Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Fun

I know it's past the holidays, but this is too fun not to share.

(I know it may be somewhat staged, but still, the rhythm is pretty impressive.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

And here's another book to add to your list (The Mother in Me) -- except you can WIN it!

Giveaways are so much fun!

(BTW, this book, The Mother in Me, is awesome! I bought several copies to give as gifts to mommas I know. It's the kind of book I wished I had had when I was a momma of little ones. (Yeah, it's all worth it (a million times over) but there were days when I wondered, and wondered if there was anyone else who wondered. And this book would have helped me see that I'm not. And that that's part of the plan.)

It's really the kind of book that will appeal to lots of readers, though.

I'll share one of my favorite quotes from the book here, just to give you a glimpse:

"Since Heavenly Father has purpose in all that He does, He knows that sending children into this home will not be a perfect experience. Maybe some of my children's success is from watching my failures. Sometimes I yell; sometimes I lose my temper; sometimes I speak without thinking. My children watch me do all these things.

"Then they watch me fix it....

"They watch me make amends, apologize, repent....They watch the Atonement play a part in my life. Maybe part of the purpose in sending children to imperfect homes is to teach them how to fix mistakes."

(And I know I am supposed to include a name and a page number, but I am going to ask forgiveness of my friend who wrote this, rather than permission, because I want you to be able to discover this wonderful truth in the book on your own as it unfolds; the context makes it all the more powerful. just have to love good writing.)

There are many, many moments in this book that will make you pause, ponder, smile, or weep. (I even threw the book across the room at one point -- not because the writing was awful, but just because I was going through an awful time and it really struck deep.)

But then again, you will find that book-throwing happens to the best of us -- you will, that is, if you read the book! :)

Have I piqued your interest yet? GO COMMENT, then! And if you don't win the giveaway, put this one on your list -- for you and for women you know who cherish motherhood but struggle with their humanness in that ever-important role. Or for those who have been there, done that (or may still be waiting to be there, do that), but love good, honest writing. (This is not one of those fluffy books that makes motherhood look like something you treat with kid gloves, or makes it all appear like it's all bliss. It's real, and I love that.)

And when you get it, come back and tell me what your favorite story or poem was. (FWIW, if I had to pick a favorite, it's on page 26. But there were so many things I loved in this book. And since it's a compilation of essays and poetry, there really is something to reach out to every reader.)

(I know. It's awful posting posts like this two days before Christmas. I'm sorry, but it's Christmastime! I've been, you know, getting ready for Christmas! And yes, I will admit...I'm a book junkie....)

C Jane Write; C Jane (and her sister) help me decompress (p.s. Get her book!)

So, I'm feeling proud of myself, because I wrapped a good majority of our presents tonite.

But then I hit a wall. And what do I do when I hit a wall?

Yup. I hang out with my 'puter for a bit. (Hey, now, everyone is in bed around here anyway.) Tonight, it was the usual: checking email, checking local headlines.

I was saddened by an accident that took the lives of two teens.

But there was happy news! NieNie and her family got an amazing Christmas present: a house! (Wow.) That made me want to check out NieNie's blog, where I read some fun archived posts that people had requested. I'm still so amazed at how this whole thing has brought people the world over together -- how much Stephanie had inspired so many (can I just tell you how many people asked me "Have you heard of NieNie?), and how her life continues to do that.

And that reminded me that I hadn't read cjane's blog for a while. So I devoured some delicious writing over there. (Wow.) She's amazing.

And then I remembered that I hadn't mentioned her book here. Shame on me. And now it's too late to get it by Christmas, but that doesn't mean you don't still want it!

This is a book that was created mostly as a fundraiser for NieNie and her family -- a way that writer and editor friends could contribute to the cause.

But, you know, it's also just a whole lot of fun to read cjane. No, it's more than fun. Yes, her writing is entertaining to be sure, but it's also powerful, inspirational. (Humph. That word sounds so cliché to me right now, but remember, everyone's in bed, so that means it's

So, anyway, go ahead. Enjoy it! You won't regret it.

(And thanks, cjane. You and your sister really are an inspiration to me. And a great distraction from my to-dos.) :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Resistance Training: Irony in Adversity

My husband's grandma passed away last night (we only have one grandparent left...strange to be moving to a new phase of life where our parents are the oldest generation).

I am happy for her. She was old, and sick, and all but bedridden. She suffered a massive stroke years ago, before I even knew her. I can't imagine how difficult it was for her to be so dependent on others. To have so little control over so much of her body. To have life be so different from what it was, and have it continue for so long that way.

I'm sure it was all the more difficult when her husband passed away a few years ago. Oh, how she missed him!

But what I am pondering tonight is something that she said more than once: "My stroke was the greatest thing that ever happened to me."

I think also of my dear aunt, who was in a car accident at the age of 19 -- at the prime of her life. She was a P.E. major, someone who loved sports and loved to dance. And she ended up paralyzed from the waist down. While she pursued her dreams with passion (she ended up teaching P.E. for years, getting a Ph.D. and being a university profession), some dreams have remained unfulfilled. We as cousins gathered at her home last night for our highly-anticipated yearly party; we are her children, as she has never married and had children of her own.

The irony of trials can sometimes be so painful. They can even seem, in our mortal view, so senseless.

Irony describes some of how I feel about some struggles in my life. For example, there are few things a mom of young children needs more than health, but if anything, my health as of late has been worse than what I have dealt with the past six years since my chronic illness began. Other challenges in combination with my health issues have tested me to limits I didn't know I had.

And I confess that sometimes I pound on the doors of heaven, pleading for strength and perspective that can be difficult to find in the midst of the struggle.

I am reminded tonight, as I consider Grandma, my aunt, and so many others whose lives have had tangible evidence of pain and trial (so often the irony is unseen to others!) of something Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:

What I now read is a most wintry verse indeed: “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.” (Mosiah 23:21.)

This very sobering declaration of divine purpose ought to keep us on spiritual alert as to life’s adversities.

Irony is the hard crust on the bread of adversity. Irony can try both our faith and our patience. Irony can be a particularly bitter form of such chastening because it involves disturbing incongruity. It involves outcomes in violation of our expectations. We see the best laid plans laid waste....

Without meekness, such ironical circumstances are very difficult to manage....

Amid life’s varied ironies, you and I may begin to wonder, Did not God notice this torturous turn of events? And if He noticed, why did He permit it? Am I not valued?

Our planning itself often assumes that our destiny is largely in our own hands. Then come intruding events, first elbowing aside, then evicting what was anticipated and even earned....

Irony may involve not only unexpected suffering but also undeserved suffering. We feel we deserved better, and yet we fared worse. We had other plans, even commendable plans. Did they not count?...

Customized challenges are thus added to that affliction and temptation which Paul described as “common to man.” (1 Cor. 10:13.)
It's easy to talk about trials being for our good when we aren't in the middle of them. At least that is the way it is for me.

But then I am reminded of what I taught my son years ago when he asked why some people get sick (of course, in his general question was a very specific concern about why his mom was struggling with health issues -- it's been for over half of his life!).

The analogy I used with him was how that when we build our muscles through weight training, it can hurt. It can be hard. The way we build strength is to have resistance. I didn't use that word, but he clearly understood the principle. We have, more than once, reflected together on that reality. I will make motions of lifting barbells and talk of building spiritual muscles. And he will nod. (Children are so teachable. Would that I could be so receptive to simple truths.)

In answer to prayer, God is now the Parent reminding me, the child, of this principle. I prayed for perspective tonight and thought of Grandma. Of my aunt. Of so many others whose lives have been riddled with irony. My heart has been softened a little toward the ironies in my own life.

Elder Maxwell's words have helped.

In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus’ divinity almost constantly.

For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father “in all things from the beginning.” (3 Ne. 11:11.) This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool (see Acts 7:49), but at Bethlehem there was “no room … in the inn” (Luke 2:7) and “no crib for his bed” (Hymns, 1985, no. 206.) [What a truth to remember at this time of year!]

At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18–19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him “as they listed.” (D&C 49:6.) Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.

You and I are so much more brittle. For instance, we forget that, by their very nature, tests are unfair.

Elder Maxwell goes on to list many other ways in which the Savior's life was laced with irony. His life was unfair, too! He understands irony and adversity.

I invite you to read more of Elder Maxwell's talk here. It's one that has become a sort of anchor talk for me.

I'm grateful the Lord brought it to my remembrance tonight.

What talks, quotes, scriptures, or principles bring you strength and perspective during hard times?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Significant Decade

My oldest child turned ten today.

Double digits. A decade.

My little buddy, getting less little all the time. He uses big words, has big dreams...and plans...and thoughts.

And yet, there's still enough littleness that once in a while I can sneak in a smile, savor whatever is left of that littleness just a little longer.


We were at tithing settlement on Sunday. Bishop asked if the children knew why we were there.

Big answer from #1:
"To declare whether we are full tithepayers."

In the same breath came the answer from my still-a-little-little guy:
"...and to get candy."

(Fortunately, I had my journal with me, so I wrote that down right on the spot.)

It's a day when I find myself reflecting on the last decade of my life. How my life changed ten years ago! How I feel I have changed over the past ten years!

Motherhood was not something that came naturally to me. At all. I still remember vividly the time my husband flat-out said I was more suited to the boardroom than to motherhood (gee thanks, dear!). But really, in a way, he's right . (Isn't it ironic that sometimes it's the women who would make amazing mothers naturally who either find themselves single or married and unable to have children?) I think being a mom was one way the Lord could stretch and test me the most intensely. But, of course, these little people have blessed and enriched my life immensely.

It has been interesting the last while to look back on the past decade of my life and to feel that maybe, just maybe, I've made some progress. There were times early on (and actually, for many years) when I wondered if the children would have been better off with someone better, someone for whom mothering came more naturally, someone with strengths where I am weak. (Truth be told, sometimes I still catch myself feeling that way.) But when I'm honest with myself, I can feel that God really is more patient with me than I am with myself.

In fact, when I am seeing clearly, when I'm open to the Spirit, I accept that progress often (usually?) is measured in decades, sometimes even generations. I fight that reality. I would rather have progress be much quicker.

But, as a good friend of ours often says: Things Take Time. That "slow" progress (what's a decade to God, really?) is part of mortality. (Still...fighting...that...reality....)

Thank heaven for an Atonement. I do believe the Savior is helping me become a better mother, a better person.

Here's to hoping the next decade is better than the last. And that applies to much more than just the growth I need as a mother. The list of things I am working on in my life is very long at the moment.

But the list of ways the Lord has delivered me from myself -- the list of other decades of progress (for whatever reason, a decade often seems to be the measure of miracles in my life) -- is getting longer, too. Someday I may write about more of those miracles.

But today, I'm celebrating this decade.

Happy birthday, JJ!

Enjoy some great Christmas music!

I love it when artists are willing to share their talents in ways that don't *require* that you purchase something. Hats off to Jon Schmidt for sharing his gift. (If you haven't ever heard his stuff, it's worth a listen.)

Right now, he has hours of Christmas music that automatically stream from his home page. I've been enjoying it as background music while I'm at the computer and working in the house.

He also has some free MP3s and sheet music you can download, and a whole bunch of other music you can play through the playlist.

Ahhhhh. Love it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Because sometimes it's good to just stop and laugh...

My husband has a thing for watching Muppet clips on YouTube. Here are a couple of the ones that have tickled my funny bone as of late:

Ode to Joy

Danny Boy

What's your favorite funny mini-flick? (Keep it clean, please. :) )

Friday, December 5, 2008

More Post-Prop 8 Support of the Church

Thanks to David Sundwall over at A Soft Answer for this info. I'll just send you there; he gives a nice summary and includes a response from Elder Ballard.

(And if you haven't seen this at the Newsroom, it's worth a read, too. It's a compilation of supportive statements and articles. It's heartwarming to see what the Church calls "measured voices" providing "reason [and] support amidst [the] Proposition 8 reaction.")

BYU Television Has a YouTube Channel!

I happened upon the BYUTV YouTube channel today. So far, there is only one video there (a nice Christmas one -- with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing in the background with cute clips of a children's nativity), but I am hopeful for more.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Draper Utah Temple Open House

I've been anxiously awaiting the news of this open house. It has begun!

These open houses are available to anyone; you don't have to be a member of the Church to attend.

You can make ticket reservations here.