where I really stand with some of them, and who my friends really are, and learned a lot about myself in the process.
  • I have re-learned that our children are good, kind, generous, smart, and ambitious people who love God.  I am so blessed to be their mom.  I love you kids infinity.  We are forever.
  • I have learned again and again that I truly married the man of my dreams and he is the most honest, loyal, generous, kind, hard-working, selfless, and patient man that I would ever want to know.  I love you with all my heart, Hunny!  We are an eternal couple.
  • I have learned that my doctors are smart, caring, determined professionals who truly care about me.
  • I have learned again, that family is precious and we need to take care of each other because we will one day reap what we sow.  I hope the bed I am now making will be soft enough for my brittle bones in my later years. 
  • I have learned that people are inherently good and are just doing the best they can.  We all have struggles and most are not seen with the naked eye.  We need to be kind to and patient with each other.
  • I have learned again for the millionth time that my Heavenly Father loves me and he loves my family.  He watches over us every day and he is truly mindful of us and what we need.  So many tender mercies this past year.   
  • I have learned that I am stronger than I thought and I can do hard things--that I really do know that I am loved and that I have strong faith.
I mostly love the thanks giving part of Thanksgiving.  I love to really, really think about all that I've been blessed with.  My favorite way to pray is to pray and only tell God what I'm grateful for.  I can really stay on my knees until my feet and arms go numb when I offer those prayers.  Today I would like to share a few of the things I am most thankful for this year.
  • My husband, John.  He is my safety in this scary world.  He loves me and his eyes light up when he sees me.  He is my best and truest friend and my only and true love and I know I am his. 
  • My kids.  Wow! is all I can say.  God knew we could only have two, so he gave us the best girl and best boy he had ever created--for us to take care of.  I'm in awe of them and their goodness every day.
  • My Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  I have felt his forgiveness offered and granted to me through the power of his infinite atonement.  He loves me!  He wants me to make it.  He is reaching out to me every day,  and I succeed when I take his hand.  I love him.  
  • God, my Eternal Father.  He will never fail me.  He never has.  He has poured out so many blessings upon me that I cannot count them.  Some of them have come from truly hard challenges, but he knows I need to grow and so he lets me go through these things, but he is also there to help me.  He desperately wants me back home, safe and sound, and because of his plan, and his offering of his Son, Jesus Christ, I can make it, but it's up to me.  It's just comforting to know he wants me to come home and I'm welcome.
  • The people in my ward at church.  I love them.  They all have their struggles, but they love my family and I can feel their prayers for us.  
  • The lady at church who saw me sitting alone for the first time after our kids started attending their student ward.  She slipped in next to me during the opening song of Sacrament meeting and invited me to sit with her and her family.  She will never really know how much I needed that on that day.  As I sat there trying to hold back the tears, there she was with a big smile and her loving invitation. I love you, Mel.  
  • My sister, Jane.  I cannot come up with enough words to say what you mean to me.  How I love you and your beautiful and brilliant family. 
  • My  mother-in-law, Margie.  How could I ever find the words to say how much I admire, respect, and love you?  All that you have taught me, the way that you have loved me and taken me in.  I will never be able to repay you.  
  • My best friend, Bonnie.  You are my teacher, my friend, my partner in crime, my sister.  How I love you.  
  • All of our dear friends and family, too many names to mention, both near and far.  I love you all.  Thank you for your example.  I'm so glad you will be ok, JRH.
  • My kids' friends.  Thank you for your good example, for your loving kindness, for brightening their days, for making them laugh, for treating them with respect, and for supporting them in what they are trying to accomplish..  They love you and so do I.
  • My home.  It's not a big house, but it's our home.  It feels just right to me.  It's my favorite place to be, especially when my family is here.  I love all the memories here and the things that decorate it, showing where we've been, what we've done, and gifts we've been given.  
  • My trials.  They aren't fun when they're happening, but when I hold on tight to God and his promises, he leads me through them and I come out stronger and with more faith.
  • My talents and spiritual gifts.  I'm getting older, and it's hard for me to admit these to myself, but I'm learning to appreciate them and try to improve them so I won't lose them. 
  • The ability to serve God.  It makes me happy.
  • The music my family makes together.  Everyone is busier and busier each year and some things like traveling to fiddle contests are in days past, but the memories are always with me and whenever they are together and get out the guitars and fiddles, I am truly in my happy place. 
  • My testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know he lives.  I know what he promises is true.  I know that he makes it possible for us to live with God again and to be with our families for eternity, if we are obedient and worthy. 
 I wish you all a beautiful, peaceful, family-oriented, Christ-centered Thanksgiving.  I know that no matter our circumstances, we are more blessed than we are not and have much to be grateful for.  Please pass the pecan pie!   

#Thanksgiving  #BlackFriday  #ChristmasShopping  #Mormons  

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    Cream Does Not Settle---OR---It's Time to Dump Your "Boyfriend"

    After a few months of not writing, I am back, with a lot to say.  This post is for my young college-age female friends, and the guys of the same age that are looking to date them.  Note to you young people:  You are doing the dating thing all wrong!

    To all of you women, especially young women who are hoping to find the man of your dreams and get married one day, this is for you.

    You are beautiful and smart and have gifts and talents.  You are unique.  You do not have to settle for the first guy that pays serious attention to you, or kisses you, or likes you.  You don't have to settle for the first or second, or even third guy that pays serious attention to you, even if you like him too.  If you remember the analogy of the cream, in the post "Why, Becoming Cream?", you will know that cream does not ever settle--it can't.  It must rise to the top. 

    And, don't take calls or answer messages after 10 p.m.  Your time is valuable.  You shouldn't be spending all day texting or snap-chatting a guy.  If he wants to take you out or see you badly enough, he will call.  If he doesn't get the hint, tell him you would like him to call you.  You could prove your point by not messaging back so often.  Teach him that you don't want to be controlled by your smartphone.  That you would appreciate some old-fashioned chivalry.  Don't go out with someone who asks you out over texting or voice mail.  That's unacceptable.  Back in the day, not that long ago, when I was your age, we didn't have smartphones, just the dumb ones attached to the wall with a 10-foot cord.  There was one phone number for the whole family.  We didn't even have an answering machine.  If you wanted to talk to me, you had to call back until you found me at home, and then you had to exchange a few pleasantries with whichever member of my family that answered the phone.  Now, we are all so attached to these devices in our pockets that we've taught each other that we're available 24/7.  Don't be so available.  If he wants to see you, he will figure it out.  Make him figure it out.

    If the first date didn't impress you, you might consider what went wrong.  Some guys deserve a second chance and clearly others do not.   You need to make a list of what your deal-breakers are and stick to it.  Did he treat you with respect?  Did he look at his phone while he was with you?  Did he talk about the other girls he has dated?  Does he hate his parents?  Was he late picking you up?  Did he ask questions to try to get to know you?  Did he seem genuinely interested in you and not just your pretty face?  If you told him you are a math major, did he freak out and get intimidated?  Did you have an opportunity to get to know him a little?  Does he smile?  He is a happy person?  Did he admit to any bad habits?  Does he have goals in his life and if so, is he working toward achieving them?  Did he respect you enough to come nicely groomed?   While it's true that it takes a while to get to know someone, there are some things that are very revealing up front.  If he doesn't try to make a good impression on the first date, he never will.  If he isn't cleanly groomed on the first date, unless he had to change a flat tire in the driving sun on the way to pick you up, he will never be cleanly groomed.

    This means, be yourself.  If you don't typically wear Taylor Swift-thick-as-mud eyeliner, now is not the time to try it out.  If you don't normally wear high heels and tight pants, don't do it now.  You don't want to be guilty of false advertising.  You want to present your best self, but also your real self.  You don't need to copy anyone else you know or anyone that's famous.  You are beautiful just the way you are.  Put on clean clothes that are modest and stylish, do your normal hair and makeup, and smile.  Make sure you smell good and have clean hair.  Then walk out the door ready to be yourself.

    You shouldn't be posting pictures of you and people you are dating for all the world to see.  Talk about awkward.  What if the other party is not as excited about the post as you are?  What are you saying to all your other social media contacts?  That you're a couple?  That you're dating this person exclusively?  That you get around the block and date 100 times a month?  Be careful with what you post.  It's my opinion that you shouldn't post pictures on social media with another person until you can officially say you are now a couple, that your relationship is serious, or better yet, that you're engaged to be married.  Otherwise, you close yourself off from other opportunities.  Other people might not be interested after your posts, and still others will get their feelings hurt.  The world doesn't need a play by play of your dating life.

    Listen, it sounds sexist to say this, but it's pure biology.  When a man knows what he wants and wants to kiss you, he will kiss you.  It doesn't matter how shy you are, he will find a way to kiss you.  If he hasn't kissed you after several dates, he isn't going to.  Run away from this guy.  Either he isn't attracted to you or he has some strong perversion to physical contact and is afraid of going too far, thus withholding this important part of a romantic relationship.  Please don't misunderstand.  Both my religious and my high moral standards are that we don't have sex until we're married, and that physical affection before marriage should not be the kind that is overly sexual and certainly not promiscuous.  But, kissing, in a non-passionate way, and hand holding, and appropriate demonstrations of physical affection are important.  It lets you know that you care about each other.  Plus, why would you not want to know how someone kisses?  What if they are messy kissers, or kiss too hard, or don't even like to kiss?  If he hasn't kissed you after several dates, he only sees you as his friend.  Run far away because guys and girls can't be friends, especially not if one of you has feelings for the other that are not reciprocated.

    Here are some things that I think constitute dumping your "boyfriend."  

    He has been dating you for several months, but the relationship doesn't progress.

    You don't or can't talk about deep and serious things.

    He has no sense of humor.

    He has a criminal record.

    He has a problem with pornography.

    He shows any kind of tendency for violence.

    He keeps you on a short leash---he always wants to know where you are or who you are with.

    He has a temper or becomes angry easily.

    He is disrespectful to you, his mother, other women, the elderly, or children.

    He doesn't respect authority.

    He is irresponsible with money.

    He has no goals and no plans for his future.

    He doesn't know how to work (he is lazy).

    He just keeps you on the bench for when other girls are not available to play.

    He acts like he is your boyfriend, but he's on Tinder, dating everyone in sight.

    He only wants to see you during the week, not on the weekend (weekends are for dates and who he sees on the weekend is who is most important to him).

    He doesn't acknowledge your birthday.

    He doesn't acknowledge Valentine's Day.

    He doesn't try to cheer you up when you're sick, are in a fender-bender, or have a really bad day.

    Everything is all about him:  You always go get his favorite food and see his kinds of movies.

    He doesn't try to surprise you and make you happy.

    He hasn't kissed you yet.  You would like him to, but he hasn't even tried.

    He just wants to hang out.  He doesn't take you out on real dates (spending money is not what is important here--it can cost nothing, but should require some effort).

    Here is what girls can do:  

    1.  Invest time in yourself.  You only want to get married once, if you can help it, and so don't be in such a big hurry.  Use this time to discover who you are and become the best you can be.  Make sure you are doing something with yourself.  You should be in school, or learning a vocation, or working at a job you enjoy.  Pursue your hobbies.  Get really good at your talents.  These things will make you happy and because you are happy and satisfied with yourself, it will radiate out of you and attract the kind of man who will not be intimidated by your brains, beauty, and talent.

    2.  Make sure you are healthy.  Get enough sleep.  Eat right.  Exercise.  You don't have as much to offer the world if you're frazzled from always pulling all-nighters to study, or partying late with friends every night.  You will feel better when you take better care of yourself.

    3,  Go to church.  Exercise your faith.  It is important that you are grounded in God's love for you, that you know that you are important to Him and that He is concerned about you, that He hears and answers your prayers.

    4.  Give service.  Get involved in your community, on your campus, at your church.  Do something for others on a regular basis.  It will soften all the corners of your life.  When you are having a rough day, helping others will lift your spirits.  It takes the focus off of you and helps you to be grateful for your life, all your blessings, and the unique life you lead.

    5.  Spend time with your family.  They love you.  They miss you.  You are at a busy time of your life.  You are an adult now, but you still need your parents and family.  Include them in your life when you can.  Keep in touch with them.  Talk to them.  Here is a reality check.  Friends come and go.  Family is forever.  Don't be a stranger now.  And when you start dating people, bring them around your family.  Sometimes they see things in people that you don't because you're blinded by your affections.  If they point out things that are alarming to them, listen.  I know lots of girls who could have been spared the heartache of a short-lived marriage and later divorce if they had only listened to their parents or an older brother who had the 'belly alarm' go off when she brought home her boyfriend.

    6.  Make plans for the future.  Go on that study-abroad trip.  Save your money and buy that car.  Work seriously toward getting your college degree.  You need to be prepared to have the best job possible, either as a contributing member of your future household or if you end up being alone.  Life throws curve balls to us all.  Spouses get sick or die, husbands lose jobs, recessions hit, children get catastrophic and expensive illnesses, and the list goes on.  Please take your education seriously or at least learn a good and marketable skill, so you can be prepared to be the sole breadwinner if that should be required of you.  Better to be prepared and not need to work than need to work and not be prepared to.

    7.  Love yourself.  You are beautiful and special.  Stop comparing yourself to other women.  Have you heard the saying, "you can be the juiciest peach in the world and still there will be someone who hates peaches?"  It's true.  You just need to be your beautiful self and in the right time, the right man will come along and love you for exactly who you are, just the way you are.  And, if you're dating someone who wants you to change the way you dress, or lose weight, or wear your makeup differently, the only thing you need to change is him--get him out of your life.  Tell him to find that girl somewhere else. 

    And a final word to the guys:  

    Grow up and stop being so selfish.  Commitment and marriage are not dirty words.  It's what you're supposed to be striving for.  It's part of God's plan for us.  The Bible says, "it is not good for man to be alone."  Listen!  When you find a girl that you're attracted to, loves you in spite of your weirdness, is willing to forgive you when you screw up, and is working hard to be her best and help make the world a better place, don't let her go!  Kiss her.  Stop dating everyone else.  Stop looking at everyone else.  Save a little money and buy her a ring, and ask her to marry you.  Get going in your life.  Things will fall into place.  You'll find a place to live.  You can get a grant to pay for school.  You can buy a beater car.  You can figure it out together.  Stop being so afraid of life.  But please, I beg you, stop leading these girls on.  If you have no intention of being in a serious relationship, then put yourself on ice until you figure yourself out and don't date anyone.  It's false advertising.  Get your act together!  Stop looking at porn.  Stop spending all your money on video games.  Take your schooling seriously.  Be a man!  You are wonderful, too!  You are brilliant and yet worry about things that you don't need to worry about now.  Have a little faith.  Talk to your parents instead of to your friends.  Spend time with some elderly men and ask them the secrets to a happy marriage.  Ask them what to do.  They know--your friends don't.  Get off social media.  Pick up the phone.  Allow yourself the freedom that comes with being a little old-fashioned.  It might surprise you how happy you can be when you realize you don't need that much to be happy.  But, I don't think you can be truly happy until you find that special girl.  She is waiting for you, patiently waiting.  Stop making her wait! 

    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.