Wednesday, December 30, 2015

If you were wondering

Late last night I was writing a post only to have problems with my keyboard and have sticking keys. I couldn't use "enter" or "shift" and so I just tried to get some ideas down and save it, only to accidently post it. I removed the post, but if you are wondering what happened, that was the story behind the very rough, weird post!

Where Will I Put Him?

Like most we are putting away the Christmas things. Finding the spaces for the new toys. Putting the gadgets in the tool boxes, etc. Hauling the boxes back out to put the Christmas decorations away.

At this time of year I find myself thinking about where I am going to put Him.

The greatest gift I have been given is that of my Savior.

But I don't want to put Him away with the decorations.

And I don't want Him on a shelf collecting dust.

He doesn't belong in the toy box or tool box.

He belongs in my heart and in my actions, my words and my love.

We go to a significant amount of trouble to choose just the right gifts for those we love. After they are received the recipient needs to find the right home/use for it.

So do I.

This year I want to remember the gift I have been given and keep it out where I can share with others like that amazing box of chocolate, or warm someone like those soft blankets, heal like the first aid kit, expand thinking like the classic book.

When I think of my Heavenly Father and the precious gift He gave us, carefully chosen and painfully yet graciously given, I know He deserves a very special place. A place that I can give.

This year, I don't want to put Him anywhere except for the heart of me. I want to be who He wants me to be. I want to help who He wants me to help. I want to give up all my foolish and vain ambitions and recognize what He made me for.

Where will you put your gift?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Artist

This Art masterpiece class I took is still rolling around in my brain. (It's ok, there's not much up there that can get hurt)
There was one class that disturbed me deeply.
Again, we were talking about pieces and the artists that created them.
We started looking at and talking about a Rembrandt.
One piece, "The Man With the Golden Helmet" was typical of his style and the way he used light and dark and how he captured the face.
Then the teacher said that the art world was rocked in 1985 when it was discovered that Rembrandt didn't paint this piece.
Apparently one of his students did.

Was it still a masterpiece?

Was it still great?

It really got me thinking. Is a masterpiece a masterpiece only because of who created it? Or is it a masterpiece because of what was created?

In looking into art history it appears that the person who created it is of the utmost importance and that the actual piece itself may or may not be of the greatest quality or of significance in what was accomplished. Back several hundred years ago, a big name was what collectors clamored for and is still true today.

So if something is a masterpiece, not because of what it is, but rather because of who created it, what can that tell us about ourselves?

We are created by the Master. We may not think much of who we are. Maybe we are plain and unknown. But that doesn't matter, because we were created by God.

Maybe we are complex, or ugly, or brash, or distorted, or confusing. It doesn't matter! We were made by God!

Have you looked at "great art"? It is literally all over the place!! Some pieces are pretty, some are loud, some are just plain ugly. Some are huge, some are tiny. They can be noisy, weird, tiring, political, spiritual, fresh, intriguing, restful, scary, etc.

The bottom line is, we are all created by the Master Artist. We are worth a lot simply because of Who created us. Can we begin to believe that the person we see in the mirror is a masterpiece? If not, is it because we aren't sure Who created us? Is it because we are too busy comparing who we are to another totally different piece?

Did you know that even the "great" artists often did sketches first, or painted and repainted pieces until they felt they were "right"? They didn't just sit down at a canvas throw some paint on, step back and say viola, (well ok, maybe Jackson Pollock did)  at least not all the time. Often, they painted, stepped back, went back to it and painted over it.

If we could all accept that we are a work created by a Master, He has a sketch in mind. He can work with what is on the canvas and make it the masterpiece he intended it to be. Then could we look around us at others and see that as well?

Often it is easier to see the work of the Master in others and not so much in ourselves. And too often we forget that we are a work in progress. We are not a "perfect" in progress, just a work in progress. Which is work. We know that work requires planning, patience, sweat, time, etc. He isn't done with us yet.

Don't underestimate the Artist! He is the Master Artist.  He knows what He is doing even if we are too close to see it clearly!

The more we get to know the Artist, the better we can understand what He is trying to create in us.

I will never forget a time in my life when we were going through a particularly big challenge and the unsaid question from friends seemed to be, "Is your faith in the right place? Maybe this wouldn't be happening to you if you didn't have the faith you have." The funny thing was that my faith couldn't have been any stronger right then because I knew absolutely that it was only because of God that we were making it through. There was no other way.

For me that is an amazing part, just a corner, of the masterpiece He is making out of me.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Our Military Families

Tonight we went to a Christmas light parade and we sat next to a beautiful, kind family. It was a mom and her kids, her parents and her brother and his family.

After a bit I heard the little girl yell out, "Daddy, Daddy." The woman looked over and waved and smiled.. But the man didn't head over to them as I expected, and then the woman explained that her husband was on duty as a police officer. Then I noticed the uniform.

As we talked, she told me how he was also in the military reserves. He has served for 13 years and been deployed 3 times. When I asked if it was possible for him to get shipped out again, she said yes and that they were just waiting for the call.

At that moment I couldn't help but thank her for her service as well as his.

I have always had a special spot in my heart for military personnel. Partially because my dad and both grandpas served.

Partially because I love my country.

But tonight, I really thought about their families. It is a huge act of service for a wife and mother to take care of everything while their husband/father, or father and husband while his wife/ mother is gone serving our country.
But they don't wear the uniform.

No one takes their picture while they sink exhausted to the floor, after caring for everyone, while their spouse is away.

No one salutes them.

No one walks up to them in the grocery store and says, "Thank you for your service."

Because rarely does anyone else know.

They just go about the day to day, holding down the fort on their own.

I realize that many of these families struggle during these long deployments. I have seen it tear apart more than one marriage. And I personally can't imagine what they sacrifice.

But looking at this adorable little girl and her cute brother and their mom tonight, I had new eyes.
We have a friend who is leaving soon for a year, and my heart aches for his family. He will miss holidays with them. He will miss inches grown, teeth straightened and hormones raging. Ok, he might not really miss the last one too much.

But he is sacrificing all those moments for my family and yours.

His family is also sacrificing for my family and yours.

His wife won't have his strength of leadership at home, she will be it.

She won't have that extra set of hands, or the other driver.

She won't have the late night support, or the shoulder to catch the tears.

Those kids won't be running to Daddy when he comes home each night.

They won't be measuring themselves against his shoulder to see if they are getting taller.

Those are huge sacrifices.

There are the Moms who leave their hubby and kids behind. I cannot imagine the pain for those women who don't get to hold their babies every night. Or who watch them grow on a computer screen. Or miss kissing the owwies.

And for all of that and so many that could never be listed I say to all of our military and their families, THANK YOU!!

I salute you.

I am humbled by your service.

I pray for you.

And I hope we will all reach out to do our part to help take care of you and your family the way we should while you are serving.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Masterpiece

One program that takes place at my kids' school is called Art Masterpiece. They have parent volunteers that bring in a print of different masterpieces once every two weeks. They allow the students to experience the art with some guidance and then leave the print for 2 weeks for the kids to look at in their own time, or allow the teacher to further the lesson. When I taught school I thought it was a great program and I was so excited to be able to volunteer as a parent.

But to be a parent volunteer you have to do the district training, which is actually pretty awesome. So for the past 3 weeks I have been going to the training and have learned so much.

Yesterday was the biggest light bulb moment for me. This woman was showing a piece with 2 children. She told us a bit about the artist and then pointed out some interesting things about the piece. She gave us the chance to point out things we noticed in the painting. After a few minutes of looking at it, noticing the lines and the colors she dropped the bomb. "I hate this painting. It drives me crazy."

I was kind of dumbfounded when she said that because I didn't really have strong feelings about it one way or the other, and I had had some strong feelings about other pieces. Some I loved, and some I thought were just paint that was screaming.

Then she pointed to some of the things she didn't like, which I hadn't really noticed until she pointed them out. I still didn't have any strong feelings about it, but I know I will never forget that picture.

The thing about art is, it's so personal. I may love a painting that someone else loathes and vice versa. What I see and appreciate may be based on how I am feeling the moment I see it, if I am in a hurry and don't take the time to really look, or if I really examine it. If I am up close or far away.

What I found for myself is that these are all masterpieces for whatever reason. Maybe it is the use of color, or line, or shape. Maybe it has to do with how that artist was the first to use a particular method, which paved the way for other artists.

One artist was self taught and the way he painted hands made them look disfigured. Another artist, in trying to make a point, made his subjects distorted. Some pictures were deceiving. For example the pointillism of Suerat. When you back up you can see the picture as your eye naturally blends the points of color together, and for me it feels peaceful. But when you are up close, it is a very different experience. You can clearly see individual splotches of color and the feeling, for me, is confusing.

People are like this. Each is a masterpiece and each is different and unique. Some you may love immediately, while others you dismiss quickly because they just don't interest you, or they are the opposite of what you are comfortable with.  There are brash colors and brash people. There are muted colors and muted people. Some you may just enjoy looking at, while others you want to take the time to get to know. You may see the value in greater depth when you know the background, the history, or the ideology of that person. Some you may not appreciate until you take a step back and look at them as a whole picture. And some you may dismiss because spending time with them just isn't enjoyable.

Whatever the reason, they are all masterpieces and someone may find joy and satisfaction in the very piece that someone else finds distasteful.

Ultimately, you may realize that each is a masterpiece by the same Artist. And each is different, unique, and valuable.

What if we could think of everyone around us as a masterpiece? 

What if we could step back from what we think is a mess and ask what the Artist was trying to do or say?
Is this person about giving service, or giving others a chance to serve, is that one about extreme intelligence and that one of little intelligence but great heart?

I learned looking at the art, that although much of it wasn't "my style" so to speak, that by taking time to really look at it and consider it I could at least appreciate what the artist was trying to do.

Something I need to do more with the people I come in contact with.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Several years ago, I was unpacking some boxes from yet another move, when I came across some papers from college when I was working on my Master's.

I had a binder that had thoughts on leadership in a compare/contrast style to a poem our class had read. I remembered that in class we had to write our response, make copies to share with our group, and turn in together. So I started reading and as I did my brain started to ache. 

This was a depth headache. The kind you get when you have to read something a few times in order to really comprehend it.

When I got done reading it, I remember thinking it was quite brilliant and wondering who wrote it.

So I flipped back to the front and there it was, my name! Then I read a few other responses from class mates and realized we were a pretty smart group.

But what gets me is that I can't even think that way right now in my life!

I started hoping then that those brain cells will return and that some old synapses might be able to fire again someday.

I realize that might be wishful thinking. Maybe my brains have totally turned to peanut butter. No wonder my junior high son often shakes his head when I am trying to make a point. Is it lost forever?

I hope not.

I would like to think that one day, when I am not getting woken up in the middle of the night regularly for nightmares, bloody noses, or bathroom breaks, that I might be able to think again.

Think clearly and deeply.

But if that isn't the case, I am hanging on to those college papers in hopes of giving my boys something to read that causes a deep thinking headache.

Most likely they will get a headache trying to think of a way to let me down gently that I'm not as smart as I thought I was.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Loss of a Friend

Last week I found out that a dear friend from my high school days had died after a long stretch of living with cancer.

And it broke my heart.

For a week now I have been trying to pinpoint my feelings and why her loss stunned me so deeply.
After all, I haven't seen her since high school.
We kept in touch for a while in college, but then she got married and started having babies and we lost each other.
Several years later we somehow got in touch with each other and started sending the yearly Christmas cards with a few sentences about our families. Then lost touch again.
Through Facebook several years ago, we reconnected and I found her to be the same funny, amazing woman I remembered her to be. After several exchanges, she let me know that she had the tumor and that it was terminal.

I was devastated for her!

And I thought, selfishly, devastated for me.

I have been thinking about that a lot since her passing, and I realize that it is not selfishness that has torn my heart apart.

When we met in high school, I was somewhat of a mess. I was a relatively new believer in Christ, and I will openly admit, I was not very schooled in what was right and wrong. I had faith and enthusiasm, but was not great on delivery. I did many foolish things. Things that she could see, things that effected her at times. And yet, in spite of myself, she loved me and accepted me anyway.
She welcomed me with open arms. She opened her world to me. She taught me, forgave me, laughed and cried with me. When I think back to our times together, my sides ache from the laughter! She was talented. She was probably the closest thing to a female Dick Van Dyke that has ever been!  She could sing, and dance, and had energy galore. She was so creative. She came up with some of the funniest ideas for our camp skits. Most importantly, she was a good and Christ-like young woman.

So it may be easy to see why it breaks my heart that she is gone. It isn't selfishness. It is knowing that someone who has been such a great influence on your life and has then gone on to do the same things in the lives of countless others is now gone.

I didn't find out that she passed until an hour before her funeral which was 8 hours away. And I cried.
I wished so much that I could have hugged her family, met her kids, told them how much she meant to me personally.

They probably wouldn't need me to, because she was that person for them in the way they needed her. They have their own wonderful stories of laughter and tears and goodness.

I am sad because she is gone so young and I won't see her again in this life.

I am sad for those who never got to meet her and be friends with such a wonderful person.

I am sad for those of us who had the chance to know and love her for a while and be blessed by her goodness, humor, talent, intelligence and insight, and will miss her influence.

And at the same time I am so grateful that God blessed me to have her in my life, even for a short time. I have memories that will make me laugh and cry forever. I will always think back to girl's camp and the pots and pans tied to various parts of her as she became our one woman band. I have a better sense of right and wrong because of her. I have so many memories of good wholesome times because that is what she was.

Anita, I love you. I know that those who knew you will treasure their memories with you. Thank you for living your beliefs and helping me to learn how. Thank you for being the amazing woman you were created to be!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Executive Function Disorder a.k.a ADHD

I realize I may be opening a can of worms here, which I am absolutely NOT trying to do. I honestly just hope that if someone else is struggling with this with their child and sees anything in their struggle that sounds like ours and is able to get help, it will be worth the worms.

Our son, was the kid who started Kindergarten at age 5, one of the youngest in his class, because he was really ready. He was the smallest and one of the youngest and did great in school even though many of the other kids were at least a year or more older than him. Where we were living it was thought best to hold kids back until they were 6 to start school.

He did pretty well in school for the most part although writing sentences was his nemesis. He hated it in spite of his well developed vocabulary and ability to express himself verbally.

Then third grade hit and he was falling behind, especially in math. So we took him out to homeschool him thinking that more one on one attention and help would fix the problem and then we would put him back in at a different school the following year. Since I had taught school for 8 years, I was excited to work with my son at home.

It was a nightmare. There were things that were so great! We read the classics and had great discussions, we dove into history and learned so much. But getting him to start and finish work was horrendous.

The following year he went to a much smaller school and for the most part had a great experience. He had wonderful teachers that we adored! And they loved him. But it was still hard. He often forgot books or papers, couldn't stay organized to save his life (even though his schools had provided planners every year). We would find done assignments not turned in, or assignments that were due smashed in the bottom of his back pack.

Each year it got worse. But his teachers loved him, loved his discussions in class, his positive cheerful demeanor, his knowledge base. Until he got a teacher who couldn't handle his disorganized, messy, and noisy ways. He is a pencil tapper. He may fully be paying attention, but likely is also tapping his pencil. I totally get that it can drive you crazy. I have been a teacher. But he was made aware and it hurt him.

At home we, for several years, had been dealing with stomach issues. There was one year that he missed so many birthday parties and events we knew he would love because of a sick stomach that we got worried. We had him tested for everything. It all came back normal.

At home we were also dealing with one very angry child. He was mad and he was taking it out on everyone all the time. We had to separate him from one brother at the dinner table so we could endure meals. We put 3 kids in one room and him by himself for the sake of peace. We tried ignoring the mean-ness hoping it would go away, then we went to punishing for it. We were always pointing out things he did good, when he was treating others nicely, when he got things done, when he cleaned up his messes, etc. But to no avail. Things at home were miserable.

Starting Junior High with a variety of classes, teachers, teaching styles and expectations proved to be disastrous. Within a short period of time he was dealing with bullying, not fitting in, and assignments  he couldn't keep track of, He failed a class. It was awful for him. It was awful for us to watch him and honestly too, to be with him.

He stopped wanting to go anywhere new. He also didn't want to be anywhere or doing anything that someone might see him. When he was much younger we had tried to get him in to flag football. He wouldn't do it because "someone might watch him play and mess up."

Over the summer we reached critical mass. I couldn't take any of it any more. It was destroying his relationships with his siblings and with us. I thought it was our bad parenting, or maybe he was just a really tough kid, but whatever it was, I was truly afraid of what might happen if we didn't get some help.

A friend mentioned a neuropsychologist she had taken her daughter to. I looked him up and his credentials really impressed me.
I will never forget calling from the floor of my closet in tears because I truly didn't know if he could help us, but I did know we couldn't go on as we were.

We got him in 2 months later for 4+ hours of testing. Filling out the paperwork was brutal. I really did question my parenting, my mental state, were we crazy, was the problem all ours and our poor kid was just getting messed up by us?

I even told the doctor as I left his office that I wanted to know if he was smart, or if we were just expecting too much from him. Picking him up later that day, the Doctor said, "He is very bright. And when we get together in 2 weeks to go over all the results we will come up with a plan." I felt so much better. Until 3 minutes later when he made his brother cry on the way home.

Sitting in the doctor's office for the results was the beginning of a whole new world for us. He started by letting our son know that he is indeed a very bright kid and that he has a wonderful brain. Then he explained that although his brain works very well, there are some connections that just aren't happening and he went through the tests explaining the test and what it measured and how his brain worked. Some tests, tested basic knowledge, could he read, do math problems etc. And some tested how he thought, retrieved information, planned (or didn't) how to tackle issues.

Our son said, "You mean I'm not dumb?" Noooo, far from it. I am so glad the doctor said this to him with us there for proof.

Ultimately we found out that he is bright, has a hard time with impulsivity, multi step processes, has some technical reading issues. He also has anxiety which is bad enough to explain the stomach problems he has battled for years and why he doesn't want anyone watching him, particularly if he might mess up.

The Doctor said we needed to make a new plan. Every night we go through each class, whether he has homework or not. If he has homework, we work on it, if not he has to tell us what he learned in that class that day. Then we go to the next subject. He already stays for math tutoring at school every day, because the math takes me too long to figure out :). We color coded his folders for each class. We make sure all of his papers are in the right folders and that they are done. And so far, this coupled with the promise that if he does this each night without issue, he can have 30 minutes on his tablet has proven to be golden. Then he is getting something he wants, he is reviewing his work daily, I know what is going on in each class and he gets the chance to teach me anything new he learned.
We have also met with the school psychologist and his teachers.

The school psychologist pointed out that this is how his brain works. It is not because of our parenting, what he eats or pollution. This is how he is hard wired. We can give him supplements, change his diet, make him exercise more etc. but we have to accept that this is how he was created and that by working with it now and hopefully creating some new habits we can help him learn some techniques to help him also succeed with it.

What have I learned? I love my son. He has some quirks we have to work with (but really who doesn't), he is smarter even than I thought, and we have a long road ahead of us. But now we know what road we are on.

What has it done for him? He now has validation from two doctors that he is very bright. That he is not a bad, dumb or lazy kid. He has gotten much nicer to be around. Things are not perfect, but they are oh, so much better.
At this point, this is where we are. We are getting his school stuff in order. The doctor said counseling might help, and we may need to, but right now we have to get the school stuff down before we can add anything else. He doesn't need medication, but if the day comes that he does we know where to turn.

There may be another post on this as we continue on and maybe not. But if it helps even one mom feel she is not crazy, or one dad to say, "hey we can get help with this", which leads to one kid who says, "You mean I'm not dumb?" Then it is worth it.

The doctor did let me know that what they know about this has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. He recommended books to read, counselors we could see, and the steps I described in helping our son. It has been so worth it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Church Farm

This morning was wonderful. We got to see the sunrise over the Superstition Mountains.

We got to eat donuts and drink chocolate milk in the car.

We got to go back to the farm.

Our church has a farm about an hour away from where we live and last year was our first time to go work at it. So we spent 2 hours digging dirt out of irrigation ditches right beside a cotton field. My kids got to see how cotton looks as it is growing. And they got to experience one of the many chores in farming.

So we signed up again this year. And we went back. We spent two hours digging out dirt and mud. It was wonderful.

We worked alongside other volunteers we didn't know, but soon found we had things in common.
As volunteers, we did a very small part of a necessary job so the farm can water its wheat crop.

To me, this is where it gets exciting. That wheat will be grown and harvested and then people can buy the wheat from the church. Or the wheat gets packaged and sent all over the world and freely distributed to those in need. Some is donated in shipments of supplies for the Red Cross to distribute, and some is distributed by the church. So many times those packages of food are the life saving staples for those who have had their homes destroyed by natural disasters.

When I think of the times that these disasters happen, I know that the church has very likely sent supplies. And I can think of people getting supplies that maybe came from the fields we worked at or the many other fields that volunteers throughout the country are working at just like we did. I think of the thousands of volunteers who package what the church has grown and get it ready to put in those care packages or on the shelves of food pantries.

Sometimes when I see all that is going on all around the world I get overwhelmed. I want so badly  to help. Sometimes I think about how small my little contribution is in the midst of big disaster.

But then I realize that each of us giving what we can give or doing what we can do, collectively makes a difference.

And I can know that even for a very short period of time and in a very small way, my family helped.

We didn't change the world today, but for a few hours our world was changed.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lunar Eclipse

Tonight we watched the Lunar Eclipse.

It was amazing! The moon became a dark orangish-red color. You could still see the outline of it and you could somewhat see some of the characteristic markings.

What was also amazing was the thinking.

Usually the moon is reflecting the light of the sun. But in this case the moon was shadowed because the sun was on the opposite side of the earth. So for a time we were, in the way, so to speak.

That's what got me thinking.

Here was this big, gorgeous moon. And the shadow from the earth was blocking the light of the sun so you could barely see it.

You could still tell the moon was there, but it couldn't reflect the light.

Here was a whole planet getting in the way of the light of the sun, and then the moon couldn't shine.

How many times do we, as individuals, get in the way of the light of the Son? If we aren't careful, we can get in the way.

We can do it through trying to take credit for things that aren't ours to take credit for. Like the Spirit teaching us something or God giving us the ability to do something, and then we take the glory.

I just did it myself today. At church, I was telling an experience I had with my son, but failed to mention that the Spirit whispered to me what I should say, and what a teaching moment that was for me as well as for my son. I'm certainly not wise enough to come up with this stuff, but the Spirit is!

The amazing thing is, that no matter if we get in the way, the Son keeps shining. He keeps doing His amazing work. He is always there. We can try to block Him, we can try to take His glory, but we can't and don't. He is everlastingly there. And forgiving us when we get in the way.

Eventually, the earth moved tonight. We got out of the way. And sure enough, there was the moon still reflecting the beautiful light of the sun.

So glad it's still there.

So glad He is always there.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

I was cleaning the bathroom (oh joy) yet again, because my boys have hardly been home enough to use it, let alone clean it. As I was cleaning the mirror it jumped at me.

Not the mirror.

The realization that it doesn't really matter how beautiful the mirror is, or even how physically beautiful the reflection is, if the image is distorted.

I had some very stubborn hard water spots on the mirror to scrub off. Those spots, from a water fight gone awry, dried on the mirror and made it cloudy.

Then as I was cleaning them, the rag was leaving streaks, again distorting the image.

Finally with paper towels, water, and elbow grease I got the spots and streaks off.

But I couldn't shake the image.

No I don't mean my image.

I mean the picture of how easily distorted our views of ourselves are.

Recently, I had to write some things that were very raw for me and left me feeling quite exposed, and it frankly left me feeling quite depressed.
But as I talked over these feelings with a dear and trusted friend, I realized where the distortion was coming from.

Satan wants me to see myself from his distorted, hate and evil filled view. he wants me to feel ugly and dirty and unkempt.

God, on the other hand wants me to see who He made. One of his beautifully created children who has been out playing and gotten messy and dirty and scraped, with hair hanging all around, looking for a way to get into the door at home with hands full of mud.

He can see me for who I am. Yes, that dirty, messy, bedraggled girl. But one He can clean up, wash off, heal, and clothe with glory, His glory.

I so often forget to look at myself as He would.

I can see myself as a little girl, my hair in pigtails that have been in too long with strands hanging everywhere. Tear stains down my cheeks, mud on my hands, scrapes from my falls, and disheveled clothes with stains.

He opens the door to let me in, pulls me on to His lap and asks about my adventure. As I tell him through my tears about the fun plans I had until I fell and got scraped and dirty. Then trying to pull myself out of the mud, my feet got stuck and I could hardly move. As I was trying to get home, I got a little lost at times, sometimes sat down and cried for help. But always wanting to get home.

He would cuddle me in His arms, wipe away my tears and I would see that while I had been telling Him all about it, He had healed my scrapes, washed away my stains, cleaned the mud from my hands and feet and clothed me in His beautiful robes.

And all the while, He was cradling me in His love.

That's the view I think He has of us. His little children. His precious babies. The only thing worth sending His perfect Son to die for.

So next time you look in a mirror, ask yourself if you are seeing your true reflection. Are you aware of the distortions, or where they are coming from?

Then take a minute to see yourself as a child. One that is loved dearly. One who wants to come home and has gotten a little messy.

Ask yourself if that loving Father would open the door and pull you into His arms and heal you, and clean you and love on you. See yourself for a minute as He does.

I promise it is an image that is worth seeing. Look at it often. Trust in it. Trust in Him.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


This is a hot topic for many, and has been an experience we have had repeatedly over the years. So I am going to describe what has finally worked for our son in hopes that it may help someone else.

A few years ago our son was coming home nearly every day from school angry. Really angry. Although it took several weeks to find out what the problem was, it came down to a few boys in his class were making fun of him and taking pot shots at him at every turn. Just being downright mean. It was mostly due to his size. They knew if he fought back they could easily take him down, he was that much smaller.

We have taught our kids about making friends of your enemies and then you have no enemies.

He did try to be friends with them, and they would act like friends while others were around. Then when adults weren't around they would show their true colors.

After really struggling with this for nearly a month, I finally approached one of the other mothers in the class and asked if her son had experienced these issues. The year prior, her son and several others in the class had problems with these same boys and they came up with a solution.

This group of boys started completely ignoring them. They wouldn't respond to any comments the mean boys made. They also started eating together and bonding together. They would not give them any power or opportunity to be mean.

It wasn't long before the mean boys were feeling the loss of power and decided to start being nicer.

It didn't last long though, as we found the following school year. But now these nice boys knew how to handle it and then they included my son who was their new target.

It worked. He now had a new circle of nice friends which helped him feel included and these boys were all nice to each other.

They were not mean to the bullies. They just stuck together. The ate lunch together, played on the playground, talked to each other while walking to classes, etc.

Did it change the bullies? Not really. But it changed that power struggle and it changed how they felt about themselves because they now didn't need a weapon, they had each other.

There is something absolutely essential, I believe, in needing others. Even the most quiet, shy, or introverted type people do still need others. They just need others differently. Everyone needs to be loved and feel loved by a friend. That's basic. Look at how many horrific crimes have been committed by "loners." I honestly believe they didn't choose to be "loners", but they did feel very alone.

To be alone and have people picking on, teasing, belittling, or hurting you is awful. It is scarring.
It is also hard to know how to help. But there are those of our children who have the gift of being inclusive. Let's encourage that gift.

Let's help our children who are being bullied to find someone who won't hurt them and form a bond with others who are hurting. Most schools allow you to eat lunch with your child. That is a great time to get to know the classmates and see the pecking order. It can also be a good time to give your child a sense of strength (depending on the age) knowing that Mom/Dad loves them and wants to take some time to have lunch. You might want to run that idea by them first.

Then let's help them to rise above it, we don't want them bonding to do harm. There has been too much of that.

Let's also be honest. Do our kids bully anyone? Do they make fun of those who don't have their athletic prowess, social status, financial means, clothing, intelligence, or physical size or strength? Do we let them know that is not okay?

More and more I am seeing that kids have not been told by their parents that certain things are just not okay. They need to hear it!

And if your kids start acting differently find out why. I will never forget one day picking up my oldest from school and telling him to be really kind to his younger brother who came home really mad and I didn't know why. The first thing he said was, "Mom, he's probably being bullied. It makes you feel really mad inside." And sure enough, that was exactly the problem!!!

I realize that this problem has existed since Cain slew Abel. But we can find some ways to help our kids through it. If you have experienced this with your kids, post what worked. I will share it and maybe we can help a few kids feel not so alone.

And maybe, we can prevent some kid from doing something that gives him a sense of power, if only for a moment, that affects the lives of others.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Perusing Blogs

So I have been perusing other blogs and I find it kind of interesting.

I realize that most blogs now have a theme.

Have you noticed how many people now are "foodies"? You know, they make these great meals with 20 ingredients of which you can only find 4 at your local grocery and you have to order the rest online or find a specialty market. Most of the time, I'm not sure how to pronounce the name of the meal or several of the ingredients. Why don't they put a pronunciation guide?

And of course once the meal is made they not only have it beautifully presented on a rustic table that has not only matching placemats (that are all clean) but centerpieces of real flowers!

I just want to know, is the food still hot when the family finally comes to the table?

If I tried that at my house, there would be mutiny! No one would wait around while I made sure the food was perfectly displayed and the lighting was right and I had pictures from all the right angles. In all actuality, no one would want to see pictures of rewarmed mac and cheese anyway (even if it is homemade).

What do you call a food blogger? A "flogger"? or maybe a "fooger" (rhymes with booger)?

Then there are the exercise blogs. Would you be an "exersogger"? I love how they could make me look like (insert famous person's name, because I don't know any of them anyway) in just 30 days! If only I had the attention span for 30 days! By day 15 I have to start all over again because it took me 3 months to get that far!

There are the parenting blogs. I enjoy some of those and think, maybe someday I will be that all around amazing. When I have dementia in my 90's I know looking back I will have been all that. It does give really old age a little glimmer of goodness.
Really, I do hope my boys will get to marry a girl from one of those parents, so they know how to do it just right.
Meanwhile, I hope my boys will eventually look back and see that we did a few things right and be grateful that we are saving for their psychiatric funds.

I do enjoy occasionally looking at the do it yourself blogs. I even have a very dear friend who writes one and is as amazing as all of her projects.
But I wonder. Are these people born with special glasses? The kind that you put on and you can see how that ugly toilet paper holder can be remade into a beautiful chandelier in 10 days or less for under $10.
How do they find these awesome "pieces" to remake? When I go to flea markets, thrift stores, and Goodwill I NEVER see these things! I only see the stuff  I donated 3 years ago, that no one else wants either.

So, I'm not any of those. You will rarely find a recipe on here, because there's no way I'm going to take pictures of our dinner! I'm not an exersogger and I'm pretty sure Goodwill has my picture on a secret bulletin board in the back that says, "Under no circumstances accept donations from this lady. They are not the remake-able items we can sell." I'm certainly not a parenting expert, just ask my kids- they will be happy to tell you! I may occasionally share a tip I find or something new I've tried.

But mostly, what you will find is me. You will find that the things I absolutely love are my faith, my family, and trying to find things to laugh about or make others laugh. When I was a kid, I really wanted to be Lucille Ball. I was pretty sure we were related and I was sure there was a young Ricky Ricardo somewhere out there for me.

Well, some parts of my life do seem like "I love Lucy" reruns, but for the most part my life is pretty much like everyone else's.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Potty Training

I realize I am resorting to "potty humor", but desperate times call for....
 a sense of humor.

I am in the throes of potty training for the last time. And I realize that I must find the humor or I will go undeniably crazy (up till now I have denied my craziness).

So here are my top 10 ways to know you are indeed potty training.

1. You find yourself asking everyone multiple times if they have gone potty before you leave the house, this includes spouse and adult friends.

2. You want to invite your friends to eat in your bathroom. Not to gross anyone out, but because of all the time you spend in there it is the cleanest room in your house. At least from what you remember. They would have to bring the food though, you haven't cooked all week.

3. You start buying "potty treats" you like, regardless of what your child wants.

4. You divvy out those potty treats on a "one for you, three for me basis" and after they are in bed, you make a raid on said treats.

5. You actually take the time to make a cost analysis of your child using diapers until young adulthood and try to determine how serious you are about them attending college after all.

6. You find yourself interrupting the phrase,"Mommy, I need... with  RUN, RUN, RUN!!!"

7. You are pretty sure you haven't left the house in at least a month, even though it is more like 3 days.

8. You realize that you haven't been to the bathroom yourself in 3 days, because you don't want to see that room on your "time off".

9. You hear your child telling a stranger that he has on "race car underwear, what kind do youse wear?"

10. You are LATE, LATE, LATE. No matter how on time, (or not) you usually are, you are now habitually late to everything either because they announced in the car as you were pulling away that they need to go (yes, in spite of your repeated queries of "Does anyone need to go potty?"), or you have to change clothes, or you are getting that diaper you are sure you won't need, and most likely because you realize that now you need to go.

With my first child I realized that like several other things parenting is not for the weak. It is not for those easily grossed out. But I had no idea how close to pure insanity potty training really can take you. It makes me a nut case and I am always glad when it is done. This time though, I have to laugh a bit more because it is the end of that chapter for me. And that makes me a little sad.
See, I told you it makes me a little crazy!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pushy Mom

After weeks and months, okay, years of pushing my kids to do their chores, get their homework done, go to their activities, go to church, etc. I finally admit I am a pushy Mom.

And sometimes, depending on the child, I am nicer about it than others, because frankly depending on what mood they are in determines at times how I push.

I was so grateful a month ago when some men from our church were visiting with our family and one mentioned how when his son was young sometimes said he didn't want to go to church and this man told him time and again, "You don't have ta wanna, ya just hafta."

That resonated with me and I used that very phrase, (yep, said it just like that) getting my kids off to church.

I'm finding in raising my kids that in preparing them for the real world they will have to do work they don't want to do, go when they feel sick, do even when they are tired, show up when they have someplace else they would rather be and so on.

Now I also am not the mom that has my kids in a billion things!!! They do school, scouts and karate. That is it! Do I wish they would take music lessons and art lessons and play sports? Yes, sort of.

 I would love for my boys to play music, I think it is such an amazing skill, that provides beauty.
Do I wish they wanted to play sports? Yes! Being part of a team teaches invaluable lessons about working together, practicing, accountability and so on.

But I know that right now our lives are full with what we have. I could push more, but I'm not sure it would bring about the intended results. We can't all do everything. There are some kids who thrive on doing many things and some kids who would not. I am amazed by families whose kids do all those things and get everything else done too! At times I wonder if I should push more.

Then I look at my kids and evaluate where they are and their happiness and what our family can do. It is a very personal decision that is different for each family. What each family choses to do, does not make them better or worse than mine. Just different.

So for now, I keep pushing the things that I know are important for my kids and I don't worry about the rest.

Besides, that will give them something to complain about when they are all grown up and we have our Christmas get togethers and no one can play the piano sitting there.

Which is ok too, because then no one will be able to make fun of my singing!

Monday, June 1, 2015

An Open Letter to Pool Staff

OPEN LETTER TO POOL STAFF | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Dear Lifeguard, Dive Coach, Swim Teacher,

 I imagine that for you, this job is a fun way to make some good money over the summer. You get to be outside all the time, there's music, fun friends, you get a tan and it's a pretty fun environment.

As a mother of four children there are a few things I would like you to know after our first day of lessons.

Today, you taught my children, and I watched and listened.

I watched as you complimented each kid on something they did right, either with their form or their effort.

Do you know that those words may be the only compliments some of those kids get each day?

You said something good to every kid, no matter their size, shape, or ability. Some of these kids are at that yucky awkward phase in life. Your praise, as one of their peers, means a tremendous amount! You don't know which kids had a rough school year and are trying to find something, anything, to be successful at, but they do.

Thank you for helping them feel good about something they are doing right.

I watched as you took the time to point out what they need to work on so they can become better. They listened to you because you are so close in age, you are more like a friend than a teacher. For helping them to learn how to improve in a very low key way, thank you!

I didn't watch you watch my kids as we swam as a family, but I was so glad to know that you are watching!!
 I need to know you are watching and not daydreaming, or talking to friends because I don't have enough eyes for all of my kids. I know how important taking them to the pool to experience the water and learning to swim is.

I know that they learn more about swimming and holding their breath from being there a lot and experiencing it, than they do from lessons, although those are important too.

I also know that when you blow your whistle at them and tell them not to do certain things it is because you are trying to protect them or others. Thank you! They may not always be listening, or sometimes they keep running, but thank you for trying to keep them safe!

I know that your job is super important! I know how quickly a child can drown even in shallow water. As I was in the shallow end with my little ones, I was watching one jump in, only to turn back and see the other under water. It scared me to death!!! Again, I am glad to know that I have your eyes as well as mine! Thank you!

You may not realize that  you work miracles with ice and popsicles! Last summer you soothed the embarrassment and pain of a high dive belly flop and a first time bee sting with these and some kind words. Thank you!

Some days, your job may seem boring, but those of us who take our kids to the pool week after week, appreciate what you do.

Please continue to give praise to those who are learning and trying! It means so much coming from you.

Please continue to tell them how to improve, it often has more power coming from you than me.

Please continue to blow your whistle if they are doing something they shouldn't. They need to know that Mom and Dad aren't the only ones who establish rules and enforce them.

Please help them learn to love the water and the joy of swimming. It is truly a lifelong skill.

Please keep watching! I need your eyes too.

And please wear sunscreen every day, because I do worry about you and I want you to someday watch your own children at the pool.

Cheryl Merrill
A Mom, a mother of 4, and a friend

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Indy 500 and Flowers?

Yes, we return to the subject of racing.

In my prior post on Watch Out Nascar I think I pretty well summed up my views on professional car racing  and why I deserve the big bucks, but I absolutely have to add my husbands further thoughts on the subject.

We were at dinner  talking about the upcoming Indy 500. Still not understanding how anyone can spend hours watching a bunch of cars drive around in a modified oval shape, my husband tried an analogy.

Me: I don't understand how you can sit and watch cars go around in a circle for hours.
Him: Look, you can go to the nursery and spend hours looking at flowers and plants and stuff and they all just sit there.
Me: huh??!
Him: What if all those plants and flowers were flying around a track over 200 miles an hour!! Now that would be something to watch!!!
Me: (pulling myself off the floor and trying to keep a straight face) Yeah, I guess that would be something to watch.
Him: So now it is time to record the Indy 500 so I can watch the elegant cars race.
Me: Did you just describe the Indy cars as elegant?
HIm: Yeah, there is a difference between NASCAR and Indy. NASCAR is like the beer version of racing and Indy is like the champagne version.
Me: Wait, I thought they use champagne at the end of NASCAR and milk at the end of Indy.
Him: You just don't get it!

I still stand by my opinion on racing, I think I do the same thing without any help and no sponsors and I don't get paid for it, but I have to say I was pretty happy to hear how the race turned out this year.
The guy, Juan Pablo Montoya (yes, my husband insisted I mention him by name) who was in the 30th position out of 33 (which is the last row) won the race. It is nice to see that sometimes in the real world those that start out dead last, can win.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


There are times in my life where I have felt utterly alone.
The kind of alone-ness that makes you wonder if the heavens are listening.

I have been thinking about that a lot as a parent. As I send my kids off to school each day and there is no telling what they might experience, I don't want them to ever feel alone. After all, the world we live in is crazy and getting crazier by the minute. The world they go off to can be very lonely, especially when you are having a hard time finding friends.

I know the Savior felt that loneliness. Could anyone ever feel more alone than to be taken from their family and closest friends, falsely put on trial, and sentenced to death?

I also know that "Footprints in the Sand" poem about the Savior walking beside the person and in the lowest points of life there being only one set of prints in the sand. The explanation is that is when He carried him.

Have you ever had a child fall asleep in their car seat and when you get home you quietly and gently unbuckle them and pull them into your arms, and noticed that for just the briefest moment they open their eyes and see either their surroundings or your face, recognize home and safety and immediately go back to sleep, slack in your arms. Completely trusting and feeling safe they fully relax.

I have noticed it a lot in my youngest, maybe because he falls asleep in the car more than any of my other kids. Somehow it brings me great joy. To know that he just needs to see home or my face and feel safe enough to go right back to sleep. Just recently, he had been very upset about not getting a piece of candy and was making this known loudly as we drove and eventually fell asleep. We got home, I laid him on the couch, and he woke up some time later asking about the candy and it sounded like he was just finishing the sentence he had fallen asleep saying. He didn't remember the rest of the ride or being brought in the house, he just remembered what he was upset about.

When I think about being carried by the Savior, through those very alone times, I know that in Him I am totally safe.

I also know that I may not remember Him carrying me, like my son not realizing I have brought him into our home, but I trust that He is.
And though, at times I get back on my knees repeating the same complaint, or requesting the same blessing, or thanking the same things, I know that I have a loving Father that is listening, holding me close and carrying me back home.

I just need to open my spiritual eyes for a second and take a look and just trust.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

That Tree

Today was sort of a monumental day in my life in a way.

We cut down a living tree.

A big tree.

This tree had been planted probably ten years ago much too close to the block wall. We were starting to see cracks in that wall and talked about taking it down.

Then the neighbor started mentioning how the pods from the tree were falling in her pool and messing up her pool filter and could we do something about it.

If you have ever seen pods from desert trees, you might understand what a mess they are! The trees here don't just make a beautiful mess once a year. These trees are constantly dropping pods, and when they dry, the pods break open and out come the seeds and the pods are very thick skinned and make great crunching sounds when you step on them in shoes, but hurt pretty bad in bare feet.

Anyway, with urging from the neighbor, we decided to cut it down.

I had no idea.

I had no idea how confused the birds would be as they came by later in the day, to find one of their stopping spots gone.

I had no idea how bare that part of the fence would look.

I had no idea I would be able to see the neighbors windows and their lights on.

I had no idea how much shade that tree provided.

I had no idea how it would change the view from my chair by the window where I am writing.

I had no idea how  much I would miss that blasted messy tree.

I know there will be a follow up post to this, because I have some unfinished thoughts. But for right now, I am somewhat mourning the loss. In the long run, when we plant other trees in better spots, I'm sure I will be glad we did it.

But right now, with the birds, I am missing that tree and I'm sorry.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Have you ever noticed as you lay down on your side how perfectly made your feet are?

Think about it.
Ok, you know you are going to get down on the floor or lay on the couch or wherever to try this, so just go ahead. Get comfy and notice how your feet kind of interlock in a way.

The curve of your instep allows your feet to rest in a really amazingly comfortable way.

If your feet were completely rectangular, it wouldn't feel so great. And if you have your knees bent and rest one foot higher up on your leg that instep is really quite perfect.

Personally, I'm not much of a foot person. I think they are kind of on the ugly side and they tend to smell. I sometimes paint my toenails just because my feet will be seen and I want them to look better.

I only give my husband foot massages because of love. Otherwise, I really would not touch his feet.

I do love baby feet though. They are soft and clean and small and chubby. They are sweet.

But my feet, as unattractive as feet are, do amazing things.

They give my legs something to balance on taking me places I want to go.

They push the gas and brake pedals quite well, also getting me where I want to go.

I have picked things up on occasion with them.

I like the sounds flip-flops make because of my feet.

They give me a reason to look for cute shoes.

They do an awesome job of helping me dig with a shovel.

I couldn't dance without them.

I also couldn't walk, run, roller blade, kick a ball, and lots of other things, as easily without them.

They are wonderfully and curiously made, and so am I and so are you.

We may be unattractive, smelly, polished or not and yet what a purpose we serve!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Life Unseen

Several years ago my husband got very sick. He was in the hospital for a week, came home to recuperate only to wind up back in the hospital 5 days later. After another week stay he came back home for a few days. By this point he had lost 40 pounds in 3 weeks and we were both getting scared.

We had a 5 year old getting ready to start school and a one year old. Clyde had just finished graduate school and had only been working 5 weeks when he got sick. Then a surgeon friend made arrangements for him to see a specialist at a bigger hospital. He was there for a week as well.

During that time, I started having an irregular heartbeat and was worried I was having a heart attack. It was also the week that Garrett started Kindergarten.
To top it all off, I got a ticket for running  a stop sign (which, I still don't think I did, the cop was there all week giving tickets). But I had been up most of the night with my one year old who was teething and at the hospital all morning for a test that was supposed to take an hour and going in to 3 hours I knew the news wasn't good.

I will never forget an experience I had that week. I was strapped up to a mobile heart monitor that was hidden under my clothes which I had to wear nonstop for 24 hours. I was pushing my cart through the store with my 2 little boys, short of breath, worried about my husband who was now 2 hours away, getting some food and some school supplies and wondering how we were going to pay for all this. As I was pushing my cart and feeling very burdened, I looked up and noticed people all around me doing their everyday things as well.

But suddenly, that man reaching for the milk may be a man who just lost his wife. And the young woman  yelling at her kids may have been single, tired from work and worried about finances. What about the lady in line who is staring at the wall? Did she just get a cancer diagnosis? What about that very happy young couple, did they just get engaged?

There were people all around me doing their everyday things, but I could not see what was going on in their lives any more than they could see what was going on in mine.

We survived that time in our lives. My husband got diagnosed with Crohn's disease and we have learned to adjust to new eating issues. I got my heart diagnosis and know what symptoms will always be there and which ones are a problem. It seems like a lifetime ago, but I hope what I learned from it will stay with me forever.

We will never know what is going on behind the faces of those around us, happy or sad. Sometimes we need to just cut people a little slack.

Sometimes we just need grace.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eating at 2

I love watching my 2 year old eat. He does it with such gusto!

I love how his eyebrows raise up as he brings his spoon up to his mouth, clearly overloaded. But does this stop my little snarfer?
 No way!
 In it mostly goes with either his shirt catching it, sometimes his hand, often the table and if we are all lucky his cute little pointy tongue does windshield wiper detail above and below his mouth.

He somehow manages to close his mouth and his whole jaw begins its magical work of mastication.
Meanwhile his eyebrows continue this cute little dance sometimes expressing pleasure (yes! yogurt) or disgust (Mom, what is this?).

Then of course being the  youngest he tries to get in on all the conversations or jokes going on around the table (Mom approved or not).
Last week he tried to get in on the knock knock joke fest we had which went something like this: Knock Knock, who's there, Smartypants, smartypants who?, hahahahheeheehee end of joke!

And often we hear a little voice saying , "Let me talk, guys, let me talk." When they do, he usually remembers what he was going to say.

I watch his chubby little hands grip the small sized fork as he navigates the bite of meat ball to his mouth and silently laugh as it drops just before his mouth. Sometimes he remains blissfully unaware as he is too busy watching everyone else to notice.

The funny thing is, watching him is better than eating sometimes. He isn't too concerned about manners or propriety although he does understand that saying please and thank you will get things passed to him. He likes the food to taste good (and at two, his palate is pretty easy), he likes to feel that his belly gets full and that his voice is heard. He wants to be part of it all.

Hmm, I am pretty much a "cleaner" 2 year old!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Being sick

My entire family has the flu.
I mean everyone.
Including me. Which is unusual, because Moms aren't allowed to get sick. If we do, it has to be while everyone is at school and we have to be done before they get home, also making sure the laundry still gets done and there is some kind of edible product in the house.
This time I feel like a zombie, and am thankful that last week I actually got the laundry washed and folded because we are currently living out of the baskets of folded clothes.
And I feel a little guilty that we are all sick, because it might be my fault.
See, a few weeks ago everyone we knew was sick and my friends were making comments about losing anywhere from 8-10lbs. And I made the mistake of briefly thinking "I should get the flu, it would be a whole lot easier than actually practicing self control." But that was the ever briefest thought, because I am the mother of  4 children and I know what the consequences are of fevers and hacking up lungs and such. Not fun, and very tiring!
I had also made the mistake of telling a friend that we don't get flu shots, because "they don't usually prevent the strain that is going around at the time".
So, I pretty much jinxed us!
But, I have to say that Garrett did a super great job of taking care of me at my worst. Bringing me medication and cool cloths for my fever. Getting me cool drinks and blankets. What a comfort it is when one of your own children takes it upon themselves to take care of you! It also helped to know that he does still love me. It's tough sometimes raising a teenager, but he showed me by his tender care that in spite of the oft seen surliness, he does care.
Kinda makes it worth being sick.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What a Little Week!

I don't know about you, but in moments, this week was amazing.
Truthfully most of it was ordinary.
Taking the kids where they needed to be, helping with homework, teaching a class, etc.

It was a week of the absolute ordinary that our lives are made up of, the daily minutia that somehow becomes a life.

Yet, there were those moments, you know, the little ones. It came in saying "thank you", or just acknowledging someone by name, or teaching my little ones to look in the person's eye and say "Thanks for the sticker."

It came in hearing the voices of friends rarely spoken to but loved just the same.

It came in emails sent and received.

It came in the loving thoughts of those women who have made a difference in my life.
It came in prayers of thanks for and blessings to be poured out on those women.

Do you know Mother Teresa's mom's name? Offhand I don't, but how many thousands of people have been thankful for what she taught her daughter.

I don't know who sparked Marie Curie's love of science but ---Thank you!

In his song "Do Everything" Steven Curtis Chapman reminds us that it really doesn't matter if our days are spent sweeping up lost cheerios or feeding the poor as long as we do it for the glory of The One Who made us.

I believe that ultimately God has made us to be amazing in big and small ways. But He will never force us to be kind, teach our kids, choose modesty, speak cleanly, or anything else. He leaves it up to us to listen to His Spirit and act on promptings.

I know that with each choice to do as He would have us do adds to our "amazingness".
To have others thanking God that we were there with a hug, pushed us to do what we thought we couldn't, smiled at us, encouraged us, and sometimes told us what we didn't want to hear, brings Him glory.

As Francesca Batistelli says in her song "He Knows My Name," We don't need our names in lights, we are famous in Our Father's eyes. He does know our name, he knows each and every time we act on a prompting from Him.

He also gives us lots of opportunities each day, so if we blow it once, twice or a bunch, He will give us lots more chances. Yay!

I certainly didn't have time this week to do all the recognizing and thanking that I need to do. But it was a good start of a habit I hope will stick with me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Keep Going!

What is this challenge doing for you?

Are you noticing more and more the amazing women in your life?

If you are a woman are you recognizing how powerful it is to others as you appreciate and honor true womanhood?

Isn't it interesting what showing gratitude does to your heart and your mental state?

This may not be a real comfortable challenge for some people. Sometimes it is hard to express our feelings, especially when they are deep.

We may even be frustrated by not being able to express those feelings to that specific person. Maybe we can't find them, remember their name, or perhaps they have passed on. Whatever the reason we may not be able to express it to them personally, we can thank God for putting them in our lives.
And we can thank Him for putting a woman who would glorify Him by doing good, in our life.

Continue on with your effort to thank good women! Don't give up! I know that it is making a powerful difference for even a few women!

For myself, there are a few women I would love to thank and have no idea where to find them.

Denise Scripzinski. You made a big impact on my life when I was about 10. You were a young married woman teaching school. You let me come over that summer and made homemade playdough, and we made cutouts with it. You introduced me to the book Peter Potts which my kids now love. Thank you!

Ms. Schlater. You were my 6th,7th, and 8th grade English teacher. You worked two jobs because you loved to teach, but it just didn't pay well. I will never forget how you took a popular book of the time and pointed out just by reading a bit of it aloud to the class that there were some books that were more like reading garbage than reading gourmet and that no matter how young we were we should read the good.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Let Me Be Gracious

I was teaching Preston how to do laundry when one of my other kids came running in with a pool noodle. He wanted to hit Preston with it. I told him not to throw it, but of course he insisted that he had good aim. I asked him to go away, and he again proclaimed his ability to hit his mark. I told him that I was pretty sure he would get me with it and asked him not to throw it. Once more, I told him not to throw it, and sure enough, he did.

And as you can guess, he got me.

 Right in the face.

I would love to report that I handled it well and laughed, but I would be lying. Instead, I scolded with "I told you you would get me."
He left the room, head hanging and me following.

When we got up to his room. I told him that I had asked him several times not to do that.
 I had even explained why I didn't want him to do it. Then he chose to do it anyway.

Then I told him that I forgave him.

 At that moment, he didn't "deserve" to be forgiven.

 He was told repeatedly not to do something, he was even told why and he did it anyway. But it gave me a great opportunity to teach him about grace.

Every single one of us makes mistakes, we do what we have been asked not to do, or told not to do.  Sometimes, not always, we don't know why. Then we realize our mistake, and we hope to receive grace. That forgiveness that comes from a loving God, when we don't deserve it.

I am now glad he made that mistake. It gave me a chance to teach him and learn for myself, again, about this amazing gift.
I am a big believer in grace, because I find myself needing it all the time.
I really hope that I will learn to always be gracious.


Today is the BIG Day!
Have you thought of the women throughout your life that have honored womanhood just by who they are?
Have you looked anyone up?
Have you already put something on your Facebook feed?
You are now ready to text, message, post, call, write, and do something small to say thanks.
As I was getting crazy excited about this by the end of last week I noticed something interesting.
I realized that I was becoming more aware of the little things.
The woman at the store giving stickers to my kids.
The woman who offered to give my kids her lemons for their lemon juice money making project.
The 3 women who let me go ahead of them in line because I only had 1 item.
As you look around this week, I am sure you will find yourself seeing the same thing.
Go with it! A simple thanks or just acknowledgement of an act will make a difference.
Even if that difference is only in you!
Make it a great day ladies!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ready, set....

Yup, I'm at it again. Need some more amazing women?

 Malala Yousafzai
A very young woman fighting for the rights of girls to be educated in a country where girls were not allowed to be educated. She doesn't describe herself as a "feminist" and I think it is because she was just doing what is right, not promoting an agenda.
 If you are a young woman, do not underestimate your power for good! You might be the one who stops the bullying of another (possibly saving a life).

Marie Curie.
What a scientist!! An incurable curiosity and an amazing intellect. She did great things, because she used the intelligence she was blessed with and I don't think it ever occurred to her to do any different. She was a wife and a mother as well.

Grandma Moses.
 Her art "career" didn't really begin until she was in her late 70's! Her pictures make people think of good and simple times. Before she really started painting, she used what she had to create pictures. She did needlework first and then painted.

These women weren't trying to prove anything. They were simply using the gifts they were given to do good in the world.

There is a lady at our grocery store that works in the floral department who is just amazing! Her cheerful attitude and desire to help customers is astounding! I actually enjoy going into the store when she is there because I know that she will be making someone smile!

I don't know how many people have read the Womanhood Challenge, but I imagine it is somewhere near 100. If each of us really do say something to one woman each day about how we appreciate them for what they do, and how it honors womanhood, we can bless the lives of 500 women!!!

Doesn't that excite you? Oh, it does me!!

Today is the perfect day to think of the women in our lives and prepare to thank them.

Today is also the perfect day to take a minute and thank our Father in Heaven for putting them in our lives, giving them talents they use, and allowing us to be blessed.

I have often thought about Matthew 5:16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" and wondered how I can "glorify"?
I have decided that I can do that by recognizing the blessings He has placed in my life.
Many of those blessings have been in the form of countless women who have honored Womanhood.

So today I thank Him for putting so many amazing women in my life and giving them talents and abilities that have blessed me.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Oh I just can't let this go!
Look at Mother Teresa.
 She never had a child and look at what she did for the poorest of people of India. She was too busy rocking poor babies to worry about rockin' a bikini!
Rosa Parks did her best work when she was tired and spent and stood up for what was right, by sitting down.
L.M. Momtgomery gave generations of young women a view of sweet childhood and a joy of beauty. Sacagewea helped the Lewis and Clark expedition because her husband was chosen to come along and her value became evident because she could speak with the Natives. There is no telling what would have happened to them without her.

These women didn't change the world because of their looks, what they wore, how much money they made, what magazine they were in, or who knew them.
They made a difference because they were amazing women who chose to do good. They chose to do what is right even when it was not popular. They chose to use their talents. They made the best of the circumstances they were in. These women weren't perfect, but what a tribute they are to women!
What about the unknowns?
The girl at school who was nice to you.
Your neighbor who fosters handicapped children?
 The woman at church that is always doing things for others and never says anything, but you know because she has done for you.
The lady that works at the library and saves the cards from the books for your kids, because she knows they like them.
The woman your daughter looks up to, who kindly told her she was too good to dress like that, and your daughter listened.
The young woman who sits by you in church to help with your kids.
The nurse in the hospital who took care of you like she was your best friend.

I'm sure you don't need any ideas, but now that I am thinking about it I just can't stop. Today I am going to write my first note so I can mail it Monday.

Please share this!
Can you imagine what it will be like for the women who hear from you next week?
Can you imagine what it will do to their hearts?

We have so much power for good!! Let' show the world true power, by honoring true womanhood!

Monday, March 2, 2015


I think a lot about the women who have been in my life, because so many of them have been mentors to me. When I make certain recipes, I think of their hands showing me how to do it and taking the time to teach me.

When I think of certain beliefs, I think of those who have testified of those beliefs which upheld me until I had my own testimony.

There are those that I admire deeply because they live their beliefs. They are paragons of virtue. That doesn't mean they are perfect, but they sure try hard to live what they believe. And they teach those beliefs to their children, or share those beliefs with others.

I have been so blessed to know women who have given up so much to have and raise kids. Some of them gave up work they adored, paychecks to be envious of, names in journals and on glass doors.

 Most women give up bodies that they liked for stretch marks and pooches, only to discover that having a child shows them what their bodies can really do.

Some women suffer over not having those babies themselves and sacrifice a lot of time and tons of money to adopt, so they can be an influence on a child.

Others hope and pray that opportunity will come to them and go on making a difference in the world in all their significant ways that probably seem insignificant to them.

Women can bear and raise children or influence others'. We provide a spiritual and moral compass in homes and communities. We take care of, nurture, support, direct, and provide.

So why are we so busy applauding and glamorizing women who do the exact opposite? I am so sick of seeing women devalue us by being sex symbols, or glorifying depravity. Why would we do this to our gender? Why are we allowing our womanhood to be raked into the mud?

Lately, I have seen a lot of articles telling males to "man up." To be the men that they should be, taking responsibility, providing for the children they have fathered, learning to work hard, putting aside their video games for a good days work, putting away their porn to find real relationships, etc.

Well, ladies, I say it is time to "woman up". Let's give men a reason to man up. Let's stop trying to show them we can do everything they can do. We don't need to take on men's roles. Let's let them do what they were designed to do. Let's give them a reason to want to protect us, whether it is from unclean jokes or unclean thoughts, or a real enemy.

We have shown the world we can do so many things men can do, unfortunately, we have forgotten to glorify the work we were, by divine design, made to do. Be women.

I am not in any way suggesting that women quit their jobs or dress in potato sacks. Nor am I suggesting that we dumb ourselves down, or become helpless. I can't imagine our world without the contributions of intelligent, capable, strong women.  I am suggesting that we dress, talk, and act in feminine ways. What does that mean?

Let's keep our language clean. I have seen article after article with bad language in it. It is so distasteful. We shouldn't be telling raunchy jokes or pretending they are acceptable in our company.

Let's dress modestly. The men I most trust and admire are those who wish more girls and women would cover up a little more. We are so much more attractive when we have something intelligent to say, or act gently, laugh genuinely and when we embrace our spirituality.

Let's value virtue and teach that to our children. Time and time again as I read classic literature I am reminded that there was a time when people noticed each others' character and placed value on those characters and decided whether or not they wanted to be associated. Maybe we need to check our values. After all, there is a reason they are called "values", because those attributes are worth having.

Do we watch, read, listen to, or glorify women who are muddying us up?

Let's stand up for what is right and good, no matter what others might say. We have for so many years let the world tell us what causes we need to champion. It is time for us to be the champions of being women. It is time for us to be spiritual, feminine, strong, intelligent, and capable in our womanhood.

My husband has told me on more than one occasion in the past how it seemed that the women he worked with were trying to tell the dirtiest jokes, or were flippant with morality. Does this do anything positive for womanhood? Does flaunting our bodies make anyone think highly of us, or does it just make us targets for abuse? Does using filthy language or telling dirty jokes in any way make us look good?

Let's look around for the women that we admire because they honor womanhood and point them out to our kids as role models.
Let's start giving girls a reason to want to be women and give our boys a reason to want to protect us, admire us, and honor us.

So ladies, let's be women.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Watch out Nascar!

Men just think differently. Yeah, I'm a genius to have figured that out, I know! But let me give you an example.

My husband thinks that race car driving is a sport.

I disagree, no matter what Danica Patrick says.

I have my reasons.

You see, each day I get up and get ready and load up my van and off I go, racing around to get everyone where they need to be when they need to be there.

This process often involves getting gas, and no one jumps out and tries to fill up my tank as quickly as they can while conveniently airing up or changing my tires.
NOOO, I get to do that all by myself while I try to refigure my route to get us there on time after having to make an unexpected pit stop.

Race car drivers drive an easy loop, not me.  It does seem like I drive in circles all day, but I have stop lights, and speed LIMITS. Yep, there are these sweet guys in white and black cars with red and blue flashing lights to make sure I'm not going too fast!

Plus, the competition is all around me.

There are actually, get this, other parents who want to pick their kids up from school and get them to the dentist on time!!! The nerve!

Race car fans seems to think that doing this for 3 hours is a big deal!! I just don't get it, I do this all day long and not once has anyone asked for my autograph, filled my tank for free, or taken my picture across the hood of my van.

Maybe I need to start wearing a jump suit and driving gloves. Hmmm.....

Friday, February 20, 2015

Savoring the Blizzard

Today I had some time with Brennan and as a special treat I took him for ice cream. We shared a small Blizzard which, incidentally, seem to have gotten smaller.  As we were eating our treat and talking I realized that I was taking more time to eat my ice cream because it was such a small amount, so I was savoring it.
I have heard (not that I have actually employed it) that slowing down and savoring food is a good diet technique.
I have also noticed on vacations where we aren't trying to "see/do everything" we spend more time enjoying the time together. Well, ok, in all honesty there is also more time for disagreements. But somehow knowing that the vacation time is limited helps.

Just this week, a boy that we are acquainted with passed away unexpectedly. I think it has caused every parent who knows him to hug their children a little longer. For me, I know I am looking in eyes a lot more, not letting go first, and spending a little more one on one.

Why is that? Do we really think childhood is going to last forever? It can seem like it, especially when we are struggling in our parenting.

When we realize that the time we have with our kids is limited, we can savor it.

My teenager has lately been asking for a bedtime story after I have told one to the littles. There have been so many nights I was so tired, but some nights I was smart enough to sit on his bed and tell him one. This is also the same kid who no longer "needs" me to read to him, because he can do it himself. But the time when he needed me to read to him I loved and savored. He actually still loves to have me read to him.

I fully recognize that I can't always drop everything to do what my kids want me to, but I have found that when I spend the time doing those things they are content for a while. The time when they are little and want to cuddle, read books (yes, for the thousandth time), hear stories, tell jokes, play games, sing songs, etc. is so limited!

But they are the special treats of parenting! They are the fully loaded Blizzard, in a very small cup.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Desert Rain

Right now I am listening to the rain fall. Now that we are living in the desert, it is a really big deal. I used to love listening to the rain all the time in Ohio. I loved hearing it hit on the slate roof and dripping on the black earth, watering all of the amazing plants that just seemed to naturally do their thing.
Here in the desert, it is like knowing that gold is falling from the sky and you want to hear each precious drop. You hope to hear more magical drops fall because you have no idea how long it will be till you hear that peaceful patter again. It could be months.

I can't say that I love living in the desert, because truth be told, I don't. But I am trying to find the precious drops of beauty in it.

Like the smell of wet creosote bushes after a rain.

The way the sky is so big here you can see the earth as a big bubble.

Striking pink and purple sunsets on a vast canvas of grey-blue.

Such a variety of birds as they migrate from all those places that do actually get really cold.

Skies as blue as a child's eyes.

Yes, they do still exist. They aren't nearly as big or numerous as they were when I was a kid.

Mountain views. I do love seeing Red Mountain on a clear blue day. It is amazing. And the Superstition Mountains are really pretty on a brisk winter morning.

Desert wildflowers.

Oh, and the Ocotillo bush. Some people think it is a cactus, but it's not. It is a bush that grows tall and straggly with lots of spines. When it rains it starts to grow these little green leaves. And they last for a while. That is one way to know how recently there has been rain in the desert.

Washes. This is kind of like the "hollers" in the Midwest. Everyone here knows what they are and you can use them as descriptions. On a hike you might say, "follow the trail and when you cross the wash you will see the cactus ribs on the left. Keep going till you cross the wash again and the campsite is on the left."

Although the desert is still not my "cup of tea", I have been able to find the beauty in it.
And for now, that will do.
But give me about 4 months when it has been over 100' for several months with several to go and I will deny everything I just wrote!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hear My Heart

I went to see Billy Dean in concert tonight and it was so fun! I love his music and his voice. I love the way he tells stories to music and you can see his heart in what he has written and sings.

I love thinking that you can really see into someone's soul by what they do and do not write. It doesn't mean that everything a person writes is taken or understood the way it is intended. I have, unfortunately several times, written to people  in an effort to be encouraging or explain something only to get blasted by misunderstanding.

Yet, I still write. Because I just have to. I can't explain it, and lots of people don't understand, but things just swell up in my heart and I have to get them out. Not everyone works this way, I know. Some people bang on a piano, or sing, or make an amazing cake, or paint a picture, or kick a ball.

We all see the world around us in different ways. It would be so awesome if we could all make our hearts heard. I think if we could, we would see the world so differently and so much better.

I met someone a while back that just comes across as very unfriendly and cold, and yet when we finally spoke for a few minutes, I realized that it was just shyness coming out, but a kinder heart underneath.

How do you express yourself?
Is it your famous cake that everyone hopes you will make? Is it the way you keep your house clean? Maybe the piles of laundry nicely folded that tell your family how much you love them. Is it the pictures you hang on your wall, or perhaps the way you dress?

How do your kids express themselves? Is it that playdough sculpture they took such pride in? Or the birthday card they made themselves with a really amazing drawing of a superhero? Or how they always tell jokes and try to make others happy?

I think the way we express ourselves may be one of our talents. Now, that is also not always the case. I personally, can't sing. My kids will tell you it is pretty much torture to be in the car with me when I am singing along to a song that really speaks to my heart.
I can't sing. But I sure can appreciate the words. And the talent of someone who can sing. And the person who wrote or performs the music.

Your family may not appreciate your clean bathroom fetish until they are sick with the flu and spending a lot of time near that toilet, and suddenly you are a hero.

So what is my point? Find out how you express yourself. It may be the most important thing you do for yourself or your family. Then tell them. Point it out if you need to.

Because our hearts all need to be heard.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Rollercoaster Ride of Parenting

I had to get my necklace fixed, so I was at the mall today and the repair place was right across from the kids play area (yay). So I wound up in conversation with a mom whose little girl was playing with my boys. We were talking about some of the differences of raising boys and girls and the changes she is experiencing in her little girl as she reaches the age of 3. My experience with raising my kids has been that the 2's are terrific and the 3's are troublesome. But then by the time they are 4, things level out and it seems to get easier for a while.
Parenting seems to be like riding a rollercoaster. You know as you get buckled in two things. First, you can't get off the rollercoaster and second, you are in for an amazing ride.  You get in, get buckled, your heart rate elevates anticipating the fun and excitement ahead. It's exhilarating! Then the coaster starts to move and often, very quickly, you start to wonder if you knew what you were in for, after all IT'S SCARY! Sometimes you can see what is coming and it is intimidating and daunting and may even make you want to throw up. Other moments it is exciting and fun and you are laughing your head off, not wanting the ride to end. There are the times you are headed up a steep slope and you hear the slow click, click, click sound that lets you know you are moving forward, but it is slow and tedious and can be frustrating and nerve wracking. You may even be saying, this isn't what I thought, let me off, let me off. But you are buckled in tight. Then you race down a huge hill scared to death, screaming your head off, holding on for dear life bracing for the loops ahead.
Sometimes people lose things on a rollercoaster: their keys, glasses, teeth, etc. And we lose things in parenthood: our minds, our haircolor (or hair in general) our body shape. But the ride, as crazy and scary as it is, is so worth it! Like a rollercoaster, hopefully we are strapped in next to a great spouse.  There are also a bunch of other people on the ride. Each experiencing their own reality, but still on the same ride. We go through the ups and downs, screaming and laughing together. Our ride gives us a chance to talk and laugh and cry together, if we will reach out to each other. And hopefully we will encourage each other on the long clicks of the uphills that we will survive it and everything will be okay and tell the others lining up, looking at the ride ahead, "Don't be afraid, it is AWESOME. Just get buckled in with someone you love, hang on tight, and enjoy the ride!"

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Olympic Gold

I've decided that it's not that I'm not an Olympian, it's that the Olympics don't currently have my event. But after this post and the numerous (all 50 of you who read this) calls from others who see the Olympic merit of this event, I'm sure I will be getting a gold in the near future.
What event is it, you ask (dying of curiosity)?
 It is called getting 4 children to church every Sunday fed, mostly dressed and with scriptures in hand by myself.

Now you may be thinking, what???!! But hear me out, I think I'm on to something.

First of all, this takes a tremendous amount of Cardio training. Yep, in my heart, I know that my children learning about Our Father in Heaven and His incredible love for us, proven by His sending His Son to die for us is of the utmost importance.
Now my kids get a lot of that cardio training here at home, but I also know that to hear the experiences and faith and testimony of others is super important and I pray that they will get what they need from those experiences as much as they get from home. I also know they will get the chance to teach, share and bear testimony themselves in church. Which is good for their hearts.

All this does not diminish from the actual physical cardio that I truly get every Sunday in wrestling with 2 little ones, who despise shoes, and 2 big ones who have misplaced the carefully laid out ties, because they were using them to tie pillows on the front of themselves to belly fight each other.

Next of course is the mental preparation, which begins each Sunday as I fight the "natural man" and actually decide to get out of bed knowing what lies ahead.

This alone should earn me the Gold.

The mental preparation actually starts on Monday morning as I find white shirts and church pants hidden in various locations throughout the house from the day before. Which I gather and make sure wind up in the laundry on Tuesday and get washed and hung up that night. Then by Saturday I make sure shoes, ties, shirts, underwear, suits, brushes, and scriptures are at the ready. I have discovered that Sunday goes a whole lot easier if I have everything prepared. I expect my kids to do all that themselves the other days, but I simply don't want that fight on the Sabbath, and I'm ok with that.

There is always the wrestling that takes place as I wrestle the 2 youngest into their clothes. That alone has required more than one shower from me in the summer. I think I could also win at hog tying, if I knew how to get into the rodeo. There is also the running of stairs, multiple times as I answer questions, find items, and stop the nerf battles taking place between floors. Yes, the Sabbath is a day of rest. Which I look forward to for the few minutes when it happens.

Then there is the endurance part of Sunday. It starts off early as my husband leaves for meetings. Then I get going to have everything ready for the events of the day and then we come home from church. That is when the endurance part begins. In trying to make the Sabbath be different from the rest of the week, that generally means my kids don't play with their friends, we don't do our usual jobs and chores and we don't go out doing the things we do all the rest of the week. So it does mean my house gets trashed as they pull off the couch cushions and make forts, become scripture heroes, or make amazing lego creations. I endure this as patiently as possible, because I want my boys to be the best of friends. I know they will have so many amazing memories when they grow older and tell their future wives and children about the crazy things they built, created and acted out on Sundays.  Which means we get to endure all this until they are grown and provide me with amazing daughter-in-laws (yes I pray regularly for them).
Then my hubby comes home and endures all this with me and we often wonder how long till we have to invest in hearing aides and pacemakers.
But really, taking our kids to church does feel like an Olympic event, or that it takes the effort of one.   I realize that getting to church is not a competition and it shouldn't be. But sometimes when I look around at church, I wish I could hand out gold medals.

One would go to the mom who works nights and still faithfully brings her 2 kids every Sunday by herself.
 Another would go to the elderly couple who are always there in spite of the fact that getting there probably takes as much effort as getting my kids there, and I sometimes wonder if they can even hear the teachings and music.

One would go to the couple that just got married and each has kids from prior marriages, so they suddenly have a really big family-bless their hearts.

Another to the grandparents raising their grandchildren who keep them running.

And one to the single lady who comes and serves in big ways and would love to have someone sitting next to her, yet comes every Sunday alone.

I could go on and on. Because I would give a gold to anyone who is trying to get closer to Christ and be more like Him.

But I don't have to give a gold medal. And I don't have to get one.

The blessings of trying to teach and learn and become a follower of Christ, when there is a myriad of things that try to stop us, are nuggets of gold. The kind of gold we get as peace, comfort, grace, and countless blessings.
It is way better than an Olympic gold, which if I got one, I'm sure my kids would use for an experiment, or bury in the backyard anyway.