Something Happened on My Way into Wal-Mart

29 06 2014

IMG_0846

Rainbow was my travel buddy yesterday in running a few errands. We hit the gas station, then were on to Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and the library.

On our way into Wal-Mart, there was a woman standing just outside the doors. Her cart held a few things she’d purchased, along with her purse. Her son, who looked to be about four, was standing off to the side, wearing green frog boots, and screaming his head off.

Rainbow and I stepped into the cart garage and I pulled out a cart, sanitizing the handle for good measure. We were just about to walk through the automatic doors when I stopped. “Let’s go and help that lady.”

Rainbow, ever game for whatever adventure arrives at her door, skipped along behind me as I walked back outside.

The boy continued to scream. His mother talked to him patiently.

I caught her eye and said, “Let me help. I’ll push your cart while you carry him.”

“Thanks,” she said.

The boy had passed over the threshold of reason and was completely beyond reach of any rational thought. He screamed for his car. He threw his car away. He screamed to be picked up. He screamed to be let down to walk.

Four can be so ferocious.

She scooped him up and we followed her to her car, stopping only a couple of times so Rainbow could pick up one of the cars he threw or scoop up a boot he had kicked off.

The mom, she was awesome. In complete control the entire time, despite her son’s incoherent sobs and writhing to escape her arms.

“This is it,” she said when we reached a white sedan. “Thank you so much.”

I patted her on the arm and gave her a side hug. “Hang in there, Mom,” I said. “You’re doing a great job.”

I’m not sharing this because I think I’m such a great person. I’m sharing it because after I spent five minutes helping a complete stranger get through a situation I’ve been in many times myself, I felt really good. Like, clicking-my-heels good.

Apparently I should serve people more often.

 

 

 





Hey! I’m posting something on my blog. Crazy!

30 03 2014

I know I have been in absentia for months, and so very few people even read this blog anymore. But that’s okay.

It’s okay because I love to blog (even though I haven’t done it much over the last two years) and so I’ve got a space to write my thoughts. And my thoughts lately have been centered around the gospel–aka the Good News.

I’m a Mormon. Actually, in communicating with a new friend, I designated myself as a super-Mormon. (Now accepting mock-ups for costume ideas! You know you want to.)

The reason I decided I’m a super-Mormon is because it’s not just a Sunday thing for me. It’s an every-moment thing for me. So most of the written-in-my-head blog posts center around the way the gospel is changing me in every day situations.

DSC_0082

I recently joined a gym. (And, no, there isn’t anyone there who I’ve seen do a split like that one Rainbow is doing at the park.) I didn’t really want to, as I’ve never thought of myself as a “gym” person, but the friend I used to walk with in the mornings got a new job that conflicted with our walking schedule. The Zumba class I had been attending at the church was also discontinued. My friend’s job started in the fall, and as the holidays rolled around I realized I had pretty much not exercised for months. I could tell by my energy level that something needed to change.

I was actually “walking the mall” when a guy stopped me and finagled me into taking a tour of the gym there. He was very charming and a good salesman. I walked away with a two-week temporary membership.

As I went to the gym the first few times, I realized it was a whole different animal than walking in the safety of my neighborhood (and several layers of outerwear). Besides feeling incredibly awkward just because, you know, it’s me, and I’m generally that way, I also found myself watching the other people there. I found myself comparing myself to them—I’m weaker. I’m faster. I’m bigger. I’m smaller. It was seriously messing with my head.

I didn’t want to do that. Fast forward to my adult religion class that same week. We were having a discussion and one man commented how he felt like he wasn’t as good as all the people around him. Our teacher, who has known this man for years, demurred. He pointed out that comparing ourselves to other people is not the way Heavenly Father wants us to live. But how do we combat this tendency? He had us turn to Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46.

It reads: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”

So one way for us to have confidence in the presence of God is to have charity towards all men. As I continued to ponder this idea, I remembered one of my favorite scriptures in Moroni 7:47-48. It says: “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.”

I don’t have much of a problem comparing myself to people at church, but I realized this lesson was applicable in all areas of my life. As I pray for charity “with all energy of heart,” I am reminded of the pure love Christ has for each of us. When I slip into patterns of comparing while I’m at the gym, I pray for charity. It has helped me realize that none of us are two-dimensional. There is the seen, but the unseen is greater and deeper, like the way icebergs are: 10% on top and 90% underneath.

The noise of the world, the stuff that says you have to look a certain way or be a certain weight, tries hard to drown out the truth: we are all worth something. I have known this for years, but it gets buried much too often in the barrage of media entering my psyche every single day. My grandma had a little picture stuck on her bulletin board that I used to look at and try to figure out. It was a drawing of a boy who was scowling and it said, “I know I’m somebody, ’cause God don’t make no junk!”

I hold onto that as I head to the gym in my ratty workout clothes with my past-their-prime tennis shoes. I’m somebody. He’s somebody. She’s somebody. We’re ALL somebody, and seeing the 10% isn’t enough to pass judgment on anybody.

Be kind. To all the somebodies out there, including yourself.

 

 





Tender Mercies

30 10 2013

Back in 2005, Elder Bednar gave a great talk in General Conference called “The Tender Mercies of the Lord.” In it, he described small and simple ways the Lord blesses us when we need it most. Since then, I have looked (and found) in my own life many ways the Lord has blessed me with tender mercies.

Last week was a chain of tender mercies, one right after another.

Here’s what happened:

  • My home teacher came over and gave me a priesthood blessing.
  • I had a five-hour rehearsal and my kids followed directions and went to bed on time. (Except one. You should have read the text Eden sent me about it . . .)
  • Eden had some VERY particular ideas about her Halloween costume. We had gone to Goodwill on Saturday, but she was dissatisfied about everything we looked at. On Monday morning, I went back as a last-ditch effort to find what she wanted. I had combed through the children’s section and was about to head home when I had the thought to check in the adult section. I said a prayer (partly because of previous item: five-hour rehearsal the night before, and I was tired) before diving into the skirts. And I found exactly what I needed. Not only that–it was the right tag color to give me 50% off! Seriously, folks. I almost started crying right there in the store. Rejuvenated, I slid over to the men’s section and found a perfect shirt to deconstruct for another part of her costume. Also 50%. I think I smiled clear until that afternoon . . .
  • . . . when I was really stressed due to a concert I was playing in Seattle. Timing-wise, it was tricky. Figure out dinner for the kids, write directions down, pack a dinner for me, pick up kids, get dressed, relay all information, drive to Seattle (not my favorite thing to do), find a parking spot, find the venue. It all worked. I left on time. I got a text telling me Colby was successfully picked up. And I was able to breathe.
  • My friend picked up my kids from my house, drove them to Seattle, and sat with them throughout a two-hour classical music concert, just so my kids could see me play in an orchestra. That is friendship, folks.
  • The next day, I got to spend some time with my bestie who happened to visiting from Scotland (yes, you read that right). We ran errands and laughed and just talked continually. One of the errands was to pick up my sewing machine, which I had taken in to be serviced. Once home, I went to work making Eden’s pirate costume pieces. There were some tears (from her, not me), but it ended up coming together to the point that she smiled. I’m calling it a win.
  • Wednesday, Zack, Rainbow, and I headed to Seattle in the morning for infusions. This is where I felt I was rolling in the miracles. Zack got a fantastic nurse and had his best poke EVER–no yelling, no fainting, and in on the first try. Rainbow’s went the same way–no tears, no fainting, and in easily. This might seem like a little thing, but their dad was out of town and I was extremely concerned that it go over well. Later on, another friend came to visit us, bringing fun gifts, goofy socks, and the talent to suck Jell-o through a straw. The kids loved having the extra attention, and I loved having an extra adult around while I took kids with I.V. poles to the restroom or went on snack runs.
  • Thursday was party day. I am not a party mom. My kids know they get one “friend” birthday party when they turn eight, and that’s it. However, Eden somehow talks her way around my anti-party-ness when she points out it isn’t for her birthday and promises to plan the whole thing. So I spent the day trying to put my house back together from several days of dropping things on the floor and falling into bed. A friend called and said, “I know yesterday was stressful for you. Can I help get ready for the party?” I told her to come in a couple of hours, then spent that time sorting and sifting through the various detritus that accumulates as a natural byproduct of entropy. (Or having children.) She came and vacuumed, swept, dusted, and did my dishes. Twenty 11- and 12-year-old kids screamed through and destroyed it all several hours later, but the weight it lifted off my shoulders was not insignificant.
  • Friday morning, I said good-bye to my friend from Scotland after a quick, cozy visit. And that night I crashed.

DSCN2974

DSCN2975

Smiles all around.

One of my friends said today regarding miracles: “They serve as much-needed reminders in the midst of our struggles that God is aware of us and loves us, that no matter how hard the path we’re walking, we aren’t walking it alone.”

I am so blessed to have such wonderful kids and so many friends who willingly reach out to help me. I’m humbled by the generosity of so many and know that God is aware of me. That’s completely amazing.

Now who’s ready for Halloween tomorrow?





Thoughts on Divorce

6 08 2013

DSC_0017

A friend asked me what helped and what didn’t when I was going through my “life transition.” I came up with the following. Hopefully it can help someone who’s wondering what to do.

For some people, divorce comes after years of problems. For me, it was almost like a bomb being dropped. The first several months, I was in shock. “Is this really my life?” I would ask myself numerous times every day. As I tried to reconcile my life’s expectations with my new reality, I went on auto-pilot. So many hands reached out in so many ways. I will be forever grateful for the prayers people offered on my behalf. Along with that, here are some things that were particularly helpful:

Don’t pry. Offers to talk were appreciated, but I didn’t even know entirely what was going on in the beginning. When you push for details, it comes off as nosy–like you care more about the event (and passing on the juicy details) than about the person going through the event.

Cards, flowers, emails, and food. It touched me deeply when I would receive a card in the mail. For me, going through a divorce made me feel completely alone, so when I received something it was a wonderful reminder that people cared. I remember one day in particular when a friend showed up on my doorstep with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a sweet card. Another friend gave me a flower on Valentine’s Day–which was sweet, but almost had the opposite effect. Rather than feeling particularly loved, it drew extra attention to my single-ness. A better idea would be to remember a birthday, or to help the children of the newly-single person make something special for Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day. One of the best things I received was food. The transition from two adults sharing the workload to one, along with the emotional toll a divorce takes, makes the everyday chores in running a household even more burdensome. Treats and dinner were always welcome.

Take the kids. I tried very hard to be stable for my kids during the time of transition. Being able to send them to the neighbors’ to play (and stay for dinner, too!) helped me to have some space to grieve and process and cry. I remember one time in particular when my neighbor invited the kids over for a fire in their backyard. They left, and I was mopping the floor when a certain song came on that brought my warring emotions to the surface. I hung my head and wept, great gulping sobs–the ugly cry. I was grateful my kids weren’t there to see that. It scared me in its intensity; I’m sure my children would have been scarred for life to see it. The children weren’t scarred and I was able to vent my emotions and come closer to healing. Win-win!

Don’t forget your friendship. I appreciated so much the friends that still invited me to do things. I hadn’t realized so many of my activities were couple-related until I was no longer a part of one. Divorce isn’t contagious; single people still enjoy going out to dinner or to the movies with their married friends.

Be understanding. If your friend doesn’t share the details with you, there’s probably a reason. Don’t jump to conclusions as to what happened. If you feel like you need to know, ask. If your friend doesn’t want to give details, be okay with that. Divorce is messy and complicated and rarely can be boiled down into a sound byte.

Fill their love bucket. Above all else, divorce made me feel inadequate. I wondered why I wasn’t enough and what I had done wrong. Emails letting me know people noticed me, supported me, and were cheering for me boosted my confidence when it waned. Even though I knew my worth was not based on other people’s perception of me, my self-worth was at a very low level. A sincere compliment buoyed me when my spirits were low.

I’m sure there are many other things, but these were what helped get me through. I’m so grateful to have such good friends and family. Loving support is invaluable.





The Gift of Life

31 03 2013

DSC_0052

As a writer, I try very hard to make my characters “real.” They need to jump off the page, to breathe, to react, and to be believable. Often I’ve read books that make me feel that way–that I’m reading about a real person, and, if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll meet them on the street someday.

I love those realistic characters. But not only that–I am also intrigued by those stories of robots who somehow become sentient beings, or an actual person being made by spare body parts and being brought to life by lightning, or rocks or cars or mustaches that actually come alive! It’s thrilling and fun and I love reading books like that.

However, pondering Easter this week I was struck forcibly with the thought that the only Being with power over life and death is God.

I read over that and a little voice in my head said, “Duh. That’s so obvious.” But apparently it wasn’t, or it wouldn’t have given me pause.

Doctors do not have power over life and death. They can treat it for illnesses or set broken bones or put in artificial organs, but they cannot make it live.

Robots can do all sorts of things–and often with precision beyond human capabilities–but they are not alive. They are only machines.

Man can plant seeds and ensure the environment is friendly to their sprouting, but man cannot create seeds.

Man can love animals and raise animals, but man cannot create animals.

How amazing and how great and how truly awesome is the gift of life?

When God created the world, he “breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

That “breath of life,” our own unique, individual spirit, will be reunited again with our body after we die. On Easter, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ–and, subsequently, the gift of our own resurrection someday–I can’t help but think that this should be the happiest day of the year.

“The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

“Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

“Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption” (Alma 11:43-45).

Today, that fills my soul with hope and joy. He is risen!





Leave Them Be

24 03 2013

IMG_0788

I’m working on a follow-up to my epiphany post, but it needs a bit more time to sink and settle. Hopefully, I’ll have it ready by next week.

Instead, I want to relay something that happened to me today.

I woke up this morning feeling crushed. So much to do, so far behind, the weight of a boulder on my back, hanging from my shoulders, pulling down my arms. Heavy.

I studied my scriptures, woke up my children, and went along with our normal Sunday-morning routine. (Sadly, our normal Sunday-morning routine seems to consist of us being late for church every single week. But I digress. That would be an entirely different post.) At one point, I could feel the squeezing in my chest, the one that magnifies flaws and responsibilities and unmet expectations. Before I could break down into a puddle of tears, a thought came to my mind: “Leave them be.”

My normal modus operandi is to drag those things around with me. To feel the weight and the flaws and the guilt. But today, I listened to that thought and I left them at home.

I didn’t drag them along with me (unlike my very physical and gigantic church bag), and I was the better for it.

I had one of the best Sacrament meetings I’ve had in a long time. I felt the Spirit during every talk, during the musical number, during the closing hymn. It was refreshing and uplifting.

When I got home after church, my burdens were still there, waiting. Turns out I didn’t need to take them along; they waited for me. But I was able to look at them with a new perspective.

I don’t want to oversimplify: I understand some burdens are attached to us in such a way that there is no laying them down. That the only way to find relief is for our backs to become stronger or for us to die.

But I do want to point out that I learned something valuable today: some burdens you can lay aside for a time–an hour, a day, for the length of a vacation.

And it is okay to do that.

The only way we can endure the burdens we are lugging around until resolution is if we take the time to fill our cup.

My cup was filled today. For this, I am grateful.





An Epiphany

3 03 2013

DSC_0126

I am a staunch capitalist.

I believe in the American dream, the one that says if you work hard and use your ingenuity, you can be financially successful.

I even majored in business when I went to college.

Perhaps it’s because of these personality traits that I’ve always struggled to understand the law of consecration. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this is pretty important in our religion. After the Church was first restored, the early Saints tried to live the law of consecration, with all things common among them.

It didn’t work.

The Lord took the mandate away, and allowed them to live a lesser law.

I’ve been taking an adult religion class for a couple of years now, and my instructor calls this “The Samuel Principle.” As I understand it, when Samuel was prophet during Old Testament times, the children of Israel wanted a king. Samuel tried to dissuade them, citing how having a wicked king led entire civilizations into wickedness, but the people held fast. “We want a king.” My teacher has pointed out that the Lord will give us what we want; however, when we choose to live the lesser law, we are only eligible for lesser blessings.

In our religion class right now, we’re studying the Doctrine and Covenants. As we talked about the law of consecration, there were several things I understood better than I had before. For instance, instead of my idea of “having all things common,” which was that you had to share everything with everybody, I learned that instead, everyone turned their original property over to the bishop. He then redistributed that according to the needs and wants of the people. Everyone was required to work. And it was not okay to go into someone’s house and take his pocket watch just because you fancied it would look nice with your waistcoat.

As we discussed this, I had an epiphany.

I thought about the law of consecration in a way I had never thought about it before–and it suddenly made sense to me.

The law of consecration works like a family.

Think about it for a minute. A family lives together. (Sometimes they fight.) Everyone works according to their ability. They each have their own space and their own possessions. The wealth is shared among the members of the family; sometimes Suzy takes more resources because she needs braces, and other times Bobby needs some extra to go on a band trip. Bobby isn’t mad at Suzy and Suzy isn’t mad at Bobby. They aren’t keeping score.

They both do their chores, helping the household run smoothly. Sometimes they want things, and Mom and Dad look at the budget and say, “Sorry, we don’t have money for that right now.” But because they all love each other (even though they sometimes fight), they want what’s best for each individual. They don’t begrudge something fortunate happening to someone else.

The law of consecration takes this concept to a much larger, grander scale, but I think the same principles apply.

I think the most important part is the “not keeping score” bit.

It’s hard for us as humans not to compare. My cousin had this quote on her wall years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. I wish I could remember who said it so I could give proper credit to its author. It goes like this:

When we compare ourselves to others, we become either vain or bitter.

What’s the key, then, to getting to this place where we won’t compare ourselves with other people and begrudge them their good fortune? How can we prepare ourselves to live this higher law–and, in turn, receive greater blessings?

I think the answer to those questions lies in cultivating charity in our hearts.

“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:47-48)

I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s nice to have some direction.

Happy Sabbath!