31 March 2011

Just trying to laugh (and take pictures)

A friend just told me that when her youngest was a couple of weeks old, she woke up to find her husband scrubbing the kitchen floor.  Apparently, her two older children had broken five (yes, that would be 5) dozen eggs on their kitchen floor.  She told me, "I was so upset at ...."

And my mind completed her sentence .... "my kids."  Of course she was ticked at her kids!  I mean, seriously? Can you even imagine that mess?!

I was left silenced when she finished her sentence with "my husband. He didn't take any pictures."  And, with those words, my mind flew back to my experience with my own little disaster maker.

Goldie and Eyes are 17-1/2 months apart (to the day).  So there were a few months when Eyes was an infant that I looked forward to their naptimes in the afternoon.  One day, I thought the girls were snug in their beds, and I collapsed on the couch.  My sleep was interrupted by a perplexed voice, Mommy, the feathers are stuck to me?  I looked up to see a naked little 2 y/o with purple feathers from her fancy purple boa stuck strategically around her body. 

Stunned, it took me a couple of seconds to register what I was seeing – Why are there feathers stuck to you? And then horrified, I could only shriek, What did you get into?

NOTHING MOMMY!! was all I heard as my little girl ran away as fast as she could.

Well, it turned out that my little girl had gotten into something. She had somehow gotten into the garage and somehow gotten into my van and somehow gotten into the brand-new syrup I’d just bought.
  • Did you know that a Sam’s Club syrup bottle holds a ½ gallon of syrup?
  • And did you know that a determined 2 y/o can somehow take the seal off of a syrup bottle and (accidentally, I'm sure) pour the entire ½ gallon onto the floor of a van?
  • And did you know that the floor of a Dodge Grand Caravan – with its fabulous stow and go seats – holds a lot of syrup?
It took many, many MANY hours to clean the syrup up. And the whole time that I was scrubbing the carpets and the seats and the walls in the van, I was muttering to myself, mentally beating myself over the head for not having the good sense to just take the time to finish unloading all of the groceries from the van before collapsing on the couch.

But as I look back on that day, my lack of good sense is not what I regret.  In fact, I have only one big regret about that experience actually. I regret that, amid my crazed efforts to clean the van, I didn't take just a few moments to focus on my curious little girl.

Instead, when I found out what she had done, I chewed her out and buckled her into her booster seat at the kitchen table. Daddy came home to find 3 very downcast children trying to eat dinner and me sobbing in the van.

During the whole experience, I never once laughed (or even smiled). 

I have laughed so much about it since that day.  Everybody loves to hear the syrup story - it truly typifies my little strong, independent WONDERFUL child.  So why couldn't I have enjoyed it just a little when I was in the experience?  Why didn't I take pictures? (I mean, how much would it add to this story right now if I could include pictures of Goldie covered in purple feathers?  And heck! how many dishes would she have someday washed to keep that picture from coming to light?)

What fun did my daughter and I both miss out on that day by not just enjoying this silly experience, while making sure that in the future I kept the van doors locked and the syru
p out of reach?

Now, I know - it really was a mess. A horrible mess. And maybe I would have had to have been some kind of saint to have laughed. Maybe so.  But I wish I would have tried.  Because
most things, including children, are washable....

. . . . but fun memories can only be captured once.

Maybe the next time the Sam's Club sized bottle of syrup gets spilled (or the hot chocolate mix or the spice jar or the flour .... yes, my Goldie is an explorer), I will respond so we both have smiles on our faces. Maybe I can remember to just make a memory.

But, tell me, have you ever had a mess (created by child or animal -- or spouse?) that you had no idea how you were going to clean up?  And, more importantly, did you take pictures? 

p.s. Everybody asks me how I cleaned that much syrup out of the van carpet, not to mention all the knicks and crannies.  It took about 5 hours. And, actually, that happened about 4 years ago and I just found a little bit of syrup hiding in a crevice about a year ago. 

THANKS to Julie at Finding Beautiful for a link to this post.  Julie, I think your tragedy beats mine -- carpet can be washed, but your art work is AMAZING!  Go check out her fun blog and see what I mean!

30 March 2011

"Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid."

There is a scripture story that I have come to appreciate more and more the past couple of years, a story which I used when I spoke at my mom's memorial service in January.

In Matthew, we read the story of Peter walking on the water. The sky was dark, the waves were large, and they saw what they thought was a spirit walking on the water towards them.

And so they were afraid.  But why?  It's safe to assume that as fishermen, they had experienced storms before. So why were they so afraid on this night? 

I think their emotions may have been high because of what had happened just before this story. John the Baptist was beheaded.  And at least two of Christ’s apostles (including Peter’s brother, Andrew) had been John's disciples (John 1:35-42).

So I wonder if their fear began because, while the actual physical storm was pounding their little boat, the apostles were also experiencing even more profound emotional and spiritual storms. John was dead, and Christ had left them alone.

But it is at this point in the story -- when these physical and spiritual waves were tossing them about -- that the Savior said those beautiful words: “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”

Of course, the Savior will not personally appear to us to calm our storms. But his words apply to us just the same.

It is striking that the Savior first says: be of good cheer. When buffeted about by storms, we are commanded to smile and find the joy. How do we do this? Perhaps the Savior's next words are the key: by recognizing that quiet voice in our hearts that also says, it is I. And perhaps it is this active determination to be joyful and recognize who the Savior is that will give us the capacity to obey the Savior's second command: be not afraid.

I have confidence that, as we recognize the Savior in our own lives, He can give us the hope necessary to feel joy rather than fear in the midst of our own spiritual and emotional waves. 

28 March 2011

Learning to Find Him

While I was brushing my teeth (really, I don't know why that's an important detail, but I felt obligated to share it - I must be my mom's daughter, aye?), I reread a great personal essay.  In the essay, the writer discusses Jeremiah 29:12–14:
Then shall ye call upon me,” she read, “and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord …”
He compares this verse to playing hide-and-seek with his children, when he would make sure their children could find him by hiding in plain sight or making a noise. He said he wanted them to have the experience of looking, but also be able to find him.  He then witnesses that Heavenly Father is not hiding from us either -- He provides scriptures and prayer and the Holy Ghost so that each of us can find Him.
I have struggled with understanding how to feel and recognize my Heavenly Father's love for me. I remember wondering at times if it was like a mathematical formula of actions that I needed to figure out to unlock the treasure of His love.

x hrs Prayer + x hrs of Scripture + x hrs Service - x Sins = Savior's Love

Over the years since then, I've had instances when the Spirit has testified to me of this divine love for me. Thankfully, I've recorded many of these in my journal, so I can remember the witnesses I've received.
May I witness here how important it is to write down our spiritual experiences? Many times I have reread what I've written, and, in essence, re-experienced the witnesses I already received.
But I still think there is a deeper relationship that my Father wants for me.  When Bonnie D. Parkin was called to be the General Relief Society President, she said these powerful words:
If I could have one thing happen for every woman in this Church, it would be that they would feel the love of the Lord in their lives daily.
I remember that as I listened to her words, I knew that my Father wanted to tell me He loves me more often (and more deeply) than just an occasional feeling. I was encouraged by her words to continue to seek after not only a greater understanding of divine love, but also a daily witness of it.

Years later, I don't think I recognize His daily witness of His love for me.  I believe that there are certain things I need to do to be able to better recognize His love for me. But His actual love never changes. And, perhaps just as important, the formula isn't secret and it never changes. He wants me to know He loves me. And He wants me to feel and recognize that love daily.

This testimony is crucial to conquering our fears. Last year, the Primary children learned a new song, "I Know that My Savior Loves Me." Its simple message is beautiful and powerful.

I have hope that I can feel His love for me daily. I'm grateful for the witnesses I have received over the years as I've sought to understand His love for me. More than that, I'm grateful for the witnesses of the Spirit, that have carried those words to my heart.

Will you take a moment to share your testimony of divine love?  I know there is somebody who will read it (even if that person is just you or me) whose faith will be strengthened by your witness. If you need to, think about it and come back. But share your testimony of the Father's love for you -- and then copy that testimony into your journal and reread it often. Seek after a daily witness of His love.

25 March 2011

Completing 40 by 40

As I've written a bajillion times already, the purpose of this blog is to encourage myself (and you my readers) to challenge yourself, to begin Living a Big Story.

This post comes from the fun idea of doing 101 things in 1001 days (about 2-1/2 years) instead of New Year's Resolutions.  What a great idea!  More time to accomplish real things. 

More time to start LIVING A BIG STORY!

Anyhoo, I will be turning 40 in 2012 (GULP!).  That would be 468 days from now.
So my plan is to do 40 things by 40. And yes, I gave myself a head start by having 1 of my 40 things be this blog (I always start my to-do list with a couple of items I already finished -- it helps me feel successful).  With no further ado, here are my 40 items:

24 March 2011

Lessons from Tangled

My goal is to write 3x/week. But I'm doing an extra post this week. You see, I watched Tangled last night with my kids. Now, I didn't love the hero-fying of the thiefin fact, my girls and I had a talk on the way home about the kinds of boys who they won't be allowed to date 11+ years from nowbut the timing of the movie was perfect for me.

The movie is a new take on Rapunzel. She is trapped in a tower and looks out at the worldparticularly the beautiful lights she sees each yearand dreams of leaving the tower. She waits for her mother to give her permission. But, of course, that is not going to happen.  

But Rapunzel also fears the unknown, and so it is only when she tests her own strength by fighting Flynn that she gains the confidence to venture beyond her tower prison. What struck me is that while the appearance of Flynn Rider gives her the impetus to leave the tower, he didn't actually rescue her.  She already had the tool in her possession (her hair) to escape from the tower and go for her dreams.

23 March 2011

Enjoying the differences

Let me preface this post with the following statement -- I absolutely positively adore my hubs, Doc.

BUT sometimes I really don't get him. I don't mean this in the complaining, I-don't-understand-why-a-physicist-who-spends-his-life-analyzing-data-can't-figure-out-the-most-space-effective-way-to-load-a-dishwasher kind of way. I mean this in the truly, "HUMMINUH-HUMMINUH-HUH?!" kind of way.

Fortunately, much of the time when these little disconnects happen, I am actually left screaming ... with laughter.  (And I really do mostly try to not laugh at him... more like beside him.)

Case in point. One of our friends sent us a joke. When I read it, I knew Doc would think it was funny, but that's it. I had NO idea why it was funny.  (And, yes, Doc thought it was screaming funny.)

So here it is -- you tell me what you think:
All the scientists die and go to heaven. They decide to play hide-n-seek, and Einstein has to seek. Everyone starts hiding except Newton - he just draws a square of 1 meter and stands in it right in front of Einstein. Einstein keeps counting. opens his eyes and says "Newton's out!" Newton denies it and says, "I am not out."
He claims that he is not Newton!! How???????
Proof: Newton says, "I am standing in a square of area 1m square. That means I am Newton per meter square. Hence I am Pascal, so Pascal is OUT."
Isn't that a SCREAM?! (Well, is it? Doc thought it was hilarious, but I'm frankly still not sure.)

Actually the best part of this joke for me is the whole "Proof" part of it. Only a physicist, I guess.

Oh well. He lets me dress him, rubs my feet and never complains about my cooking.  Who am I to complain?  

21 March 2011

Remembering that I'm NOT "Just a Mom"

Being a mom has always been a bit of a walk in the dark. My mom couldn't be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I remember times when she worked 3 jobs to support our family. So she couldn't do a lot of the day-in-day-out mommy activities. I remember her making bread and sewing, but I didn't learn how to do either -- although that very well could have been my decision. I remember her spending time with me at night helping me with homework. But I don't remember a lot of "girl talks" or park days or other activities that naturally come with quantity time.

Now, I'm a stay-at-home mom, so I should have the time to do all the things that my mom wanted to do but couldn't. And I guess I often feel guilty because I know I don't do those things.

Anyway, I found this video by Jane Clayson Johnson, who was a journalist on CBS but who is now a stay-at-home mom.

Two things caught my attention:
First, she gave up far more professionally than I have to be a mom and you can tell that she does miss the excitement of her previous life. As I listened to her story, I guess I felt like it's okay to miss those things -- and I felt like missing those things doesn't mean that I regret my decision.
Second, she so powerfully bears witness of her current role as a mom -- that she is  NOT just a mom, but a mother!
So what does it mean be a mother?  How do you mother your children?  What can we do to be less of a "just a mom" and more of a MOTHER?  What can we do to magnify our role as mothers -- spiritually, intellectually, socially? 

20 March 2011

Dear Mother Nature

I don't mean to complain. But, you see, flowers and grass peeking through the snow might make for pretty pictures . . .

Snow Daffodil Spring Flower Yellow


. . . but it's awfully cold out right now.

We were looking forward to the arrival of Spring came, but it seems that she's running a little late this year.  Please tell her we hope to see her soon.

Respectfully yours,

16 March 2011

Finding Hopes and Dreams

Found this beautiful quote on The Lettered Cottage, a decorating blog run by a talented (and gorgeous couple) named Kevin and Layla Palmer.

There is such hope in Alcott's words -- a quiet excited watchfulness for the good things to come. We can be better than we are now. We can be who we want to be.  We need to have aspirations, even if we never reach them. There is joy that can come into our hearts by just looking up and feeling the sunshine of those dreams and hopes.

I linked this post up to Chocolate on My Cranium's linky list -- why don't you go pay them a visit?!

15 March 2011

Living a Big Story

It's interesting how blessings can be wrapped in sorrow.  My mom had suffered a stroke and we were told she would never regain most of her physical and mental abilities.  She died on January 15th.  I knew she was happier. But still the sorrow would hit me when I reached for the phone to call her, only to realize I couldn't. 

This sorrow demanded contemplation, both of my own life and hers. And this contemplation helped me to remove the outer layer of sorrow to find the gift beneath.

My mom was a worrier. She worried about anything and everything. She had a stack of newspapers that she never seemed to get through -- I think to give her something to worry about. Her brother, Fred, was a farmer. One time he was telling her about the difficulties of farming and she said, “Fred, how can you be a farmer? Aren’t you afraid? Don’t you worry all the time?”  Laughing, he told her, “Pat, I don’t have time to worry. I’ve hired somebody to do it for me.”  My mom always loved that idea – she laughingly said she’d be the best worrier my uncle had ever hired. 

Unfortunately, I've inherited that characteristic from my mom.  I worry too. Maybe I should hire somebody to worry for me, although I'd probably worry if the person I hired was worrying properly.

But my Uncle Fred spoke a simple truth -- none of us have time to worry.  My mom was an amazing woman with incredible gifts. She was warm and inviting. She was curious about everybody and that curiosity drew people to her. She was equally interested in talking with strangers as friends.  In fact, we would often joke that she could walk into Wal-Mart and leave with 3 new best friends.  (True story - a telemarketer called and she started asking him questions until they became friends.)  But I think she had forgotten how to dream. Those fears and worries prevented her from developing new talents and trying new things. They prevented her from working hard to reach for a goal. In the end, sadly, her fears kept her from trying to beat the stroke.

So since my mom's death, I've been thinking about what it means to challenge my fears and  move outside of what feels comfortable. I've been examining my heart to discover what my own dreams are. One of those dreams that I've felt rise to my mind over and over is to return to writing. Not the technical or marketing writing I have done on the side for the past 10+ years, but the personal essays which I loved to do in college. 

In the midst of all of this self-contemplation came two talented sisters with a challenge. The Nester writes a home design blog, which I love because it transcends the how-to's to the how-come-to's.  In a recent post, she discussed how taking risks -- even when we fail -- can change us.  In her next post, she introduce her sister, Emily, an incredible writer and blogger.

Over the last few weeks, I've blog-stalked these two incredible women.  Each time they have challenged their respective readers to take a risk, even a small one, my spirit has responded with a quiet, "Yes, Laura. You can do it!"

But I kept waiting. Until I read Emily's post today - and my waiting has finally ended.  Read her challenge:
It is not okay to live a small story because of fear. . . . It is not okay to remain where you are even though circumstance and passion and God all tell you to move.
So I've begun my blog, a blog I hope will encourage myself and any who may read it to live a big story. Realizing that we can all be more.  Realizing that we are already enough.

For me, that means to begin writing again.  To face the possibility of failure, the possibility that nobody will like what I've written.  But it also means being open to the possibility that I can encourage others to live their own big story. 

I hope you will partner with me on this adventure.

p.s. Look at my 40 by 40 to see what I'm doing to begin Living a Big Story!