Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spiritual Thoughts, Temporal Behavior

For those of you unfamiliar with my family or my religion, I will start with two author's notes.

1.  I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as LDS or Mormons.  We send out young men and women for 18 months to two years to proselytize, preach the gospel, and baptize.  They put aside their regular lives for these missions and far from being compsensated for their efforts, they rather pay for the privilege to serve.  To help them out financially (and also to get to know them) church members are encouraged to feed the missionaries meals at least once daily.  That meal is generally dinner.

2.  I have four children, three girls and a boy, whom I refer to on this blog in birth order as #s 1-4.  They are aged 14, 12, 9, and 7.  Numbers 3 and 4 are just under 23 months apart.  They have a love-hate relationship.  If we're keeping score, hate is usually ahead.

Now to my story.  A few months back, a new elder (missionary) was transferred into our ward and announced to the congregation.  His last name grabbed my attention, being my uncommon maiden name.  I leaned over to my husband and whispered, "If he's from San Diego, we're cousins of some sort."  He was indeed from San Diego, and we are second cousins--our grandfathers being brothers.  I introduced myself to him after sacrament meeting and suggested we'd have to have him to dinner.

The dinner calendar in our ward is in high demand.  In Western Mass, where I grew up, we had two sets of missionaries assigned full time to our ward  because of the geographical size.  In Southern California we usually had one.  Here in the Boise area we have 5 wards sharing a set.  The end of each month a calendar with 8 available dates is passed around Relief Society, and it's often filled after it has passed through 8 pairs of hands.  So I approached the woman who manages the calendar directly and asked to be put on for February.  Last night they came.

It was great to get to know Elder K. a little.  There wasn't much to catch up on.  The only person he had contact with in my family line was my grandfather.  And I did not grow up in San Diego anyway, and really had very little interaction with my own first cousins.  He was surprised my granddad wasn't a baseball fanatic like his.  I can't picture mine with sports equipment.  My uncles liked basketball.  And out-jumping each other.  Out-anythinging each other.  We did find that harassment is apparently a family trait that crosses over through all of us.  

At the end of the meal, Elder K. asked us if they could leave us with a short message.  This is standard.  And truly, I enjoy the spirit that the missionaries bring with them into our home, and usually this is part of that.  Usually.

We adjourned to the family room where Elder K. asked if we had something to blindfold one of the kids with.  A bandana was produced and tied around #3s eyes.  He had her feel our family Book of Mormon and #4 set it somewhere out of the way.  He spun #3 around several times and then instructed everyone to make tons of noise, except me.  I was to be quietly giving #3 directions to find the book.  I'm sure we all see where he was going with this.  It was a good object lesson.  Or it was until #4 ran and slammed into his blindfolded sister, tackling her to the floor.  He thought that would be a more effective distraction than the yelling in her face that he was previously engaged in.  He was right.  But no one was hurt, no one even cried, and once we continued with the search, Elder S., who we'd learned earlier was #8 of 11 kids in his family, had a difficult time keeping a laugh suppressed.

Scriptures located, object lesson completed, Elder K. tried to make the message concrete by talking to the kids about listening to the Spirit and the Prophet and their parents rather than the negative influences of the world.  This is the point at which #4, who had been laying exhaustedly on the floor, rolled to the side and let one rip.  "Are you kidding me?," I quietly yelled.  (You know that quiet mom yell.  If you're a mom, you've done it.)  Elder S. lost it this time, the suppressed laugh, that is.  It was so embarrassing.  Luckily the missionaries were in a hurry to get on to their next appointment before my son could act even more the part of the natural man, or I guess the natural boy.

It was so bad that when they left it was Larry who started the lecture about behaving with company in the house.  Although, he added the caveat that it would be okay to pass gas if the visitor was Dustin (an employee and friend of Larry's) or Uncle Eric.  Nice.  I guess they never truly out-grow this, do they?  

Brooke, Kim--be warned.  #4 has permission from his father to act like a slob in your presence. 

I would really like to have my cousin to dinner again before he's transferred.  I assume he'll be happy to come.  But I won't be surprised if he has his companion give the spiritual thought.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Priorities (3 of 5)

Sher asks: If you were told you had only one year left to live, what would you do?  What would you change, if anything, in your life?

I must say that a lot in my life would change.  Some of these changes would be changes that I should make in my life anyway ... I need to read the scriptures more, I need to spend more one on one time with my kids, I need to be less verbally critical of my family and less critical in my head of others.  I need to write in my journal and I need to throw away a lot of junk.  I need to go on more walks with my husband and kids.  I need to relax.

But there are many things that I'd change simply because priorities change with time.  When I am working on my "list" for Christmas, things start getting cut the closer I get to the holiday.  Does that mean that these were bad or not worthy of my time to begin with?  No.  All it means is that finding myself down to 4 days left, I need to start deciding what is absolutely essential, or nothing will get completely finished.  So if I were to learn that I only had a year to live, instead of the 40-50 more that I anticipate, I'd begin to cut out the non-essential.  That would include blogging.  That would even include being my son's team mom.  I'd still happily go to the games, but I doubt I'd spend my limited time to make sure everyone remembers their week to bring the snack.  I wouldn't worry about losing weight.  I'd hire someone to clean the house if I could afford it.   Like most of us, these changes would largely revolve around my family and my God and finding ways to spend every possible moment with them.

Some of you may argue that we never really know how much time we have left.  I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  (It's always a bus, isn't it?)  Absolutely.  And I agree that I should work on those things listed in the first paragraph because of it.  But if I live my entire life assuming that it will be short, I will miss out on a lot of great non-essentials.  My kids would feel smothered.  I've written before about the end of summer and the growing pit in my stomach which develops as I worry that I'm not making the most of my remaining vacation time.  It makes for a less enjoyable time off.  I think the same would happen if I assumed my life was ticking down to a premature finish.  That's no way to live.

I am thankful for a long life expectancy and relative good health.  I am thankful that the days are getting longer again.  I am thankful for the beautiful rainbow we saw out our front window yesterday.  May we all live life a little more fully and be happy with where we are.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Well, this has been like the good old days, before I knew what followers were and I just tried to post twice a month.  I often didn't make that goal.  But blogging also took what was probably a more health place in my priority list.  But more on that to come.

Moving.  We are IN!  Or we are out, depending on how you look at it.  Being in is more exciting, but being out is the bigger relief.  I love our house.  It's beautiful and it functions well.  A large percentage of boxes are unpacked and already off to their next job moving a friend of ours.  There is certainly more to do.  The further along I get in unpacking, the more obnoxious the chore becomes.  I want to be magically done, and I also would like to know exactly where all the silly little things with no obvious home should go.  I hate big stacks of boxes in the garage or closet that remain untouched for years.

In the past, I have hung art and photos as I have unpacked, considering it part of the process.  When I'm finished, the house seems decorated.  This time there is a combination of the open-concept lack of wall-space and very large expanses of the walls that do exist.  They are so large that I feel silly hanging the little pictures that I own.  And by little, I mean big.  Just not enormous.  The walls, therefore, remain largely empty.  That fact bothers me.  But I will just need to live with it until I have cash to go buy some jumbo wall art.

Lest I sound ungrateful, I have to tell you all some of the great things about the house.  We are wired for sound in every room.  I can plug in my iPod, turn on some soft hits of the 70's, and it will play everywhere if I want, or just in one room.  I love this feature much more than I expected.  I love two dishwashers, which means no dishes stacked in the sink.  Ever.  I love a heated kitchen floor.  I love a central vac system.  I love my mud room, but I wish that less mud and dirt tracked from it into the kitchen.  I love, love, LOVE my pantry.  And the up-stairs laundry room.  And my library.  I love the open family office off of the kitchen.  There is really nothing I would change.  I guess that's what building a custom home is all about.  It was a great experience and it is a fantastic result.  We are very blessed.

When I dropped off of the face of the blogosphere I'd been working on a series of questions from my friend Sher.  I am working on the next installment of that for Monday.  In the mean time, have a great week-end.  It's good to be back.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

We're Moving!

It's official!  Months of waiting and worrying and watching construction will finally pay off.  We are moving into our new home this Saturday, February 7th. 

Um, yeah, the day after tomorrow.  When did I find this out?  This morning.  (To be fair, we were considering dates between the 7th and 14th.  I just assumed we'd end up with the later date.)  We had a small head start packing, so we really need to kick it into gear now.  A friend from our ward came over this afternoon and packed up our kitchen.  She was awesome!  The kids and I are now busy getting everything else boxed up.

Well, I just wanted to take a second to update you all and let you know that I haven't forgotten anyone.  I'll be back in the blogging game soon enough.

Here are a few photos of the new place.

The Laundry Room:

The Family Room:

The Kitchen (I am standing in the family room to take this shot.):

Any of you who Face Book with me can see more photos in my new album.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Weakness (2 of 5)

Sher asks:  What is your greatest weakness?  Why?  Another great question that makes me think.  I'm going to answer this in a couple of different ways.

My greatest weakness is lack of discipline.  I hate making myself do things I don't want to do, or stop doing things that I like, and I frequently don't.  I know it sounds immature.  It is.  But that is the root of most of my struggles.

When I was first married, any time I became frustrated with my life, I'd make a laundry list in my journal of every flaw, every major shortcoming, and I'd map out a plan to overcome each.  After a decade or so of this I began to look over past entries and found that nothing was ever fixed.  I struggled with the same issues again and again.  Bemoaning this fact to my husband, he pointed out that part of my problem stemmed from the fact that I am not a routine oriented person,  (editorial note: following a routine takes discipline) but I am, rather, a project-driven type.  This clicked.  It explained in one nice little sentence a seeming smorgasbord of problems.  It brought some degree of relief.  I felt a little less out of control--I really just had the one major problem to work on.

Three years ago I joined Weight Watchers and lost 30 pounds.  I'd kept to the plan and was successful.  I thought that if I could find control over this little piece of my life, perhaps I would be able to find it elsewhere.  Well, no sooner had I reached my goal than I was hit with a nerve disorder that consumed me for months.  Everything else, including good eating habits, was put on hold.  Once my meds were regulated and pain was minimal I returned to life as normal, except for the better nutrition thing.  Over the last 2 years I have regained 20 of those pounds.  For the past year I have been making feeble attempts to lose them, and have lost and found 7 to 9 pounds twice.  Clearly, I really don't have this discipline thing down after all.

Yet I find myself with a new problem.  I used to go to great lengths to hide these weaknesses.  I was mortified by discovery of any imperfections.   However, in the past year, and in the past few months particularly, I have experienced a shift.  I have gone from embarrassment over weakness to embracing it, strutting it about, even.  At first, I saw this as a breakthrough--being more honest about my struggles, feeling better about who I am.  And that sounds healthier, doesn't it?  Well, I am beginning to think that it is not.  In developing this new habit of self-degradation, in the name of coming to terms with my weaknesses, I have let go of responsibility to become something better.  I've given myself permission to fail.  I went from privately moping about how horrible I am to publicly laughing at my nature and viewing myself as a vicitim of it.  Neither outlook is adaptive.   

So my next move?  Well, I feel like I need to take some time to reconstruct my self-image.  I need to look at my potential, my talents and my STRENGTHS.  I need to do it without apology.  Discipline is nothing more than consistent good choices.  I need to decide that I am strong enough to choose to be better.  Again and again.  It doesn't mean I need to stop laughing at myself.  But it means I need to stop treating myself like a big slob to get laughs so often.  This will not be easily put into action, I know.  I also know that the outcome may be worthwhile.