Saturday, November 5, 2011

Will Duck Tape Work?

This week holding myself together has been really...hard. The last few days especially. Nothing out of our busy-life ordinary has happened. No major tragedy or unexpected (or expected) unhappiness has occurred (unless you count that unplanned $650 car repair). If anything I've found myself having a few great moments of simple satisfaction. But there is something that I seem to keep grappling with or searching for that just seems to be. just. out. of. reach.


I remember once helping with a column for my high school newspaper about the top ten things you can do with duck tape. I'm wishing a little silvery tape would hold me together when at any moment it physically feels like I might just fall apart.

On Thursday night I told my husband that I need something that I can be really good at. I've spent a lot of my life able to do a huge number of things, none of them exceptionally well--one of those jack of all trades master of none. But wouldn't it be nice to know that I'm really, really good at SOMETHING? In retrospect, though, I wonder if I feel that way because I've let myself drift off course a little and have been caught up in the idea that other's validation might bring me up a little. Still...

I just finished reading a fun blog post of a friend who had just finished a beautiful creative project. In the comments section her mother wrote a hearty congratulations to whom she called her talented and creative daughter. For a moment I so wanted that compliment to be mine. Too bad I don't have a lot of attention span for doing crafty projects.

I do recognize that there are things I am good at. I'm a really good story teller when I can stay awake to read to my kids. I'm a pretty good public speaker. I'm not so bad at teaching early morning seminary. I'm excellent at making sure I get to the temple every month.

But here's where I start to fall apart. It's the every day things that need my constant time and attention. I am realizing more and more that for as happy and beautiful as my growing up experience was, there are a few fundamental life skills that I don't have. Like, oh, housekeeping. And this really bogs me down. How does one simply get things done. You'd cringe if you knew how long it has been since I mopped my kitchen floor. I'm a piler-er. Things get shuffled in to piles all around the house instead of really being put away or beng tossed out.

Most draining is just being exhausted and unmotivated. I'd so much rather go take a nap than tend to the laundry or the dishes or the toys (who wouldn't!) Most days I just give in and take a nap and then have no clean clothes or clean dishes and still no motivation.


The other day a funny cartoon made its way around Facebook. It was a picture of a woman looking haggard sitting on the table in her doctor's office. The doctor is looking at her chart and says "What you have is a bad case of motherhood." When I look around, how is it that it seems I am a little more haggard than most. I know. I know. There is no good in comparing. But, I want to know how they do it! What are they doing that I'm not that I could learn from?

Forgiving me if this post is a little of a downer. I've had a flood of things on my mind this week and here it all comes spilling out. I used to walk with a friend of mine a couple of times a week before she moved. We'd call them our therapy sessions. Since that outlet isn't available, the great wide world of blogging gets to be my shameless therapy. That and a roll of duck tape might just come in handy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Take Away Moments

I love Stake Conference. It is one of my favorite things that we do in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All of the local congregations gather together in one central church building for a few hours of teaching and lifting and strengthening. We talk of Christ and rejoice in Christ and teach of Christ. I'm unbelievably saddened by the recent article I read about a prominent leader from a different church who chose to call the church to which I belong a "cult" and made straight-faced claims that we are not Christians. Talk about someone who missed the boat.... But, I digress. What I really wanted to share were my two favorite take away moments from Stake Conference, both said by our Stake President.

First, in the evening session of conference on Saturday night (my all time favorite meeting in the entire Church) President Standage said "There is a teaching moment in EVERY verse of the scriptures." Perfect. Our children will learn even just one verse at a time.

Second, the mission president for our area asked President Standage why we've seen a drop off in the number of convert baptisms in this Stake as of late. In the past President Standage said he just did not know. But today he knew. He said we will have few convert baptisms if we cannot learn to take care of our own and we are not taking care of our own. Wow. Way to put us in our place. He made a frank plea for us to do much, much better in our home and visiting teaching efforts. Why is this so stinking hard at times? I'm on it though. It's on my mind and I will do better. No excuses. Children of God deserve a little more than what I've been willing to give, especially when it's been a while since they've been reminded of that great eternal heritage and worth.

Enough said.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Heart of a Runner

I am a runner. I never imagined that I'd ever really say that. But, here I am: a runner.

Early on Saturday morning I was out at about 6:30 running. It was the first really chilly day of running this season. I had prepared well. I had on a hat and running gloves. I wore my long-sleeved plumb colored compression running shirt. I was warm and on my way to a great seven-mile run. A mile or so into the run, I passed a runner going other direction. It was a relatively young guy wearing ALL the wrong things for cold weather running if you are a "real" runner. He was wearing a heavy hooded sweatshirt and warm up pants, no gloves and a baseball cap. He yelled hello from across the street and I smiled and called back. Runners are generally very cordial and always nod or smile, at the very least, to other runners (at least in my experience).

In that moment I had the great thought that ANYONE, {anyone} can be a runner. It's about having the heart of a runner. You don't have to have anything fancy or neat to just lace up and go. You dont' have to run fast or run far for it to have meaning. You can be any age, any skill level, any person at all.

So, what is the heart of runner? It means doing something because it makes you stronger. It pushes you to be a little better. It means that you do it because it makes you feel good inside and out. It means that you dig out that last stretch even when it doesn't feel like there is anything left to give. It means that you know that running gives you a place where you can calm your mind and put back into perspective those things that have gone askew. It is a place of sanity when so much around you feels a little insane and outside of your control. For me the heart of a runner is not necessarily about the constant push to be faster or find that competitive edge.

If anything, it might just be the opposite. I have a friend who picked up distance running about the same time I did. She's ultra fit and I love to talk runner with her. But running has become so important to her that it is starting to become more important than other important things and I've gradually started to see her make surprising life compromises. She's always looking for a race to run or a time to beat. Don't get me wrong. I would LOVE to be faster. And I love running races. But sometimes I feel a little like the guy wearing the over-sized grey hoodie. It's not about the time or the race. It's about balancing life with what you love and learning how to put first things first. That is the heart of a runner. Balance. We run to find balance and to make everything make sense and to be reminded that we can and are worth the effort.

I wasn't born with the heart of a runner. It's something that I've learned and developed. It's unlikely that I'll ever run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In fact it is unlikely that I'll ever run a marathon. I'm a half marathon runner at my best. And I'm unlikely to run more than a couple of races a year. But I love running. Even on the days I don't feel like running and think I might hate running, I still love running.

So I guess maybe that is what gives me the heart of a runner. Instead of wearing my heart on my sleeve, I wear my heart in my shoes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Christmas Came Early to This Frazzled Mom

I got an unexpected early Christmas present on Thursday. After an incredibly long week of being stressed out, overwhelmed and on the verge of nervous break downs multiple times each day, the surprise came as such a welcome relief. Let me explain WHY my life has taken such a dramatic turn over the last few weeks.

A lot of things are changing rapidly in our family right now. My husband has a new, further away job that is wonderful, but causing me a little stress in anticipation of the longer hours and school work (this new job also comes with a chance to earn a master's degree paid for by his company). Our oldest is starting kindergarten after we pulled him out after just three weeks last year to give him a little more time to mature. I am trying to manage my new seminary calling, being a primary teacher, serving as ward organist, and keep up on a visiting teaching route that some times can be time consuming. Change is wonderful. These are all good, exciting changes. But even good change, happy change can cause negative stress.

Now that you know why I'm a little fragile right now, are you just dying to know what my Christmas present was?

I got home late from teaching a Thursday night class and the second I walked in the the door my kids yelled that I had a Christmas present waiting. And sure enough, there was a square box all wrapped in metallic green, red, white and silver polka dot Christmas paper with a big tacky gold stick-on bow on top. I could not possibly imagine what my husband had in that box. When he took this new job, he also took a pay cut( short term loss=long term gain--it was such a good opportunity for career growth that we were willing to take the cut for the time being). So budgeting has been on the TOP of my mind a lot lately. I am keenly aware of all the pennies being spent and I was pretty sure there weren't any extra pennies left over for an unexpected present. I suddenly remembered having had a conversation weeks ago where I mentioned that with my new seminary responsibilities maybe this would be a good time to replace my old, large print, hand-me-down scriptures that have started falling apart. But as the weeks wore on towards the end of the summer, I'd put the thought out of my mind as other expenses were mounting.

So to my utter amazement, I opened that box to find a beautiful black leather bound, gilt-edged large print set of scriptures. There they were! I was speechless. J had cashed in a bunch of cash back bonus bucks from our credit card early so I could start the new year as a seminary teacher with that new set of scriptures. So sneaky. He had even ordered them using his personal email account so I wouldn't get any order confirmation emails.

I can't even begin to express how special this gift is to me. I love the scriptures. I love how I feel when I read them. I love how boldly, but lovingly the Lord through his prophets speaks. I love that the scriptures have real answers to real problems in real life. Some years ago I heard an excellent talk by a prominent woman in our church named Cheri Dew, where she spoke about learning how to figure out how God speaks to you personally. It is different for everyone. I learned a long time ago that if I want to hear what God has to say to me, I have to open my scriptures. Those are the moments when he speaks. Those two books represent so much potential for me and my personal growth. My heart just yearns to have all that goodness fill my weary soul.

So merry Christmas to me. Oh, and by the way, new scriptures smell a-mazing. You can't help but want to open them and just see what is inside!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fly away Night Owl

I have a new responsibility at church. I am now the early morning seminary teacher. That means that five days a week I will have between five and eight or so teenagers at my house at 6:00 a.m. Let's just get it out in the open now that I am NOT an early morning person. And that is entirely because I am quite a night owl.

That being said, I sense that the Lord is preparing me for this new responsibility because the last few days, once it hits 9:30 pm, I am useless. Don't call. Don't send me an important email in hopes that I'll reply that night. The night owl in me seems to be heading out.

Goodbye late night reading until the wee hours of the morning. Goodbye quite house while all children and husband are asleep; I'll be right there with you. Goodbye last minute treats or late-night loads or laundry.

Hello inspiration. Hello feasting on the Old Testament. Hello sleepy teenagers. Hello quiet of the morning.

And now come all the morning cliches: The early bird catches the worm. Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Cease to sleep longer than is needful (okay, that one is a scripture). I know that whom the Lord the calls he qualifies. He's got some work to do with me. But I'll do my best to do my part. Wish me early morning luck! I've got two more weeks to "practice" getting up early. And as my mother always says, practice makes perfect!

Adios, night owl. This early bird is ready to hit the hay.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Malibu Barbie and the A-Frame Little People House

If clothes make the man, then toys make the child. I have spent lots of hours sorting through old boxes of toys and books at my parents house this week, trying to help them pair down what they have amassed over a lifetime of nine children. I'm not the first sibling to have done this and I suspect I won't be the last. But in the mean time it was fun showing my kids the toys I played with when I was growing up.

In several big brown moving boxes I found things like an old magic kit with most of the pieces missing. There was the stuffed smurf, the drum full of maracas and a yellow tambourine, the rainbow colored xylophone with the long yellow chord that you could use to pull the little thing around on its red wheels while it make little tinkling noises. We also had a box of my old My Little Ponies in all their pastel glory. I have vivid memories of the year I got the show stable for Christmas. And there was the stuffed Idaho Potato with his embroidered face and gangely arms and legs. And then came two big boxes of Little People and Dolls.

My parents have a vintage collection of Little People. They don't even make these little people any more because of "choking hazard," though the nine of us made it though just fine. My two favorite pieces are the A-frame house with the absolutely perfect miniture kitchen and a balcony on the second floor and a Main Street USA town. When my boys discovered the main street, they were in heaven. It has a jail (their favorite), a dentist office, a movie theater, a barber shop, a police station, a garage, a restaurant, and an apartment. There is also a stop light on a bridge that connects the two sides of the store and office fronts. At one point while I was sorting other toys, my almost three year old had set up the two sides of the buildings and the stop light and arranged four or five cars driving down the street with little people inside. Classic toys are generationless.

Among the toys I found a big box of toys filled with Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls. There were five blond hair, blue-eyed Barbies, all of whom would have easily passed for Malibu Barbie (one of them was Peaches 'n Cream Barbie; her dress used to smell like peaches). I found the Barbie who's hair I cut and the Hawaiian Barbie with the super long black hair that got all frizzy after I undid the braids my mom told me not to undo. I found a dress made of Kleenex and cream colored lace tied on to Barbie with a ribbon. I found the Ken doll with the missing leg and the Barbie-sized GI Jo with the battle scare on his cheek. Oh the hours we would play Barbies. It was never "play with Barbies." It was always, "play Barbies."

While I know that the number of toys is so completely unimportant, I hope my children enjoy their toys and look forward to playing with grandma and grandpa's toys, too. I know that for me they represent countless hours of imagination and happiness and life skill building and just good old fun. Sometimes I worry I'm pushing my kids to grow up too quickly. Weeks like this one remind me that toys really do make the child. They have their whole lives to be grown ups. Toys give them a place that is all their own where they can think and do and be anything. I don't have many specific memories of specific moments. But I remember being happy and full of a little kid's big dreams. I hope I can give my children that same gift.

So, what are your favorite childhood toys and what do they mean to you?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Belated Mother's Day

Let's start by saying that my two year old can't keep a secret. My L is just the best. On the day before Mother's Day my good husband had all three boys while I went to teach my morning Weight Watchers class and then to present at a Stake Relief Society Women's Conference. The boys ran some errands and unbeknown to me, picked up a Mother's Day present.

Later in the day we were all in the car going somewhere and Mother's Day came up. Mr. L from the back seat heard the words "Mother's Day" and yelled "Mommy. Mother's Day. Flowers!" Big brother sitting next to him sort of knows the virtue of secret keeping and just as ardently said, "We didn't get you anything, Mom, really. Nothing!" To which L again said, "Yes. Mommy. Mother's Day. Flowers!" And back and forth it went. J and I were in the front seat just laughing hysterically at the two arguing over weather or not I really had a Mother's Day present.

To say the least I had a great Mother's Day. I got to stay in bed until the breakfast of my choosing was ready (I don't really like the idea of breakfast IN bed). The boys ran from the kitchen to get me when Dad gave the word. They bombarded me with hugs and kisses (with three boys, bombarded is the perfect word). They pulled me to the kitchen and showed me that indeed they had picked out a spectacular pot of red-pink tulips. We had eggs and sausage--my all time favorite. All of J's regular before-church meetings were cancelled so I had extra help getting the boys ready for church. I tried to pull the "it's Mother's Day so wear what I want you to wear" card. It didn't work. Two temper tantrums and two personally picked out outfits were just fine by the end of the morning.

After church I got to take a nap. And thanks to my excellent planning skills, dinner was cooking away in the crockpot before we even left for church in the morning.

The boys set a lovely table, complete with China for the grown ups and a scrumptious homemade chocolate cake (I have an AMAZING husband who can turn whole wheat flour into unbelievable creations).

All in all, I felt so loved and so very much like the queen of the family. Some days are more physically demanding than I can almost bare with three busy boys. But I sure wouldn't trade them for anything else!

What a great day to be a woman and a mother!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book of Mormon Challenge: House of Order #2 WORRY LESS; PRAY MORE

The theme that keeps coming back to me lately is something I came across last week in the last few teachings of Nephi. He basically told the people if they prayed more and worried and wondered less, things would work out. I keep trying to tell myself that phrase over and over: Pray more; worry less.

Boy is it hard.

I can be a bit of a worry wart I guess. I'm not very good at letting go of things that I can't control very well. I worry that I'm not a good enough house keeper. I worry that I'm neglecting the less active children in my primary class. I worry that I'll never become a faster runner. I worry about the library books and movies that are over due (okay, I can control that). I worry about people that I love and the choices that they are making and the potential sadness that they may experience as a result of it. I worry that if I had just said this or that, maybe I could have helped someone a little better. I especially worry about the future. Where should we live, what job should we look for, when will that happen? And so on and so on.

Nephi had the unenviable job of really letting the people have it when they started getting themselves into trouble. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that his words were so clear to me.

Stop all this worrying! Pray more. Do it.

I worry too much with too little action. Moving forward with faith is definitely the goal of a lifetime.

Applying this specifically to my Book of Mormon topic of study of getting my physical and spiritual house in order, I am finding that I'm worrying an awful lot about what isn't getting done. I told my husband the other day that things just never seem to change. Nothing every changes. When will things change? I keep doing the same things and getting the same results. It's making me crazy!

But here's the long and short of it when it comes to keeping house: I'm pretty sure that the Lord will help me make a do-able plan and then execute it if I keep praying and then act instead of worrying and wondering so much about what to do and feeling like a failure for what I'm not doing.

Besides, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book of Mormon Challenge: House of Order

The subtitle of The Book of Mormon is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." "Testament" also means "covenant." The Lord's order is to provide structure with promised blessings if we uphold our end. So I'm looking for what that structure is shaped like and how to create it in my home.

There are several places in the BOM where it is make clear that this is an "abridgment" of other records. When I read that I immediately felt this great wash of relief that this question of how to set my house in order really can be answered in real world, practical ways by looking to the scriptures. Knowing that this is an abridgment tells me that I can be confident is not having to hang on to everything that comes through my door. School project, letters, old bills can all be thrown out, while only keeping the very most important or specially, without any feeling of guilt or question of need.

I also see the value of caring for that which is of most value to me. My things deserve care.

In the introductory pages that include the testimony of the three witnesses and the testimony of egith witnesses I learned that live really is a shared responsibility. Never over look the opportunity to include my husband and children in setting our house in order. The practical application of this was sweetly demonstrated last night as we were cleaning up dinner dishes. My oldest has decided that hand washing the dishes that can't go in the dishwasher or are too big for the dishwasher are going to be his responsibility. He pushed a chair over to the sink and started washing. Not to be left out of the mix, younger brother quickly pushed a chair over and stood next to big brother. Big brother handed dishes to little brother and little brother arranged them in the dish drain. I couldn't believe my eyes, frankly. It was amazing.

I'm learning that all things take time. I want to have the perfect schedule right now. I want it to work perfectly and have everyone check off their jobs completed and move on. Order, real change, takes time and hard work.

One impression that I had as I began the body of the book 1 Nephi was that I need to be teaching my children how to order and organize themselves. Early preparation also seems to play a significant role. Logistically it must have been quite a feat to get Lehi's family out of Jerusalem.

We must never neglect worship and thanksgiving.

I need to see to it that I show my children that I don't need a lot to be happy. Lehi's family lived in a tent! This is certainly part of the Lord's manner of organizing and keeping order. I see over and over how the Nephi and Lehi make plans before they moved forward. They created everything spiritually before it was created physically. There was a clear plan in place.

The Lord also does a great job showing how Lehi's family realized that they need not bring a lot of things with them. The Lord would provided.Never be afraid to rid myself of those THINGS that just burden and bog down.

A New Challenge

My sister-in-law Amy recently issued a challenge to read the Book of Mormon by June. She invited anyone who'd like to participate to choose a topic, or rather, a question, and really investigate how the Book of Mormon can and does provide answers to that specific question. Through life's experience, I know that the primary way that the Holy Ghost speaks to me personally is through the scriptures. I love the Book of Mormon and look forward to this challenge.

So here are the logistical details: In order to finish by June, I need to read four and a half pages a day. I do well with concrete goals like that. It generally takes me about 35 minutes to get through that many pages, depending on how many children are awake and how tired I am. I try to read very first thing in the morning and have been getting up around 5:45 to make that happen. It is the only quiet time of my entire day on many days.

The question I decided to focus on is something I've been thinking about and struggling with for just about forever it seems. At first glance it many seem sort of trite or trivial, but this seems to be encroaching on every other aspect of my life right now and I need some solutions.

The Question: What is the Lord's patter for organizing--physically and spiritually? What does the Book of Mormon teach me about how to set my house in order.

When I told my husband what topic I had decided on, I jokingly asked him if he thought the Lord could help me with my paper clutter problem and, wouldn't you know it, my sweet husband found a great scripture about only recording on the plates the things of most worth. The Book of Mormon really does act as a guide for our lives. I can't look up "paper clutter" or "laundry schedule" or "clean floors" in the index. But I can see patterns and I can ponder on the whys of a house of order. And as it turns out, the Lord is putting impressions and thoughts in my mind about the technical structure of how to organize a Christ-centered house of order.

My hope is to post what I'm learning once a week. The margins of my scriptures are filling up quickly. There is so much there that gives me hope, courage, and wisdom. Enjoy the journey along with me. When I post something specific to the challenge, I'll label it "Book of Mormon Challenge: House of Order"