Happiness

A Simply Marvelous Life

caroline-harpWhile going through old class notes for my current paper, I found this story I wrote last spring. I remember how it made the student that presented after me cry. I felt so bad as she approached the podium upset. She explained that my story was especially tender to her because her dad had passed away recently. How was I to know that within months I’d be in the same “dad gone” boat?

I remember telling my dad of our plan to take a gift to the orphan boys and how he loved it. He wholeheartedly sanctioned it to my kids and he shared an inspiring story of his own. He cried. What a tender memory. He believed in the art of compassion. He lived the art. How grateful I am for him and his  example. He inherently knew that the true joy of life was within our relationships with others.

I am grateful to have come across this story today. I’ve been in a school slump, not feeling up to the writing task. Today’s discovery reminded me of the importance of storytelling. Even if I am not the most eloquent storyteller.

A Simply Marvelous Life

“Those poor, poor boys,” Mother said loud enough for the room to hear as she read the newspaper. I asked her, “What boys?” She explained. Twenty years before she used to work with this guy. They were nothing more than acquaintances. “But still, it’s just so tragic.” He was dead now among the remains of his personal jet. It crashed on take-off in Colorado. The crash also killed his wife, and two of his five children.

Mother seemed obsessed over the three children left. It was hard to understand how complete strangers to her sabotaged her heart for months. She talked about them to everyone. Her friends. Her kids. Sometimes she would even talk to random strangers about how grateful she was to be alive. “Shopping with a toddler is hard, but it makes it easier when I think about how blessed I am to be alive.” When the family knelt in the family room every night, mother would sometimes pray out loud for the family. “Bless those boys.”  When I complained about chores or homework or getting my phone taken away, she would remind me to be grateful. “You have both your parents, and all of your siblings. Remember, life is marvelous.” When Christmas neared mother told us that in the quiet of one morning she heard a voice in her mind. It was a woman begging, “They must have a gift from us under the tree.” Asking our forgiveness mother said she hoped we’d understand her stealing from us. She had withdrawn from her Christmas account, upsetting her carefully budgeted plan, to buy something for the orphans. She apologized and explained that we might have a little less this year. “But, I just feel it my duty to provide a gift for them from their dead mother. I can hear her voice as clear as day. I can’t ignore it.”

As Father drove us to the next town over, Mother watched her five elves stretch and giggle among the large sack of gifts in the back. The wrapped gifts would be left anonymously. “Because that is the best kind of giving,” mother said. The boys’ names, the ones their mother gave them, were monogrammed on their blankets. A note was included reminding them of their mother’s love, all the way from heaven. “She had found a way to hug them, through the mind of a stranger.”

Mother had done some serious sleuthing to get the names and address of the boys, but could hardly believe her eyes as they pulled up. When they verified the house number to the information on the paper in mother’s hand, everyone voiced their utter shock. A chorus of “no way” echoed the yelps of surprise as the vehicle reached the top of the mountain. The boys lived in a literal mansion. Mother laughed. “What in the world?” We all told her we should take the gifts back home, but she directed her elves to drop the gifts on the doorstep. “Be quiet. Don’t let anyone see you. Hurry up before someone calls the police.” As we sprinted our way back to the modest minivan that cowered under the massive gate, my little sister spared a glance for a golden harp glowing through the windowed fortress. We jumped in. The tires peeled. My baby sister described the harp’s shine to her amused mother. How badly Caroline wanted a harp. She had even written to Santa for one. She didn’t know what I knew.  Santa had already bought her a harpsichord. It was the last Christmas purchase she had made right after the wrapping for the boys’ blankets.

We never knew it, but in those first few moments driving home, mother deeply questioned the meaning of helping where help didn’t seem to be needed. Those boys had more than she or hers ever would. The answer came quick, at the traffic light on the way home. Flashing behind her eyes, red and green, it spelled one word. C-o-m-p-a-s-s-i-o-n. Mother turned to dad and said, “I guess tonight we got to help meet an emotional need, not a physical one.”  Yes, compassion knows no class structure. Or biases. Only pure love. And that night both mothers had managed, from separate realms, to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

The next day mother listened as her baby girl, surrounded by her parents and four siblings, transformed our family’s condo into a two-bedroom castle with music from her harpsichord. As Mother closed her eyes to enjoy the marvelous moment, a familiar angel voice spoke to her mind one last time, “It sounds just like my harp.”

 

Revelation Two 2015(2)

For an explanation of this series, go to the first post, here.

My second question going into  General Conference in October 2015 was

How can I be happier?

Pull up your socks, and tie your shoelaces tight because this question was answered in an overabundance. I believe this is a testament that we are living under God’s plan of happiness. He wants us to be happy!

Revelation  Two 2015(2)

How can I be happier?

  1. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Don’t give up. … Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. … It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”10 Wixom
  2. [Boyd  K Packer taught],”Our happiness in mortal life, our joy and exaltation are dependent upon how we respond to these persistent, compelling physical desires… The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars…There are so many of us who are thrashing around … with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity…It is not the time to receive all of our blessings. And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.”9 However, a vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness “of the multitude of his tender mercies”10 that we experience on a daily basis.”What will it matter, dear sisters, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior? Reeves
  3. “Aunt Rose, why are you so happy?” Eva was silent, so Great-Aunt Rose continued: “There is enough that doesn’t go right in life, so anyone can work themselves into a puddle of pessimism and a mess of melancholy. But I know people who, even when things don’t work out, focus on the wonders and miracles of life. These folks are the happiest people I know. “But,” Eva said, “you can’t just flip a switch and go from sad to happy.” “No, perhaps not,” Aunt Rose smiled gently, “but God didn’t design us to be sad. He created us to have joy!3 So if we trust Him, He will help us to notice the good, bright, hopeful things of life. And sure enough, the world will become brighter. No, it doesn’t happen instantly, but honestly, how many good things do? Seems to me that the best things, like homemade bread or orange marmalade, take patience and work…“There were so many things I wished for in my life.” As she spoke, a sadness entered her voice that Eva had never heard before. “Most of them never happened. It was one heartbreak after another. One day I realized that it would never be the way I had hoped for. That was a depressing day. I was ready to give up and be miserable.” “So what did you do?” “Nothing for a time. I was just angry. I was an absolute monster to be around.” “‘It’s not fair’ was the song I sang over and over in my head. But eventually I discovered something that turned my whole life around.”

    “What was it?” “Faith,” Aunt Rose smiled. “I discovered faith. And faith led to hope. And faith and hope gave me confidence that one day everything would make sense, that because of the Savior, all the wrongs would be made right. After that, I saw that the path before me wasn’t as dreary and dusty as I had thought. I began to notice the bright blues, the verdant greens, and the fiery reds, and I decided I had a choice—I could hang my head and drag my feet on the dusty road of self-pity, or I could have a little faith, put on a bright dress, slip on my dancing shoes, and skip down the path of life, singing as I went….“It is love—the pure love of Christ,” Rose said. “You see, everything else in the gospel—all the shoulds and the musts and the thou shalts —lead to love. When we love God, we want to serve Him. We want to be like Him. When we love our neighbors, we stop thinking so much about our own problems and help others to solve theirs.”7 “And that is what makes us happy?” Eva asked. Great-Aunt Rose nodded and smiled, her eyes filling with tears. “Yes, my dear. That is what makes us happy.” Uchtdorf

  4. And all of us, as members of the Church, we need to make a conscientious effort to devote our energy and time to the things that truly matter, while uplifting our fellowmen and building the kingdom of God…My dear brothers and sisters, if we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough. But our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become. He sees us as His sons and daughters, as beings of eternal light with everlasting potential and with a divine destiny Uchtdorf
  5. Now, as we ponder just these few truths that exist within the Old Ship Zion, let us stay on board and remember that, by definition, a ship is a vehicle, and the purpose of a vehicle is to take us to a destination. [My note: We have not arrived.] Ballard
  6. The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ….“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”Matthew 13:44..What follows is a reflection from Sister Maynes on her experience:

    “As a young adult in my early 20s, I was at a point in my life when I knew I needed to change something in order to be a happier person. I felt like I was adrift with no real purpose and direction, and I didn’t know where to go to find it. I had always known that Heavenly Father existed and occasionally throughout my life had said prayers, feeling that He listened. As I began my search, I attended several different churches but would always fall back into the same feelings and discouragement. I feel very blessed because my prayer for direction and purpose in life was ultimately answered, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was brought into my life. For the first time I felt like I had a purpose, and the plan of happiness brought real joy into my life.”…At this point in time, some 30 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, Nephi makes a well-documented and somewhat surprising statement, especially after recording in the scriptures the many afflictions and tribulations they had faced for so long. These are his words: “And it came to pass that we [did live] after the manner of happiness.”5 Despite their hardships, they were able to live after the manner of happiness because they were centered in Christ and His gospel. Mayneskingdom of heaven

  7. Our family motto doesn’t say, “It will all work out now.” It speaks of our hope in the eternal outcome—not necessarily of present results. Scripture says, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”5 This doesn’t mean all things are good, but for the meek and faithful, things—both positive and negative—work together for good, and the timing is the Lord’s. We wait on Him, sometimes like Job in his suffering, knowing that God “maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.”6 A meek heart accepts the trial and the waiting for that time of healing and wholeness to come. Marriottjob
  8. Through our experience in life, we learn that joy in this world is not full, but in Jesus Christ our joy is full (see D&C 101:36). He will give us strength so we will not have to suffer any manner of afflictions save they are swallowed up in His joy (see Alma 31:38). President Marion G. Romney taught: “The suffering and distress endured by people of this earth is the result of unrepented and unremitted sin. … Just as suffering and sorrow attend sin, so happiness and joy attend forgiveness of sins”..With the influence of the Holy Ghost, we will not be offended, nor will we offend others; we will feel happier, and our minds will be cleaner. Vinas
  9. The adversary has been successful in planting a great myth in the minds of many people. He and his emissaries declare that the real choice we have is between happiness and pleasure now in this life and happiness in a life to come (which the adversary asserts may not exist). This myth is a false choice, but it is very seductive.2 The ultimate noble purpose of God’s plan of happiness is for righteous disciples and covenant families to be united in love, harmony, and peace in this life3 and attain celestial glory in the eternities with God the Father, our Creator; and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior…and from Ezekiel, that the Sabbath “shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.”24 For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, honoring the Sabbath is a form of righteousness that will bless and strengthen families, connect us with our Creator, and increase happiness.  Cook

  10. Recently, a young filmmaker said he felt he was part of a “generation of prodigals”—a generation “looking for hope and joy and fulfillment, but looking in all the wrong places and in the wrong ways.18 Hales
  11. A few days after this trip, I visited this stake and asked the president if I could talk with some of the members who were unable to attend the temple that day. One of the brothers I visited told me: “Elder, do not worry. I was at the house of the Lord. I sat on a bench in the garden and pondered in my mind the ordinances. Then I was given the opportunity to enter, but instead I allowed another brother, who had come to the temple for the first time to be sealed to his wife, to take my place. They then had the opportunity to attend two sessions that day. The Lord knows me, and He has blessed me, and we are fine.”…Smile. This small action can help those who are overwhelmed or burdened.  Montoya
  12. Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to say: Thou shalt not lie; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; and so on.2We know the commandments. He understands that when we keep the commandments, our lives will be happier, more fulfilling, and less complicated. Our challenges and problems will be easier to bear, and we will receive His promised blessings. But while He gives us laws and commandments, He also allows us to choose whether to accept them or to reject them. Our decisions in this regard will determine our destiny.  Monson
  13. The path of happiness is through the basic family unit as originally organized and revealed by our Heavenly Father. This is the familiar melody of the message that many can recognize because they have heard it from their premortal life. It is time for us, as Latter-day Saints, to stand up and testify. It is time for the notes of the melody of the gospel to rise above the noise of the world. I add my testimony to the message of the Savior and Redeemer of this world. He lives! His gospel is restored, and the blessings of happiness and peace can be secured in this life by living His commandments and walking in His path. Schwitzer

  14. While a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, George Q. Cannon urged that we make a constant quest for the Spirit to be with us. He promised, and I promise it as well, that if we pursue that course, we “will never lack for knowledge” of the truth, “never be in doubt or in darkness,” and our “faith will be strong, [our] joy … full.2 Eyring
  15. provide an uplifting place for your thoughts to go—a place that keeps you close to the Spirit of the Lord. Durant
  16. As we submit ourselves to His will, we increase in peace and happiness. King Benjamin taught that those who keep the commands of God are “blessed and happy … in all things, both temporal and spiritual.”6 God wants us to have joy. He wants us to have peace. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to be safe and to be protected from the worldly influences all around us. Keetch
  17. I testify that as we trust God, our Eternal Father; trust His Son, Jesus Christ, and exercise faith in His Atonement; trust the whisperings of the Spirit; and trust the counsel of living prophets, we will find our way off the edge of the road and continue safely—not just enduring but finding joy in our journey home. Stephens

So, to summarize:

Keep trying, there is happiness ahead. They lived happily ever after is reserved for the third act. As Aunt Rose taught, happiness is a decision. A decision to love.   We are beings of eternal light. The church is a vehicle that will get us to our  final destination. “The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”  Believe that the good and bad will work together for our good. We will  be more happy as we are forgiven for our sins. Satan plants the lie that we have to choose  between happiness now or happiness later – we have a generation of prodigals looking for joy and fulfillment in all the wrong places. “The Lord  knows me, He  has blessed me, and we are fine.” When we keep the commandments our lives will be happier, more fulfilling, and less complicated. The path of happiness is through the basic family unit. If we make a constant quest for the spirit to be with us, our joy will be full. Provide an uplifting place for our thoughts to go. (That is opposite of what I’ve wished. My mind provides the place, not the words changing my mind.) Submitting  myself to His will will increase my happiness.  We can get off the side of the road and find joy in our journey home. (Remember this life is just a journey home –  as long as I am headed home, I’m okay.)

Note:

This series will be an undertaking of love. This post has taken over an hour to compile. I know it is too lengthy for a blog post, and I am pretty sure no one  will ever read this, but this morning, happiness, my desire for it, and how to get there have been solidified in my mind again.  And, isn’t that the main point of writing this all down?

The moment we dread. And after.

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My oldest daughter will be a senior in high-school next year. Look at her. Isn’t she just every mother’s joy!? I find myself in the middle of the day just rummaging through her things, trying to learn more about her. (I hope she doesn’t read this or that might kind of freak her out.) When she is zoned in on her phone, I sneak in more peeks just because I can. I think of her, and mentally check to see if I have her memorized. I think about the cans of Spaghetti O’s she forages. I mentally replay her body in motion racing around a track. I trace every line of her hairdos. At homecoming. That choir concert. That morning when she just got out of bed.

Favorite candy=hot tamales. Check. Most proud moment=hmmm. I’m not sure. I better ask her. Favorite color=green. Check. Biggest fear=birds. Bigger fear=being judged as less than. Talents=soccer, design, hair, fashion, math, anaylzing, singing. There are too many. I think about her voice and how it sounds when she sings next to me at church. I smile. I think about her voice when she was 10, 5, 2. Then I have to stop because it hurts too much.It makes me cry, knowing that she will never sound like a two-year-old ever again. She will never give me sloppy kisses again. She will never come crying because she just scraped a knee and she believes my kisses will make it all better. She will never navigate a new high-school or be at the wheel for a first time or learn to walk.

I don’t want her to leave. I don’t ever want her to go because part of me will go with her, and I am not sure how I will manage having part of me wherever she ends up. I know from observing others that I will figure it out. I just don’t want to. Not at all. I want to keep her all for myself. But, there is a world that needs her. A world I’ve prepared her for. A world that she needs. There are things she can’t learn from me. It has to be someone else to teach her physics and quantum life. I don’t know that stuff. There are jobs just for her. There are people waiting to know her and love her. There are people she is meant to love. There are little monkies of her own that she gets to recycle this  life experience with. All I can hope for is that she lets me visit once in awhile. Maybe she will even come home when she can,  and give me a hug. I will like that.

But honestly, every time we part ways, I will feel a little like Jane Goodall. Appreciated. Happy. Proud. And in excrutiating torment to see her go. She will take a part of my heart with her. And the day I die, after giving her one small piece at a time for decades, I will leave the last piece of it with her, so she will have more heart to give to her own monkies.  And I will wait in heaven to hug her on the other side when she comes stumbling through the veil with her own empty heart. And when we hug, in the touch, somehow, our hearts will miraculously ressurect. And the torment will be no longer. All that will remain will be the Pride. And the Joy.

Your Field Day

Field Day = life
Matt = you
Matt’s determination = your faith
The track = your life
Cerebal palsy = your personal battles
The spectators = also you

Sometimes we are the runner.
Sometimes we are the spectators.
Every field day should look like this.
Keep trying.
Keep encouraging.
Stop competing.
Everyone gets to finish.
It’s not about who wins.
It’s about who shows up,
and who loves each other.

Each One of Us

He computes, analyzes.
So intelligent, but has no confidence.

She toils and serves.
So capable, but doesn’t believe she really makes any difference.

She is beautiful, talented.
So phenomenal, but doesn’t trust herself.

She is artistic, and a symphonic joy.
So welcoming, but she shuts the world out.

She is bold, and kind.
So forceful, but she loves everyone but herself.

They won’t find their part in the symphony
until they believe
each one of us
is glorious.

Life is always worthwhile when you cry or smile.

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When I die the most important thing I would want to say to my family is “I love you and I’ll see you on the other side.” If I was allowed more than one sentence I would probably elaborate on my wishes for them to live good authentic lives.

I would tell them how I hope for their happiness, and I would tell them I would regret not being able to be there for them physically in their times of sadness. I would want them to know that if I can negotiate something with God, I will and I will always be right by their sides watching over them until we are reunited.

The song “Smile” from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times is one of my favorite songs. (Did you know the lyrics were added later based from themes and scenes from the original film?) This song brings back a lot of good memories for me. LG gave me some Happy by Clinique perfume for one of our first Christmases together. It came with a CD full of happy songs. We used to lay in bed together listening to the CD. When “Smile” came on it always seemed so appropriate. Those were really happy times, some of my favorite from my entire life.

However while re-listening to this song recently I discovered how the message of smiling when you are in pain is just kind of screwed up. I thought about Michael Jackson and Judy Garland (both have beautiful renditions of this song – go ahead – hit their links) and how their lives came to tragic ends way too soon. I thought about how they both may have lacked the emotional intelligence and/or support they needed. Maybe nobody ever told them it was o.k. to cry? I wish I could have helped them somehow and see them die in happiness, not out of their desperate attempts to escape.

Crying is an important part of life. Without times of sadness we wouldn’t know how much to treasure the times of happiness. We don’t have to run away from sadness. In fact I’ve found trying to run from it makes things much worse. Sometimes we just need to take time to process our emotions. We need permission to cry in our pain. Everyone should have someone in their lives that will just hold them while they cry.

I’m thinking about the pains I’ve experienced in life. They have been my very best tutors. Not all my days have been spent smiling while laying in my bed with my husband. In fact, I would say that I’ve probably had a close equal amount of time laying in my bed alone crying over life’s sadness. (If you read my blog regularly, you know this. I often use this as a place to process a lot of my emotions.)

So, in short, what I am trying to say is. It’s o.k. to cry. In fact it’s as necessary as smiling is for your emotional health. So do both. When you are in the middle of either happy or sad, most of all, know that your life is worthwhile.

I changed the words of the song to reflect the healthier message.
I am not voice-trained so feel free to skip the video, I made it for my family. I love you guys.

 

Mom’s new year seems so old.

Two things are pressing on my mind today.

1- I need to make my new year resolutions.
2- How am I going to stay sane this year?

Maybe they can be related? Yesterday in church there were a bunch of new ladies. We were to go around the room and tell a few things about ourselves. Our name. Where we live. Our favorite treat. Our job. Our hobby.

I was all prepped to give me answers. I’m Alice Gold. I live within walking distance from the rest of you. In a two bedroom condo. With 5 kids. And a dog. I’m still blessed beyond measure. My favorite treat is whenever I don’t have to cook. (Who said treats have to be sugary anyway?) My jobs are to stay sane and to be kind, both which are greatly challenging and fulfilling. My hobbies are all in trouble this year because I have a newborn.

And then I had to leave the room to change the baby’s stinkiest diaper of all time. I decided I would change my hobby to figuring out if it is possible to change a boy diaper in under 10 baby wipes. By the time I got back to the room, they had changed the game to just telling everyone your name. (They were running out of time.) psh.

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I don’t even think I made resolutions last year. I was pregnant. Totally off the hook. My goal last year was to grow a baby. I did it. I’m amazing.

My other goal was to give birth all-natural. I failed. I tried and tried. I labored for what seemed like forever and I thought I would die. I wanted to push the baby out. The doctor said I was only at a 7 and wasn’t allowed to push, yet. I felt destroyed and figured I experienced enough all-natural and that the actors in movies really don’t exaggerate. I was not being kind or staying sane. I begged my husband for the epidural and cussed out the anesthesiologist enough when he got there that he gave me the spinal dose. (You mean you didn’t give me the spinal dose on my other 4 kids? What the heck?) One contraction later…literally…the doctor examined me and said the baby was crowning. I’m blaming the lack of all-natural delivery on him, but we all know it is really my inability to relax without almost lethal doses of drugs.

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve pondered how much easier life would be to live on a constant dose of lethal drugs, or laughing gas…or marijuana. Lucky for me, I’ve never crossed that ponder to action or else I would be a drug addict, in rehab, or dead. Life was meant to hurt. Drugs rob us of the very essence of mortality…except in labor…those drugs are legit. (This paragraph is a total sidenote that I can’t bring myself to omit.)

So, this morning the high of having a newborn wore off. I almost made it 4 months. That’s pretty good if you ask me. When everyone else in the family took off to work and school, I enjoyed the silence for 5 minutes until the baby started crying out of hunger. I looked down at him and felt a little resentment. I’m 41 and still waiting for “my turn”. What I really want is to pursue my own goals, yet for the past 15 years it feels like all I’ve done is take care of babies…I stared at baby Max in the eyes and committed to continued sacrifice. I’ll get my turn eventually.

[I don’t want to turn this in to a stay-home mom vs. working mom debate as I think the choice is personal. I did however laugh a while back when I asked one of my working mom friends which would be better to take a trip to Hawaii with or without children (if you could only go once in a lifetime). She answered, “With kids. We would never go without the kids, we would just miss them too much.” I was like, “yea right, I might get that if I hadn’t committed every waking hour to my kids for 15 years. I would miss my kids after about 5 days and then I would get over it for a few more.” It’s a lot harder to miss your kids when you are always with them.]

Anyhow, the older I have gotten, the more I realize that I can be a mom and pursue my goals. I just can’t pursue them in an all-out fashion like I would prefer. I have to balance my time for me with my time for them. I tend to give them a lot more than I give me, and I hope someday I will look back on that decision with no regrets. Let’s face it, I’m not taking any career with me to the next life, but I do think God will sit me down and one of his first questions will be, “How are your kids? How is your relationship with your kids?”

So this very long post has helped me to process my two things “to do” today. Thanks for riding along. I’m going to stay sane one day at a time and not expect too much out of myself or even for myself. I’ve done it 15 years. What is five more? And, really, is it the end of the world that I’ve been writing this all day instead of doing Caroline’s homework, working on the budget, or cleaning out the stove? Nah.

My answer #2.
Here are some simple goals.

1. Don’t have another baby. Ever. Check. This should be easy. See last post entitled “I’ve been fixed.” But gosh dangit as soon as I heal up from surgery LG and I plan to die trying. 12 weeks of celibacy in a 4 month period of time is rough.
2. Write. When I can and/or feel like it. Maybe join a writing group or class?
3. Take care of myself. This will hopefully include getting back to my running upon doctor’s approval, biking some, eating healthier, and getting back down to pre-baby weight before Maximus’s first birthday. (the occasional pedicure too)
4. Take pictures. When I can and/or feel like it. Read my camera manual if I get around to it.
5. Camp and hike.
6. Love. My husband and kids, mostly.
7. Self-improve. Focusing on being kind and gracious, letting go of control, living in the moment, and being happy.
8. Self-discipline. Focusing on not wasting as much time on FB and being a better morning person, which really means getting to bed earlier.
9. Give more to God. Having daily quiet time. Look for ways to serve my fellowman.
10. Read. (I’m not making a reading goal ever again as per the advice of my therapist.)
11. Save at least $10,000 towards purchasing a home. Sacrifice.
12. Overcome my fear of physics. Watch some smart youtube videos.
13. Remember!!! My family is my greatest blessing. Ever. Make sure they know that I know.

What’s not to love?

7 things I learned in marriage counseling.

Eighteen years we’ve been married. Time has dragged on forever on a lot of days, but just as many have flown by as fast as the family-pack is devoured by our hungry children on Taco Tuesdays. It’s been the best of times. It’s been the worst of times. As a wife, I gave myself an A+ for over a decade….I was oblivious to my own short-comings and blamed my man for most all things wrong in our family. When things started getting more complicated we started marriage counseling and my perfect oblivion was brought to a screeching stop. Those darn psychologists always have a magical way of making people see the truth. And my magical mirror is harsh!! It took the best of professionals (and multiple ones, at that) to help me see the many ways that I had failed and continue to fail in my marriage, but I’m the better for it.

stuck

I read a poignant article  the other day entitled “What Your Husband Really Wants” and it had my mind racing in and out of the many ways I’ve learned to give my husband what he wants. And just like kindergarten, everything I need to know I learned in marriage counseling.

Number 1 – He wants to be your hero. My husband wasn’t able to be my hero because my fierce independence and “I can do it myself” attitude never allowed him to be. Much of the time I would be running around the house like a tornado on its way to Oz all upset that once again he was sitting on the couch while I so desperately needed a break. How could he be so oblivious? Unbeknownst to me he was sitting on the couch because after many years of trial and error the genius of a man knew it was the safest place. He thought he was being my hero by getting out of my way when I really needed a hero to switch me places and take some of the responsibility off my spiraling shoulders. Well, in marriage counseling I’ve learned the hard way that if the queen wants a knight in shining armor, she has to let him be the king. If every time he tried to help, I bit his face off for something then he figured I would be happier if he was out of the way.

2 – He wants to be your lover. I feel like this is the area where I probably struggle the most. I don’t want to get into too much detail as I have to remember that this very post may be accessed by future employers and/or my mother-in-law. Let’s just say that it takes two to tango. I have learned that I am equally as bad at receiving as I am at giving undivided attention. Sure I can go through the motions and I have A LOT (ha!), but if my heart isn’t there then it is just as damaging to my husband as leaving him exiled on the couch. At one point our therapist gave us a “touching” exercise. We were to take 30 minutes each where the other would just touch us all over. We weren’t allowed to talk; we had to be naked. It totally wigged me out. It took this exercise for me to get in touch with a lot of real hang-ups I have….seventeen years later. My poor poor lover was constantly being rejected. This area is a real battle for me. I have learned that sex isn’t meant to be just physical but is best and healthiest when it’s emotional. It takes vulnerability to create true intimacy.

3- He wants to be your best friend. This is an area that has been our marriage’s saving grace. Since the very beginning my husband has been my best friend: I love being with him, I tell him everything, and he is the first person I call when I have good or bad news.  I also know that he considers me to be his best friend, but as is true with all of my friendships, I have a lot of room for improvement. I am a horrible listener which makes connection very one-sided. My impatience is not helpful to either side of the friendship and my quickness to problem-solve and rescue instead of just supporting is hugely problematic. Here, it boils down to trust…I can be a much better friend when I trust myself to be a good friend and I trust my best friend to take care of himself.

4 – He wants to understand you. For a lot of women this is a problem because they aren’t willing to share their deep desires. Like me, they also aren’t forthright with what they need. I, in my great need to be understood, over-share everything with a hidden agenda of control. I’ve been let-down (by my own hypersensitivity and others negligence) in my life so much that I feel like I have to now control everyone around me so they won’t hurt me. “I love daisies, but they can’t be orange. For my birthday, here is my list…make sure #2 is just the right size. No, we can’t go there to eat, you know I hate Indian food.” Trust me, we could do this all day. I guess what I have learned the most here is that being truly understood trumps any manipulated derivative that he could offer. I’ve had to let go of control and accept what others have to offer. What is more important: that he gets me the right kind of flowers or that he knows I’m having a crappy day? That I get what I want for my birthday or that he loves me enough to buy me a present? That we go where I want for dinner or that he wants to be with me on a date?

5 – He wants to protect you. It would be interesting to hear my husband’s opinion on this one, but I think he would probably correlate this to what I’ve already said about letting him being my hero. If I am all suited up in body armor of my own making and I think I can wield a sword better than he can then what is there for him to protect? I don’t need to be weak to be protected, but I do need to be humble enough to let him stand next to me on the enemy line. At the very least I need to not stand across from him with my gun pointed in his direction. That’s figurative not literal, in case you are wondering about how necessary marriage counseling is for us. A healthy relationship requires an “it’s me and you against the world” mentality.

6 – He wants to make you happy. There are two things I’ve learned about happiness. 1- No one else can make me happy. 2 – I can’t make anyone else happy. People can however work together with others for mutual happiness. The fact that my man goes to marriage counseling with me is the best way that he has shown me how important my happiness is to him. I have learned how to be happy without him. He has learned how to be happy without me. Therefore WE have learned how to be happy with each other.  My happiness increases as his happiness does and visa-versa. This makes me very happy.

7 – He wants to be himself. This is perhaps the trickiest of the seven. What should we do as human beings with inherent flaws especially when we are in a marriage? Is it really fair for my husband to be himself if being himself hurts me in some way? Is it fair for me to be overly critical (which I am) because that is just the way that I am?  Yes, we want to be ourselves, but, yes, we should also try to improve – especially for our spouse. I remember well the day we met with my psychiatrist who was discussing the behaviors associated with my bipolar disease and the management of such behaviors. LG asked, “How do I know the difference between Alice being bipolar and Alice just being Alice? I married her because I love some of these things about her – even if they are bipolar.” That, my friends was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. I think back on it often. He loves me for me, even if me is kind of screwed up. I try to give him the same benefit of the doubt although I think he is better at this than I am. I have found that I am always the best at letting him be himself when I put his needs above my own and he has learned that I am better at overlooking his weaknesses when he lets me know his awareness of them and how he is working at fixing them.

So, there you have it: my cliff’s note version of three years of marriage counseling. Yes, it has taken me three years to work my way up from a big fat F to a pretty solid C, if I do say so myself. I can honestly say that my marriage is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me. It’s the worst because that mirror it forces me to look in is so very harsh! It’s the best because when I look in the mirror and start to cry at all the flaws that I see in myself, my man has always been there to love me through it. It’s my honor and privilege (when I succeed at it) to do the same for him.

Why? Because the amazing man that is my husband LeGrand makes me happy. He is my protector. He gets me. He is my best friend. He’s my lover. He’s my hero.

I feel a song coming on:

I belong with you. You belong with me. You’re my sweetheart. I love you LG.

Ordinary is Extraordinary

Who else struggles with perfectionism, comparison, feeling insignificant? It’s bad when I feel it for myself, but it’s downright criminal when I project that onto my kids. And I do project. All of the time. I want the best for them, therefore I want the best of them. I get totally competitive. All of the time. Oh, how unfortunate of a mother I have been. My oldest, Abigail, has born the biggest brunt of it. In fact, the other day after a low-achieving track meet, I was concerned when Abigail wouldn’t tell her slower-than-usual-finish-times to her friends. When they asked, she  just acted like she hadn’t checked her time at all. I knew she had checked it. It’s just that my perfectionism has become a part of her, and she couldn’t let herself admit the obvious…she was having a bad running day. I tried to comfort her on the way home, “Abigail, sometimes we just have off days. It’s o.k.” This morning I read this poem (Make the Ordinary Come Alive by William Martin) on the facebook page of a family member. Even though the wisdom of it stems from Taoism, which I don’t really practice, I believe it is universal. (And, I also believe I am going to study up some more on the way of the Tao – is that how you say that?) The simplicity of the wisdom blew my mind. I’ve been pondering on it all day. It struck me to the core. I couldn’t wait to share it with you. IMG_5065Do you see all those boys back there watching my girl? Yeah, she’s actually extraordinarily beautiful…even though ordinary is beautiful enough. Or they could be looking directly at me…the crazy lady with the camera cheering louder than all the rest of the crowd. ha.
 
Do you, like me, see how the words of this poem, will change “Abigail sometimes we just have off days” to “Abigail it is so beautiful that you can run!?”  How blessed we are. How blessed we are indeed with this ordinary life. So, as my kids age and prepare to fly the coop, I have a few new guideline questions for myself:

  1. Am I teaching them that the ordinary is extraordinary?
  2. Will I be not just o.k. but proud to tell my friends who raised the next president of the United States that my child is a mailman and loves it?
  3. Am I spending my time really celebrating the little things like apples?
  4. Am I giving them all the experiences that I can? (Those poor kids whose parents won’t allow them to have a pet!)
  5. Am I preaching a sermon of following your heart by following my own?
  6. Do I believe that we are not all just equally important but equally blessed to just be on the journey?

I can’t wait to embrace the ordinary with my favorite people. I hope this new philosophy will give them the space to do the same. I know it will bring me much greater happiness and satisfaction that will replace a life-long dissatisfaction because of wrong feelings of inferiority stemming from my ordinary. My ordinary is extraordinary! And so is yours. What a perfect message on a night that we are having breakfast for dinner. Bacon deserves a party.

Our family rocks!!

We decided to make the most of our Saturday after a really high-stress week. We took a short road trip in the rental van. We’re still in negotiations with the insurance company.

We went up to Antelope Island and out to dinner at the close-by Cracker Barrel. We haven’t been to a Cracker Barrel since it was right down the street in TN. It was so fun to see the girls get all sentimental in the shop. (photos to come)

After a short stop at IKEA (2 hours is short) we cranked up the toons for the remaining hour long drive.

I busted out the camera because I wanted to capture the moment. My joy was full. (Glad I didn’t crash trying to multi-task – save your lectures)

Our family rocks just like they do on one of our favorite movies: Bandslam. If you haven’t seen it, you can’t possibly be complete.