Monday, February 9, 2015

There Is No Place Like Home-----So Make It A Good One

My favorite movie is "The Wizard of Oz."  Always has been and always will be.  I love the colors and the music, the characters and the story.  I really love Dorothy's red shoes.  I love the idea that she wants so badly to get back home to Kansas.  I guess this is because she loved her home, so naturally she would want to go back to it and her family.  When I was a kid, I always thought she was kind of weird to want to leave Oz and her fun new friends to return to the dreary dust bowl days of Kansas, in black and white.  Why live in black and white when you can live your life in Technicolor?  With a soundtrack.  And Glinda the Good Witch to look out for you? 

As my children continue down their paths to total independence from my husband and me, I hope they never feel about us the way I feel about my parents.  Look, I understand that no parent is perfect, because I'm not.  This post is not to condemn anyone.  These are just my thoughts, about my life.  It is my blog, you know.  I am writing this with an open heart and a positive outlook.  I own who I am and I don't blame anyone for anything.  But life could have been better for me if I had had what I think I desperately needed from them and didn't get.  It also would have been less painful if I had not had done to me the things that did happen. 

Here are the very most important things I learned in the home I grew up in, in no particular order of importance. 

1.  I know  how to sew.  I was 10 when my mom  started a 4-H club for me and my friends.  We learned how to sew and bake and babysit.  The best for me was learning how to sew.  I won blue ribbons at the 4-H competitions.  I still use, on a regular basis, the things I learned in that little club.  I can hem my husband's pants, or sew on a button that will never come off again.  I can cut out a pattern and follow it.  I know how to make adjustments for my height.  I have made all of the window coverings and decorative pillows in our home.  I made a lot of dresses for my daughter when she was young and plenty more for myself as the years have gone on.  I enjoy sewing.  It's cathartic for me.  I hate to unpick a seam, but I know that if I'm careful and precise, I won't have to unpick the seam.  Winning those blue ribbons for my hand stitching and machine sewing instilled confidence in me that I can sew and so I'm not afraid of it.  Over the years I have taught myself how to do more difficult things.  I even joined with other mothers in the neighborhood when our daughters were 10 and formed a 4-H club for them where we taught them to sew.  My daughter has her own machine now.  So, it continues on to her. 

2.  I know now that I like onions, fish, peppers, spicy food, ethnic food and runny eggs.  I have learned this on my own because we didn't eat these things at home.  My mom geared our meals to her tastes and because she didn't like fish, we never, ever ate it.  Not once.  Unless we were camping and someone else prepared it outside.  It was never prepared in our home.  I could have been  a picky eater, but I'm not.  I love food.  There are only two things I won't eat:  mayo and butter/margarine.  I also can't do wet or soggy bread of any sort.  I also don't really enjoy milk.  It's funny because these are things my mom really seemed to like.  Do I hate mayo because my mom put so much of it on a tuna sandwich that it seeped out of the bread?  Probably.  I also learned that I didn't want my children to be limited by my tastes.  I wanted them to like or dislike things for themselves.  I put mayo on their sandwiches, and cringed if I even got it on my hands, but I didn't make mayo unavailable to them.  This has blessed my family because my children are the most non-picky eaters on the planet.  They constantly surprise even their friends by exclaiming how much they love Indian food. 

3.a.  I learned, on my own, as an adult, that wearing tasteful eyeliner and eye shadow does not make me look like a hooker.  And wearing lipstick does not actually bleach your lips.  My mom always told me that if I started wearing lipstick I would always have to because it bleaches the natural color from your lips.  Nope!  Not true.  I keep wearing lipstick because I can, because the pop of color makes me happy and my days more fun, and because, if I'm going to wear lip balm anyway, why not make it more colorful? 

3.b.  And, for that matter, jeans are a girl's best friend, and the softer and more faded the better.  The cherry on top is when they are flare-legged.  Jeans are all I wear unless it's church and then I wear a dress.  I wear dressy pants when it's appropriate, but my life calls for jeans.  I have more pairs than I need, but I know why.  Because it was frowned upon to wear them at my house.  My Levi 501's were taken away from me once because "they weren't very ladylike."  I had an extra pair that nobody knew about that I kept in my backpack and changed into and out of at school.  Now that I can wear jeans everyday and own as many pairs as I wish, is there any reason I would wear anything else? 

4.  I learned how to iron.  I can iron the prettiest shirts you have ever seen.  I can make those collars nice and crisp and make anything look like it is brand new.  Thanks, mom.  I do appreciate so much having to iron dad's shirts because it taught me how to do it right.  I hate ironing, but I can make the iron sing. 

5.  I learned how to play the piano.  I know it was a huge sacrifice to pay for lessons and drive me to lessons.  I know I should have practiced more and been more appreciative of it then, but I appreciate it now.  I still don't play as much as I would like to, but I can play.  I enjoy few things as much as being alone in my house, playing the piano.  I wish I could play by ear like my husband and write music like he does.  I have to have music and I have to practice a lot.  But the fact that I can do that, that I can go buy a piece of music and then sit down and learn it, is huge to me. 

6.  I know how to bottle fruit and vegetables.  I sure hated September when I was growing up and it was time to can peaches and pears and freeze corn and beans.  But I know how to do it and I have done it.  I will admit that I only make salsa and grape juice, because that is what my family inhales.  I can buy peaches and pears during the case lot sale cheaper than I can bottle them.  Do they taste as good?  No way!  But it's the way I have chosen to do things in my house.  But, who knows.  Maybe this year I will bottle peaches and pears.  The point is that I hated it when I was young, but I appreciate it now. 

7.  I learned how to identify plants and flowers on hikes with my dad.  It's a simple thing, really, but I still get very excited whenever I see Indian Paintbrush and Penstemon.  Last year, we drove up to Snow Basin for a wedding reception in May.  The mountainside was completely drenched with blue Penstemon.  It made me so happy.  I have fond memories of my dad suddenly pulling the car over and jumping out, running down the road and hiking up the hill.  He would pull out his pocket knife and dig the plants out by the root and put them in old Wonder Bread bags.  Then the bags would go into his metal plant box that was strapped onto his back with a canvas strap.  He was always spotting some plant or flower that he needed in his herbarium at the university where he still teaches Botany to this day.  I loved that my dad was a botanist.  Nobody else had a dad that was a botanist. 

8.  I learned how to take care of babies.  I am the oldest of six kids that were pretty spread out.  I was 16 when the youngest was born.  I am very comfortable with diapering, feeding, changing, tending, and playing with little ones.  I love it.  Somehow it was a miracle that when we brought our son home from the hospital after the miracle of becoming first-time parents, I knew what to do.  Granted, I had never breastfed before, and I'm not going to say I wasn't terrified, but it all worked out and I seemed to naturally know what to do.  Even though it was just me and my baby and my husband.  My mother did not come to help me.  No one did.  But I figured it out by myself, with my husband's help, and I'm grateful. 

9.  I  learned how to be myself.  I know my mother hated my individuality.  I know she wished I wanted to be like the other kids in the way I dressed and that I had similar interests as other girls.  But I had no desire to be a cheerleader or on the drill team.  I wanted to debate and do public speaking and draw and paint and do science experiments.  I wanted to read deep books and discuss them.  I wanted to be the rebel in the sense that I wore things no one else was wearing.  Not that my clothes were bizarre or anything.  I just didn't want the same exact stuff that everyone else had.  And I didn't.  I'm glad that I didn't let my mom talk me into being someone I wasn't and that even though it caused tension between us, I stayed true to myself.  You don't have to graduate from an art program to be an artist, but I learned that I should have stayed in art school because it made me happy.  My mom really did not know what was best for me.  I promised myself that whatever my kids wanted to be when they grew up, I would support and nurture. 

10.  I learned how to trust myself.  Something very deep inside me told me that the things I heard all the time at home were not true for me.  I knew that I was worthy of respect and love and happiness, but that I would have to wait to make it for myself and live somewhere else before that could happen.  It was hard to wait for that, to let it come to me, to have to make it for myself, but I felt deeply connected to God and knew he was really my ultimate father, my Heavenly Father, and I chose to trust Him instead.  And I'm grateful. 

11.  I learned that just because there are 8 people in a family, it doesn't mean you're all the same.   My siblings and parents share a lot of common tastes and traits.  But we are not the same.  Not by a long shot.  And I don't want to be the same and I'm sure they don't either.  I know that my children are different, even though they have a lot in common, they are different people with different personalities.  That is to be celebrated and not condemned. 

12.  I learned that a marriage and family cannot last forever if you treat them with disrespect and don't keep your promises.  My parents separated when I was around 16 or 17.  It was awful.  Then they got back together and it was worse.  They finally divorced when I was 21, after I was married.  It was a very difficult time for me.  They had been married 20+ years and now were throwing it away.   But guess what?  It was not a surprise.  We all knew for years that it was coming.  Because of the way they treated each other, and the way they treated us.  From this I learned that if you want something to last forever, you had better treat it differently.  

13.  I learned that I was not important to my family or parents.  Maybe technically I was, but they didn't really care about me, I don't think they ever did, and I'm pretty sure they still don't.  It's alright though, because I vowed to myself that that would never happen in my family with my husband and children.  And it hasn't.  From my parents I learned all the ways not to be a parent.  I learned all the things not to do or say to a child.  So I thank them, from the bottom of my heart.  My desire to be a rebel against my family has blessed my own family in countless ways.  I have never, ever, ever, uttered the heinous words, "I hate you," to my children or husband.  I have never beat them.  I have never lied to them.  So, mom and dad, thank you for your arms-length relationship with me because it gave me the best relationships with my own family and husband.  It has made us even closer.

14.  I learned that it's okay to go to church alone because you don't go to church for the people, or your family.  You go to church for Jesus Christ.  There sure were a lot of weeks that I went to church alone or with a few siblings.  I didn't like going alone, but I knew I wanted to be there and if I had to go independently, then that is what I did.  I knew in the very depths of my soul, even at a young age, that I was going to worship and I could do that alone.  I could do it alone because my salvation is an independent thing.  It doesn't matter what other people are doing, it only matters what I am doing.  My personal relationship with God and my Savior, Jesus Christ.  This has blessed me in so many ways throughout the years.  When there have been rough patches in my life where I didn't feel like I fit into a congregation, I always continued to go to church.  There are no perfect people, anywhere.  Not in any church, not any place.  If you are looking for perfect people, you won't find them.  There is only one person who is perfect and that is Christ.  We all get offended from time to time, or feel alone some days, or even have hardships that are private to us.  None of these are reasons to stay away from worshipping God. 

I think I understand why Dorothy was anxious to return home to Kansas, to the land of black and white.  There are things we have to learn that we can only learn at home, where things are, or at least should be, black and white.  Then we take those things and venture out on our own, into the land of Technicolor, and make our own choices.  We can be limited by the things we learned at home, or we can be set free by them.  I believe it is our choice.  We can squeeze out the best there is from our experience and add our own sugar and water to make a wonderful punch.  Or we can look at the few little drops and feel sorry for ourselves.  If you are lucky enough to have an abundance of juice that comes from your childhood, then bottle it up and take care of it so you can pass it down to your family. 

I am not like Dorothy.  I love my red shoes, but I don't want to go back to Kansas.  For me, Kansas was hard and I'm glad it's behind me.  I much prefer my Technicolor world with my husband and my kids, with my own choices and my own decisions.  I appreciate all that I learned in Kansas, I really do.  It is what made me who I am and that's a good thing.  But the love that has come to me and the happiness that is mine now is much more bright and beautiful than anything I could have ever imagined, so why would I want to go back?  I don't.  One foot in front of the other, every day, and everything will be alright.  That is what I say to myself.  And it works. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fifty Grades of Clay

I don't know about you, but I liked getting good grades in school.  I like grade-A beef.  When we got a new roof after the wind storm of 2011, we got the highest grade shingles.  I like high-grade tires and leather shoes of a high grade.  Our kids like getting A's and freak out at the thought of a B.  Truth is, everything is better when it is of a higher quality, or higher grade.  Think of cotton sheets, lipstick, and even paper towels. 

I guess there is a way to tell the higher quality cashmere from the lesser quality cashmere.  For lay people like me, it's because the higher the grade, the softer it is, and the less likely it is to pill.   I can tell if clothing is well made, just by turning the garment inside out and inspecting the seams, looking at how the buttons are sewn on, and how the hem has been done.  Was the fabric cut on the bias when it shouldn't have been?  The workmanship of a garment is important to the function of the garment and the value of the garment.  If it is made poorly, it will fit badly, maybe hang the wrong way, and won't last.  I don't like wasting money on cheap clothes because they tend to fall apart and make me feel like I just flushed money down the toilet. 

This weekend I took my daughter dress shopping.  We had heard about a boutique selling modest, lady-like dresses for a good price and so we were excited.  Then we found out the dresses on sale were seconds, or had some sort of flaw.  Dresses normally around $150 were $28.  I was suddenly suspicious.  We had just driven 30 minutes for this sale and now I had to inspect every seam and buttonhole?  We each found a few dresses and tried them on.  There were several women there, waiting for a turn in the two dressing rooms they had, speaking loudly outside the curtain, being quite rude, I thought, and seeming to rush me as I labored to try on these dresses.  I kind of felt pressured to get at least one, since I had driven all that way.  I quickly narrowed it to two.  The others had flaws that were obvious to the eye and so I left them on the hangers.  I was excited to find two dresses that looked like they were constructed without any major flaws.  Would it justify $28?  My daughter also found two dresses that looked gorgeous on her and we decided to get them and go home so my girlie could go skiing. 

The next day, yesterday, I wore my  new black dress to church.  It was horrible.  As soon as I sat down I could see the problem.  The dress was not cut out properly and so it hung strangely.  It also had a decorative placket on the bodice that was sewn onto the dress in a weird way and on my body, it quickly became all bunched up and looked ridiculous.  This had not been apparent until I was sitting down.  When I try things on before buying, I always sit down and make sure things look good from that angle, that things aren't too short, and don't become odd or scary in a chair.  The dressing room did not have any chairs so I could not do this.  Needless to say, I obsessed with the stupid dress for three hours at church, silently debating to myself whether or not I should go home and change.  I also obsessed about how I could possibly fix it myself, or should I just throw it in the trash when I got home?  Not a good way to spend church.  I was angry with myself for breaking my rule of buying cheap clothing.  It never satisfies.  I would rather have fewer things of a higher quality, than a closetful of trendy pieces of, well, I am going to say it---crap.

This morning, like I always do after our kids and my husband have left for school and work, I turned on the Today Show as background noise while doing the breakfast dishes, starting the laundry, and going over my calendar.  To my horror, all the excitement during that half hour was centered on a new movie, based on a book, that is set to open Valentine's Day weekend, which is in less than 2 weeks.  The immoral story, "Fifty Shades of Grey."  I will say right now that I have not read these books and will not see the movie.  I have higher standards than that.  The books have been called "mommy porn."  I'm a mommy, but I don't watch or read porn.  Apparently, we live in a sick, messed-up world if this book sold as many copies as Natalie Morales said.  We're also ready to be struck down as a nation if it's true that sales of rope and cable ties skyrocketed after this book came out.  Really, people?!  And, if we listen to the Today Show hosts, they are leading the way in being completely and honestly un-embarrassed to admit that, not only have they read the books, but are eagerly awaiting the opening of the movie.  ????  I'm really glad I don't look to those morning hosts as my heroes or inspiration to the way I lead my life, seeing as they always seem to disappoint. 

I will just say it.  I am sick and tired of marriage, true love, fidelity, chastity, virtue, and family being made to look provincial and outdated.  I am so darn tired of Hollywood telling people what is cool and fashionable.  I'm bone tired of the attacks on the family and marriage and how it is only so very rarely that a movie actually portrays a man and woman as being happily married, with children.  Just because the rest of the world has it all screwed up, doesn't mean we have to listen!  Just because other people are reading "mommy porn" and buying ropes doesn't mean we have to!  I don't know about you, but ropes and cable ties don't exactly sound like love to me.  It sounds terrifyingly scary!  It pretty much screams, r-a-p-e!    Kind of like a murder scene without the murder?  Kind of like, hell on earth?  I will even say that if my husband came home with rope and cable ties, I would run out the front door and call 911!

Love, true love, is chaste.  It is virtuous.  It is NOT filthy, degrading, scary, dark, or twisted.  It is beautiful, lovely, joyful, warm, safe, and heavenly.  I am so grateful that God has given us the ability to express ourselves physically to our spouses.  I think we need to remember that the whole purpose of sex is to make a family and keep a family.  When we get married, it is a serious, forever commitment:  to begin a family, centered on Christ.  This requires us to put off desires and physical appetites and try to become more like God.  We are taught that "the natural man is an enemy to God" (Mosiah 3:19).  We can't become like God, or have hope to live with Him again, if we act like a bunch of animals.  Marriage is ordained of God.  The family is ordained of God.  The power used to create such a family and a marriage is ordained of God.  It is God-given power to create.  It is not to be wielded carelessly, with rope and cable ties, with anyone you think looks "hot."  It is to be used to bind  husband and wife together, to make us closer, to help us express beautiful love and trust, respect and caring, for each other, and no one else.  Marriage is to last forever, between two people.  And, sometimes because of age or illness, injury, or accident, two people who really love each other can no longer express their love in this physical way, but it doesn't mean they don't love each other.  Maybe in those circumstances, a couple's love becomes even more holy because it is all about the spiritual and emotional connections.  This worldly, stupid ideal that monogamy isn't humanly possible, or two people can't possibly be together for a lifetime, or we all grow and change and need to experience different people, is nothing but a giant pile of CRAP! 

The family is falling apart.  Marriage is out of style.  I wonder why.  Because people are listening to this garbage instead of listening to God.  I don't care what your faith is---if you are a person of faith, you know I'm right.  God doesn't want it this way!  In fact, I know it makes Him sad to see his children act this way.  He wants desperately for us to be happy and He knows that the best way we can be happy is to belong to a FAMILY, with a mother and a father who are married, who are committed to each other, and each other only, for FOREVER, and thereby are committed to their children, made with the beautiful God-given power of procreation, for FOREVER.  There is safety in this!  Children are happier and feel safer and are more successful when they come from this kind of a home.  Couples are able to overcome hardship and trials together when they are bound to each other in this way.  If people of faith would stand up, together, and say, I am not going to participate in this garbage being thrown at me by ignorant, rebellious, self-important famous people!  I am going to listen to God and his servants.  I am going to take my cues from the scriptures, from the teachings of the prophets, and not from "the world."  There is power in numbers, people.  We need to stand up for what is right and true and chaste and benevolent.   

Please do not be tempted to see this horrible movie.  And if you have read these filthy books and subscribed to their ideas of "love," throw them in the trash where they belong and pick up the word of God instead.  Or, if you don't want to read the scriptures, read something else, that is clean.  There are plenty of clean, wholesome works of literature to read.  If you would like a list of my favorites, I will be happy to give recommendations.  The point is this.  There are plenty of things in this world that are "lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report," so let us "seek after these things."  We don't have to follow the world's standard to be happy, or cool, or popular.  I think the best thing we could do as people of faith is to openly, unapologetically stand up to all that is disrespectful of marriage and family. 

In Isaiah 64:8 it says:  "But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." 

What this says to me is this:  God loves us all.  He made us, in fact.  We are created in His image.  We are his masterpieces.  His creations.  He is proud of us and loves us all.  We are all different and beautiful in unique ways.  But, we are made in the image of God.  That means we are God-like, that we are god-ly, that we have potential to be like God.  But, we also have been given our agency, to choose, to decide.  This is a wonderful blessing, but we have a responsibility--yes, a responsibility, to use it wisely.  I really don't believe God gave us agency without hope that we would use it to try to become like Him.  We have our agency to make choices, but we must live with the consequences of those choices. 

My question to us is this:  What grade of clay will I choose to be?  Will I be moldable and teachable?  Will I refuse to yield to what God asks me to be, what He needs me to be, and crack and shatter all over the floor?  Will I be humble enough to do what He has asked me to do so that I can become the lovely, glorious vase with a gentle shape and a beautiful color?  The world wants to tell us what we should be, but that is not in harmony with what God has already promised us WE ALREADY ARE.  We can have all the blessings He waits so eagerly to give us, if, we choose to be humble enough to let Him shape us and mold us.  We do this by being obedient to His laws instead of listening to the counsel of men. 

The reason I am so concerned about the impact this book and movie are having on our culture is this:  If every person of faith was doing what they knew to be right, this book would not have sold so many copies and it would not be anticipating making so much money at the box office.  Maybe you can keep your bishop or pastor from knowing you read the books, or maybe you're excited about the movie and will tell everyone on social media.  The truth is that God knows if you read those books in secret or on the subway.  And he cried if you did.  Because he wants something better for you than the crap in those stories.  He wants you to feel loved and respected, safe and clean, whole and cherished, beautiful and angelic.  And you can NEVER feel like that while tied up with rope and cable ties, even if it's only in your imagination.  Not ever.  Let us choose to be a higher grade of clay.  It is by our choices that we make ourselves a lower grade of clay. 

I unpicked the black dress and will attempt today to fix it.  I'm not sure if I can or not.  I will see.  But, it wasn't worth the $28.  I already own beautiful, well-made, high-grade dresses and I didn't need another one.  It isn't worth the headache it has caused to save a little money on a dress.  Next time I am tempted to buy something of lower grade, I will remember one can never cut corners and expect excellent results.  Because I know who I am.  I am a daughter of a King, who is God, and because of this royal heritage, I cannot afford to participate in anything that will cheapen me or His legacy.  I have made promises to Him, to my husband and children, and I want to keep them.  I need to be a higher grade of clay, the glorious, ultimate form of clay possible, because that is how He made me.  If I take His hand and follow his plan, I can be Fifty times the highest Grade of Clay.  That is my goal.  What is yours?

As a reminder, I love the quote from Billy Graham:  "My home is in heaven.  I'm just traveling through this world."

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!