Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Absolute Uncertainty

I have been thinking a lot lately. Okay, let's be honest here. I think a lot, all of the time. It's sort of a curse really. Anyhoo, my thoughts of late have pertained to absolutes and if there is any such thing.

It seems to me that the more I examine things that seem to be of an absolute nature, there are always circumstances that factor in. Hard and fast rules are easy to come by, but for every rule there is an exception.

In math, you have variables. 2+2=4, but what if it's 2 half apples + 2 whole apples, then you would have 3 apples, not 4. Science is subject to all sorts of things, whether the "powers that be" want us to know that or not. Religious beliefs and practices are certainly seen differently by each individual, even within the same umbrella of general guidelines. Education means something different to most people I know. Add qualifiers such as well, higher, or equal into the education mix and you could have a lively debate that would last until the end of the earth as we know it.

Freedom, agency, social justice, all of it is subject to ones experiences, practices, beliefs, and systems of government. How do we live in a world where everything is relative and maintain our beliefs while not trampling on those of others? Maybe most of us aren't trampling but it's seen as such.

Maybe the point is to do as the Savior did; live what you know, uphold it to the best of your ability (and hopefully get better and better at it as time goes on), and be kind to everyone. Of course then we would need to have a discussion about what being kind means. Tis another post entirely, for sure.

The one thing I am absolutely certain of is the relativity and subjectivity of all things to God's infinite wisdom. If not, then what are we all doing here anyway?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Blessing of Inequality

Have you ever thought about the word equality? Is it even possible to attain equality. More importantly, is it even desirable? If our pursuit is to be equal, and treat everyone equal, then we lose ourselves and stifle others.

For instance: when I apply this to motherhood, I think, "How easy it would be if I could be the same parent to each child and simply ensure that there were the same opportunities across the board for all of my children." The problem is, easy does not garner the best results. Easy means much is lost.

It seems so simple to just make everything the same and have all the problems cease. Trouble is, the more people are shoved into boxes, the more they want out. Problems don't cease, they grow. Nobody really wants equality. Everybody thrives on individuality, they just might not have had the joy of experiencing it yet.

People who want equality generally want it for everyone else, not themselves. They want to be the do gooder, the champion of a cause, the stifler of all stiflers so they can rise above the masses of the equal. There is also the case of the misery loves company equalizers. In my experience that mentality comes from a place of frustration regarding said individual's inability to practice, for whatever reason, individuality for his or her own self.

I am not saying that genuine and good people aren't out there fighting the good fight for all those "lesser" and "unfortunate" people. I am simply saying that if you look at what they really want, it has nothing to do with equality and more to do with celebrating individuality.

I come from the camp that there are no "lesser" or "unfortunate" people. I come from the camp that truly believes we are all created equal in the sight of God. That does not mean we benefit from equality of the social, economic, educational, or any other worldly variety. We all have trials. We all struggle. In our own ways, and in our own circumstances, we all have difficulties to navigate and choices to make. We will never be equal, except in the sight of God.

If my life's work is to be just like so and so and have the same opportunities as said so and so, then I never get to discover me. I am unique. I am an individual. So are you. My life need not be patterned after, nor compared to, any other. Same with yours.

As a parent I am constantly debating with myself over whether or not a certain discipline or teaching method is working for a certain child. It is difficult for sure. It takes much time and effort and a deep understanding of the heart of each individual I am governing over. It is also incredibly rewarding to see individuality triumph every time. This is exactly why a large body, government or otherwise, is not the best source for governing individual lives and families.

America was founded on the principle of individuality. God sees the good in all. He also sees the need for us to pursue our happiness and not have it defined for us, or handed to us on a silver plater. Agency is a beautiful thing, but it does have its consequences. Everything does. When we scream for equality we better be ready to accept the consequences of that equality.

Conversely, have you savored individuality? Have you really stopped to think about how absolutely wonderful it is that you are you and not anyone else. And that everyone else is them and not you. It's a marvelous thing to contemplate.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Train for the Right Race

Guess what? Life is not a sprint. How did it take me so long to get this memo?

I was stewing the other day. And by stewing I don't mean making delicious morsels for my family to partake of. I mean smoke coming out of my ears stewing. Just to be clear.

It was one of those days where you just can't figure out why you are doing the same things over and over and over and over and over and over again, and nothing is being learned, nor any ground being gained. Kind of like when you say for the 500th time, "Little Jimmy did you wash your hands after you went to the restroom?" and little Jimmy says, "Yes." Only it's the guiltiest little "yes" you ever did hear. And kind of like when you just get done folding the 7th load of laundry for the day only to realize you forgot an entire basket. You know those moments when you think to yourself, "Is this really my life?"

So anyway, it was one of those moments for me and I was suddenly thrown into an alternate reality. It was a beautiful place. Palm trees surrounded the crystal clear water of the most gorgeous aqua hue. The purest white sand squished between my toes with exquisite squishiness. Servants waited on me hand and foot. Children were frolicking in the warmth of the sunshine lovingly, gleefully, and void of all contention and loud noisiness. Dust never settled, laundry spontaneously folded itself, scrumptious dinners that everyone loved appeared at the immaculately set table with clean children using their best manners. Everything was free and money was not even a word. Oh wait, we are talking about reality, not dreams. Pardon me.

So. I am stewing. The alternate reality jogs up to my pace and slows to walk with me. I hear this beautiful whisper, "Slow down. It's not the sprint today. It's the distance run." The distance run? Ah, things are beginning to come into focus. No wonder I am so exhausted and can't find the finish line.

Turns out, my reality of wanting everything to be done is the alternate reality. I was measuring things with the wrong instrument, and boy does it matter. That pretty little finish line with the red tape and all those loving faces cheering you on, that place is death, crossing over to the next phase. I am still here. 

I am now looking for the loving fans cheering from the sidelines, the finish line can stay far away. All those little tables with cups of energy boosting drinks to keep you going for the next 50 miles; that's my new normal. I don't know how long this race is. I have no map offering me a "heads up" on the hills, hurdles, sharp curves, and other obstacles that will come. However, I do know something. The more I keep running, the more I want to keep going. The more I enjoy the repetition, the more my muscles become accustomed to the distance of it all and the easier it feels. Mostly though, pace matters.

It's okay to slow up for the hills. The point is to get up there, not how fast you do it. It's okay to take things in stride and blow right by sometimes. Not everything is meant to be savored. Getting through one step at a time is sometimes the most graceful way to go. It's not always fun. It's not always pretty. It is however, always rewarding. The best part; my steps don't need to match anyone else. I can get there when I get there and you can get there when you get there. It's the perfect race because there is no winner but there are enough gold medals for everyone. The point is to get there. The pace is irrelevant.

Thanks sweet voice of the Holy Spirit. Thanks gracious and loving God for never leaving my side. Thanks amazing family and friends who know just where to place all the little tables and just what "drink" to have waiting. Life is never done. Children are never really "raised". This is my life. This is my race. I am settling in for the distance run and loving every minute of it. 

Stew is to be eaten and enjoyed with those you love, absolutely not for coming out your ears.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Starving To Death

I hear this phrase several times a day at my house. They have never really been starving, but I suppose that's highly subjective. We have hit a bump in the road. More like a boulder with a sharp curve before and after. You know the kind you'd be lucky to make without throwing everyone out of the vehicle. We are all securely fastened in our safety belts. We fully intend to make the curve, climb the treacherous boulder, enjoy a nice slide down the backside of the beast, make the curve on the other side, and continue on our merry way.

Maybe we should loosen the belts a bit and see if we have wings.

You can head over to the family site if you want more details on the curves and boulders. Anyhoo, how would you like to offer your assistance? You'd love to, great! Send me your best recipes, preferably by e-mail, for things like: dried beans, lentils, chick peas, potato flakes, powdered milk, wheat. You know dirt cheap and nothing from the store if you can help it.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Impressive, No?

Being smart is impressive. Rattling off math facts at lightening speed, reciting scriptures by the hundreds, high IQ/standardized/placement test scores, you know all the stuff that screams, "Look at me! I am smart and I can show you!"

I know fact spouters, scripture reciters, and high scorers, that are extremely impressive. They all have an intense drive for attention. This drive leads to a constant seeking of approval from others, and it grows to insatiable proportions as it takes on an addictive nature. As time goes on, this perceived need drives wedges between husbands, wives, children, and families. It leads to harmful practices and dysfunctional relationships as "anything to fill the void" becomes the driving force in the persons life. Sometimes it takes years, even decades, for the "fall out" to arrive. Sometimes it is very quick. No matter the time frame, there are always innocent people caught in the fray. The battle between ego and spirit is fierce. Although it seems a singular struggle, the effects are far reaching.

There seems to be something that drives this need to be impressive and in the spotlight. In my experience, admittedly limited but convincing none the less, the relation to ego seems apparent in each case. The ego is a curious thing and needs constant stroking and assurance. Such time and effort wasted in encouraging this base element of our psyche, could be better spent.

Conversely, I have seen people that are capable of being fact spouters and reciters, but they choose to live quiet lives. They use their knowledge quite effectively, in ways that do not scream for attention. They seek conversation, communication, and understanding, rather than attention and supremacy by declaration in impressive acts.

Impressive only lasts so long, and is only valid as long as someone else is willing to acknowledge and stroke the ego. Students seek learning for smarts, and can be very impressive. To be wise is power. Not power over another, but power to be our own true selves. Scholars seek the wisdom within their learning. 

Think of all the truly great leaders of our time. From George Washington to Gandhi, great leaders have the power to be themselves, all of the time. Without superiority or haughty attitude, they are true to themselves, always. Why are we drawn to them? Why do we seek their wisdom? Great leaders are never trying to impress anyone. They may be "impressive", as a result of choosing to be scholars in the truest sense of the word, but their very nature does not allow them to seek "impressive" as a goal. The drive is knowledge and understanding for a greater purpose than stroking ones ego. They are creating their own path. 

Truly great leaders do not seek the spotlight, they are generally found and sought out. At least they don't seek the spotlight for the spotlight. They may seek positions which are in, or surrounded by, the spotlight, due to interest. But they themselves are more comfortable studying, learning, creating, and leading, in quiet and purposeful ways. They seek to be scholars. To solve problems. To create better than what was there before. 

We are entrepreneurs of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Wisdom is gained upon reading, listening, thinking, pondering, formulating, and eventually, creating original findings and meanings within what we have sought. Wisdom lasts forever. Smarts are gone as soon as no one is looking.

In our family we have a saying, "Smart people talk. Wise people listen." I am grateful for the reminder that saying has become, as I really enjoy talking. I find myself better served, nearly every single time, through listening. 


I was fortunate to have been raised around the influence of great people. People who pioneered the way for women in education. People who spent their entire lives in the pursuit of trying to help others in various ways. People who said things like, "I don't know what do you think." all the time in response to my inquiries about subjects they knew everything about.

These people are my grandparents and great grandparents. It saddens me often that our life is not conducive to having my children immersed in their grandparents and great grandparents. We are blessed with other examples, and for that I am grateful, but it's just not quite the same for me.

There are few true heroes for our children today. I could cite scads of examples of "the greatest", most all of them have fallen from the pedestals upon which they are placed by media. Most all of them fall in devastating ways and we are left trying to answer questions like, "What did he do?" "What does that even mean?" "Why did he do that?". It's not just males either.

As a mother I am careful who I hold up for my children to emulate. I am careful to involve them first in their own life and not to encourage them to seek to build their lives on the latest YouTube star, teen sensation, child prodigy, or sports star, etc..

The instinct seems to be to "help" our children achieve success. Success has been drastically redefined by the media.

I know a guy. A guy who, served his country in war, worked hard at the same job and retired, has been married to the same woman forever (okay not forever. I confess to not knowing the actual number), has a modest house, with enough. This man visited me often as a child and made me feel that I was important just because I swam in a pool, rode my bike, got McDonald's cheeseburgers with him, and sometimes, for a special treat, got to sleep in the "chair bed" at the hotel with them. That man is my grandpa. He's pretty great and I'd say he led a very successful and happy life. He's not famous, but he's more of a hero than most I know that are touted as such. I'll take grandpa any old day, and I am serving up regular doses of his wisdom and example to my children. I love all my grandparents of course, but my heart is with my grandpa for this post, love you gramps :)

Who do our children know, and what do they know about themselves as a result? How do our children define success?

From the mouth of a wise old soul, "I don't care how much money I have. Things are not important. I want to be a garbage man so I can drive a cool truck, use my muscles to get rid of trash, and have lots of time for catching frogs." This wise old soul is 11. Garbage man, really? Who cares as long as you have plenty of time for catching frogs.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Have you ever wondered? Is it even possible to wonder in this day and age? With technology and media at the ready to tell us what to think and program our brains with messages before we even know what's going on, is there any room for wonder? Have you ever wondered something and then, in a split second, some image planted by media helps you snuff out the possibilities before you can even explore. If there is a moment of wonder, do you allow it, or google it?

What would have happened if Einstein never wondered? How about Edison, Earhart, The Wright Brothers, Steve Jobs, George Washington, Columbus, and many, many more, what if they had everything fed to them and never explored the possibilities of their wonderment?

You might think it interesting for me to include Steve Jobs in a seemingly anti-technology post. Technology is great, when used in moderation and appropriately. Steve Jobs spent much more time in life than technology. Technology isn't the problem. It is our use of it, and addiction to it, that's the problem. We use it to create a false sense of importance, self, identity, and productivity. We use it to fill the voids in our soul that come from various places. What if we wondered about the voids and allowed ourselves time to find solutions, rather than stuffing them full of meaningless time sucking virtual things.

Studies show that the addiction, or pleasure center, of the brain is stimulated by texting. The adrenalin rush and consequent satisfaction of the addiction gets harder and harder to reproduce as time goes on. This is true for all "screens"/media, but I find it particularly interesting that this seemingly harmless activity is right up there with the biggest addictions we face today. We need more and more texts in order to satisfy our pleasure center and prove to ourselves that we are "okay". Is texting evil? Of course not. Is it addictive? Yes. Is it damaging when not used appropriately? Certainly.

What's the big deal? The big deal is that life is wonder. We miss a whole lot of life to live in this virtual world. Our children don't even know how to live life because they are being raised by screens and parents who show them how to be addicted. Their entire existence is virtual. That is a very lonely, addictive, and isolating place to be. A sea of people completely unaware of the real life surrounding them.

Do we search out our own identity, or do we search out the identity of the latest "star"? Do our children know more about famous people than their own siblings and family? What would happen if wonder was the addiction? Go ahead and enjoy some wonder today. It does wonders for the soul.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Walk Beside Me

It's really quite simple this mothering gig. Why do we complicate it so?

Things have been, shall we say, a little dicey around here lately. I have had many an, "Am I doing ANYTHING right as a mom?" moment. Much pondering has been devoted to this burning question.

As I was walking through the kitchen yesterday, Malachi and I happened to be on the same path and we spent several steps in sync. About two steps in, he looked up at me and we locked eyes. He got the biggest grin on his face and giggled with glee. He spent the next little while staying in step with me and giving me that same smile. At one point I reached down to take his hand. He didn't want it. He told me no and gave me an even bigger smile. I recognized something that I have never really "gotten" before. Our children just want to know we are there, with them. They want to know we are in step with them on their journey. They don't need us to hold their hand as though they don't know where they are going. They want to explore their path with us by their side.

This beautiful moment was made possible through eye contact alone. Had I not looked down and caught his gaze, it would have been just another walk through the kitchen. I saw him and he saw me seeing him. What a marvelous thing to be seen and acknowledged in wholesome and pure ways. I realized something in that moment, I spend much more time in pursuit of trying to "give" my children the necessary ingredients for success, than I do in seeing them and understanding what success means to them.

The trap of needing to mold and shape children into what we think they should be is so dangerous. Most times we don't even realize we are doing it. We mean well when we try to pattern their life after the neighbor kids, the cousins, the super successful child of the amazing family, their friend at school. We even mean well when we either make sure they have what we did growing up, or make sure they don't.

It's difficult these days to actually let our children build their own identity. They are born with it. It's not difficult for them, but we train it out of them pretty quickly if we aren't careful. We tell them, in many ways, what they like and don't like, what they are interested in and not. We "see" the genius and make sure they are the next prodigy. We schedule their time and lives so they will be busy and have many accomplishments. Children don't need us to live their lives for them. It is possible to teach and train them in the best things without labeling them and putting them in such tight tiny boxes. What about the accomplishment of knowing who they are and being secure and comfortable in that alone?

Even more importantly, we surround them with images through television, movies, video games, and even social and cultural pressures at school and church and other organized places. We hold celebrities and sports stars up and say be this, do this, look how cool, they are. We don't say it in words so much as we say it in example and actions. These images crowd out their own image of individuality and identity. They are stuck in a sea of trying to be someone else because that's what is in front of them. I am not saying we stay home and seclude ourselves. I am saying that unless we are aware of the images being inputted and how seriously tipped the scale is in comparison to the true identity of self, unless we recognize it, we can't do a thing about it.

Perhaps what I am saying is, when did mom and dad stop being the heroes? When did a simple life full of hard work and enjoyment get shoved into a corner? When did the pursuit of fame and fortune, prestige and titles, become more important than taking care of your family and loving every minute of it? Take even a small peek into any type of media and you'll see, if you want to.

There are now so many studies concerning media and the mind. The mind is a powerful thing. It can tell us to act and compel us to do things without the sound reasoning of the heart. A balance of mind and spirit is necessary for healthy growth. The mind is being altered, at astounding rates and in ways that are not healthy for our individual identities.

Most sad to me is that we are starting with babies. Babies! Do they even have a chance? I see a clear difference in my children that started watching "screens" at an earlier age than the older ones. A clear difference. I love all my children and it saddens me that I have let things go so far before recognizing the damage. It was just circumstance I told myself. Naturally, the younger ones will be exposed earlier to screens, sugar, junk food, "entertainment" vs creativity, and so on. Naturally, I can't help it. Oh yes I can. Oh yes I will. It's never too late.

I don't want to raise my children in that kind of "naturally". I don't care a bit if they can't have a conversation about the latest movie or video game. I don't care if they are the only ones in the neighborhood outside making mudpies. I care that they are able to be individuals with solid identities that aren't tossed about in the sea of addictions looming incessantly at their fingertips. Addictions are only possible when a lack of self realization and identity is present. I want to raise my children naturally in the purest and truest sense of the word. Since when did electronics and processed junk become "natural". I'll tell you when, when mothers began seeking time outside the home and wanting to "achieve" greatness by worldly standards. I say, "How great would it be if every single one of my children believed they were already exactly who they need to be." That would be truly great!

Children just want to be themselves and figure it all out. From the time they are born we tell them "hurry up". We put them in ridiculous outfits that say "look how stylish I am", inside they are screaming, "boy I wish I could move around freely". We push things on them so we can prove to others how smart they are, how accomplished and "ahead" they are. We have charts that compare their growth and tell them where they are on the scale and if they are better or worse than their bestie Billy Bob. It never stops.

They don't need us to tell them who they are, they already know. Really, all they want is for us to walk beside them, each step of their way. We are the ones that need to open our eyes and see them. We need to be wiling to be mothers rather than accomplishment spouters. We need to find our identity and stop trying to get one through our children's lives. Since when did being a mother mean sitting around doing nothing but catering to demanding children all day, running around to this and that activity so you could prove you were doing something. Our children will learn how to live because they see us doing it, not because we busy ourselves with trying to get them an identity suitable for society.

I need to see my children more and live my life more fully. That is the solution to the dicey around here of late. Simple, and very fulfilling. Oh yeah, and I need to be willing to keep usurpers of the mind out. How can one live and see, if bombarded, even in small doses, by messages so clearly designed to encourage confusion and self doubt.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Power of Literature

What is so important about reading anyway? The mind is so much better engaged with moving pictures on screens that tell you what to think. We can read on screens with animated pictures to save ourselves the work of imagining. Imagination is overrated. Why should we bother. We can even plant virtual flowers now and watch them grow without the laborious task of weeding, digging, watering, and caring for anything. Instant gratification is great! Why should we bother? Thinking, reading, planting, growing, doing, it's all simply overrated. Who needs to think anymore anyway? Just Google it. Google knows everything. Again, why should we bother?

I'll tell you why. The entire nature of our existence is to create. Not recreate, or restate, what someone else created and stuck in some screen for us to parrot back. To create is to be an active participant in life. To create our unique journey. We create from the myriad of stories we are exposed to. We plant a seed. We create a story of the seed and it's difficult journey to full potential. We watch a caterpillar gorge itself on sticky milkweed. We create a story of gluttony followed by hard work, and finally beauty within. We listen to bedtime stories of our parent's youth, and family reading night stories from classic literature. We create safe and comfortable places, where we can feel safe and comfortable in a world that is not so, much of the time. We listen, we read, we think, and we learn. We are scholars of life and we create.

We use the stories of our creation to make sense of our lives. When we are not so productive as the little seed that knew it could, and the chunky caterpillar that couldn't breath, only to find its glory was inside all the while, we have their stories to help us along. We use stories from those around us, in countless ways, to create our own story. We read to fill our minds of the very best things. We create a personal library, right inside our mind, and we become our own best resource because we seek the best. There is no such thing as over exposure to classic literature.

I read an interesting article recently. The claim was that reading is bad for teenagers. Many studies have shown that  teenagers that read are ill equipped to handle life situations of all types, they are cursing, smoking, rebelling against authority figures such as parents and community leaders, and they are generally unable to determine reality from fantasy and virtual worlds. Mind blowing, how could reading be so bad?! The last paragraph of the article lists the books said teenagers were reading. Aha! It's not reading that's the problem, it's the content. Duh! Most disturbing was that texts were considered "reading material". I get it, it's technically words, but reading material? Come on!

Much of "teaching" and literature today is sorely lacking in content. "Learning" is merely an exercise in feeding predetermined facts, often laden with hidden agenda, to be regurgitated at some latter time for proof of education. Literature has fallen prey, in large part, to consumerism and entertainment value.

We need thinkers. We need voracious scholars. We need leaders of the same stock as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. Whether you are a mother to the next president of the United States, or a future devoted husband and father or nurturing and kind mother, it makes no difference. We all have the opportunity to lead in whatever capacity best suits us. Leadership of what caliber is up to individual choice. Individual choice is shaped by the stories we hear.

I am entranced at the moment with, A Thomas Jefferson Education, by Oliver Van DeMille, as well as Leadership Education, by Oliver and Rachel DeMille. The first 65 pages of Books That Build Character: A Guide To Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories, by William Kilpatrick and Gregory and Suzanne M. Wolfe, are also thought provoking, and the book lists to follow have provided our family with hours of enjoyment and discussion.

Reading and discussing, such a simple thing, and yet the results offered are beyond measure. Stories teach. They offer solid ground to plant the values, morals, and principles that will sculpt the character of our children. The way those things are internalized has everything to do with the stories we hold dear. 

A book has the ability to remind us who we are. To bring us back from places that are not authentic to our own path. To ground us in the tumult of a continuously spinning whirlwind, that is the world in which we live. What we put into our minds, and how it goes in, does matter. The university of life begins at birth and lasts until death. I can't actually give my children character. They get to build it themselves. I can give them stories. I can read to them of the best books and give them heroes worthy of following, and villains worthy of avoiding. I can focus on content and steer away from entertainment value and "excitement" as the world sees it. Life will offer my children choices. I hope to give them gigantic piles of good stories with which they can create character aplenty.

The girls and I just finished, Lazy Tinka, by Kate Seredy. It's a wonderful book and we have enjoyed many of her others. We had an engaging discussion about God, work, animals, and people, the relation between all parties and who's job it is to make sure we have food, clothing, and shelter. I say 'we' had a discussion, but really I just listened while they did all this figuring and connecting on their own. It was one of those rare mom moments where you get to see that your children are actually more than all the bickering, pushing boundaries, and fit throwing. You know, the moments we live for.

About 30 minutes later, after much excited chatter, the girls bounded down the stairs exclaiming, "Mommy! Mommy! We are going to be oak tree farmers! We have acorns and we are going to go plant them and grow an oak tree farm!" After a jinx, followed by a double jinx, and yet still the triple jinx, finally resting on the rainbow jinx, they got down to business and starting planning. "Buckets of water to wet the extremely dry soil. Let it soak in a little so a good hole can be dug. Nestle the acorn into the ground. Water it well. Water it every day. Use our math skills to divide the acorns in half and devise a planting pattern so we each get to dig, plant, and water. Make sure we plant far enough away so the saplings don't fight for sunlight." And they were off.

Some time later, two happy little oak tree farmers burst into the house proclaiming victory over stubborn soil, and excitement at their new babies. The oldest farmer cried, "I really liked the Lazy Tinka book. It was fun!" To which the younger farmer agreed and added, "Tinka is a great teacher and the old wise woman sure was wise!" What a delight.

What do you hold dear? Do your children know? Is it worthy of your time? What do your children hold dear? Is it worthy of their time? Do you have any clue? Sharing stories with the growing generation has everything to do with our future. It has worked since the beginning of time. It still works today. Thinking is a natural product of reading. What do we want to encourage them to think about? Time to think is necessary to formulate and create. What do we want them to spend their time with? What's on your shelves? What does it bring you and your children? Is there time for thought and discussion, or is life just too busy to be that productive? Think about it :)

The very best leader told great stories. He leads with a calm assurance that He is, and therefore we are.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

And the Winner Is ...

_________. I have a shy audience and receive most comments through e-mail. My last post A Trip to the Store brought many insightful comments as well as some drop dead funny retorts.

Here is the winner for me: You should just tell people,because it's summer, "The kids wanted a slip and slide!"

Now that is some funny stuff right there! I wonder what winter, fall, and spring would warrant? Feel free to give me some material, I'd love it.

Sorry to all who thought they were going to get some wonderfully insightful post on how winning isn't everything and we are all doomed to fail in this society of extreme competition. Nope, nothing insightful here, not today. Sometimes, you just need a good laugh!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Trip to the Store

What would you think if you saw a middle aged woman with a shopping cart full of groceries, 7 tubes of personal lubricant, and a pack of 50 pet pads (you know the puppy training pads that soak up pee)? Yes, you read correctly, 7! tubes of personal lubricant. What could she possibly be doing? The mind goes wild.


Well that lady is me, on a regular basis, and there is nothing "personal", illegal, or disgusting (by perverse standards anyway) going on with those tubes of lubricant and packs of pet pads (no, we don't have a puppy). If you want to know what does go on with it, you can go to the family site and start in February of 2011.

How much of what we perceive about other people is actually even close to accurate? The simple fact is that we really know little about other people. More to the point, what we do know, like how many boxes of personal lubricant the weird lady at the store just bought, even provable facts, tell us nothing about a person, their life, or situation.

Come up with any scenario and I assure you I can give you another way to look at it. My next statement will likely ruffle a few feathers, feel free to comment or e-mail me and we can have a discussion, I welcome open communication.

Take the terrorists that wrecked havoc on 911. Weren't they just following their traditions, convictions, and quite frankly, things that had been ingrained and brainwashed into them from the time they could breath?

I make no apologies for the actions they took and the horror that was caused by their choices and actions. I am not on the side of the conspiracy theorists and do not think it was "an inside job". Nor do I purpose that there are not necessary consequences for actions we choose to take. I also won't be inviting anyone to to my backyard for a barbecue that believes that the country in which I live, and I myself, am the root of all evil and need to be killed. Important to note, I do not believe radical actions have anything to do with an entire group or religion.

It's not my business to determine whether a person is evil. It's my business to determine whether it is in my best interest to be around said person based upon the belief system that will dictate their actions.

I offer the following thoughts to ponder. Are we really as awesome as we think, and do we really posses the ability to know anything about anyone but ourselves? If we worried less about what we know about another person, or group of people, and more about what we understand about ourselves, wouldn't we be happier and more able to create peace and contentment within our own lives? Would that peace and contentment be contagious? Do we have vaccinations for peace and contentment in the form of ideas and words that make it nearly impossibly for us to catch the awful disease of peace and contentment?


After one too many stares, whispered comments from onlookers (not so quietly most times), and questions from the check out clerk, I sort of went postal. Okay that would be an exaggeration, but it was startling to realize how much was behind the smiles and pat answers I was putting forward that were apparently not a true representation of how things had been affecting me.

I didn't yell, or even raise my voice. I put on that same smile and gave a short, but much too long, narration of life with Malachi from the beginning. The silliest part was that this particular clerk didn't have anything negative or implicit to say. She actually said, "Oh look at his cute rosy cheeks. He is so adorable." I proceeded to let her know that his rosy cheeks were due to a skin condition and he was born with a disease and, well you get the point.

That experience was valuable for me in many ways.

I associate, and am friends, with a great many people that are nothing like me. They believe differently than I do, they live differently than I do, they eat differently, medicate their children differently, educate their children differently, and so on. I genuinely like and enjoy each and every one of them.

There are those that hear and read my words, which are often times very direct, and assume I am coming from a place of passing judgement on others. It is very easy for me to be exact and decisive for myself and my family while having no need whatsoever to decide what is best for another. I can easily leave your business to you.

I am that lady buying 7 tubes of personal lubricant. I really don't care what you are using yours for. As long as you are not going to require me to join you, then you might see me get a bit feisty :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Light; It's a Good Thing, Right?

As I was adjusting my position to reach a different side of the bookshelf I was painting, a glaring ray of sun shone in my eye, and I was momentarily blinded. In this moment of temporary darkness, I found light.

Light is a curious thing. It is good; in the right amounts, at the right time, and shone on the right things at the right angles. It is a hindrance; when viewed at the wrong time, in the wrong amount, and shone on the wrong things at the wrong angles.

We are curious beings. We judge. We peek around corners of each others lives. We shed light on things that are better left unlit, especially with our light. We travel to dark corners, with huge flashlights, in our best efforts to illuminate things that are not our business. We hold differences up to the light, in hopes of judging another to prove our ways are best.

Then, there is the even more curious, self-judgement. We pick our worst parts and hold them up to another's light. We tell ourselves we aren't good enough because we aren't where they are. We wonder why our life, in their light, looks so muted, gray, and lifeless. Worse yet, we pick our best parts and hold them up to another's dimmer ones to try and make ourselves feel better. We have anxiety and depression aplenty while we run around trying to live someone else's life, with light that does nothing for our own. We wonder why we can't see. It must be me. I am doing it wrong. Life is dark.

My step-dad says the greatest thing. "There are 3 kinds of business; God's business, my business, and not my business." I am so grateful that it is not my business to judge another. I am even more grateful that it is not my business to judge myself. Judgement is a Godly duty. A heavenly virtue, of which I am not qualified, or allowed, at this time. I am so glad.

Only God knows how much light each of us needs at any given point on our spiritual journey here. He knows which points and colors of light, will illuminate the right things, at the right angles, and at the right times. He knows we all need different light at different times. While one is ready for further light and knowledge in one area, another is ready in a different one. He knows what is needed in order for us to progress on our individual path to Him.

He sent the perfect light. "I am the light of the world,"  John 8:12

We are conditioned to look at others in order to judge our own progress. All we need is to look at ourselves, in the best light. If we stay the course, on our own straight and narrow path, we will get where His light leads. There is only one way, but there are many, many, different paths to the Way. Everyone has their own straight and narrow way, even our children.

It is not a competition to see who has the best way. It's not a race to see who can can get there first. Not a single one of us can claim to know that our way is better or another's is flawed. We live what we know. We remain open to the messages He sends.  

Sometimes the words of another person are His way of reaching us. Confirmation of His truths will always come if they are sought. We seek the Lord and follow Him. In our own way. In our own time. On our own path. He will be our judge.

In this world we offer ourselves in many ways. Our lives, with all the experiences, ideas, heartaches, and joys we live, offer us opportunities to connect. In our connections, we learn.

Sometimes we learn that another's journey is so much different than our own, it would not be beneficial to stay connected. Sometimes we learn we are so closely aligned with another, that we can glean valuable information to help us in our practical application of core values and principles. Sometimes we learn that others can be very loud in proclaiming that their way is the best way and you must join them. We learn to not learn, from that source. 

Sometimes we learn, that when we are not comfortable enough with ourselves, we tend to be defensive or feeble.
Sometimes we feel utterly alone in a community full of people, be it church/religion, family or single life, working or stay at home moms, neighborhoods, cities, or towns. We feel alone in our best efforts to seek Him because others tell us we aren't doing it right. It comes in many methods, both passive and aggressive, the spoken and unspoken; the message is clear. Sometimes we even make it up in our own minds. The delivery method is moot, the affect is the same and can be debilitating.

Hopefully we know that there is one connection that will always be there. It will never fail us, or lead astray. We are always connected with God. Always. Seek the best source. Check everything worldly by those values, standards, and character traits that come from the best source. We learn what is best for us to learn, when it is best for us to learn it.

I strive for an open heart and contrite spirit so that I can be open to His light. I want to see what He sees and reach what he knows I can. I want to soar with His light, which light is also in me. Do you see His light in you? 

There are many paths to the One Way. Seek His light. He will give you the right light, in amounts perfectly suited to your path. I love people. I love journeys. I love diversity. I love to share. I love to connect. I love to learn. I love my newly painted bookcase! I love my path. I hope you love yours.

An interesting thing to note about me: I believe in God, and that is how I refer to things and live my life. I am also of the belief that much of what I experience and share, is relevant to those who define their "light" and "source" in different ways, and vice versa. I don't need you to fit into my boxes or choice of words in order to understand where you are coming from. I hope there is a place of realization that we are much more alike, and have much more in common, than we realize. It's easy to take a stand and create a war of ideas and words. Once we stop warring about how things are said and what they are called, we might find it easier to communicate and learn from one another without fear. But that's just me! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It'll Build Your Character

If I had a nickel for every time my Dad said that growing up, we could retire to Alaska.

It was torture sometimes. Calling to find out information from a store, going on outings away from home for a week at a time, saving my allowance and paying for something myself, transacting business with local companies when I had a seemingly debilitating fear of doing something wrong, going up and making a friend, riding a bike, working on something that was sure to cause early death due to manual labor, finishing chores when everybody else in the whole world was outside playing because they had nice parents; I remember it all like it was yesterday. I was convinced I was the only kid anywhere with a dad concerned about character, and I wasn't convinced I needed any at all.

Hmph! I didn't die or meet some unconquerable quest. In fact, I gained some pretty great realizations about myself and abilities. I also developed an ability to be comfortable with myself. Add that to a bunch of people going the other way and it's a different story, but for this story, we'll leave it there. Funny thing those parents. They do know a little bit I guess.

I now find myself in the character building mode with some of my children. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "I hope you have a child just like you when you grow up." I think I mighta just gotten your wish dear parents o' mine; times 5 even. The great part about it is, I enjoy allowing time for life to be the teacher and not feeling pressured to conform with whatever outside source is trying to break through. I also have a clear perspective that these things take time and I cannot expect instant results. Instant results never yield true character.

Let me be clear, I have great children. But they are normal children that mouth off and disrespect, refuse to conform to my idea of what is best in a particular situation, and so on. My children are incredible actually; we get comments quite often about how much so. There is one thing that is particularly difficult for me though. I get comments, a lot, like this, "You can do it because you have such great kids." Aren't all kids great? You know this character building stuff is hard work. It really is. I put a whole lot of thought, effort, prayer, teaching, and training into it, and my ego is bruised when people think my children were born obeying my every whim and speaking to me as though they worship the ground I walk on. My children are great, but come into my home and you'll see the same things you see in yours.

Man that ego! Yep, I've got one.

A friend happened to be here one day when one of my children decided it was time to test boundaries with other people watching. It was a particularly incredible example of putting me in my place. I followed my usual broken record calm mom mode and stated that the behavior was not welcome in our home and didn't work for our family goals, then told said child they needed to go out to the garage step. I repeated this several times before the child's will bent far enough to 'exit the building' on its own accord. All the while, I was called lovely names and had statements with vicious intent hurled at me. My friend was shocked. Her comment, "Wow! Your kids really are normal." was enlightening to me. People really do think I live some idilic life with porcelain dolls for children. Wow!, is right.

She added, "You remained so calm. I couldn't do that." I beg to differ. Anybody can do it. You just have to create the proper environment for yourself to be able to do it. I focus a lot of my efforts on first understanding myself, and what I need to remain calm in teaching and training, before I try to parent. I was not offended by my friend's remark, it just opened my eyes to how people see me and our family. It made a lot of things make sense instantly.

I read something from a mom of 10 children recently. She related an experience of many years ago when her children were young, as they are now all adults with families of their own. She was that lady. You know, the one with the 10 perfect children, arriving 15 minutes prior to the start of services in order to listen to the prelude music and evoke reverent hearts, they sat perfectly still, never fought, always listened, and of course, never disobeyed or strayed. You know, that lady. She cried all through church one Sunday because it had been a particularly challenging feat to get everyone to church on time and seated. Not to mention her husband was a part of the clergy and arrived hours early so she was doing this all on her own. Someone behind her leaned up and said, "I don't know how you do it, I suppose I could do it too if I had your perfect children." She felt judged, harshly.

The tears flowed all through church services and she was devastated. It took an extreme amount of work to pull of what she did each and every day, let alone the Sabbath. Sunday preparations would start early Saturday morning and by the time she was sitting in a nice little row with her children and all their smiling faces, any number of things had transpired and been handled. Her priority was to create a calm and reverent experience for her family. She spent many hours of her week (and life) making that happen and to have it all chalked up to being such a breeze because her children were perfect, was more than she could take that particular day.

Having had similar statements made about my children and having been referred to often as, that lady, I can empathize with her. I haven't ever had that kind of emotional reaction, but I have felt robbed of the opportunity to say, "You know what, it takes a lot of work to do what I do, and while I love my children and would never take away from their role in it all, it's not a cakewalk most days, and I deal with the same stuff you do." I guess I've said it now :)

Turns out character is not such a bad thing and it does take building. I am grateful I had parents willing to navigate the storm called Amy, and stay fully anchored. I see so many children today that don't have parents willing to take the time, put forth the effort, and stay the course. It's easier to follow popular culture, placating, coddling, and hovering to the point of robbing opportunities for character building. I am sure my children dream of such parents, hopefully they will understand and thank me later. For now, I am towing the line (along with my husband of course!) and buildin' that there character as solid as I know how.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

It's only milk.  Although, sometimes it's formula, that costs waaaaaay more than milk.  Even if you are buying organic milk, shipped from India.  Which I am not, but just saying, we could probably have a summer home in Alaska for what we have spent (and continue to spend) on formula, much of which goes down the drain due to how our little guy eats.  It's a bit of a 'thing' if you haven't guessed.  Now, about the milk.

Sam is gone.  Chaos is in full motion, speeding brilliantly ahead.  It's almost bedtime; blessed bedtime!  I haven't gotten to bottles, they are all dirty and there is no formula made.  Guess who is more than ready to eat and not interested in learning about how virtuous patience is?  As I methodically wash and make bottles, I am breathing deeply and chanting to myself silly things like, "You can do it."  "Don't worry about what just crashed in the other room.  It already crashed, nothing to do about it now." "Someday they'll all understand how wonderful quiet and calm are, especially together."  "He won't die, even though you've seen him at the brink more times than you wish to recall, he won't die in this next few minutes as you ready his nourishment."  "How did you forget?!"  Silly mommy.

The phone rings.  It's Sam calling for his nightly ritual of individual time with the children.  He starts talking to me as though I am on some sandy beach somewhere with a tall glass of ice water in one hand, a marvelous book in the other, and all the time in the world.  You know, as though I am his wife and might be interested in his day.  I took a nice deep breath and said, as nicely as I could, "I am sorry, it's been a long day, I can't listen right now.  Can you start with the children?"  He knows me.  He was happy to oblige.

The fighting ensued.  Who's first, who was first last night, who's fastest to the phone, you always promise you'll remember the order and then you for get, you are a liar mom, yada, yada, yada!  And then it happened, the milk (formula) spilled.  Just as I was almost done, with all 10 bottles.  Nobody cares when the milk spills on the momma.  Under the wheat grinder.  In the drawers.  On the cabinets, behind the cabinet doors, stuck in the cabinet panel joints.  All over the floor.  Not a drop made it to the sink.  I was inches away and not a single drop had the courtesy, to just get on over that way.  Thousands of milliliters of super sticky, mess everywhere.  I lost it.  The tears were at the ready and they just came.  I am not sure how I saw to clean up the mess through the salty puddles in my eyes.  I am sure;  it was at my breaking point where the Lord taught me.

I wasn't upset because of the spilled milk.  I was stressed because of all the things I was trying to control at the moment that weren't my business.  The gracious offering of the milk, spilling freely on account of gravity, human anatomy and physics colliding, and other such things that are entirely out of my control, created an opportunity for me to see clearly.

There are thousands, probably millions, of things every day, that are completely and utterly out of my control.  Whether or not my children get along at the moments most beneficial to me, how at the ready I have resources to fill their bellies, if and when they have any interest in listening to me, and on, and on.  There is always one thing completely in my control.  My reaction to the uncontrollable world surrounding me.  

I enjoy those times when I am able to step back and see that everything is happening at precisely the right moment.  Crying over the spilled milk was what I needed.  In that moment, I needed to let go, and the milk mess was able to get me there.  Chaos breeds a need to control; a need to control what is not ours to control.  Sometimes things need to break before they can be fixed properly.  Tears can release humility we didn't know we needed.  Humility leads great places.

Patience is a virtue and I need more.  More holiness give me.  More strivings within.  More patience in suffering.  More faith in my Savior.  More sense of myself.  More gratitude give me.  More trust in the Lord.  More hope in his word.  More meekness in trial.  More praise for relief.  More purity give me.  More freedom form earth stains.  More longing for home.  More fit for His kingdom.  More, Savior, like thee.  (* words taken and adapted from More Holiness Give Me, a sacred hymn of our Lord.*)

Thank you milk :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The other day a friend brought me a present.  She said, pointing to a cute little pink gift bag, "That's for you.  It's kind of silly.  Just something little."  

Why do we feel the need to apologize for the gifts we give?  Why aren't our offerings enough?  Is it because we are conditioned to believe that the receivers opinion of said gift is somehow superior to the givers?  Is it because we place value on money and size first, and offering of oneself second, and sometimes never.

My little Ellie (don't tell her I called her little), was recently invited to a birthday party.  This friend is often referred to as "My Best Friend".  She immediately knew what she wanted to give.  "I know just what I am going to give her mommy!  My cowgirl dress-up.  She loves horses and being a cowgirl."  In my knee jerk, and worldly conditioned, response I mentioned she might want to buy something instead of giving something she already had. She came over to the dark side for a tiny bit, but ended up back in the same general direction.  Trying to make me happy, she talked of giving her a most prized dress up that she just got for Christmas.

I chose to see the wisdom and grace in her instinctual offering of herself to her friend, and backed off.  We washed the cowgirl dress.  We bought a plain white gift bag, that she decorated beautifully with stickers she had just received from her own birthday.  We added a cowgirl hat and some 'super fancy' tissue paper, tied it with a pretty bow (making sure it was long enough for her to use in her hair because Ellie had seen her wear the colors in the ribbon lots), and headed to the party.  It was a beautiful moment.  My children teach me so much.

This friend of mine, labored in her garden, with her own two hands, in order to bring me something.  She has five young children.  She is a busy lady with large responsibilities resting on her shoulders, both familial and in our church community.  The three daffodil bulbs she shared with me are worth far more than anything she could have purchased.  I understand that she was offering me a part of herself.  She gave of what she had.  I loved it for many reasons.  I am fairly certain that my words were insufficient in convincing her that her gift was enough.  I hope she knows.

We just built a home.  We have a barren yard (except for a few other transplants she brought over last fall, and planted for me!).  I am thrilled that I will be able to see those three daffodils growing and blooming, come next spring.  That 'silly little something' is perfect.

Scurrying around, buying, buying, buying.  Quite possibly a bit less consumerism and a whole lot more giving of self is just what this world needs.  At least, it's what I need.  It's what I thrive on.  I like to thrive.  What do we prove with gift lists longer than Rapunzel's locks?  That we are somehow most awesome and worthy because we can buy a bunch of stuff, wrap it really cute and send it on its merry way.  Maybe we just prove that we can spend money.

Please don't take offense if you have given me something.  I am well aware that there are those that live in a place where love is spending and buying.  I get it.  I am grateful for those offerings.  Not because of the thing that it is, but because I seek to know the giver and understand what their offering meant for them.  

Seeing the giver is what makes presents worth anything at all.  Take the Savior, he offered us each a gift.  This gift is intangible, and yet worth far more than any thing you could purchase in this world.  There is no amount of money that could equal its worth.  There is no thing greater in size.  It is the most perfect, and grandest gift of all.  And yet, His gift does nothing for us, until we first choose to see the giver.

See the giver and accept what is given.  Be the giver and give from the heart.  See the ultimate giver and graciously accept all the He has to offer.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I have been asked to be a voice here

My latest inner-workings are a mere click away!

I will still be posting here and on the family site at

See you everywhere :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What If ...

What if Jesus actually meant it when he said:

"Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."    - Matthew 7:1-2

What if we, really and truly, are each on our own path?  What if it doesn't matter a hill of beans where we are on our path in comparison to another?  What if all that matters is where we are in our own journey?

What if?

Well, I think he did mean it.  Furthermore, I think it applies to judging ourselves as well.  Recognizing improvements we can make is very different than judging ourselves unrighteously.   Have you ever forsaken a sin or misdeed and made a positive correction in your life because you beat yourself up over it?  I haven't.  In fact, the only time I am able to do anything of the sort is when I acknowledge how amazing the Lord knows I am, and choose to see myself through His sight.

What do we communicate to our Lord and Savior when we take on the burdens He already, so graciously and mercifully, took upon himself?  Effectively, we say, "Sorry, your sacrifice was just not good enough for me.  But good job making it work for all the rest of humanity.  High Five!"  It may seem ridiculous, but think about it.

His sight is perfect, and it reaches to the recesses of my soul.  Places that I don't even know exist, He reaches.  He shows me they are there.   He loves me unconditionally.  That is why I can shed the sins of this world and align myself more closely with Him.  It can be a difficult place to find sometimes; that place of peace and assurance, centered in our soul.  Sometimes it takes great effort to get there.  Outside sources can help.

My mom helps me remember how amazing I am.  She doesn't take away my struggles.  She doesn't try to buy my happiness.  She doesn't placate me with recitations of meaningless accomplishments.  She listens.  She allows me to navigate.  She reminds me of truth and where to seek it best.  She says silly things like, "Oh, Amy you are just amazing."  To which I usually chuckle and say, "Well, I guess.  If you say so."  But it gets me thinking.  It gets me going inward and to my center.  It reminds me that there are deeper places, better places.

The scriptures, with their plain and simple truths snap me back to the real reality.  Hymns, with their sweet melodies, entrancing harmonies, and 'no buts about it' lyrics, hymns.  Ahhh.  I choose to stick with tried and true when I am reaching for the best places within me.  Many a worthy enterprise will take my money to provide me with the next best thing.  Books, magazines, gadgets, gizmos, chants, pilgrimages, movements, and what have you; there are millions of ways to make life better, more meaningful, and bring us back to center.  Thanks, but I'm good with the plain old stuff from the good ol' days.

And one more thing, what if it doesn't matter how fast we are running this crazy race of life either.  What if it only matters that we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

What if YOU are amazing and perfect in His sight?  What if?

Up for a Challenge?

How long has it been since you have taken a serious look at the 10 commandments?  I have been conducting an experiment in my little spot of existence.  I take any situation that comes my way and evaluate my thoughts and reactions against those 10 commands.  Mind you, this may not happen until after the fact.  To be quite honest, it's probable, okay, highly probable, that most times, it's after the fact.  Anyhoo!  The lesson is still learned.    

When I am willing to look inside, rather than finding fault or placing blame, I am able to see the error of my ways.  In each case I have ended up back at the Ten Commandments.  Powerful.  God really did think of everything.  We just have to be willing to see it, and use it for our own growth.

Now for part II of the experiment; giving a hoot, and doing something about it!  Yes, indeed I am able to point to myself each and every day and say, "Now Amy, you knew what you were doing and you did it anyway."  Blast!  I think I'll build a time-out room for myself.  And the walls will be covered with encouraging and uplifting scriptures that will help me remember that I never get anywhere by berating myself.  

***(Hmm, sounds like a brilliant new approach to discipline.  You heard it here first folks.  I suppose I can't corner the market on scriptural based parenting.  Oh well, on to the next get rich quick scheme.)*** 

So how about it?  Are you up for the Ten Commandment Challenge?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Not In Scope of Work

We built a house last year.  As part of the process we had several opportunities to walk through, noting  progress made and things that needed fixing.  At one of these exciting viewings there were quite a few items that needed to be addressed.  Our builder made notes and lists for the carpenter and we all went about our merry way.  During the next adventure through the shell of our to be home, we were discouraged, greatly so, when we noticed that many of these items had not been taken care of.  Upon checking the lists, we made a discovery, the carpenter had an attitude.  Next to all the unfinished items there was a cute little phrase written, "not in scope of work".  Clever little carpenter.

Several months ago I was going through a bout of self doubt (yes, I am a poet and don't know it).  These are times I have learned to treasure, although at the time they can be excruciating. This particular bout had to do with feeling as though I was depriving my children because they are not 'up' on the latest music trends, fashion icons and brands, tv shows, and movies.  It pains me to even say it now, as I can see clearly how it's just not me to think those types of things, but that self doubt is a pretty sneaky fella.  I felt tumultuous inside to the point of needing to verbally erupt.  My husband is a great listener :)

After erupting quite nicely, I felt better.  Sadly, the relief was only temporary, as I had not made an internal change.  During the next playdate with self doubt, came the thought, "It's not in my scope of work to educate my children in the ways of the world.  That's not my business.  I am not comfortable there and do not belong in that space."  Amazing.  Not in scope of work.  What a relief.  A lasting relief I might add.

I discovered that as a mother I need an attitude.  An attitude that would see me through all the nay sayers of the world, the comments, judgments and criticisms of others, the hushed whispers of gossip that come when you choose to walk your own path and not follow the crowd.  Even more importantly, I would need an attitude that could withstand the self doubt that comes when others question with the intent of  helping me see my ways are just plain goody two-shoes, and I need to lighten up.  You see it's not other people that are the problem.  It is my very own special talent of being able to doubt myself so incredibly soundly, and to the core.  That is the problem.  I have found that many women share this special talent with me, and it is a great hinderance to the rising generation.

There is a force that is hard at work on families today.  This force is especially diligent in efforts to immerse children in things of the world.  These things have no business being in our children's lives.  They have no business in our lives.  They are meant to lead away, to cause straying in the most precise, deliberate, and dangerous ways.  They are subtle, sneaky, and difficult to detect.  The slow and steady steps toward these things are seemingly unnoticeable in our daily lives, and yet they creep us ever closer to the point of destruction.

Children sense fear and indecisiveness from miles away.  We are afraid of the fit, and they know it.  Who among us wants to be the mom with a child (of any age) throwing a tantrum because they missed out?  What would happen if the child was simply allowed the opportunity and invaluable experience of getting over the fit himself.  What if they were actually allowed to learn how to deal with and process their emotions.  What if they are capable of recognizing that the whining and screaming is not helpful for them and they can 'get over it' and move on.  What if we really can't save them from themselves at all.  

Born from good intentions is a desire to reason with them, to help them, to cushion the fall.  What if helping is hurting?  We want to save them from themselves and talk them out of what they are feeling.  What they actually need is to realize, of their own accord, that the result they seek simply does not exist.  Only then are they able to move on, and they do it very beautifully on their own.  

I am not suggesting we don't talk with our children.  I am not suggesting we leave them alone to deal with life.  I am suggesting that we tend to hover and save, rather than teach and lead.  The loving nurturing mother is always there, but not as a punching bag or self help guru.  A loving mother is there to hold a safe space and allow life to be the teacher and self to be the student.  What if we do best, by them and for them, by engulfing them in the things that will center and ground them, and give them the tools to govern their own path.  Rather than indulging them in things that keep the fits at bay, we can have attitude enough to set the boundaries, make the best choices, and ride out the storm when necessary.  

The temporary relief that comes as a result of indulgence, be it food, movie, video game, toy, sporting event, or what have you, is quickly replaced by a desire for more.  Often this desire is so overpowering that reason and judgement cease to be effective tools.  All that matters is that nothing is ever enough.  When we choose to indulge and over-indulge our children, they learn very quickly how good it feels to satisfy the burning desire.  Burning desires can never be satisfied, their very nature is to take over.  This is not joy.  This is not abiding peace and comfort that will encourage them and lift them through all that life will bring their way?

What burning desires are you cultivating within the hearts and souls of your children?  Are they worthy of their time?  Are they worthy of their efforts?  In a world that is obsessed with fame and fortune, the quick fix, something for nothing, in that world, we have an opportunity to raise calm and confident children that know how and where to find their own lasting peace and happiness.  If we choose to be calm confident mothers with attitude to rival all.  

I can't afford to raise my children as though they will step out of my home and onto a pillowy cloud of loveliness that will pour riches upon their heads and all abundance will rain upon them forever.  I don't know that life.  I know a life that has taken, and will continue to take, much hard work, faith beyond what I knew possible, and grace sufficient to make up for all my short comings.  No amount of money, fame, travel, or even education can fill the holes left from the shrapnel of this world.  

Thankfully (that is a serious understatement), there is another force that trumps all.  Thankfully, that force, namely Jesus Christ, offers an attitude with enabling powers beyond measure.  An attitude that is impenetrable against all, even self doubt.  An attitude with an heir of holiness and majesty.  An attitude that feels calm, confident, and assured.  An attitude that even the most wily child can not demolish.  The heavenly and peaceful space provided by this attitude allows us to detect anything, and everything, needful to secure a successful return into His gracious, merciful, and loving arms.  

My scope of work has nothing to do with making sure my children are immersed in popular culture, whatever, or whomever, the latest craze is.  It has everything to do with strengthening of spirit, growth of character, and living a virtuous life.  We are spiritual beings housed within the confines of physical realms and bodies.  I am aiming for a spiritual journey that takes place in this world, but is not of it, not even one little bit.

What is in your scope of work?

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I heard a comment that changed the way I mother while attending a Suzuki String parent workshop a couple of years ago.  One of the teachers on the panel for the question and answer period, who is also a mother, shared her motivation for beginning music lessons at such a young age, and diligently keeping her child in violin lessons, no matter what, until he was out of her home.  "I wanted to give him an identity."  Her sentiment was that if we don't do it for them, who will.

While this mother's goal is certainly a worthy one, I immediately felt the idea lacking for me.  If my child's identity comes from any worldly source, no matter how worthy, how lasting can it possibly be.  Furthermore, can I actually give my child an identity, or does he already have one that he needs to hold true to?  If I nurture the identity he already has, he will find his path.  If I try to give him a new identity I create an identity crisis.  No child needs an identity crisis.

As mothers we nurture, teach, and train.  That has little to do with our deciding for them which worldly pursuits will give them a false identity and sense of self worth.  Whether it's music, sports, social engagements, or even academic achievements, identity does not come from without, it comes from within.  Whatever they do and pursue, does not determine who they are.  More to the point, it has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to create their own lasting peace and happiness.

Not that any of the aforementioned things are bad.  But I have noticed it is far easier to focus on the outward things that prove, to ourselves and others, we are awesome mothers and are doing everything right.  I know amazing mothers that have amazing children that do many things really well.  The key to it all is they are raised with core values, morals, and principles and they are allowed time.

Time to be children, to play outdoors, to experience life, and learn how to navigate emotions and draw upon logic and reason.  They invent, discover, seek, organize, create, problem solve, and share, all unprovoked and without time tables and pressures.  They find joy and peace in the little miracles and joys surrounding each moment.   All by their very own little selves, they find their identity, and upon maturity and growing older, they choose the things to be involved in and pursue that will be beneficial to their life.  They spend none of their time competing and trying to become the next best thing.  They spend all of their time becoming their best.

A while back Zack won some movie tickets from a contest at his orthodontist's office.  He asked me on a date and searched long and hard to find a movie worthy of our time.  We had to drive quite a distance (about 45 minutes) in order to find a theater that was still playing this movie.  Circumstances were favorable to asking one of his friends to accompany us, so he did and off we went.  As we traveled, it was interesting to be a fly on the wall and listen to their conversation.

The focus for Zack's friend was very much on sports and how to be famous and make lots of money and be important because you are able to beat everyone else.  These things are foreign to Zack, but he listened like the good friend that he is.  At one point he was asked the question, "What sport are you going to play when you go to college?  You really need to play sports to be somebody."  Zack went through a monologue that was painful for me to hear.  He fumbled through trying to answer the question and much of what he said was negative.  He was trying to fit himself into another's view point, quite a forceful one too.  After a while he said, "Well it couldn't be basketball.  I am not very good at basketball."  I couldn't stay quiet any longer.  I chose to break in and simply said, "You know Zack you are only 11.  If you choose to play sports I am sure you still have time to work hard and pursue that.  Also remember that comparatively there are very few professional athletes to people in this world and there are lots of ways to be happy besides sports."

The attitude change was immediate and decisive.  He had hope that all wasn't lost because he could not, at the ripe old age of 11, play professional sports and 'be somebody'.  He remembered that he is already 'somebody', and a pretty great somebody at that.  He remembered the core values and principles I try so diligently to focus on.  I am so glad that I was there for that moment.  I have nothing against sports.  Zack has wanted to play soccer on a team ever since he left his team in Louisiana.  Circumstances thus far dictate that it can't be be part of his life right now.  He has learned that sports are fun, but they do not define him.  Maybe he'll be a soccer star.  Maybe he won't.  Maybe he'll be a sanitation worker (garbage man to those of us less politically correct!).  Maybe he won't.  He'll always be Zack and that identity transcends all social norms and expectations.  Beautiful.

Last night, I watched a story of a boy, beginning in childhood and continuing through early adulthood, he was interviewed and his life was followed as he navigated life.  He was the popular kid.  The one everyone wanted to be.  He had the most friends.  He played every sport and excelled in each one.  He had walls full of trophies, medals, and certificates.  And he felt empty.  Completely empty.  He actually said, "I want to quit everything and just have time to live.  Have time to figure out who I am and what I want.  But I can't.  Who would I be without the sports.  What would I have to show people that I am a worthwhile person.  I would disappoint my parents and my teammates.  I can't quit, but I want to."

He was 16 at the time of this statement and had played sports ever since he could remember.  These were thoughts he never shared with anyone around him.  He wrote them in a journal to be discovered by his father when when he was at a treatment center for drug addiction.  The addiction started in 6th grade and I watched as he convincingly spoke of never having anything to do with drugs and being disgusted with the practice.  No one knew until he was 18 years old and his addictions had grown from 'smoking weed' to heroine and 'coke'.  He was happy, friendly, and just like every other kid.  Until he started stealing from his dad to pay for his addiction.  I would have never guessed what was coming, and I am fairly perceptive.  It was heartbreaking.

Years later, after: treatment, relapse, more treatment, and finally coming to a place where he felt he could be authentic and genuine, without needing drugs to numb the pain of not meeting social, familial, and popular norms and expectations, he has finally found himself and his place in the world.  Drug free for 4 years now, he lives in poverty (according to worldly standards) in a remote land, with "a bike, good friends, and a community of people that allow me to be myself and live in an authentic way." He doesn't need anything else and has found tremendous joy and peace.

He does not blame or find fault with any who pushed or coerced him in specific directions.  He knows they meant well.  He also understands that the need for him to fill the "holes in his soul" due to pressures and not being mature enough at the time to voice his own desires, was something he couldn't fix on his own.  He now answers first to God and has made peace with the fact that earthly parents, who mean well, can hurt when they meddle with something so precious as identity at such young ages.

We mean well.  We always mean well.  Meaning well usually means we are poking our nose in someone else's business.  Our children are certainly our business.  But we would do well to navigate our way carefully through their business.  They are first God's children and ours second.  The fundamentals of child rearing have nothing to do with us being able to show them off or write spectacular Christmas letters declaring their awesomeness, which in turn proves our own.  We would do well, and not just mean well, if we would focus first on our identities, and let our children have their own.

I have been through a few things in my lifetime.  I am sure to go through more.  My identity as a daughter of God, a mother in His kingdom, a wife and equal partner to my husband in His priesthood, is what has seen me through.  I can not give the credit to any diploma, academic achievement, trophy, award, or any other such tangible thing with bragging rights.  I seek the Lord and by His grace I am enough.  I have enough.

Our children are not ours.  They are not to be owned as possessions that prove us.  These are not little adults that come into our lives.  They are precious little children that need time to be children.  They are to be free to own their identity.  How are we directing them to that path?  That is the question, not which thing to sign them up for.

Now, if the sentiment would have been to teach and train, diligence, hard work, practicing for progression, patience, and developing talents for the Lord's purposes; that I could buy off on.  Not so much at the early ages some feel strongly about, but certainly there can be much crucial character training that comes from participating in such things as music lessons and sports.  Moderation is key, and knowing the weak spots of our children's souls helps us know how and when to use things to help teach them.    

Baking Life

Friday, as my kitchen was exploding with flour, sugar, butter, and whatnot, while I made brownies and cookies by the hundreds (maybe a slight exaggeration, maybe - you could remove the (s), but it was over 100, just saying.), for my daughters ballet recital and potluck,  - and just when you wonder, "Will she ever be done with this run-on sentence?!"  I had an epiphany.  As mothers, we bake life.

I have had one of those weeks where you wonder moment by moment if you are going to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the next.  Sam's inspection schedule creates an upheaval to say the least.  Add to that: 5 children with strep and an upper-respiratory virus (at the same time), a baby getting 4 molars with an ear infection and enterocolitis, a fever to mock all others on top of the strep/upper respiratory thing, as well as his Hirschprung's complications, ballet dress rehearsal, recital, and potluck food commitments, not forgetting about the absent husband of course, and it seems that the best option would be to promptly find a corner, grab a box of tissue, and sit down and have a good cry.  And never, ever get out of said corner.

We must also give proper credit to the beast named self-doubt, as well as his friend 'must do everything and live up to all outside obligations and expectations, we must!'  Those are some friendly beasts.  Don't ask why I refer to them with a male pronoun.  Just don't.

Strangely, I didn't find said corner, or feel a need to.  I did learn something about baking life.

So Friday comes.  I am knee deep in snot, anti-biotics, whinny, non-compliant children who each want all of me every second, no sleep to speak of, and the cookies and brownies.  I was also elbow deep in hot water and soap suds for all of you that experienced my cookies and brownies!  Things were actually going pretty well for the moment, Malachi was sleeping, the 3 oldest were not contagious anymore and felt well enough to attend their bi-weekly 3 hour science class, and Addie was happy to be mommy's helper from the living room so as to not infect the delicious desserts with bacteria and virus germs, yummy.  And then it happened.

My flour bucket was empty.  Trip to the freezer, refill the bucket, return flour to the freezer.  My baking soda was empty, another trip and back to the freezer.  My sugar container was empty, trip to the basement, fill up the sugar, back to the basement.  My oats container was empty, another trip to the basement, fill up the oats, back to the basement.  Cinnamon, empty, basement.  Salt, empty, search cabinet, find, fill, return.  What?!  Malachi is awake, and not happy.  Time to go pick up the children, what?, it's been 3 hours already.  "Mommy, when are you going to read me this book.  I have been waiting a long time."  Sorry, Addie, I will read it later."  Ugh!  That's is my least favorite mommy mantra.

My time, and more importantly my efforts, were completely wasted in a bunch of needless running around.  Had I ensured my buckets were loaded and ready to go, those treats would have been made in a flash rather than a frustrating process of several hours broken up all through an entire day, rather couple of days as it turned out.  I was able to get it all done.  But boy, it sure wasn't efficient, and I left a lot of the best things undone and pushed aside, due to my lack of proper preparation.

When my buckets are full, I can handle anything.  And by handle I don't mean simply get through it.  I mean bake some of the meanest brownies this side of wherever the meanest brownies are, and have a fabulous time doing it.  And, the best things are never pushed aside.

Life is all about the unsweetened cocoa sometimes.  It doesn't matter a pinch when I have buckets full of sugar.  When I start with buckets fully loaded, ingredients at my fingertips, and peace and joy in my heart, those are some tasty days.  The days when I am constantly in a scramble to find ingredients and fill my buckets, those days; not so tasty.   

It's not difficult to keep my buckets full of the best things.  I simply must choose to do so.  I don't need time away.  I need to fill my time with the things that keep me centered and grounded in what feeds my soul.  I don't need outside endeavors to fill a need for validation, recognition, and a sense of peace.  I need peace.  Peace comes from choosing the best ingredients and keeping my buckets full of them.  Recognition and validation are conditioned responses that never last, and in fact only serve to create a desire for more.  The addictive nature of external rewards and assurance leads to an incredibly unsatisfying and quite harried way of life.  More, bigger, better, see me, see me!  Nothing is ever enough.

I am surrounded by enough each and every minute I choose to be a part of my enough and not be concerned with another's enough, or another's version of what my enough should be.  Be it through the media, envy of a friend or acquaintance, social norms, advice of concerned people that mean well, or any thing else that brings those unfriendly beasts of keeping up and self doubt into my life.  Those things can't touch me when my buckets are full of what I need.  That's enough for me.

What's in your bucket?  More importantly what fills your bucket best?  If it doesn't fill your bucket, is it worth your time?  Are the best things removed from your bucket to make room for good things?  Feed your soul, fill your bucket, and then go forth and bake yummy moments of life!