Sunday, December 30, 2012

That's my girl

Doug wanted to go for a drive today, but Dylan and Kylie were quite adamant that they were not interested in going for a drive, so I stayed home with the two of them and Keira, and Keilana got on some snow gear and went on an adventure with her dad.  This is the pass west of town, and a bit out of frame, stage left, is a small waterfall that tumbles down the mountain.  They drove up to Discovery Ski resort, so Keilana could see where she'll be starting her skiing lessons two weeks from now.

She needed this today.  This past week, I almost forgot what I love most about Keilana: her adventurous spirit, her wanderlust, how much she loves to go.  She is always on the lookout for a new experience, interesting things to do, places to go, things to eat.  She's been busy right from the start (and when I say "the start", I mean it: she scooted herself up several inches on the little warmer they put her 4-minute-old self on to clean her up in the delivery room--she was ready to go somewhere and didn't sleep more than 40 minutes til about her first birthday, always seeming as though she was afraid she'd miss something if she gave in to fatigue).  If you want to go on a mountain hike, try out a new lake for swimming or fishing, learn a new sport, spend a day traipsing around Disneyland, try that weird new food you've never heard of, or visit a new town, she's your gal.  She'll keep up, she'll giggle, she'll never complain or seem tired and she'll be excited about every second of it.  We've been holed up in a house most of the week, without anything very interesting happening.  That's not her style.

I'm sure she'll have adventures of every sort, and if her current habits are any indication, I'm sure we'll see lots of photos, and hear every last detail about them.

That sounds pretty perfect to me.


In Sunday School today, we talked for a while about fellowshipping, keeping track of each other, and what we can do to show love to people who may be less active or inactive.  A few people pointed out that, ultimately, we have to have our own foundation and drive, our own testimony and tenacity, and I ultimately agree--you don't ride to exaltation on other people's testimonies.  But that doesn't negate the obligation we have to uplift and befriend and nurture those around us (and for the record, I think every person who made one of the comments I referenced would agree whole-heartedly).  My testimony is solid and has been for a very, very long time, but that being said, its impossible to overstate the influence that good friends and conscientious leaders have had on me.

When I was a teenager, my entire family was inactive except for my mom.  I would've kept going even if I felt all alone, but I was much more actively engaged and spiritually fed because of the kind attention, affection and encouragement of people like Brett and Erica Allen, Lynette Mikkelsen, Marci Leishman, Rod Arlint, Judy Best, and dozens of other people who consistently made their love for me known in both large and small ways.

I always appreciated that, but I appreciated it more after living in a different ward for 2 years and never felt in all that time like I was actually a member of the ward or that anyone there really cared one way or another whether I was there or not.  I had a small calling that only required my time once a month, and I still struggled to find the motivation to do it.  It was a large ward, and yet few very people reached out, welcomed us (and at that point in my life, I was still absolutely no good at doing that myself).

In Lindsay, I had the opposite challenge of having either a really big calling or 3-4 smaller callings at the same time the whole time I was there, which would make it really easy to feel like just throwing in the towel because there's no time or energy left.  But I had amazing friends.  I had one of the best bishops anyone could ever ask for:  he was my good friend, a trusted confidante, who knew the youth, who knew what was going on in our program and with our kids as individuals, who used his third hour on one Sunday a month to teach my girls.  I had an amazing counselor who always knew what to do before I asked, who certainly became a sister to me, who loved those girls even more than I did.  So many women (and men) in that ward reached out to me, became my friends and my extended family, and often expressed their love, appreciation, and affection.  In the years that I lived more than a thousand miles from my family, I can say sincerely and with a very full heart that I never lacked for sisters and brothers.  Their love was the fuel that I ran on for years.

So, yes, we ought to have a firm enough foundation, a strong enough conviction in our testimony that we can stand firmly even if we stand alone.  But because that testimony involves a covenant to care for one another, none of us should ever have to stand alone.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The thrill of hope

Weary is a word I've thought about a lot. It brings to mind not just tired, but worn out--worn down. I love Christmas time because it is so often true that at this time of year, like at no other, a weary world chooses to rejoice.

The world is often a discouraging and difficult and ugly place.  In the places that I call "home", there have been multiple violent murders in the last few months.  On the other side of the country, a classroom full of first graders was mowed down by a lunatic with a gun.  Around the world, far more people live under oppression and in war zones than live in peace and liberty.  We all have our various, wearying challenges in life, be they physical ailments, financial trouble, broken relationships or some other such burden.  Life is exhausting.

But yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. . .he appeared and the soul felt its worth.  That light shines clear and bright anywhere a soul remembers the true definition of charity--not a mere transfer of funds, but a Christlike love, where both giver and receiver are enriched and enlightened.

Too often we make the same mistake that many of Christ's disciples made during his earthly ministry and mortal death--we think that he has failed us because he hasn't removed our earthly troubles, the things that too often weary us.  We forget that he has not come to free us from Ceasar, but from sin and death.  We must still overcome challenges, we must still learn patience and discipline.  We must still learn to turn to him to lighten our load or strengthen our shoulders as we learn to trust that his law is love and his gospel is peace.

The steady downward march of the world is not evidence of the Savior failing or abandoning us--it is fulfillment of prophecy indicating that it is not long yet before his final victory.  Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease.  That time is coming, and in that day only light will remain. But for all the troubles and difficulties, we can choose to live in that light now.

Most epic stories have a similar arc: things start out light and promising, and then troubles and challenges start to come, until before long the world has become terribly dark and frightening, and the main players are all on the verge of losing hope because the task seems impossible.  And then the seemingly impossible happens: good triumphs, evil is defeated, and the world is full of light and joy again.  Instinctually, we know that that is exactly how the real story, the story we're all in, goes:  a baby born, a child raised, with wonderful promise, with great hope.  He teaches amazing doctrine and performs miracles, despite the corrupt and sometimes downright cruel culture around him.  But then comes a moment when it appears to those around him that the evil men have won: their Lord is slain, and the very earth groans and quakes with grief.  How could any good come of this?  How could they go on?  What hope was there left to them? As they weep in grief, confusedly trying to figure out a way forward, suddenly their Lord appears to them--he has risen.  That baby, so full of hope and promise, has become the Resurrected Christ.  He didn't slay the evil men who murdered him, he conquered evil itself.  He conquered death, never to die again, offering us the promise of a life eternal, a life that is always full of light, joy and love.

Remember that in your darkest nights, at times when the world seems daunting and it feels as though hope is foolish: the story has long been written, there is no doubting the outcome.  Good always triumphs, evil always loses and no matter how dark the night, the sun will always rise.  One day, it will never set. Look for the rays of light that point to that perfect day and believe in Good.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Old Habits. . . .

So, there's three or four inches of snow on the ground.  I forgot Kylie's snacks in the car after a trip to the church this afternoon, but didn't realize it until after I'd taken off coats, shoes, etc.

I debated for a few seconds before walking to the car barefoot because it just seemed like too much work to put on boots or shoes again.  Yes, apparently I'd rather put my bare little footsies in the snow than take two minutes to get shoes on.

It may be time to admit that I have a problem.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A little bit of light. . .

Its been a hard week.  Its been a hard couple of months.  Its way too easy for evil people to hurt innocent ones, whether their weapons of choice are fists, knives, bats, cars, guns or words.  Too many people will be spending their Christmas--a time that should be filled with joy--with heavy hearts, and every Christmas for the rest of their lives will likely be tied to a cumbersome grief for which there is no easy cure.

A few hours after the shooting in Connecticut, a loved one of mine posted what he believed to be the shooter's Facebook profile picture.  My first thought was, "No.  Forget him.  The fewer people who ever learn his name, the better.  He doesn't even deserve the fame that comes with infamy.  Don't let any other lunatic who is capable of this sort of thing see this boy getting recognition."

We give far too much attention to evil, focusing on it intently and applying the wrong remedies.  We call for laws and regulations and reforms, because when we are hurt and angry about things beyond our control, it is instinctual to reach out and grasp more firmly anything that we feel we can control.  We want to believe we can legislate away evil, because its just too scary and overwhelming to think that maybe, just maybe, there really is nothing we can do.  We will not defeat evil by studying it or banning it.  We can only overcome evil by studying, and more importantly by doing, good.

We can indeed to something, but what we can do to affect real change isn't found in chambers of national government.  Its found in our personal, one-to-one relationships, in the homes and communities that we build.  We can't legislate away evil--as scary and discouraging as that reality is--but we can increase the goodness in our homes and our communities.  We can teach our children that everyone we know and everyone we meet is a child of God, and so ought to be treated with every ounce of kindness, patience and love that we can muster, and then we set the example so that our children know what we mean.  We don't wait to be asked--we pay attention, we notice the little things, and we reach out to the people around us and meet their needs.  When I reflect on my own life, some of the acts of service that meant the most to me, and had tremendous impacts on my life and who I am, were things like a five-minute "How are you doing, I love you" phone call, a sincere compliment that came when it was most needed, and an unexpected thank-you note.  We have no idea how much good we can do until we try.  You will only be a good person in a moment of crises if you don't wait for that moment to be a good person.

But there are still those parents and brothers and sisters and children who have lost loved ones and who, as they are surrounded by decorations and music that declare "joy" and "peace", feel anything but peaceful or joyful.  I pray that the promise of Christmas will penetrate their hearts this year, when they undoubtedly will need it more than ever.  As these parents mourn the loss of their babies, may they remember the grieving mother of Christ, after he was cruelly slain by evil men, weeping at her son's tomb, and, most importantly, may they remember that she did not long mourn for her child--he rose, she saw him again.  Death was conquered forever in the Resurrection of the Christ, and so these grieving parents will see their beloved little ones again, too, and never be separated from them again.  In Christmas, we celebrate the advent of a life that conquered death, of the One who conquers evil through his love and sacrifice.  When they see their children's faces again, it will be a world where evil is bound, and there is no more death, no more pain;  where the Lord wipes the tears from their eyes and there is no more weeping.  I pray that they will feel the love of the Savior surround them and that they will also feel the love, the spirits of their dearly departed, who are not so far away as it may feel at times.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is it terrible

that I only really want another baby 
if I can somehow guarantee its another little boy?  
I love them at this size.  
I really, really do.  
The days are long 
when you're parenting the toddler age, 
but I stand firm 
that it just isn't ever more fun that that stage.  
I could pinch those little cheeks.  
And I still love this little guy more than I can say, 
even if he is 
an almost-seven-year-old now.

Brrrrr. . .

I managed to get myself out the door 
(and stay out for half an hour) 
at 6:30 this morning.  
It was about 4*F.  
I might need to invest in a treadmill eventually.  
But I won't lie: 
temps like that really motivate you to move fast.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kylie is 4!!

Sassy Cheetah!

That's what Kylie told me she was for Halloween.  If it helps tell you anything about her personality, this photo wasn't posed, this is just how I snapped her "talking" to me. I found this little dress and ears combo at Goodwill (the dress had a tail) and she fell in love with it.  I thought it was a leopard.  She told me it was a cheetah, and then on Halloween, when we first got her dressed, she told me, "I'm a sassy cheetah, so I have to do sassy dance moves!"

She's a big personality, quite a character.  There's nothing small about her, really:  big, beautiful, blue eyes; big mouth that lets out a big laugh and a big (often bossy) voice;  she turned 4 today and has been wearing big girl size 5 clothes for months now; she's got a good-sized booty that she loves to shake.  She loves to dance, and is pretty obsessed with ballet.  She has a little pink tutu leotard that she puts on with a little pair of silver ballet flats that were handed down by a cousin ("these are my pointe shoes" she tells me) and asks me to turn on "ballet girl commercials" (YouTube videos of professional ballet) so she can dance along, and then does her best to mimic the movements she sees on screen.  She is supremely expressive and has the perfect facial expressions to accompany whatever dance she's doing at the moment.  When she's not a ballerina, she's usually a rock star, with lots of scarves and a microphone (no, I do not let her watch Aerosmith videos), jutting her hips from side to side and singing quite loudly.  When she's finally tired of dancing, she just turns into a frills-and-lace four year old.  She loves dresses and skirts, anything with sequins, feathers, or beads, and loves having her hair fixed fancy.  Unfortunately for my wallet, she's always sneaking into my makeup.

She's very verbose and quite confident, but for all her verbal dexterity and blustery confidence, she is quite sensitive, and has difficulty with teasing (especially sarcasm).  She is easily embarrassed, and has one of the most effective glares I've ever seen.  But she is affectionate and sweet, loves attention and hugs and fun conversation.

With her big ginger mane and girly of girly girl temperaments, I see a lot of boys in our (hopefully still distant) future.  She's a huge flirt and quite charming.  She is bright and picks up new ideas and tasks quickly.  She still loves to build--has since she was a very small toddler.  She started stacking cups and rolls of toilet paper and other such household items around her first birthday, and still loves blocks more than any of my other kids.  She is pretty good at making complex castles, forts and towers with her blocks. 

Maybe she'll be daddy's little architect.  Or maybe she'll be an actress.  Either or both would suit her quite well, and one of the best things about being four is that you can be whatever you want. Precocious and bossy, but still somehow gentle and sensitive, the world is wide open before her, and she absolutely loves discovering it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

For Myself

I actually posted this on Facebook on November 7, but wanted to record is here for myself.  To remind me how fortunate I am on those days when I feel like whining about my secondhand furniture or lack of nice wardrobe, instead of focusing on being grateful for the abundant ways in which I'm blessed.

I am tremendously grateful that my husband has gainful employment in his chosen profession. We arrived from California one year ago today. After spending 15 months trying to cobble together a living from savings, odd jobs, part time work, etc, and applying for nearly every job opening in Doug's profession in the Rocky Mountain and west coast states and a few midwest states--anywhere we even thou
ght we might be willing to move our family--and applying for a lot of jobs that were in some way sort of related to Doug's profession in those areas, and applying for $10-12/hr management jobs, and putting in applications at places like Lowe's, Sports Authority, etc, and not even hearing back from ANY of those places, and selling a lot of our possessions and uprooting our family to accept the help of others, we were struggling to stay optimistic about our future. Last spring Doug suddenly landed two interviews in a week, and the first one he went to led to a job offer, which led quickly to a promotion. I'm glad that we found this job, and that we found it here, in western Montana. For much of the time that we had little to no income, that was actually not even our primary trial--it was a tough couple of years and I will forever remain in debt to the many generous souls who saw us through some of the most difficult times in our adult lives. Thank you to the very best friends and families in the world. The thousands of acts of kindness that we have received have never gone unnoticed. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It still overwhelms me to even think about it. Our thoughts and prayers are with our many friends and family members who are still unemployed or underemployed. We think of you often.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Worth Remembering

I used this talk for my Relief Society lesson last week, and I was very grateful that I came across it.  Its speaks of so many of the things I often think about at Christmas, but expresses them more eloquently than I could ever hope to myself.

I don't think I ever really thought about Mary in a serious, meaningful way until I had my first baby.  It was several weeks shy of my 20th birthday, I was thousands of miles from most of the places and people that were familiar to me, and I was in an old, run down and poor country hospital that many mainland women turned their noses up at when it came time to have their babies.  But compared to Mary's experience, I was in the lap of luxury:  not only were my husband and mother at my side, but so was a highly trained, wonderful OB-Gyn who had delivered hundreds of babies, and plenty of capable nurses.  For all its quirks and deficiencies, Kahuku Hospital did have most modern technologies expected of American hospitals, and clean, sterile sheets and a comfy birthing bed (yes, I jest--there is no such thing as a comfortable birthing bed--but it was a bed, nonetheless).  It started to finally click for me what it must've been like to be 14 or 15, having your first baby away from home and family, with no assistance, in a dirty and drafty barn on a chilly spring night, after having ridden or walked about a 100 miles in the preceding days.  How terribly uncomfortable and frightening.

And as I have not just had babies, but raised children, it has dawned on me how daunting the task assigned to Mary and Joseph was. That difficult, uncomfortable night in Bethlehem was but a shadow of the sacrifices that they would ultimately make. Every parent has moments when she doubts herself--every parent sometimes thinks, I should've done this better, I should've done more of that.  I can only imagine how inadequate Mary and Joseph must've felt at times, knowing what and who they had to prepare their son to be.  It is astonishing how readily and humbly they accepted one of the most daunting assignments in history.

We remind ourselves often (as we should) that our Father gave his first born son.  As parents, I think we come to understand and appreciate that sacrifice a bit more as we better appreciate how much our children mean to us and how we loathe seeing them suffer.  I also think, however, that sometimes it still feels a bit removed--he is, after all, God, and so far beyond us in so many ways.  I think we would do well to remind ourselves that Mary, an inarguably exceptional but still very mortal woman, probably understood better than any other soul the words of Isaiah's prophecy as she held her newborn baby: "Unto a us a child is born, unto us a son is given. . ."  He was very much hers, and yet she knew that he was ours, and she and Joseph together reared the living Son of God, fed and clothed and taught him, to help him become what they knew he must be.  The Father gave his first born son, for which we ought to express gratitude and reverently rejoice, but it is worth remembering that, nearly as willingly, Mary gave her firstborn son, as well.  At the beginning of Jesus' life, there was Mary, in pain, exposed, tired in every joint, bone and right into her soul.  At the end of his life, the Savior hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, exposed, more thoroughly exhausted than any other soul before or since, and there, always as close as she could be, at the foot of his cross, was his beloved mother, undoubtedly in anguish at the sight of her son's agony, having to part with the child that she had sacrificed so much for.  Again, she probably knew better than any other living soul that his death and resurrection would bring us all new life.

So as you celebrate the Savior, take a moment to remember those two nearly anonymous souls who were two of the chiefest figures in helping to give us the most precious gift in all eternity.  Think of what was asked of them, of all that they did to serve the one who ultimately served us all best, and consider if there isn't perhaps a bit more you could do to serve others in your life.  Even if that only means being a bit more patient, kind and compassionate.  Its as true now as it have ever been that the best gifts that we give are the ones we cannot wrap.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What I Hope They Remember

One of my friends was here the other day and mentioned another mommy friend and said, "I just feel so inadequate around her.  I swear she never yells at her kids or loses her patience".  I agreed that said mom was indeed patient, but then added, "A lot of it is practice and experience". The mom making the comment has two children, the oldest being four.  The mom she spoke of has five kids, the oldest being 12.  In some ways, the more kids and more practice you have, the easier it gets to be patient.

I am a much better mother now than I was when Keilana was 3 and Dylan was 1 1/2.  First of all, a precocious, independent 8-year-old is much easier to be patient with and encouraging to than a precocious and independent 3-year-old (in most ways, anyway).  But I'm a much better mother to the 3-year-old and 1 1/2-year-old I have now than to the ones I had five years ago.  I've learned a lot, I've grown up a lot, and I've learned some lessons.  I always knew it was important to pick your battles, but I now have a better grasp on which ones are worth picking.  I've learned better organization and time and home management, making us all a lot happier and more patient.

That said, I still fall short a lot of days (or, more accurately, in a few ways every day).   So I hope that I do well enough that my kids remember the good things more than the bad. I know that she won't remember the nights from baby through toddlerdom where I stood  by her bed, holding her and singing hymns and Primary songs softly to soothe her to sleep when it seemed sleep would not come, standing and rocking until my back ached, but hopefully they will remember, somewhere in their unremembered memories, that tenderness and affection when they think of me. And I hope they remember that I kept singing those soft songs to them each night at bedtime, well into the big kid years. I hope they remember walks to the park and trips to the library.  I hope they remember me gleefully stomping and growling along with them as we read "Where the Wild Things Are".  I hope they remember those evenings sitting together in the livingroom with our scriptures open and that we try to to have family prayer every day.  I hope they remember sitting there shrieking in frustration while I calmly and quietly waited for the storm to pass so we could get back to learning to tie shoes. I hope they remember the random, impromptu side roads and day trips that add adventure to their lives and how much we all loved doing those things together.

And as I thought about all that, I was struck that this is the reason I have such affection for so many of the people who were in my life the last few years: they saw it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, but chose always to remember only the good and the beautiful in me, and reminded me of those things often.  I became better because they saw the best in me.  That's what I hope to give my kids, and hopefully I'll be good enough at it that they will be willing to reciprocate for me in their grown-up memories.

And, hopefully, I can get better at that with the adults in my life, too.  . . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Reason

I try every year to do this, but I thought I'd share this year in case others with young children are interested but don't want to put in the time (or don't have the time) to figure it out.  For every day in December leading up to Christmas, I have a scripture and a small activity to go with it, to help focus the whole family on why we're celebrating.  While the scriptures apply at any age, most of the activities are geared toward littler kids.  But if you have older kids, maybe the activities I've listed will help give you ideas for ones you could do.  The vast majority of these take very little time or money--enough activity to focus us, not enough to stress us out.  Obviously, you could rearrange things to suit your family's schedule.  Non-LDS families shouldn't have any trouble finding Biblical substitutions for scriptures I've drawn from other books in the LDS canon.

Dec 1st  -  2 Nephi 11:8, 25 (tree of life) Get/put up tree

Dec 2nd - John 10:11, 14-16 (Good Shepherd) Put candy canes on tree, watch Christmas devotional

Dec 3rd  - D&C 110:3-5 (description of God's appearance)  FHE (family lesson) on Christmas symbols

Dec 4th  - Isaiah 1:18 (sins will be made white as snow)  Paper snowflakes

Dec 5th  - Ps 98:4-6 (make a joyful noise), D&C25:12 (song of the heart is a prayer)  Caroling

Dec 6th - Ps 27:1 (lord is my light) - ding dong ditch candle+treat

Dec 7th - 2 Nephi 2:25 (men are that they might have joy) - Ward Christmas party

Dec 8th  -  Micah 5:2 (out of Bethlehem)  - watch The Nativity Story as family

Dec 9th  -  Exodus 20:12 (honor father and mother) - Make ornaments for Gpa's

Dec 10th - Matt 2:11 (wise men bring gifts) -  FHE on using our gifts to serve God

Dec 11th - Luke 2:12-14 (angels announce holy birth) - Handprint/footprint angels

Dec 12th - 1 John 4:8,16 (God is love) - talk about ways to show love at home and at school

Dec 13th - 2 John 1:6 (walk after my commandments) Footprint reindeer

Dec 14th - John 8:12 (I am the light of the world) - Go for light drive

Dec 15th - Isaiah 49:15-16 (I have graven thee upon my palms) - porcelain hand ornaments

Dec 16th - Alma 32:42 (fruit of tree of life is sweetest of all) - make/deliver goodie plates

Dec 17th - Isaiah 53:3-5 (despised and rejected of men), Matt 25:40 (unto the least of these) - FHE on kindness and always remembering the Lord

Dec 18th - Moses 1:39 (my work and my glory, bring to pass eternal life of men) - handprint wreaths

Dec 19th - Isaiah 9:6 (he shall be called Wonderful) Jesus name/title "Subway art)

Dec 20th - Gen 1:26-27 (male and female created he them) - make gingerbread men

Dec 21st - John 16:27-28, 33 (Father and I love you, be of good cheer)--what are our reasons to be of good cheer?

Dec 22nd - Josh 24:15 (me and my house will serve the Lord) - Gingerbread houses

Dec 23rd - Job 19:25 (I know that my Redeemer liveth) - family testimony meeting

Dec 24th - Nativity play/story with cousins

I realize that many of these are not typical "Christmas scriptures", but that's precisely why I picked them: Christmas isn't just about celebrating a baby's birth, its about understanding better who that baby became, what he did, and why it matters to us, and striving to find ways to honor him.  Merry Christmas to your family. A parting thought, one of my very, very favorites:

""There would be no Christmas if there had been no Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection." ~Gordon B. Hinckley

Monday, November 19, 2012

A good thought...

"We come to this earth charged with a mission: 
to learn to love and serve one another. 
To best help us accomplish this, 
God has placed us in families,
 for he knows that is where we can best learn 
to overcome selfishness and pride
 and to sacrifice for others
 and to make happiness and helpfulness and humility
 and love 
the very essence of our character."

John H. Groberg

Friday, November 16, 2012

Parent Teacher conferences

Last Thursday, before we got snowed in, we headed to the kids' schools for parent teacher conferences.  Dylan's teacher, Mr. Tesson, was up first.  Not long after we got into the classroom, Dylan was showing his sisters around while we started visiting with the teacher, and at some point little man heard his name and looked toward the three of us and grinned a mile wide.  Mr. Tesson, with obvious affection, said, "That smile, oh that smile, it could get you out of anything."  He told us repeatedly that Dylan was a great kid and that they were having a lot fun.

And he told us about his challenges with Dylan, smiling genuinely the whole time.  Apparently, a few times Dylan has simply refused to do something (eat the daily snack--usually some kind of fruit or vegetable--even though all he has to do is taste it, or get up and stretch during the afternoon with the rest of the class, or answer his teacher during oral exercises) just because he wasn't interested in doing it at the moment.  And its good to know that Mr. Tesson employs the same method we do at home: patiently wait him out, restricting all other privileges or activities until the required ones were completed.  As we commiserated about the challenges of teaching an iron-willed and very independent child, Dylan flashed us another smile, and it had the same affect on all three of us: What a delight he is!  He is rarely defiant out of rebelliousness--I won't do this because you want me to--when he is defiant it is simply because he doesn't understand why he should ever have to do something he doesn't want to do.  Most of the time, he is so pleasant and sincerely friendly.  Its relatively easy to wait him out on those things he gets stubborn about, because he's not a tantrum thrower and doesn't have much temper, he's just so enjoyable the rest of the time that its easy to not be mad.

I told his teacher that Dylan had whined to me that he couldn't read chapter books because they were too hard, but I got a couple of Magic Treehouse books from the library and he flew through them--it took him one afternoon a piece to read them from beginning to end.  Mr. Tesson told us he was in the top reading group they have for the first grade and is still outscoring most of the class.  So, as I suspected, he's a bit lazy.  We'll work on that.

Keilana has Ms. Flynn this year, whom she just adores.  She's also doing well in all her subjects, and Ms. Flynn couldn't stop saying how sweet she is--helpful and affectionate and always, always, always smiling.  We laughed about what a little perfectionist she is (one time this year, her homework didn't make it to school, and it was, admittedly, my fault, and she reminds me at least once a week that the only work on her homework chart is because of me).  She has made a lot of friends this year, and has been working hard on every assignment she's been given.  She's a very attentive and careful student--she has her mother's need to please the adults in her life (hey, it served me well at that age, hopefully it will serve her well, too).

So, the main thing I took away from these meetings, now that I've made you sit through all this rambling about my kids, is that it is absolutely wonderful to have real conversations with my kids' teachers and see that those teachers know my kids and genuinely love my kids.  From what I can tell without sitting in the classroom, they seem to be very good teachers, too.  Even though our kids go to school all day, we ultimately take responsibility for their education and do a lot of things at home to try to enrich their learning (first and foremost with requiring reading time every day, and trying to gently guide their reading choices a bit), but its nice to feel like that 7 hours a day is well worth everybody's time, and that they're spending it with people who are paying attention to them and know what helps them and what doesn't.  Being raised by two good teachers, I have some idea what it takes to do that job well, and I'm grateful that my kids have teachers like that.


Its an iPad and Netflix kind of day around here--my stomach is upset for reasons that are not entirely clear to me (though a houseful of young children should be explanation enough) and I have a cold that has got my sinuses so congested that my eyes feel stuffy.

Anyway, Kylie was sitting in the rocking chair with the iPad watching Angelina Ballerina, and Keira tried to take the iPad, so Kylie kicked her and knocked her down.  I took the iPad and put Kylie in the corner (as I saw the kicking--and the older child doing it--as the worse offense here) and she sat down and cried.  I also wouldn't let Keira have the iPad and she was upset by all Kylie's crying, so she started crying and marched over to the corner, kneeled down and put her arm around Kylie as they sat in the corner, facing the wall and crying together.

Oh, sisters.  They're either best friends or mortal enemies.  Which one they'll be at any given moment isn't always predictable.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


So, yesterday, I got in my workout and shower, got the whole house cleaned, got the laundry going and sent several messages before Keira was down for her nap.  Did I mention I also had an extra toddler most of the morning?

Today, by 11 I had still not exercised or showered, there were toys everywhere and both the girls were still in their PJs.

Oh well.  I did get the most time consuming parts of one of Dylan's primary Christmas presents done, so its not a total wash.

Someday, I'll be able to make a schedule and stick to it, uninterrupted by other people's shrieking fits, runny noses, falls down the stairs or off of chairs, and other such life-stuffs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I think one of the things that is very underrated in our "I deserve to be happy" society is the value of the things we do, big and small, to accommodate the people we love.  I don't think we need to cater to the every whim of our loved ones and its perfectly OK to sometimes say, "Nope, I really don't want to do that", but I think we way under value being flexible and accommodating.

There are a lot of things that my husband likes and enjoys that aren't really high on my list of interests, but I take an interest in them and give my full attention to them, not to convince myself or him that I love those things, but to show that I love him.  He is excited about those things and wants to share them with someone, so I make myself available to be that someone.  Or my kids--heaven knows my kids find all sorts of things fascinating or entertaining that I find annoying or impossibly boring, but I put on a smile and try to enjoy them because its important to them.  Keilana is old enough and perceptive enough that she knows there are some things that I pay attention to or indulge only because I care about her, and in seeing that example, she will often put on a genuine smile and decide to enjoy things that aren't really in her wheelhouse because she can see how much doing so makes her younger sisters, or me or her dad happy.  She has already figured out much about how to be a good friend, sister and person and I credit a lot of that to her sweet, people-pleasing personality.  She has a few key things she won't bed on because they're very important to her, but on everything else she has learned very young to be flexible.  She is loved by just about everyone around her, and whether they consciously realize it or not, that is one of the primary reasons why.  She loves to generously accommodate people to make them feel important and loved.

It doesn't do much good to accommodate people while frowning and foot-dragging;  that doesn't make them feel loved, it makes them feel like they are an imposition on you.  It is human nature to want to do what we want to do, how and when we want to do it, and there's nothing wrong with that sometimes.  But there is a great deal right in saying to ourselves, "This isn't really what I'd prefer to do right now, but I'm going to put on a smile, be pleasant and do it happily, because it makes me happy to make the people I love happy."  It does us little good to sacrifice for those we love if we are then unhappy and saying constantly, "But I sacrifice so much for you!"

That flexibility will add much happiness and smooth sailing to our relationships.  On the other hand, the sort of selfishness that creates inflexibility or mere foot-dragging complicity, while born out of a desire to please ourselves, ironically ends up making not just those we love miserable, but making ourselves miserable as well.

Loving people, and showing that love, is rarely convenient; but in the long run, it always leads to more personal satisfaction that selfishness.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Its here. .

There's something just fantastically magical about the first real snow.  I mean, we've been snowed on a couple of times already, but this was the first time it was more than an inch or two--the first real snowball-fighting-snowman-building-sledding kind of snow.  (And no, we didn't get three feet--that pile is from shoveling the sidewalk.  But we are at 6", and counting).

Its supposed to snow most of the night.  The high tomorrow is supposed to be in the low 20s.  And only 15 on Saturday.  But no worries:  we'll be back into the low 40s by next weekend!

It seems far off at the moment, but I'm quite certain Christmas will be here in about four days.  Soak it up.

Friday, November 2, 2012


I've been thinking about all the different admonitions and accompanying promises in the Sermon on the Mount.  One that has always been a "favorite" of mine, or at least something I try to keep in mind, is the Lord's declaration that "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy".

There are lots of good reasons to judge other people--lots of bad behavior to accurately condemn or be irritated at, lots of habits to point out that we (legitimately) think they need to change.  Human beings are wonderful, but also have bundles of faults and mistakes.  Its easy to focus on those things.

But I've always cherished that promise, essentially,  that "if you're forgiving of and patience with others in their flaws and poor decisions, I'll be merciful to you about yours".  Those who extend grace to others will receive it from the Lord for themselves.  What a comfort.

I have my strengths, but heaven knows I've got my struggles.  I'm condescending when I'm annoyed and self-righteous when I'm angry.  I'm lazy and self-indulgent when I'm tired.  I'm viciously passive aggressive when I'm hurt.  I sometimes will thoughtlessly spout off some thought, only considering afterward how it might affect/sound to those around me.  I'm nicer to every one else than I am to my husband (I mean, I think I'm pretty nice to him most of the time, but I probably spend more time trying to "fix" him than I rightly should).  And that's just to name a few.  I am grateful for the many people in my life who are willing to focus on the things they love about me and overlook the things that may (rightly) drive them nuts.  I'm grateful for the fact that I am sure I am the recipient of the grace of others more frequently than my flawed-self even realizes.

In bearing that in mind, I try really hard to see the good in others.  I think that too often we approach relationships with the idea that "whatever a small hammer won't fix, a bigger hammer surely will".  Even if people genuinely need to change, you will be better at helping them to do that by focusing on building up their strengths (or strengthening their desire to do and be better by openly acknowledging and expressing appreciate for their good qualities) than you will by drilling away at their flaws and mistakes.

I'm a big believer in the power of positive reinforcement, for individual progress and for the relationships between individuals.  I'm a big proponent of extending to someone the biggest benefit of any doubt.  There are times when we are prompted to address a specific problem with an individual who falls under our stewardship, and there are times when someone knows that something is amiss but doesn't know what and seeks our input, but in those moments it is essential to remember that when the Lord says we will have to "reprove with sharpness" at times, he is speaking of clarity, not harshness of tone or method.  We spend so much time trying to make people understand how we feel and why we see things the way we do, when in reality we probably ought to be spending twice as much time trying to understand why others feel the way they do, why they see things the way they do.  We ought to extend to them the grace we hope for for ourselves.

I know that's what inspires me, motivates me, and pushes me to be better.  When I have realized my mistakes and am feeling terrible about where I've failed, the Lord doesn't double down and say, "That's right, you should be sorry!" even though I nearly always should know better.  No, he quietly whispers, "I love you.  You are of infinite worth. I made you, I love you, and I know you can become more than what you are at this moment. Nevertheless, I accept you just as you are at this moment.  Keep trying.  We'll get there together--I'll help."  I am so grateful for that reassuring love, so grateful for that kind patience, that I want to be better.

Most people will react to us the same way if we extend to them that Christlike grace--yes, I see your flaws, but I love you, I see all the good that is in you, and together we'll work on becoming better.  If you express your love to people--often, sincerely, and openly--and express your respect and gratitude for all the good things they are and do, they will want to be better--generally speaking people want to live up to the gracious opinions others have of them, they want to pay back in kind the love and kindness extended to them.  Grace, and mercy, are not just about forgiveness for the big things.  They're about patient, enduring love from day to day in all the little things.  Its not about just letting that little snippy comment from your spouse go, but in letting it go and then finding a way to comfort them--maybe that snippy comment was born of a hard day at work or a personal challenge or just plain old fatigue.  Its not about just enduring that one family member's annoying behavior, its about finding ways to serve them, to refocus yourself on their strengths.

The Lord is more readily able to be merciful to us when we extend mercy to others, because that continual behavior of faith shows him an obedient, understanding child;  he can see in that merciful disposition a soft heart and loving spirit.  He can see that this is not a child who needs harsh discipline and fire and brimstone to learn, but a child that is meek and anxious to learn.

It is by grace we are saved, after all we can do, and so it ought to be that most of what we do is done in an attitude of grace.  Justice is necessary, good, and eternal.  Without it, chaos would reign and all life would be miserable.  But for all the merits of eternal justice, in the end it is mercy that wins us the freedom of our souls.  The Divine sacrifice that made that mercy possible should be always on our minds as we interact with other children of God and navigate our relationships.  We would be unwise to, flawed and indebted souls such as we are, exact harsh judgments upon those around us.  It is the Lord who has paid that price for them, it is to him they owe that debt.  If the prophet can write offense after offense the people have committed against God and then, speaking on the Lord's behalf, write "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still," then far be it from me to stay my hand of service, affection and love for much smaller, much more petty offenses.  I owe a debt far too large to then be harsh to my own debtors.  Ultimately, we are all in debt to one great benefactor, and I need his mercy as much as anyone.  Thankfully, he gives it quite freely.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012


So, kids are gathered around the kitchen table, doing homework.  Dylan finishes his math, and brings me the paper and says, "Can you correct my paper, please?"  I ask, "So do I just need to circle the ones that are wrong?"  And then comes this very Dylanesque reply: "No, you just need to mark that its all correct."

Can you tell he's not used to getting it wrong?  This confidence of his is either going to be his greatest asset or his entire undoing.  So far I don't see a lot of swagger or superiority, so I'm really, really hoping for greatest asset.  But I'm trying not to take it for granted.

For the record, it was all correct.

Parenting Tricks

Today, Keira kept bringing me the Listerine, trying to take the lid off the Listerine, and insisting she needed Listerine.

If Keilana had done the same thing at this age, I would've spent 20 minutes telling her no and eventually got the Listerine high enough that her remarkable monkey skills would've been unable to get her to it, ending with her screaming and me annoyed.

After telling Keira twice that it was yucky and still being met with annoyingly insistent begging/whining, I just gave her a teaspoon of Listerine.  Problem solved.  Everybody's happy, and I didn't waste 20 minutes of my life or have to endure an epic tantrum.  She tried her best to spit it out, and happily went along her merry little way.

You live, you learn.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Personality and Intelligence

So, I was reading an article this morning that reminded me of something that amuses me:

I have taken the SATs, the ACT, and a formal IQ test.  None of the scores match up with each other the way they "should" according to conversion charts.  I mean, they're all within a reasonably similar percentile range, but several points off of each other in one direction or the other.  I've been accused of having avoidant personality disorder more than once, and I have been identified as an INFJ, INTJ, ISFJ and INTP by various personality-type junkies I know, as well as being identified as a green personality, a blue personality and a purple personality.

So, my point here would be?  Its just funny to me that so many different people and standards of measurement have measured me so differently.  Its not that I think all these tools are totally worthless--we all have frameworks we use to help us make sense of the world and people around us, to help us figure out more effective ways to communicate with and understand each other--but perhaps its best to approach each person in our life as an individual, not a "type".  And maybe it'd be best to do that while bearing in mind that we often only see snapshots of even the people we know fairly well, and that the way we interpret those snapshots is influenced by our own intelligence, personality or agenda.

After all, there are some of these assessments about myself with which I agree, and some with which I definitely disagree.  Looking back, I can see times where my self-assessment differed with someone else's assessment and, in retrospect, the other party was probably right and I was probably wrong.  And while the most basic features of most individual's personalities remain pretty much the same through most of their lives, people are fluid, changing often and sometimes dramatically.  I ascribe to a belief system that declares that individuals can, for good or ill, change their very natures.  Don't get stuck in a label, for yourself or for someone else.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Safeguarding Faith

One of the stories in the scriptures that has long fascinated me is the account of the Savior walking on water, and Peter's attempt to join him.  We focus--and rightly so--on the fact that shortly after stepping onto the water, Peter wavered, he fell into the water, and the Savior reached down and lifted him up with the words, "O ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

Here's the thing about it that always sticks with me:  Peter had the faith to get out of the boat--in a sometimes tumultuous sea, far from the shore, he hopped over the side without life jacket or life boat and took a few steps on water, and then sunk below the waves.  As far as we know, he is the only person beside the Savior who ever walked on water.  If the Savior referred to Peter, who had just walked on water, albeit briefly, as "ye of little faith", how much bucking up could our faith possibly use?

It also reminds us that having the faith to take the first step does not guarantee us the ability to run across the water's top--faith must be bolstered continuously, step by step, never wavering.  If you waver for a moment, you could slip under the water and find yourself tossed about by the waves.

In our moments of "little faith", we thankfully have the same rescuer at our side that Peter had at his: Jesus Christ.  He may gently rebuke our lack of faith, after all the time we have spent with his companionship and the miracles we have seen him perform, but if we simply reach up and call for aid, he will not let us drown.  He will not abandon us to destruction simply because we sometimes lose our footing. "Be it unto thee according to thy faith", he said.  He will help in any and every way he can, but much depends on what you do with your agency--agency that, for all the power he wields, he will not usurp.  Peter, and the revelatory Priesthood he so honorably bore, became the rock of foundation on which the Savior built his church at the conclusion of his earthly ministry.  Certainly he can make more of you than you now are.

When he calls to you, have the faith to get out of that boat.  And then keep the faith, step by step, so that you keep that head of yours above water.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I've been thinking this last week about how much control we have over what happens in our lives, and about how much the decisions and actions of those around us, and simple happenstance over which none of us has any real control, affects what experiences we have in life.

I went to a stake training meeting last Saturday (though I haven't been set apart yet, I was called to serve as the education councilor in the ward Relief Society), and there was some discussion of making sure that sisters are prepared for helping to dress bodies for funerals, should the need arise (and in an aging ward and aging stake, it arises often).  They asked everyone who had had the opportunity to offer that service to a family to raise their hand.  Several sisters expressed mild surprise to see my hand go up (as is often the case--and I'm starting to get used to it--I was the youngest one in the room by about 10 years, maybe 15.  Someday I'm going to be the old lady in the room and its going to completely catch me off guard).

Along with one of my cousins (who actually has the same calling as I do at the moment, in her own ward, ha!), I dressed my grandma's body for her funeral.  When my grandma passed away, she had been only half-active for many years, and I don't think anyone knew when she had last been to the temple (several decades at the very least), but I expressed my thought that she should be buried in temple clothing.  I wasn't sure how that advice would be received, since only two of my grandma's children identified themselves explicitly as LDS anymore--and one of them was completely out of sorts due to Alzheimer's, and the other has never been through the temple herself.  To my delight, they all agreed that that was a good idea.  But because of the directions that most other members of the family have chosen for their lives, myself and my one cousin were the only active, temple-endowed sisters close enough to perform that service, so with the help of a dear family friend and a member of the ward Relief Society presidency, Alyssa and I dressed Grandma.  I think we both hold very dear the memory of sharing that sacred experience of offering together that simple but important act of sacred service to the woman who had given so much in service to us.

That got me thinking about a few other experiences I've had that were a bit unusual for my age and circumstances.  I have had the privilege of serving as an escort to one friend as she received her Endowment, and the responsibility of being a witness for another at a disciplinary council.  I certainly never expected either of those things, particularly by this point in my life, but there I found myself. Going through the temple with my very best and oldest friend has been one of the most precious and profound experiences of my life.  On the other hand, in a way that is difficult to explain (at least here, in this context), the very different experience of going to that disciplinary council is also an experience that I cherish.  Few things have so taught me the value of following the guidance of the Spirit, and taking the long-view;  few things have better taught me the true meaning and value of love, and that hope is not usually about the immediate, but the eternal.  Hope is more resilient than fear or anger.  I know that deep in my soul, partly in thanks to that experience.  The contrast in those experiences has taught me more about myself, and about Christlike love, for while I certainly have more in common with one of those girls than I do the other, am much closer to one at this point, I love both of them equally, I can see the tremendous good in each of them.  Sometimes I remind myself that when someone is choosing something other than what I think they should.

And the experience that always comes back to me, that tugs at me often and heavily:  of having to go through the grief of losing our baby nephew and striving to find some way, any way, to comfort and be a friend to his grieving mother, and to speak at his funeral and try to convey that love, that wonderful personality of his, to a roomful of people. That is one experience that I hope never to have to repeat.  But I am grateful for what it taught me.  For all it took from us, I am indeed grateful for what it gave us--first and foremost, little Claire, my mischievous delight, whom we likely would never have known if Conner hadn't been taken.  I am grateful for that baptism of fire that made me a better friend, a better wife, a more appreciative sister, and a much better mother.  I am grateful for the ways in which it strengthened my testimony of our Father's love, and, nearly as importantly, his wisdom.  I'm grateful for the strange way in which the outpouring of love gave several others a safe place to express their own pains, to feel loved and so to move forward.

I'm grateful that Amanda asked me to speak:  I had never been one, by nature or, frankly, by training, to be open with my thoughts or feelings.  I had always been very reticent to share those things with others.  But as I prepared for that responsibility, I felt keenly that it would be a great disservice to Conner, to Amanda, and to everyone else present, to be anything less than completely forward and open.  I had the opportunity to share my feelings completely and honesty, unashamed by emotion, to share my testimony boldly and without reservation, and the love and spirit of those present there that day helped me to see how such things can lift, serve and help others.  It wasn't long after that experience that, with the help of a few clear promptings from the Spirit, I started this blog.

So what's my point?  There's a lot that we can control in life, so we ought to take care to make wise decisions.  But there is so very, very much that is out of our control, so the the most important decisions we make are about who we will be, what sort of person we will make ourself into, so that whatever experiences come to us in life, we can, with the Lord's guidance, make them for our "profit and learning".  If we choose to be teachable, all things truly can work together for our good, the wonderful blessings and the uphill challenges alike.  Experiences in our lives, including those that don't necessarily come because of our own choices, have the impact on us that we choose to let them have.  My experiences have taught me a little more all the time the importance of trusting in God, and not leaning on my own understanding.

The beautiful truth in that is that as I have trusted in God, my own understanding has increased.  That chosen reliance on him also increases my own capacity for understanding and growth.  Eternal progress starts now.  The only agency you control is your own.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The joy of old houses. . .

We discovered a few days after moving in that the oven on the awesome vintage stove in our house wasn't working.  So for the almost two months we've been living here, we've had no oven and it turns out the repair man can't find the right parts for the ancient stove, so its whole awesomeness must be discarded.  Sad about that, but glad that hopefully by some time this coming week, I will have a functional oven.

Saturday afternoon, I had a meeting to attend in Butte, so I left with the dishes not yet done.  When I got home and got kids to bed, I went to do dishes and the water wouldn't heat up.  Doug crawled down into the basement (and by "basement" I mostly mean "covered hole in the ground") and discovered that the pilot light on the water heater had gone out.  Thought that was weird, got it relit, did the dishes and went to bed.

Then we woke up to get everyone ready for church on Sunday morning, and again water wouldn't heat up.  The pilot light had gone out again.  So I bathed the little girls and I as best I could in tepid water and went to church.  A repairman from NorthWest Energy stopped by on Monday, cleaned everything on the water heater really well and called it good.  A few hours after he left, we had to relight it in order to do dishes and bathe the kids.  So that's what we've been doing all week--Doug would crawl down to the basement and light the pilot, I'd wait 15-20 minutes and then bathe kids or do dishes.  Finally, yesterday morning, a plumber came out and checked it out and replaced the thermocouple and thought that would do it.  It still won't stay lit, and now even when it does light, the water isn't actually getting hot--luke warm at best.  And its Friday:  wanna take any bets on whether or not we get a repairman here before the the weekend starts?

Sigh.  Just in time for the 30 degree weather and a couple of inches of snow on the ground, we can't get any hot water.  Maybe I should brave the roads ands spend the gas money and go to mom's house for the weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

If you haven't checked it out yet. . .

you really should go peruse my sister's blog.  Seriously.  She's a talented photographer, a gifted storyteller, and most of the posts are about her awesome, entertaining, wonderful children (and having spent a fair amount of time with these kids the last year, I can tell you that they aren't just that entertaining and fun because she's a good storyteller, they really are just some of the most fun personalities I know, her four little people. And she's pretty fun herself).

So, seriously, go.  Even if you don't know her.  I guarantee you will enjoy getting to know her, reading her stories and seeing her fun photos.  Its worth your time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


For whatever reason, lately I have been more able than usual to see the value of a soft answer, of seeing the best in people, in noticing their accomplishments and not their failures or weaknesses;  I have been more able to judge people according to where they've been, rather than where I think they should be;  I have been better able to recognize the value of assuming the best about the intentions and motivations of others, even if goes against my previous experiences with them.  I have several theories on why the sudden (and seemingly unearned) rosiness of my life-glasses, but I'm going with the all-the-love-I've-recieved-catching-up-to-my-attitude theory.

Don't get me wrong: I believe there's a big difference between turning the other cheek and unnecessarily submitting yourself to a beating.  But what's so wrong with turning the other cheek, and doing it over and over?  Why is it so hard for us stubborn, prideful, sensitive fallen mortals to let the snide remark go?  To prove the unfair judgment wrong with a greater exercise of love and patience rather than to try to argue that unfair assessment away?  Why is it so hard to serve patiently instead of ridiculing or ignoring until we think we're ready to deal with someone or they're ready to deal with us?  Why is it so hard to refrain from criticizing or correcting others in their faults or missteps?

Because people are awful--or rather, they're just as awful as we are.  Most of the people around us are just as flawed as we are, but we expect them to be as good as we are in our strengths, and then we're impatient with them in their weaknesses.  There are people in life we have to maintain distance from because they are toxic--there are those individuals who are either so malicious or so conspicuously selfish that they poison the people and relationships around them--but those people are the exception, not the rule.  And sometimes, its OK to allow a little distance, to keep efforts at a minimum, because the challenges are big enough and numerous enough that you have to acknowledge that, at the moment, you simply don't possess the tools to build or mend that relationship.  But again, for the most part, those are exceptions.

The only thing, ultimately, that will heal relationships, that will grow relationships, is love.  Not the wishy-washy childish love that says, "I love you because you make me feel good", but the grown-up, mature, Christ-like love that says, "I choose to love you, when its easy, and when its hard.  I choose to see you as a child of God, my brother or sister, worthy of my effort and attention, my patience and my affection.  I love you, even when you hurt me or make me angry."  When we really start to love someone, really see all the things that Lord sees in them, is when we can be hurt and angry and still not say that terrible thing we want to say, because our desire not to hurt them back is bigger than our anger.  With enough effort, with enough understanding and grasp of Christlike love, we can even get to the point that we don't even think that terrible thing.  We can reach a point where we aren't so much hurting for ourselves, but for the one who is angry or mistaken--we are disappointed not by what they cost us, but by what the rob themselves of.

Christlike love is not blind to faults--I would say quite the opposite, that Christlike love can perceive faults in their most complete context:  the circumstances, choices, people in our lives and innate characteristics that created those flaws, or led to those mistakes.  That more complete understanding of the individuals in our lives can help us to be patient with them, to be more patient with ourselves, as we work our way through those challenges and, ultimately, past them.  Christ does not serve us--love us--because he doesn't see our sins and weaknesses;  he serves us because he can see what we are capable of being, beyond our sins and weaknesses, and is determined to help us find that joy.

He conquered sin, pain and death, through the infinite love of the Atonement.  We cannot hope to change anything about people in our lives in regards to their nature, character or certainly disposition towards us, through explanation or argument.  The only way to influence the way that people treat us, respond to us, see us, is to show them His love shining through us.

When we have people in our lives that, for whatever reason, just don't seem to want to like us, or that we just can't find anything to like about, relationships that just don't seem to work, we ought to pray to Heavenly Father to help us to see that person the way that he sees them. I have had that experience more than once, where I found love for someone, and always it started with the Lord providing an opportunity to serve that person.  I know that there are times when my kids drive me crazy, there are traits and personal challenges they have that make me a bit batty now and then (or at least bewildered), but I always feel tremendous love for each of them, can see so many wonderful things to love about each one of them.  I'm quite certain, then, that a perfect and all-knowing parent can show you how to love one of his children if you sincerely ask.  Chances are that every individual in your life that you struggle with, or that seems to struggle with you, has many more good qualities than bad ones, more successes than failures.  There are a diversity of gifts--try to recognize the gifts in others, and express your appreciation of those gifts.  There are also a diversity of weaknesses.  Be willing to extend to others the patience that you would like for yourself in your own flaws, even--perhaps especially--when they seem unwilling to extend that patience back to you.

At the end of each day, the fact remains that you have a Savior who loves you enough to cover all your flaws with the Atonement.  You have a Redeemer who suffered terribly so that you would not have to.  And he did all that for everyone else in your life, too.  Sometimes, you have to be willing to accept an apology you did not receive, because the debt has been paid and that person is indebted to the Savior for that forgiveness and redemption, not to you.  Maybe they're self-righteous, or rude;  maybe they're not as smart as you, or spiritually clueless;  maybe they're abrupt;  maybe they're angry or judgmental; maybe they're emotionally immature or socially challenged.  Chances are, you are one of those things, too, or something equally as offensive.  Be willing to see past those things to the good in that person, because Christ has forgiven all those things in you.  He sees you perfectly as you are, and sees you just as perfectly as you could become through his love;  seek his help to see others that way yourself.

We do not change people's minds by talking about ourselves, we don't change their hearts by arguing.  Contention is wholly a tactic of the adversary.  We extend Christlike love to people, over and over again, especially when they behave as though they "don't deserve it", and in so doing, we help them to become more lovable.  We talk of Christ, we preach of Christ, we rejoice in Christ.  Everything else matters little if we don't.  And we serve people in the same way that we lead them, "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge.. .without hypocrisy and without guile. . ."

It is relatively easy to love those who love us, who show us that love in word and action.  Much of the work of life is in striving to develop and demonstrate love for everyone else.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Life in the Village

Doug often teases me that where I grew up doesn't count as an actual "town".  Its a hamlet, he says.  I guess it qualifies.  The official population as of the 2010 census was 849.  Take into account the surrounding area, not included in the city limits, and I imagine you're well over 1,000--maybe even the 1200 range!

There are a lot of challenges to living someplace like that.  Its hard to hide, if hiding is what you're inclined to at the moment.  Lots of people seem to know everything about you, or think that they do.  Things like that can be hard to deal with at times.

But in most ways, I have always loved the little-ness of the place.  Since a majority of those who live there are members of families that have lived there for many generations, you often end up feeling like you just have a giant extended family (in some cases, like my family, that is quite literally true).  There are many over-lapping family connections and longstanding friendships between individuals and families, and the sense of community is greater, I think, because you rather quickly become aware of how intertwined your lives are, and how many different ways you depend on each other.  I was keenly aware of this growing up, since both my parents were volunteer EMTs, and I knew many volunteer firefighters and search and rescue workers and other such individuals.  I knew everyone I went to school with--seriously, every one.  When good fortune came to one family, it often blessed many others.  And when tragedy came to one family, it often affected the entire community.

This past summer, a member of the community, and long-time high school basketball coach, was diagnosed with cancer, and the outpouring of support has been wonderful to see.  It has culminated this week in images all over Facebook of guys shaving their heads to show support for their now-bald friend, and entire stands full of people wearing their blue and white "No One Fights Alone" tshirts for Homecoming.

It has reminded me of the first time my village made such an impression on me.  When I was about Keilana's age (a little younger, I guess--I was a second grader) our little town became rather contentiously divided.  I had a hard time understanding why and what was going on because I was so young, but because of my dad's position in the community (he was high school principal at the time) he was right in the middle of it.  All I knew is that a lot of people seemed upset at my dad for reasons I didn't understand, and I was hearing adults and children alike saying hurtful things about my father, and a few family friends, that I knew weren't true.  It was very confusing, because some of the people who were most vocally opposed to my father were people I thought were friends, or were the parents of my friends.

Just a couple of weeks before school got out that spring, three kids (our neighbors, two of them very close friends with my brothers) went for an afternoon joy ride with their uncle in his small plane, and disappeared.  They were missing for ten days.  I remember much of the experience very clearly for a lot of reasons (the youngest child, Jesse, was my twin brother's closest friend at the time, and it was our first face-to-face confrontation with the reality of mortality), but the thing that stuck out to me that week was that for those ten days, the teeny tiny municipal airport was busy all hours of the day, with volunteers of every kind going out on flights and in organized hiking groups, searching relentlessly.  The Missions are rugged and thick with trees and brush--not easy hiking or searching.  The number of volunteers and their tirelessness was astounding to my little not-quite-8-year-old self, and more than that, I saw people who had quite recently been at each other's throats working together without contention or complaint.  It clicked for me that these missing kids were more important to them than whatever grievances they had been nursing--even if they didn't personally know the kids or their mother well.  I realized in watching them that their love was stronger than their anger.  It was the first thing that had made any emotional sense to me in months.  And I realized in that moment, that all those people would've been out there doing the same thing if it were Michael and Eldon and I in that plane, despite what some of them may have said about our dad recently.  I realized I was surrounded by a tribe that would come looking for me if I disappeared, and that was a great comfort after a very confusing year.

Though I still struggle to understand what it must've been like, what it must still be like, for their mother to deal with the reality of such an astonishingly devastating loss, that experience was also the first time that I came to understand, in some instinctual way if not intellectually, the power of adversity and struggle and loss to remind us of our importance to each other.  The people in this little village care about each other, even if sometimes some present hurt or perceived wrong leads them to forget it.  But when it really matters, they'll be there.

Just look at a portion of those who are there for Coach Rice:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Holy Elevation, Batman!

Oh, dear.  The last three months (ever since I went on that fire call), I have been doing virtually nothing exercise related.  Between all the work I had to do for moving, actually moving, trying to get organized and still in the early stages of moving while the kids were already trying to get on a school routine, then the terrible, terrible smoke that made running outside something of a health hazard, plus several illnesses for me and the kids, I just hadn't made it a priority.

The last couple of weeks, I'd been doing some minor strength-training routines just to get myself back into the habit and start making a little progress (and I usually start with strength training, because, lets face it, even when I'm thin I'm built more for force than for speed or distance. . .sigh.  But, hey, it can be nice to build muscle relatively quickly and be stronger than most chicks even when I'm horribly out of shape).  So this morning, my alarm went off at six, and I couldn't face the cold.  I just need to buck up and deal with it, but I wasn't quite there.  So I waited til it "warmed up"--Keira and I left the house at 8:30 (Kylie is hanging out with her cousin and auntie this week), when it had warmed up to a balmy 36*.  Keira was bundled quite well in the jogging stroller, and I was wearing a hoody and it was clear, dry and very sunny, so the temperature actually wasn't a problem, and, as most high-mountain mornings are, it was gorgeous outside.

But I thought about dying anyway.  Or at least quitting. I was not yet in good shape when I stopped exercising, and now its been months since I did anything, and so I start jogging at 5330 feet--yes, more than a mile high.  Eek.  I got back to the house after 25 minutes, and I was done.  I started to think I was remembering past running experiences inaccurately.  In Lindsay, I was up to about three miles a day when I was going to McDermott.  When I was living in San Luis (the year I wasn't pregnant), I was running a couple miles most days, and it didn't seem hard or long at all.  When I was living in Hawaii, I thought I was running five miles a day, because I wouldn't wake up til six, and then I'd go for a run and have time to come back and shower, put on makeup and do some homework before my 8am class, or throw on a change of clothes before my 7am class.  Yeah, that's the other thing--I'd go for a run, and then go to a 50-minute dance class.  It just didn't seem reasonably possible, so I came home and used Google maps to retrace my old running routes, thinking maybe they were shorter than I thought.  Turns out that one was 5.8miles round trip, the other was 6.1miles. And I'd run them in a little less than 50 minutes.  That just made me feel like more of a loser than I already did.

Of course, I was at sea level, I was 18, and I had not been through four pregnancies and was consequently not trying to run a household and raise four kids, I just had to worry about me.  I've never gotten back to that mileage (certainly not that time!) since, but I have had years in between pregnancies where I've been up to 2-4 miles a day and it didn't seem like this big a deal (that may be part of my problem--Keira is 18 months, and that's about the longest I have not been pregnant in 9 years).  So here's hoping I can get over the pain of getting started.

Ok, that was a long post just to complain.  I promise I won't do that again.  No more running/exercise updates.  I just figure that this way I get the complaining out of my system, but no one has to listen to me if they don't want to.  So bless you if you made it this far.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

OK, Sam, now would be good. . .

So my best friend Sam and I have long had his plan that we will live next door to each other and raise our kids together.  She has these two little kids, a boy and a girl, who happen to be extraordinarily cute, and a husband who is secretly a Jewish cowboy (shhhhh. . . .don't tell anyone).  I think now would be an excellent time to live next door to each other.  And Anaconda is a cool place.  And the ward could really use some more young families.

Of course, its possible that I'm a little homesick.  Today when I was in Deer Lodge, there were these 9 month old twin boys in stroller that, I swear, other than being a little cheekier and just generally bigger, were dead ringers for Freddy and Baz.  Seriously, I wish I'd had a camera on me, it was uncanny.  And then later in the day when we were grocery shopping, I saw another kid who totally could've passed for a about-nine-years-old Gage.  Crazy stuff.

But I really need to get to know Kyler and Brooklyn better, so bring them up here!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Irish Treasure

She's so smiley and happy. So easy-peasy.
We (meaning the older kids, mostly) joke a lot at our house about Keira being our Irish baby, as she was born on St. Patrick's Day.  As far as the ethnic personality that is projected by or onto the Irish, it suits her.  She has great charm, is quite clever, loves to sing and dance, and is quite affable and generally easy-going.  She loves to laugh, and to make others laugh, and is quite social, usually happiest when she is surrounded by many other happy people that she can play and dance with.  But somewhere in there, she's got an unbendable stubborn streak, and a quick, intense temper.  People don't see that temper too often, but they don't forget it when they do.

She has been such a little gift.  She has all the joy that her older siblings have in their natures, but she lacks their intensity--she doesn't have Keilana's intense, manic energy, or Dylan's intense focus or moodiness, or Kylie's intense attachment or emotional sensitivity.  She's somehow at once both mellow and gregarious.  She's one of my more affectionate children, but less attached--happily spending the night with babysitters, or traipsing off to a new nursery class the first time we're in a new ward where she doesn't know anyone.  She wears her heart on her sleeve, but doesn't bludgeon you with her emotions.  Her's hoping she stays so delightful, always.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Unburied Memory

Something I was reading yesterday brought to mind a memory I'd forgotten I even had.

In the spring of 2007, Doug had to attend a development conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  I decided to tag along, and we rented a car so that we could spend some time exploring a couple of the Church history sites in the area.  We were able to see the temple grounds at Far West, and visit Liberty Jail (which was an incredible experience).  But the one that came to mind, the one I had almost forgotten, was the Sunday afternoon trip we took to Independence, Missouri, where the Church runs a large visitor's center about the pioneer history in the area (across from the visitor center is a still-vacant lot that the Prophet Joseph long ago dedicated for a temple--the first temple site dedicated).  The sister missionary who gave us our tour in the visitor center was explaining what it was these early pioneers were trying to accomplish, what it was that drove them.  She talked about their singular focus on building Zion.  Then she asked a question:  We have well-established headquarters in Salt Lake, surrounded by largely-LDS cities and towns, and many, many temples, so should we still be building Zion?  How would we do that, not being commanded to gather in one place anymore?

Doug spoke up and ventured an answer.  As briefly as he could, he tried to explain to her what we understood about the commandment to "build Zion".  He told this young sister about the ward we were a part of, about the convert baptisms we were witnessing month after month.  He told her about the ways the work we chose overlapped with our Gospel responsibilities, about how many of us were trying to obtain certain goals with a common understanding, and a striving for personal growth and missionary work all intertwined with it.  By the time he finished, she was in tears and speechless.

This memory surfaced on the heels of a lovely email from a dear friend.  It was a group email, sent to many of our closest friends, expressing her love and her gratitude for having been a part of all the wonderful things we tried to accomplish together.  Doug and I moved, this friend and her beautiful little family moved, and so had two of the other friends that she sent the email to--we were compelled to move on, to other adventures.  But there is something special with this little group of travelers we were with for those few brief but intense years.  She related the bond and understanding to the one that she shares with those she served a mission with in France 20 years ago, an apt comparison.

When I connected the two thoughts, it finally clicked for me, in a small way, the way so many of those pioneers must've felt.  They were, very literally, trying to build Zion:  homes, churches, temples, relationships, testimonies.  And so often, they were compelled to move on before things were finished, often separating from friends and families in doing so. How frustrating it must've been to have to walk away from the things they wanted so badly to finish, to see complete and whole.  How hard it must've been to leave people they loved dearly.  And how very, very much they must've cherished each other, and their common experiences.

For me, this was an important thought, because I can see, from the distance of of nearly two centuries' time, how very much what they started, what they accomplished, mattered.  They didn't always finish what they expected or wanted to, but the foundation that they laid has been integral in accomplishing so much more, even though these brave souls never lived to see it.  I've no doubt that that empty lot, dedicated 181 years ago for temple building, will someday have a temple on it, perhaps someday soon.

The Lord uses us for his purposes, and sometimes human error and angry mobs will get in the way of the progress we think should be happening, but that doesn't mean the work we do is wasted, or won't (eventually) be built upon, and in the mean time the importance of the testimonies we build and the souls we welcome into that happy band of brothers with us is incalculable.  I needed that reminder.

I can't imagine life ever being more intense and difficult than it was from 2006-2011.  But I can't imagine it ever being better, either.  God bless those wonderful souls who taught us so much about what it truly means to be a saint.  They will always hold a precious place in my heart.

"How good and glorious it has seemed unto me, to find pure and holy friends, who are faithful, just, and true, and whose hearts fail not; and whose knees are confirmed and do not falter, while they wait upon the Lord. . .They shall not want a friend while I live; my heart shall love those, and my hands shall toil for those, who love and toil for me, and shall ever be found faithful to my friends.”  ~Joseph Smith, Jr.