Friday, January 13, 2017

Balance

"When things change, or when you have to adjust things because of change, it doesn't mean that what you were doing up to that point was wrong --you were doing what was right in the time it was right. But as things shift, and you change to accommodate that shift, the new patterns are also right. It's not about right and wrong, so much as it's about the ability to adjust with life as it continuously changes. Because it will always consistently change." 
That is my poor, poor attempt at quoting my therapist. That was the meaning of what she said, but I can't quote her directly, because it was more of a conversation between the two of us. I wanted to share it, though, because I feel it's imperative to understand what she told me. I need to be reminded, constantly, as I re-wire my brain, that change is okay. 

Life feels like a constant balancing act. That metaphor (simile?) has been used a lot, but I think it's apt and relevant. Shifting direction, thoughts, schedules, actions, plans, opinions, goals, etc. are necessary throughout life because it will always be changing. Those who refuse to allow the change, who hate the change, who fight the change --they are usually very unhappy. But those who embrace the opportunity to grow and welcome adjustments tend to be much happier. 

I want to do well with change, but my mind doesn't like it. Moving is brutally hard for me. Having a baby is also difficult. Choosing to stop having babies was a hundred times harder! I like to plan for things (I really like plans) and it's taken me a few decades to embrace spontaneity and change. Luckily, I married a man who is good at this, and he's helped me understand how much better it is to go with the flow sometimes, rather than stand against the waves (and then be angry I keep falling down). 


However! When my therapist and I were talking about adjustments, her main point (for me, since, you know, she's my therapist and all) wasn't the importance of shifting, but the importance of not feeling guilty for needing to adjust. I have this attitude that if something is true, it needs to always be true. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is this way. With my self-worth, it is this way. But for most things in life, truth can shift and change. 

For example, about 8 years ago, I requested that my husband be home from work at 6PM for dinner with the family. It wasn't a hard request and he even agreed to it. But almost every night, he was late. He would walk in after 6pm or even 6:30pm. He always told me when he was on his way home, but by then, dinner was ready. I was so angry for so long! I couldn't believe he was doing this to us! He claimed he got pulled into meetings and emergencies last minute, that he tried to get home on time (and sometimes he did), and I just figured he didn't want to eat with us. Well, I did some praying, and I was inspired to chill out and shift dinner. Who cares when we eat dinner as a family? Isn't the point to be together? The kids could have a snack at 4PM and then we could eat closer to 7PM, or whenever he could get home. Guess what happened, dear reader? He was magically home on time to eat dinner with us every single night. And my anger disappeared. 

Because I chose to adjust, everything worked. I could have dug in my heels, but then I would have continued to be angry all the time. What was more important to me --my husband eating with us, or my idea that it had to be at 6PM? Once I answered that question, the behavior change was easy. 


It's not always that easy, though. 

I have spent years re-wiring my brain to embrace the subtle shifts of change in my life so I might better balance all the responsibilities I have to myself, my family, and loved ones. And guess what, dear reader? It's finally working. Here are some examples of how I have found balance:

*The first thing I would say is that I have included God in everything. I have always done this, although not always well, and although it was hard and I didn't want to. Even when I was at my lowest low, I still prayed. Even when I couldn't feel the Holy Ghost, anymore, I had faith. I have always kept the gospel and my testimony close by, even if I ignored it at times. Yes, it would ebb and flow. But I would fake it until I made it, and dear reader, that was definitely the right choice for me. Choosing to put God first in my life has made the rest of the goodness that followed possible! I don't know why I have been so good at this when others have not (could not?), but I am grateful. I know faith is a gift. I don't take it for granted.


*I've embraced agency. I recognize what an amazing power it is to choose! Even the smallest of choices can bring about good things in my day. I read something a friend wrote about how some days she says the words, "can I just do this?" when she's trying to accomplish something that feels overwhelming. She found that when she did that, it had a snowball effect into other things and the difficult tasks suddenly weren't so hard, anymore. Like, "Can I just get out of bed and go use the bathroom?" goes to "Can I just take a shower?" to "Can I just make my bed/clean up my room?" and before you know it, you're already on your way to having a very productive day. Another example: "Can I just read four verses in my scriptures?" or "Can I just empty the dishwasher?" or "Can I just answer one email?" 


*With the power to choose, I have learned how to identify shame. Shame is what has crippled me and aided to my depression for years and years. Learning I am, in fact, not a bad person, has enabled me to make much healthier choices. Guilt still happens, but it's far less because I used to confuse guilt and shame. Guilt is for sin; guilt is for things I know I should apologize for or change. Shame just blocks me from feeling the Spirit and making good choices. 


*I do not beat myself up over things I have to adjust. If I can't exercise one day, I don't throw in the towel and decide I can never exercise again. If I binge eat sugar one day, I don't berate my lack of self-control --I just choose to eat a good meal next time. If I have to adjust the timing of when I eat a meal, exercise, clean, do laundry, etc, I no longer panic or give up. I just adjust as needed and move on. (Please notice, dear reader, the words, "no longer." This is imperative for you to understand because it means I used to do this. Often.) For example, I have been practicing yoga every morning (2 days last week and 4 days this week). This morning, I really wanted to do yoga, but I had an important meeting. I couldn't do both. So, without guilt or shame, I chose the meeting. Does this mean my body will never recover? Does this mean I should just give up? Of course not! I'll just practice yoga this weekend or start again on Monday. 


*I am learning to forgive myself for the past. This one has been harder than I thought it would be, because for so long, I felt like forgiving myself for the past meant admitting I was a complete failure and nothing I did was right or true. I have held myself hostage with current knowledge and past naivety. I can't judge how I acted then with the knowledge I have now, dear reader. How ridiculous is that? I don't judge my 4 year old the same way I judge my 15 year old, because I know a 4 year old doesn't have the same capacity to understand as a 15 year old. This is why we have juvenile court and adult court. This is why we have age limits. This is why we can plead insanity. But I have deep, deep regrets for how I've treated people (who have probably forgotten all about it) and I care way too much about how people from my past may perceive me now based on what I did then. To move past this, I have to forgive myself. 



*I'm pushing myself to do the things I've always loved; the things that have brought me joy and happiness, but I have neglected because of shame, fear, depression, humiliation, and more fear. The anxiety I would feel at putting myself out there has been reduced, and so I am giving myself permission to feel joy, again. Making an effort to feed my body and soul each day gives me more confidence to face my daily challenges, not to mention how much happier I feel!



*I choose not to be obsessed about my body. I exercise, I try to eat healthy, but it is no longer the main motivation of my life. For years it was all I thought about --even when I was at my heaviest and I wasn't exercising or eating right. When I was focused on weight loss and eating well, I focused on it. When I was heavy and gross, I would focus on it differently --I would ridicule myself with shame. Getting to a point where I recognize that my body is to be used for good things, that it is a gift from God, that a certain shape, size, or way of looking means absolutely nothing to my overall happiness ---oh, dear reader, I wish you could understand that kind of freedom. I still struggle with it, though. I really do, I probably always will, but it's nothing like it was. Now I know that when I feel shame about my body, it's coming from Satan. And then I tell him to go back to hell (I know he's just jealous)! I have a glorious body! I want to take care of it --not obsess about it. Balance.


*I am practicing patience with others. Practice doesn't mean expert, of course, and so I still fail. I have, however, noticed that I am more forgiving and patient with people overall. I'm better at seeing things from different perspectives. I'm making opinions with more information and thinking the best of people more often. It's showing up in every aspect of my life, too --children, marriage, friends, church, online, etc. People who know me may not see a very big difference (maybe not at all?), but I feel it. Practice, practice, practice...


*I have chosen to be okay with imperfection. This also goes along with the point that I don't give up just because I fall down occasionally. Being imperfect means I'm learning. It means I'm growing. It means I actually care to try. Refusing to try means I'll never grow. And dear reader, I'll share a secret with you: sometimes, trying means just getting out of bed. Sometimes, trying means choosing to get off the computer and practice my piano. Sometimes, it's as simple as choosing not to respond to negativity. Sometimes, it's refusing to speak badly about myself. Trying doesn't always have to be something grand. Trying means you're moving forward.




What have you done in your life to find balance? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stuff I Learned in a Couple of Decades or Experience Teaches Well

Twenty years ago, I was a senior in high school (I know I've mentioned this more than once, but I'm a nostalgic person. It cannot be helped!). I've learned a great deal about myself and life since then, and I wanted to get some of it down on paper (electronic paper?). 

Here are some very (unsolicited) important things I have learned in the last 20 years that I feel have been vastly important not only for my own personal growth, but for any progeny coming behind me who might like to know how to navigate what is before them. This list is personal; I don't assume to have all the answers, dear reader. 

*God will absolutely give you more than you can handle. He will always do this. Why? Because if you could do it all on your own, then why in the world would He have sent you a Savior? We are given more than we can handle alone so that we will turn to Jesus Christ and allow Him to carry the burden He's already paid. Learning to turn to Christ is probably the very most important lesson I've ever learned. Hands down. 

*Loving people doesn't mean you have to agree with them. In fact, you can hate everything they believe, everything they do, and everything the say --and still love them. Love isn't agreement. Love isn't even support! Love is seeing people as God sees them, acknowledging their agency, mourning with them, and serving them when you can. Example: I do not agree with or support same sex marriage. But I will never, ever, ever, speak unkindly about someone who is in a same sex marriage. Another example: I will never, ever, ever agree with abortion. But I will not condemn those desperate women who choose to have one. Love can mean boundaries. Love can mean distance. Love can mean teaching. Love can mean ignoring. Loving someone is never about denying your own beliefs; it's about denying your pride. 

*What you focus on expands. The more you complain about something, the more negative it will become. The more patience you have, the greater peace you will feel. If you focus on the positive and good aspects of something (relationship or situation), it will become positive and good. This has been termed the "self-fulfilling prophecy." Basically, if you want your spouse or your children to be the great people you believe they have the capability of becoming, then treat them that way. If you nag, complain, murmur, get frustrated, yell, whine, and be passive-aggressive, then this is the kind of family you will have. I know this, because I used to (sometimes still) do this. But I also know that if you give trust, bite your tongue, choose to accentuate the positive, refrain from publicly complaining, acknowledge your own weaknesses, apologize, and just try to be cheerful, miracles can occur. People will always reflect back to you what you give to them! Especially children. Especially spouses. But you could take this to another level, too. If you focus on the good in your job, your roommates, your church assignments, your schooling, your parents, your siblings, your home, your entire situation --you will be much, much happier. 

I remember once, in high school, reading about how I can choose my attitude. I could choose not to be angry. I thought it was insanity! Of course I couldn't control my attitude --my feelings just happened! Now I know it to be very, accurately, painfully true --you have the power within you to choose your reactions. You have the power to choose your attitude. Feelings may come and go, but you don't have to actually act upon them, and when you do, sometimes, you've just become your own worst enemy. 

*Self-care is not selfish. Sacrifice can be good, especially if it's in a situation where your service will not only bring about good things in front of you, but good things inside of you. However, there is very little room for life-long martyrdom without a glorious cause. Mothers struggle with this the most, I think, because the very nature of motherhood is to sacrifice herself for the benefit of the children and family. There is absolutely nothing wrong, demeaning, or anti-feminist in a woman who makes sacrifices for her family --especially when she has chosen it! But mothers need not take it as far as they feel they must. And they cannot help their families when their own well-being is shaky. We learn in the church that self-reliance is a must. We cannot lift others until we have lifted ourselves a little bit. So do you want to know what I do for self-care? Every day, I do at least 2-3 things that bring me joy. I also go out with girlfriends. I go to therapy. I take long, hot showers. I read. I write. I create. I play music. I do yoga. I simply do things that make me happy, and then I can, in return, give happiness to my family. There is a fine line, for sure, between self-care and selfishness, but with prayer guiding you, you'll know where that line falls. 

*If you need help, then ask for it. Sometimes, you will need help. It doesn't matter what kind --you'll need help. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are good, but there's a reason we have each other. Don't you dare be too proud to ask or accept help from others. You need a ride? Help after a baby is born or a surgery? Need to know how to do something? Need to borrow something? Have questions? Just ask. And then think of it this way: if someone were to ask for your help, wouldn't you be willing to help? Then let them help you, too. This also applies to religion and God. You have questions? Ask them. Wait for the answers. 

*There is a pendulum and you do not want to be on either side. Some people will call this fence-sitting, but I see it as something different. The goal is to hit the bulls eye, not to deviate away from it. You will face issues in your life that will have all kinds of extremes and many of them are full of lies. Here are several examples of things that have two extremes: 
Self-sacrifice vs. Selfishness
Modern medicine vs. holistic medicine
Liberal vs. conservative
Prude vs. addiction (or "frigid-house-wife" vs. Pornography)
Letter vs. Spirit (of the law --like Pharisees vs. no consequence religion)
Stress vs. procrastination
Vegan (extreme) vs. carnivore

You can pretty much find any extreme in any part of your life. Moderation brings the most health, the most logic, and from what I've found, greater access to the Holy Ghost. This isn't to say you can't pick a belief (please do!), but don't be swept away by the extremes. 

*What is right for you may actually not be right for someone else. This is tricky (most things are) because I do believe there is a right and wrong. However, how we do things are not the same --nor were they meant to be the same. I'm mostly speaking about grey-area issues that end up being debated ad naseum in social media. For example, how you feed your baby, where your kids go to school, what political party you belong to, which diet you prefer, what clothes you wear, where you live, which kids you vaccinate, which cars you drive, where you donate your money, what exercise you enjoy, what books you like to read, where you go to university (or if you dropped out or didn't go), how you spend your money, and where you go on vacation. Just because you have decided that home birth is not right for you doesn't mean it isn't right for someone else. Just because you vote democrat doesn't mean those who don't are evil. Make decisions based on what is best for you and your family, and don't let others tell you it's wrong (unless it is wrong --like, seriously, addictions, abuse, etc. --not cool, not right, definitely not a grey-area issue!). But make sure you give the same privilege to others, too. If you can't stand that the woman next to you is breast feeding her child in public, then you get to just avert your eyes and walk away because her choice has nothing to do with you --and her choice is not wrong. It's just different. 

*Society's views on beauty are outright lies. Don't buy into it. It's honestly just a bunch of crap. Women, especially, have to be very careful about what they believe. If it is costing you a vast amount of money and a ridiculous amount of time to put products all over your body in order to look like someone else (that doesn't exist), then you need to stop yourself and think about it: how is this helping me be a better person? Help others? Love the body God gave me? The media has done a huge number on women for centuries --we're always being told what to wear, what to buy, what to do, what to sacrifice, and all for what? A completely unattainable persona that doesn't exist in real life. It's okay to be clean (please take a shower!). It's okay to dress nicely (modest, clean, happy clothing!). It's also okay to want to wear make-up or do your hair (within reason). Being creative and choosing clothing that makes you happy is not bad! But don't you dare buy into the lies that you have to wear the latest trends, be a certain shape, or surgically change your body in order to be something else. Those are Satan's lies. He doesn't get a body, dear reader, and so he wants you to destroy yours! He doesn't care how you destroy it. Drugs, alcohol, over-eating, not-eating-enough, surgery, tattoos, piercings, cutting, dangerous activities, hiding it with dyes, makeup, and clothing... just as long as you hurt yourself (inside and out), Satan will be happy. But you, dear reader, are beautiful just the way you are. You are beautiful without all the product and clothes! I mean it! When I rejected the idea of what beauty was supposed to be, I felt like flying! I love my body. I love what God has given me and what my body has been capable of --beauty is in the eye of the beholder, anyway. And I know I'm beautiful! I look nothing like the magazines, movies, or make-up ads. Nothing. But that doesn't matter, because I am beautiful. I have stopped buying the lies --you should stop, too! 

*Your marriage is way more important than your parenting. I understand that for some, this might not be true. Abuse happens and it's wrong. If you are in an abusive relationship, I would beg (seriously beg) you to get out as fast as possible. If not for yourself, then for your children. With that said --if you are in a pretty good marriage, don't ruin it by focusing all your attention on your children. Your kids are going to grow up and move away. They will be gone. You will be left with your spouse and if you've spent the last 30 years ignoring him or her, you're going to be pretty surprised by how hollow your marriage will be. This is why I would encourage all married couples with children (no matter the income, no matter the situation) to go on weekly dates, sit next to each other at church, go to bed at the same time, and go away on vacation once a year (at least one night). People have judged me for years for leaving my kids up to 14 days in order to go on vacation with my husband. But it's been so important to our relationship! Spending that time together to be intimate without worry (which kid will wake up and come knocking at the door), reconnect, spend time talking, laughing, exploring, sleeping, and just being together --it's so important! If you want it badly enough, you'll find the babysitters to watch your kids. Weekly date nights are also really important. You don't have to spend money in order to have a date. Just spend time together! Wait until the kids are in bed, and then do things together you don't do every day. Make your marriage a priority, and you'll be less sad when the kids all leave the house. 

A few other tidbits I don't feel like explaining at length that I may or may not still struggle with, but are still important things I've learned:

*Don't fall on the martyrdom sword and then complain that it hurts. 

*Pray every day. All day. 

*Nature is the best place to re-focus. 

*Your body houses your spirit, so take good care of it. 

*Everyone should have a therapist. 

*Do not gossip. At best, you feel bad. At worst, it ruins lives. 

*Drink water. If you can, drink only water. 

*Make your space (home, room, apartment, desk at work, etc.) your own beautiful space. 

*Keep learning your whole life through reading, classes, study, faith, prayer, clubs, and schooling. 


What kinds of things have you learned in the last 20 years? What would you add to my list? 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Green is My Favorite Color

This morning, I watched a Mormon Channel video --one from their "Hope Works" video series. It was called "Seeing Green" by Jill Thomas. Here's the link. I would encourage you to go watch it, if not just for the sake of doing so, but because what I write next will have greater meaning to you if you've watched it. But if you don't want to take the time, the sum-up is this: in order to understand Green, we need to live first in Blue, and then in Yellow. Then we can live in Green. 


When she described how she could live inside the paradox of Blue and Yellow (and that the paradox was exactly what was needed for growth), it was like a light bulb went off in my brain. Actually, it was less like a light bulb and more like a candle flickering to life. What she learned in her deepest grief was so similar to what I have learned in my mental illness (Depression), that I was stunned. I've been pondering on it all day... 

Up until we moved to Concord, California in March of 2007, I was ignoring all the signs of my depression. I figured I would be fine. My faith could get me through. My blog would get me through. My friends would get me through. My husband would get me through. Through what? The pain, the loneliness, the self-loathing, the despair that I was imperfect and weak... But I was really just fooling myself and trying to take an easy way out of something that has no easy out. I didn't want to admit I needed help. I was capable and strong! I didn't need medication or therapy --only weirdos had to use that. I didn't need anything but some strong will. 

I gave birth to our fourth child 3 1/2 weeks before we moved to Concord. The whirlwind of moving out of state with four young children didn't allow me time to face my demons, but when the dust settled in California, I found myself overwhelmed with despair. 

I couldn't figure out what was going on at first. I knew it was most likely depression, but unlike past episodes, I wasn't coming out of this one. (If you read my blog from the years 2006-2008, you'll see a lot of humor, but a lot of pain.)

Thus commenced a long, long fight. 

2008
My depression manifested itself in a few different ways. Anger (yelling at the kids all the time, being overly critical of Brandon, complaining, gossiping, finding reasons to judge others), sadness (crying in the shower every day), and hopelessness (why am I feeling this way? Why won't it stop?). I also had a huge amount of shame surrounding me (of my own creation) that I received and then gave to others. The biggest manifestation was with my physical health, though. I had gained a significant amount of weight. I ate my feelings (I always have).  When Brandon felt he had gained more weight than he wanted, himself, we decided to join Weight Watchers together. For a year, I took loads of vitamin and mineral supplements, lost 40 pounds, ate veggies like crazy, jogged/ran 3-4 miles every weekday morning (with a buddy), and then started doing circuit weight training. I spent a lot of time with friends, blogged my feelings, learned as much as I could, and clung to the gospel. 

By the time we moved back to Utah, I was down 40 pounds, Brandon was down 50 pounds, I was doing really well mentally and emotionally, and life looked great. I threw myself into the things I loved; I was teaching, writing, and accepting random side jobs with companies I loved. Slowly, I stopped eating as healthy. I stopped running. I stopped the supplements. I became overwhelmed by the sheer reality of my life. 

2010
The next 4-5 years were up and down --I felt like a yo-yo. I was vegan, then I wasn't. I was in therapy, then I wasn't. I was on medication, then I wasn't. I walked 4 miles a day, then I didn't. I was working three jobs, and then I quit them all. I would be physically awesome (especially while pregnant with my sixth), but emotionally, a wreck. I would be mentally okay, but physically gross. I couldn't ever seem to be both physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy at the same time. I thought I was the greatest hypocrite of all time --I knew how to take care of myself, didn't I? I knew how to lose weight. I knew how to keep my mind healthy. Why couldn't I just do it? Why couldn't I just figure it out? So, I'd go back on medication. I'd try to exercise more. I would go back and forth on the green smoothies. Yo-yo. 

After we moved to Pennsylvania, I hit an all-time low. 

I gained at least 50 pounds. I was off my medication because I was terrified of going through the process of finding a new doctor (again). I was angry all the time. I would hide in my room watching movies while my kids just kind of fended for themselves. I went out of my way to leave the house as little as possible and have very few visitors over. I was absolutely depressed. I was living in a beautiful place that was a literal dream come true for me and there I was, incapable of enjoying any of it. I hid it pretty well, too. 

Part of our backyard in PA and the field beyond it. 
My MIL and my parents were very worried. Brandon was really worried. Finally, Brandon told me I needed help. Real help. So, with his support, I rallied myself enough to find a full-time psychiatrist and therapist. I got medication right away. I went to therapy weekly, then bi-weekly for 2 full years. I had another baby, and ended up dropping 35 pounds. I had priesthood blessings, and I still clung to the gospel. I started writing again more earnestly. I started doing things that brought me joy (like my music). By the time we moved to Kansas, I couldn't even recognize who I had been a few years earlier. I look at photos of that time, and I really can't remember that person very well... 

2014
And here I am, still going to therapy, still on medication, but better than I've ever been --ever. Hands down, ever. I say this needing to lose about 40-50 pounds. I say this with a body that is showing age, the effects of bearing and nursing 7 children, and a mind that is scarred from depression. I am not who I was. I feel this new awakening inside of me (like that flickering candle) that is taking over. I feel that Christ has taught me so much over the last decade, and every once in a while, whenever I allow Him to teach me (whenever I allow the Atonement to heal me), I get a glimpse of my eternal nature and my eternal purpose. 

Christmas Day 2016
I tell you all this, dear reader, because I hope it may help someone to know that I'm not fully cured. I'm starting to realize I probably never will be "cured" in the societal sense of the word. Like the video I shared --I'm not ever going to be able to go back to Blue. Like the speaker, I always wanted to go back to Blue, though. Blue was happiness! Blue was normal! I wanted to be normal again. But I can't go back because now I've experienced Yellow. Yellow was so hard. Yellow was horribly sad, hopeless, painful, and difficult. Yellow was the place of learning, though. Yellow brought me knowledge! I can't stay there, however. Truthfully, what I've found is that I'm not living in Blue or Yellow, anymore. 

I'm living in Green. 

I'm living in Green because I recognize what it means to feel joy while feeling despair. I know what it's like to have things not go according to plan. I know the fear of not trusting your own brain or feelings. I know what it's like to lose spiritual gifts and the ability to feel the Holy Ghost. I know how it feels to believe suicide is the only answer. I know what it's like to remember happiness and also feel darkness. But I also know what it's like to feel real joy. I know the joy, because I've had the pain. I know the faith, because I've experienced the fear. I know the hope, because I have spent way too many days in hopelessness. 

So, what does this mean for me right now? It means that whatever progress I make from here on out, I'm doing it with the knowledge of Yellow and the hope of Blue. For example, I have decided that because I am finally in a very emotionally and mentally healthy place (not completely --but as I said, I don't think I'll ever be completely healed), I can make choices that will bring me true joy, and not feel horrified (hopeless, worthless) when I do it clumsily, slowly, or half-way. So, I have chosen to: 

1. Start teaching piano again, as well as put myself out there as an accompanist. 
2. Begin practicing piano again with the purposeful intention of applying to a Master's program in music in a few years. 
3. Start being more aware of my physical body --I have started yoga, again, and I'm tracking what I eat in an effort to notice patterns and shift things as necessary to bring about better health. 
4. Notice what brings me joy and doing some of those things every day.
5. Deliberately invest time and energy into my full-time job (Wife and Mom: Homemaker) and refuse to be dragged down by the temptation to resent the mundane (or the lack of appreciation). 
6. Write my thoughts and feelings; write essays, poetry, stories, books... whatever comes to me, without worry about judgment or success (or completion!).
7. Give myself to God in a meaningful way --devoting time to pray, read His word, listen to His prophets, think about Holy things, meditate (yoga helps with this), and simply continue doing all the things I have done up until now, which is basically my tried-and-true clinging to the gospel. 

I will probably continue therapy and medication for as long as I need it. I may find other ways to cope, as well (I've found so many!). I will also be open about my struggles and setbacks; I won't cower when I fail. I'll just get up and try again. 

Sunrise last month
Of course, not everything in my (nor your) life can be summed up into three separate colors. It's just a metaphor of how we are able to live inside the paradox of opposition. I could very well have used the metaphor of the hiking trail I wrote about here. Or the metaphor of the well, that I wrote about here. I could talk to you about faith, forgiveness, hope, energy healing, marriage, letting go, nutrition, education, shame, fear, pain, society, feminism, etc. and so forth and a million, billion, trillion other things that add up to life-learned and life-earned wisdom. But right now, I love the Green metaphor, because I can recognize truth in it; I can recognize myself in it. 

And the cool part, dear reader, is that green really is my favorite color. 😄

Monday, January 02, 2017

2017 Looks Great From My Couch

Well, look at the new year! It feels just like the old one, but somehow shinier. 😉 We've had the busiest week (I've been purging and deep cleaning and entertaining), and so today, we do nothing! I have been sitting on the couch all morning. It is wonderfully delicious. Like the peppermint tea and brownies I had earlier for breakfast.

Here are my New Year's resolutions (yes, I made some), dear reader:

*Calm and Kind (totally recycled from the last few years because I'm not there, yet)
*Caring for myself every day (doing three things I love that bring me joy as I do them)
*Talk Less, Smile More (not in a creepy Burr way, but in a listen-to-people-and-be-kinder way --a lot like "Calm and Kind"!)
*Having a love affair with my scriptures
*Exercising (cliche, but absolutely necessary and desired)

How will I accomplish such a thing? Routine will help. Weaning the toddler will, too.

I already have a yoga program set up to start doing tomorrow (or today?! Who knows! I may go crazy and start this afternoon), I'm doing myfitnesspal app, I have a scheduled time to read my scriptures and exercise once the kids go back to school on Thursday, and I'm going to buy a muzzle. Haha! Just kidding! But seriously, I'm gonna try to listen more.

Do you have any resolutions?

--------------------------

20 years ago, I was starting my final half of my senior year of high school. I am officially old.

------------------------

Remember this line from that song (the one feminists hate and yet is full to the brim of true doctrine?):

"God gave us families,
To help us become what He wants us to be.
This is how He shares His love,
For the family is of God."

Well, it's true. Because I think families give us our absolute greatest challenges, and at the same time, our absolute greatest joys. I've been thinking about this a lot because we're facing some pretty rough family decisions (extended, not immediate, and it's not anything we haven't dealt with before) and I realized that from one perspective, I probably look like a crazy woman. From another perspective, however, I look like a friggin' saint. I guess it just depends on which perspective you're going to choose to believe, eh? I can't control the outcome, but I can control my response to it all. And y'all better get ready, because we've got some huge boundaries going up very, very soon.

-----------------------------------

In two weeks, we'll be celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary. We've had our ups and downs, but I can honestly say that I'm incredibly grateful I married the man I married. Life has never been boring with Brandon, and he's a very good man! I think our challenges have been good for us --they've taught us so much about how to serve others, re-think our priorities, and make frequent decisions about whether or not we will choose each other. I love Brandon, and I'm happy I keep choosing him every day!

------------------------------------

Since #1 got a ukulele for Christmas, it's been nothing but happy ukulele sounds all day long (from her and Brandon). It's awesome!

-----------------------------------

The kids just turned on Season One of "Avatar: The Last Airbender." I may have to watch. Because it's the best animated series of all time. We've only watched it 78 times.

------------------------------------

We had a great family over for dinner, last night. I love, love, love good friends! I have been so abundantly blessed with many good friends throughout my life. I regret how many I've offended, hurt, rejected, ostracized (inadvertently), or ignored. I'm not the greatest reciprocater because I tend to be selfish and forgetful (I'm gonna get Alzheimer's --or at the very least, dementia --dear reader, mark my words. I already forget so much. It's kind of scary and sad. 😓) I also have a very big family that demands a lot of my time and energy. I'll blame most of it on them. Yeah, it's them, dear reader! It's all them! It's totally not my personality or character at all.

---------------------------------------

We finally moved the cats downstairs to the big laundry room (and my amazing husband moved cabinets, drilled holes, cut things, and made adjustments) so we could reclaim the sun room that is off the kitchen. I deep cleaned it and now it is usable and comfortable! Yay! It was christened last night when the kids all ate in there and played board games with our friends.

--------------------------------------

These are the things that make me happy and I will try to do three of them every day (as per my new year's resolutions up there):

*Drinking herbal tea
*Reading books (times a million)
*Write things (journal, poetry, essays, posts)
*Chopin (playing and listening --all classical music, really.)
*Enya (listening --I love the Enya Pandora station for cleaning. Sounds counterproductive since it's slow, melodic, soothing, but the truth is the mood in our home changes drastically when I have that or classical music on. We actually get along better AND I get more accomplished. Go figure?!)
*Piano playing
*Reading my scriptures
*Flowers! (buying or arranging or planting or smelling)
*Going for a walk in a park or trail or mountain or meadow or plain (way better than sidewalks and streets!)
*Yoga
*Creating something
*Connecting with people I love
*Chocolate
*Long, hot showers
*Hugs (lots of hugs)
*Meditation (prayer) that is uninterrupted. Rarely am I uninterrupted, but it happens.

What makes you happy?

-------------------------------

Photos of Christmas!!















Monday, December 26, 2016

Sometimes I Write Poetry

Sometimes I write poetry in my mind, but rarely do I get it on paper, and then the words are gone. But occasionally I will grab snippets and jot them down before they run away from me! This time, I had a few quiet hours simply to write (interrupted only by a flooded bathroom, a chocolate covered toddler, a dirty diaper, sibling rivalry, and delicious food prepared by Brandon (he's a keeper, dear reader!)). My poetry is usually unintentionally depressing, and for that I apologize, but I've found that the aching beauty of shared sadness is really easy to describe. It's the joy that is harder to capture (for me, anyway). I wonder why that is? Because even though I have clinical depression and anxiety, I'm genuinely a very optimistic and happy person. Interesting...

Anyway, please be kind. It's okay to hate my poetry, just don't get all English teacher on me and point out all my flaws. Okay? Okay. :) Oh, and please don't steal my words. I know I can't physically stop you, but please have some integrity and cite me as the writer. Because I am the writer, eh? Thanks!

------------------------------------------

Flowers on My Table 

Hazy light filters into the room through panes of chipped wood
And the flowers on my table are changing color.

Once red, brown seeps in; once white, yellow creeps out of folded petals.
Former glory is replaced with drooping, depressed heads;
Buds that never fulfilled their purpose before succumbing
To the impatient obsession of my own hand.

Desiring their beauty, I cut them, pretending I have not killed them.
In my pitchers I pour water, dashes of sugar, and plunge the green shards into a
Temporary suspension of time.

But none can slow decay,
So the flowers begin to wilt, even before my eyes.
I never notice until I look away for far too long, and then
Sincerely, stupidly, stunningly surprised I turn back and illuminated by the sunrise,
I see the death before me.

~Cheryl (Copyright Dec 2016)

------------------------

Forgiveness

I hear the words she is speaking, but I can see her words are only partly true.
Her eyes, her hands --they betray her thoughts, and even though she speaks sweetly, with
Honey and roses, I can feel the partial lie of them even before the vibrations touch my ears.

She means well, she hopes well, she longs for forgiveness,
Even if she cannot give me truth or sincerity in this well-planned, shower-practiced
Barrage of words which pour over me like water that is not quite ready to bathe in.

I have an immediate choice, and in moments, I struggle with indecision.
Forgiveness means letting it go.
Forgiveness means passing by the bitterness.
Forgiveness means refusing to pick up the grudge that is present in her hands...

I stare at her eyes, guarding my secret knowledge and wondering what she would do,
If only she knew how well I could read her intentions and weakness.

I decide, only once, and it is enough, as my arms
Wrap around her, releasing the grudge, releasing the bitter, releasing her weakness --
Releasing my own --
But...
Trust is not part of the package, and as I release even her and stare into her face,
I know we will never again be the same.

~Cheryl (Copyright Dec 2016)

-----------------------

Broken Heart

The pieces of my heart are not found
Among blood vessels and tissue
Nor muscle, housed in bone.

They are soft shards,
Wandering about in places both
In and out of my soul.

Each has been created out of love,
Grown through pain,
And forever defined in joy.

Even though my heart beats on,
It misses each piece
As they pull away from me.

I will not fault them;
They were meant for greater things
Than the cavity of my chest.

But there will always be a place
Inside of me
Waiting for their return

Should they ever need to
Find the place of
Their beginning, again.

~Cheryl (Copyright Dec 2016)

-------------------------

Marriage

It is more than a dance, this thing between us.
We are learning and growing simultaneously
But never exactly in sync.

Our passion is subtle because it is deep.
From romantic longings, our shared movement has
Risen from frost and ash.

Our goal of enduring love has never changed.
How we attempt to arrive continuously adjusts as the
Sand beneath us shifts.

Fear has tried to destroy our awkward clinging.
But loyalty sparks love, and forgiveness claims us as
We clumsily adjust our footing.

~Cheryl (Copyright Dec 2016)

-----------------------

Senses 

How did it come to be that the inhalation and vibrations of air (the
Reflection of light!) could cause
Such ecstatic electricity inside of a mind,
With pulsing, pounding,
Soothing, sounding,
Constant rush of emotion through veins that are
Wired for nothing more than carrying oxygen to
Organs that cannot logically,
Nor justifiably, (perhaps scientifically?)
Feel the poignant and exhilarating rush of
Memory?

~Cheryl (Copyright Dec 2016)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And just for kicks, here are some of my older poems that I really, really like. I've written and posted a lot of poetry over the years, but I've never had them compiled in one post before. In fact, I could be missing a bunch... Hmmm...

I sometimes wonder if maybe I should self-publish a book of poetry, but honestly, would anyone buy it? What do you think, dear reader? And don't tell me "for sure they'd buy it!" just to placate me. I don't like fake praise, eh?


Second Estate 

Sweet agony! Oh, sweating pain! The Door by
Which enters Breath, soft Breath, and fills the room with quiet relief.

Agony gone and pain suppressed,
Perfection embodied and counting, one, two, three, four, five…
Each hand embarking, not knowing, having chosen

With Love in the left, and
Faith in the right,
Each curled up in safety,
Tightly, tightly.
Mother, than father hold
Tightly, tightly.

Love and Faith
Bounded, bonded, begins.

~Cheryl
(Copyright 2007)

----------------------

Mortality

And there I went.
Over rays and Under waves
Crashing, coursing, chafing, cursing,
Marking time with leaf patterns; searching
Veins of plant-life
Wondering, Wandering
Chasing distorted light.

Unsure-hesitant I stood
Naked before myself.
Exposed the soul-spirit, I
Drank, Gulped, Devoured the Truth above me.
"I am light and before me is
Color.
I am worth and behind me is
Black-grey.
I am strength and beside me are
Lifted wings."

Warrior on!
Keep in stance and
Stay in currents fresh from
Wildflowers, pure with snow,
Smelling of morning and oak.
In them I let go,
Escape from shackled exhaustion,
Tethered standards, faceless tradition
and find Joy;
unfettered, unresolved, pointless.
Happiness freckled with turbulence, yet
Resounded in liberty!

Priceless freedom to feel.

 ~by Cheryl (Copyright September 2009)

-------------------------------

Fragments

Fleeting it seems, this
Happiness
Which comes not once,
But as shards, piercing through this blanket of sorrow.
Gathering, glimmering,
Hoping, helping,
Reflecting Another’s increasing triumph over covers
Which muffle the voice of truth.
Give me a fragment,
One by one.
If carefully,
It will be enough.

~ Cheryl (Copyright 2007)

------------------------

Change

Slowly drifting far away
within the wood of bonded clay
breaking bands with public light
which skews amongst the cabin's fright

"take me on (I want to stay?)
it won't be long before I say
that moving forward, back to sea
was simply where I had to be."

But gales of wind keep me back,
those gusts of mourning, breezes black.
which is right, the sea or shore?
taking less or giving more?

it does not speak, the matter's done
the boat has launched, the deed is sung

within the moaning sound of pain
a whisper shouts it's last refrain
reminds me how the tethered land
stole myself, abhorred my stand.

turn about, forget the past
hoist the sail upon the mast
fight the wind of black delight
forward, forward, canvas white

the crumbling earth left far behind
was not foundation, how did it bind
my heart to man, to mocking scorn
blowing forth the tempter's horn?

storms or calm within the sea
each will give my heart to Thee
those who thrust my boat from shore
only made my heart give more. 

thirsty raindrops wash my face;
tears announce His sweet embrace.

~ Cheryl (Copyright January 2012)

-------------------------------------

Moments of Choice

These moments are ones I cherish. Without irony or
Abuse of the word;
The ones where the house smells of apple 
And is vacuumed.

All of the children are home and I am in the 
Kitchen, cooking dinner, hearing: 
Laughter from outside, 
Tutoring math problems upstairs,
Baby giggles,
Peace. 

The separation between Depression and Light
Is only found in these tiny moments of 
Choice -- 
Decision --
The power of Agency, which seem so simple and 
Yet, 
Those dark weights blur the lines until I am only capable
To wonder:

Do I care about this; do I want to? 

I can't move, I can't decide, I can't wonder, I can't decide. I can't, I can't... I can't...

But here, today, in this kitchen, with the scent of apples, the sight of roses, the laughter of children, the dishes washed, the meal cooking, 

I want it. I chose it. 

I choose it. 

And the darkness lingers, but it has no power, because the 
Power of My Agency 
Has a fire-light, and it is burning brightly! 
Taller and stronger than those weights, 
Those fingers, 
Those arms of oppression and slavery. 

Each time I add fuel (medical, inspirational, Grace, 
And oh! How Great is His Grace!), I feel the 
Heat grow. 
One blade of grass here... another blade there... 
Blades of moments gathered as harvest from the 
Spirit of my soul -- dried out from pain, dried out from 
Desperate hope.

The drying hurts, 
But the drying fuels. 

This darkness, this pain, this exhausting weight is 
Losing
Because every time it dries me out, every time it pulls away my 
Choices, it doesn't realize -- 
Just as serpents in Gardens where arrogance cannot understand (and did 
They not realize?) --
Each dried blade brings me to 

Him

And fuels the very Fire that will set me 
Free. 

~Cheryl S. Savage 
(October 15, 2015)

----------------------------

THE END (for now!)

Well, dear reader which poem did you like (if you liked any)? Why? Do you like lyrical non-rhyming prose or do you prefer rhyming only?  Have a Happy Boxing Day! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Choices Change Us and Faking It Until Making It

Life chugs along pretty quickly. As it's zooming by, I keep learning that I don't know much. There's so much to know! But here's what I do know: everything is a choice. Some choices are much more difficult than others, but most are negotiable. Some may be out of our hands, but how we react to them is not. Consequences, however, may not always be controlled, and so we need to think about our big choices carefully.

*I have chosen to keep Christmas small, this year. We didn't mail out cards/newsletters (we emailed them, instead), every child will receive about 6 (modest) gifts (plus stockings), and we're not traveling anywhere (distant).

*I have chosen, over the last several weeks, to make my bed every morning (except this morning. Because apparently I work well with irony). It tends to start the snowball of tidying up when I do!

*I have chosen to keep eating sugar (and way too many cookies), even though it's hurting my body. This is a choice I do not like and feel like I can't change without a major overhaul (detox, anyone?). I mean, it's going to take some incredible will-power, goal-making, and focus. And outside support. The sad (and great?) part is that I want to do this really, really badly. But I don't feel strong, yet. I have the current disconnect between what I want and what I have to do to get what I want. Sugar addiction is real, it's frustrating, and my food addictions have more to do with my environment and how I deal with hard feelings than with hunger or self-worth.


*I'm getting older, and so my monthly cycle is getting wonky. It makes for some nervous days when I wonder if I might be pregnant (I'm not). Sure, we could do things to make it less ambiguous, but that's personal and none yo' bizness, so it is what it is. That is also choice.

*I've chosen to work on my mental health and get serious professional help for it. I'm spending money on it. I know that if I don't work on this aspect of my health, it will have disastrous consequences not only for me, but for my family. That's just reality. My choices, the ones where I react to my feelings, respond to the wrong synapses in my brain, and can't see the truth right in front of me --those choices influence everyone around me and can truly hurt my husband and kids. Yeah, yeah --I know they are agents unto themselves and I have zero control over their own choices. But I have a profound influence. I can't pretend that I don't. So, to therapy I go! (Besides the fact that it helps me be a better person and makes me happier!)


*I've chosen to focus on my home, more. I don't like the clutter. Instead of choosing to be okay with it, I've decided I will do what I can, and then let the rest go. It may take me a long time to get my house into a smooth, working order, but I'm okay with that because goals take time. And this goal is about the process, not the end result.

*I have also chosen to nurse my toddler and co-sleep. This is a choice I made, and I own it. But because of it, the consequences are that I'm not getting enough sleep and my body is holding onto weight (yeah, yeah, it's mostly the sugar, but stay with me, here) that I could lose if I wasn't in milk-making mode. I have chosen to only nurse at night. I have chosen to put her in her bed, but then allow her to come upstairs and get into bed with us in the middle of the night. I have chosen not to train her to sleep down there, again, because I'm really tired. Some would argue that's a self-fulfilling cycle, and I would tell them, "um, duh. I know." *insert winky emoji here*

*I've chosen to be a wife and mother. I chose my husband (luckily, he chose me, too!) and I chose to have many children (and luckily, I had them!). I chose to do this when I was young-ish and while I could. I know some choices (like the ability to conceive or the ability to marry) are out of our hands, but I'm grateful I didn't wait too long to make these choices. (Or to at least try.) In a few years, I will no longer be able to biologically have children, nor will I have the energy to raise them in my home. The choice to have children right out of college was the right one for me. Times and seasons really mean something when you're talking about fertility and youth. The time to bear and raise children are between the ages of 20 and 45. The easiest time is between 20 and 30. This isn't an opinion --it's biological fact. So, I chose to have all the kids before I was 40 (toddler girl came just before my 36th birthday), and I started at 22. I like this choice. I feel it was very wise on my part. (I know others didn't have this choice. I don't fault or judge them for this.)


*I've chosen to go back to teaching piano and to aggressively advertise this fact. Because of my efforts, it looks like I may have 10 students in January. I'm actually hoping to have 15-20 (20 will be my limit while I've got kids in my home). I've had zero calls on accompanist jobs, but that makes sense, as the semester just ended. I'm anticipating I may have some calls come January! Choosing to dive back into teaching is the right choice. It feels good and I am excited to get a studio going, again!


*The piano teaching choice is the precursor to another big choice: my Master's degree. I am seriously going to pursue applying to graduate school in a few years (probably 3, when baby girl starts Kindergarten). It may have to be part time, but I'm okay with this. I don't want to run faster than I have strength, and I want to do all things in wisdom and order. I'm open to all possibilities and changes, right now, but I've gone to the local university's website and saved the application requirements for the Master of Music History program. I have some things to brush up on (mostly theory and some history), and I'll need then-current recordings of me teaching or performing. This means practice and experience; being in a teaching groove by then will be invaluable. As will performing! I'm not satisfied with my level of ability right now. I have chosen to start practicing more often, and like any good student, I've started with scales, chord progressions, arpeggios, and interval training (thank you, Royal Conservatory of Toronto and your old repertoire that still resides in my music library!). I'm feeling some level of confidence that I'll be ready. (It will be memorization of pieces that may kill me! My memory is being used up by all my kiddos, currently.)

I'm trying to keep the fear out of the Masters choice, but, honestly, it scares me out of my mind. Why? Well, it's like this:

I've written about this before (so you don't need to read anymore, as it may be old news to you, dear reader), but for so long (so, so long --like 18 years?) I thought I was a total poser (fake, hack, loser) when it came to music. BYU had rejected me (three times --how pathetic is that? Granted only one was a piano audition and two were vocal auditions, but still...), so I must have been really, really bad. I knew I was capable; I knew I had skill. But I didn't think I could ever claim the professional title, nor did I think my skills would go beyond Relief Society pianist (an insult an old high school friend attributed to me and my "wasted" skills). [I am, however, positive, that had I been given the chance, I would have done well. My last audition was for secondary choral education. I would have rocked that! But it wasn't meant to be, and hindsight has given me my answers as to why (another long story).] So, even when I had a large piano studio, I didn't take it very seriously. I was the neighborhood piano teacher (which is valuable and very much needed and respectable, in my opinion!). I wasn't involved in any community group and my students' abilities only went as far as my twice-a-year recitals.

While living in Pennsylvania, I realized I could do more. I still didn't feel as confident, but I was able to do some things that helped me see I was certainly capable, and that maybe --just maybe --I wasn't a hack, after all.

After moving to Manhattan, I spoke with some ward members and friends who are professional musicians. He is an organ professor and the keyboard chair at KState. She just graduated (this month!) with her Masters in piano performance/pedagogy (and they have six kids!). They both are well known and respected in our community. They also both did the music major program at BYU, and while talking with them one night, she turned to me and said: "you could do a Masters in music! You should! You'd do great." I had never, ever, heard someone say something like this to me. As soon as people find out I was rejected by BYU for music, they assume the worst. But she didn't. She assumed I could do it! This changed everything for me. It started me on a new path, with a new direction and goal in mind. I started teaching again. I started practicing. I've joined the music teacher's associations on the national, state, and local levels. I've got my kids involved and in lessons, again. I made a piano studio in my home. I'm being interviewed by parents who are cold-calling me from teaching lists in the community, as well as from parents who were given my name by our ward member friends. My friend who sincerely said I should do a master's wants me to teach her children (she'll teach mine!). Now, that is definitely a vote of confidence, wouldn't you agree?


So, here I am, excited to learn more, do more, be more, and then attain an education that will combine my love of writing, history, and music, will increase my value as a teacher, and also bring me great, great joy. But it still scares me! In fact, if I think too hard it scares me a lot. Like... a lot, a lot. Why? Because part of me wonders if I'll fail again. Will I be laughed at? Will I be rejected? Again? Sometimes it really is easier to refuse to try, because when you don't try, you won't be rejected. But I've realized that believing the lies that I'm not capable enough hurts more than the fear of trying again, because the lies hide the truth that I have potential.

Remember this quote?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
~Marianne Williamson 
I will admit I never liked it. I pretty much hated it and thought it was kind of stupid. I'd read the first three or four lines and I would get so upset, I'd just ignore the rest. I felt I had a great sense of self-worth (how I deceived myself in this is beyond me) and I thought it was ridiculous that she would claim my greatest fear is that I'm more powerful and wonderful than I think I am. My greatest fear wasn't this! It was failure! Not being enough! Well, dear reader, I'm starting to understand what she meant. I'm starting to see where fear of my abilities is bubbling to the surface, and I'm learning to understand why. What she says taps into a lot of truth.

I actually approached Brandon a few weeks ago and asked,
"Have you ever felt like a fake?"
"Huh?"
"Have you ever felt like you were totally faking it? A hack? A phony? That you were expected to be this gloriously talented person, but you were really just pretending?"
"For sure!"
"How did you over come it?"
"I just faked it until I made it."
"That's it?"
"Yeah, pretty much. You just keep going until you get it figured out."
"And did you make it?"
"Yeah, I think so."

He didn't say anything I hadn't heard before, but it made me stop an wonder: isn't that what life is, anyway? We're all just faking it. We learn all these glorious things, and then we practice them. And we fail pretty miserably at it, sometimes. But we keep trying. We keep learning, failing, trying, practicing, failing, trying, learning, etc. and so forth for our entire lives. It's not just about careers, or mothering, or talents, or hobbies. It's about life, and we're all just faking it, really! When older couples, who've been married for 60 years talk about never arguing with their spouses --they aren't lying. They are, currently, no longer arguing. I bet they did 50 years earlier, though! They just kept pushing through the hard times because they knew if they kept practicing, they'd get to that stage where conflict no longer exists. The same goes for people with patience, people with charity, people with ambition --they just kept trying! Even when we're born with talents, we have to work on them and keep trying.

*Last choice of the post: I'm choosing to fake it until I make it.


So, dear reader, what choices have you made, lately, that have brought you great joy or great fear? What choice could you make that might change your life for the better if you were only 1. brave enough or 2. strong enough? What goals have you made? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Humility

I want to share with you a story. I know I've shared this with people, before. Maybe I've blogged about it. But since today for #LightTheWorld we have been advised to think about humility, I want to share it, again.


Many years ago (10? 11?), I was visiting a ward (congregation) out of state. During Relief Society (the meeting for only women), the lesson was on spiritual gifts. The teacher was very good and very eager to discuss the topic. She asked if anyone would be willing to share their specific spiritual gifts with the group. It was quiet for a bit, and I decided to raise my hand. I had received zero promptings to share; I didn't even feel compelled to share outside of my own pride. I figured, "I've got this one great spiritual gift --I should share it with everyone!" I didn't think I was sharing to brag...

I shared this gift (I'm purposefully not sharing it, dear reader, in this blog post) and the teacher said she was a little envious, that this gift was something she had always hoped to be given. I felt a little smug. I don't think anyone in the room felt anything was amiss --the only thing amiss was my heart.

Lo, and behold, I discovered (very soon) that the specific spiritual gift I had described to everyone, in that very moment, was taken from me. It was gone. Honestly, it felt as if something was quietly removed from my soul. I felt the absence.

I felt awful. I felt so repentant. I felt incredibly humbled.

Over the course of the next 2-3 years, I struggled to regain that gift back. I learned a lot about humility, spiritual gifts, pride, and what it means to give the glory to God. I realized that every good thing we have been given is for the betterment of mankind and to bring souls to Christ. They aren't to raise ourselves above others! I learned that "Pearls before swine" doesn't always mean sharing spiritual things with evil people --it could really mean just sharing sacred things we have no right to share until we've been prompted to share it by the Holy Ghost.

Slowly, I regained my spiritual gift. I believe it has returned, but I'm very careful about how I use it.

It made me think about Joseph Smith Jr. and Martin Harris, and how, in an effort to please his friend, Joseph ended up losing the ability to translate. It was taken from him for a very long time! I can't imagine how frustrating and humbling that must have been for him, especially since he had known better and he knew he had been commanded to translate the Book of Mormon quickly. But like me, Joseph repented, he was humbled, and he was given back the gift of translation from God.

When I think about his experience, and how it mirrors my own, my heart swells with gratitude for such a merciful and loving Father in Heaven. He is the greatest of all, and yet He takes effort in teaching us all, so individually, the things that we need to know to become more like Him.

Jesus Christ exemplified humility in every way. He did the will of His Father without complaint. He served without expecting rewards. He healed (raised people from the dead!) and asked people not to boast of His power and strength. He was meek, mild, loving, and oh, so humble. He gave all the glory to Heavenly Father, never once attempting to take it for Himself.

I still need to work on humility, but I'm grateful for the experience I had that showed me how important it is to give the glory to God, wait for the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and keep sacred things sacred.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Teaching All The Things! (Well, Some of The Things)

There are things I know that I can teach you! Right now! In this blog post! I know it seems weird to do this, but today is December 12th, and the #LightTheWorld service idea at Mormon.org is this:



So, tonight at FHE, I will teach the kids something (still thinking on it) and I figured, why not have a blog post extravaganza, where I can teach you, dear reader, several things that I've learned how to do that have made me happy?

Whaddya think? You may already know everything I'm about to write, but what if you don't? It's fun to learn new things! 

Cooking: 
Here are some tips on cooking for large families (and how to get picky kids to try new things!): 
*Make DYI meals. Tacos, salad bar, pasta bar, tacos, tacos, and tacos. We also do wraps (tortillas and a bazillion ingredients that don't always match to tacos). This way, you have a lot of choices, you have a lot of food, but it won't break the bank! 
*"One polite bite" and "eat some salad or these vegetables in order to earn another roll" are things we often use at the table. I have tried, as much as possible, to have at least one food on the table that everyone will eat. In our house, this is usually bread! But my kids also know that they need to eat something else to get more bread. I've also put out oranges or apples to go along with things that I know some of the kids won't be too excited about. 
*You'll be tempted to use paper products as much as possible, but try to use real dishes (saves the Earth and your budget!) and get your kids involved with all the kitchen chores at mealtime. I know some families where the mom only has to cook 1 week out of 6 because her older kids all take turns cooking! I know some families with rigid, rotating, really organized dishes chores (I envy this). For us, we got rid of the chore chart and now every night, people get to choose a chore. But everyone is always helping! 

In our kitchen!

Music: 
I'm going to teach you how to read a staff! A musical staff! Are you so excited, you non-musical people!? I can't promise you'll understand it right away (teaching in person is always better, I think), but maybe it can help you identify what you're singing in church. 

First, you need to know that there is a staff. This, dear reader, is a grand staff. It is very grand! It is where the music is written. Think of it as the background to another language: 

Image result for grand staff

The top part of the grand staff, with this symbol












is called the Treble clef. It holds the higher notes (pitches). It is played with the right hand (on the piano). 

The bottom part of the grand staff, with this symbol












is called the Bass clef (pronounced "base"). It holds the lower notes (pitches). It is played with the left hand (on the piano). 

All musical pitches, for voice and any musical instrument, read up and down. If the note is high on the staff, the pitch is higher. If the note is low on the staff, the pitch is lower (on the piano it goes from left to right. Left = low, right = high).

We also read music as we read books the English language (and many others, of course): left to right.

The musical alphabet is thusly: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. That is all! Just 7 letter names, 7 tones, 7 pitches, 7 notes, and then they repeat, over and over and over. Each letter represents a note. Each note represents a tone. Each tone/note/letter name is written on the staff either on a line or a space. Understanding this is not too difficult. It becomes tricky because on the Grand Staff before you, an "A" in the treble clef may be on a different line or space than an "A" in the bass clef. Confused, yet? Don't be! There are some cheats that help students memorize which line and which space equals which letter name.



In the treble clef, starting from the bottom and going up, the letters on the lines are E, G, B, D, F (obviously, they skip letters, and as they repeat, and the alphabet is an odd number (7), this means letter names will not always land on spaces nor lines, but will change, and thus the need to memorize). I have kids memorize the phrase, "Every Good Boy Does Fine" in order to learn these lined notes. As for the spaces, we start from the bottom space (between the two lines, not below the bottom line), and the letters are F, A, C, E. That one is easy because it spells a word, eh? FACE. When put together, you can see that going from line to space to line to space to line to space equals the alphabet: E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F (it always starts over after G!). 

The bass clef is similar, but the letter names on those lines and spaces do not match the treble clef. Starting form the bottom line and going up, the letters are G(reat) B(ig) D(ogs) F(ight) A(lways) (or good boys do fine always). The spaces (starting from the bottom space and going up) are: A(ll) C(ows) E(at) G(rass). (Or all cars eat gas). So, starting from the very bottom line it goes G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A. 


However, we're missing three letters in the middle. The bass clef top line is an "A," and the treble clef bottom line is an "E." So, where is the B, C, and D? Well, in the space above the top line of the bass clef is that B. The space just below the bottom line of the treble clef is that D. As for C? Well, we call this middle C! (Because it's in the middle of the Grand Staff) and a long time ago, there was actually a line there.

Many centuries ago, the Grand Staff had another line right in the middle (where the C goes), but it got so confusing to read music (there was no space evident between the treble and bass clefs!), they decided to get rid of the line and just leave a little line in the C (it's technically called a ledger line, but we won't discuss those at present). 

Middle C is the lodestar of the Grand Staff. It's usually the first note a child memorizes both on the music and on the piano. It's even in the middle of the piano! (I keep talking piano because that's my expertise, dear reader. In case you forgot!). What's great about this little guy is that he is played with the left and right hands (either, or!). We love Middle C.

One other cool thing to know: The bass clef is also called the F clef because the two dots surround (and the big dot on the swooshy symbol is on) the line that represents F. The treble clef was called the G clef because the circle and dot swoosh around the line that represents G. Fun stuff! 

Now, you need to know that every note has a different time value (rhythm) and it's best described in fractions (and named that way, anyway, so there you go!). Whole notes are hollowed out and have no stem and are (usually, but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves) worth four counts.  Half notes are hollowed out and have a stem and are worth 2 counts. Quarter notes are filled in and have a stem and are worth 1 count. Eighth notes are filled in, have a stem, and have a flag and are worth 1/2 a count. Here's a pyramid showing the different values and what these notes look like:

All together, these notes on lines and spaces and with differing counts equal music. Music! Because really, music is just different pitches moving at different speeds, sometimes with other pitches at the same time (like with hymns, you'll have four parts moving together at once; four separate notes being played or sung at the same time. This is called harmony!). Once you know how to read music, you can create it! (Well, you create better music and more of it!) At the very least, you can understand it. That's always the first step, eh? 



Decorating
Here's a quick tip on hanging photos or pictures. Use odd numbers --groups of 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. It looks more appealing, this way. Also, the pinwheel look is great for groups of photos. It usually looks like this (sorry for the bad photo quality): 


See how the different sizes and direction (landscape vs portrait), which are parallel to each other, create a pinwheel look as they rotate around the smaller frame in the middle? Looks nice, eh? 

Writing
I've been writing for a long time (although only semi-professionally at times). Here are a few things I've learned from writing, as well as from reading things people write. If you read a lot, you learn to recognize good writing! That should be my first thing --read, read, read. To be a good writer you need to read. Here are some others:
*Don't describe every detail. That's what they mean about showing and not telling! 
*When you do describe something, use a thesaurus. But use it wisely. 
*Share your stories! Sharing from personal example makes a bigger impression than just talking about others. Also, write what you know. 
*Edit, edit, edit. Read it out loud. Read it as if your greatest critic is reading it. Then edit it, again. 
*Write every day. Even if it's crap. Write in journals. Write on your blog. Write letters, essays, stories, and work on your novel. Write poetry! But write every day. 

Social Media:
Here are some rules that are good to follow when traversing the landscape of social media: 
*Remember that every word and photo you post will live forever. 
*Before you post something, think about the possible ramifications --will this offend a lot of people? Is this true? Is this fair to others who may be affected by it? 
*If you have a public platform (FB, Instagram, blogs, etc) or use hashtags, remember that anyone can see your stuff. ANYONE CAN SEE YOUR STUFF. Even if you have a private account, if you use hashtags, anyone can see that one post. I didn't realize this about the hashtags, and 18 months ago, I hashtagged the crazy out of our 6 week trip across the country. I've since stopped using hashtags unless I WANT my photo to be public. 
*Consider going private. If not, refrain from using your kids' names and never use your address! I still try not to do this, even though I'm strictly private on almost everything, now. 
*Remember to consider the age of your audience. Are you friends on FB with teenagers? Is what you're posting influencing them for the better or teaching them about things they're not ready to know about? 
*This is important: you do not (YOU DO NOT) have to be friends with people out of obligation or guilt. If you have friends or family members who have crossed too many boundaries in your life, who hound you, or who have been mean to you on social media, you have every right to block them, unfriend them, etc. You would never tolerate friends or family members coming into your home to berate you, tell you you're stupid, walk all over you, use your information to manipulate you, etc., so why in the world would you let them do this online? Just because it's not in person doesn't mean it's okay. 
*Don't be offended. If you can't stand something someone says, consider hiding that post or scrolling on by. If it's something you feel needs to be addressed, wait a few days before commenting --or at least a few hours! (This is the one I need to work on the most!) It's also okay to hide people, stop following people, or just ignore people. They may be grateful to you for not commenting on their things, anymore! 
*Remember what the kids learn in school about online activity: 

Image result for Acronym for kids on social media


Nutrition:
A long time ago, I was a nutritarian leaning towards raw veganism (and was fully vegan for a few months). I felt amazing, dear reader. I honestly don't think I had been healthier (physically) in my entire life! I had energy, my skin and hair looked great, I slept better, I digested better, and I had the motivation to keep my body moving. Unfortunately, time (and many more babies) have taken their toll on my resolve (and my body), but I have a goal to eat this way again (maybe not completely hard-core, but at least better than where I am, now!). 

Here a few truths about nutrition and exercise that you need to know to be healthy (not necessarily lose weight, because honestly, dear reader, that's not the end-all of happiness. I was just as miserable thin as I was fat. It has nothing to do with your body but with your mind). These are only a few things, but I feel they can make the biggest impact: 

*Eat vegetables. Lots of them. Lots of colorful ones! (FYI: corn is a grain and peas are legumes. They are not vegetables! They don't count!) A good friend recommended this in order to get in all her veggies (and to fill her up with the good stuff so there wouldn't be room for the bad stuff): Eat three full servings of vegetables at every meal. Seems impossible? Here are some ideas:
Breakfast: scramble an egg with raw spinach, diced onions, diced tomatoes, and serve it next to sliced cucumbers and some toast. 
Lunch: Salad! With chicken, lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, green onions, etc. or Soup! Vegetable soup is filling and yummy (and oh, so great during the winter!).
Dinner: Pasta that has zucchini and bell peppers, with sides of bread, broccoli, and another salad.

*Drink water. Lots of water. Dehydration causes headaches, fatigue, difficult digestion, lack of focus, dry skin, and all kinds of other problems. There are some things that can hydrate you (other than water), but water is free (ish). It's right there, in the tap! When I was pregnant, I would drink a full glass of water after I went to the bathroom (every time). And as all pregnant women know, that means a lot of water because we go to the bathroom a lot! But just trust me on this: water, water, water! If you can drink nearly a gallon of water a day, your body will love you for it! Sure, you may have to visit the bathroom more frequently, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, dear reader. If you can't stand the idea of water, just add some lemon or lime to it. Or just drink it really fast! (Just not when it's super cold because that hurts.) 

*Along with the water thing --don't drink soda. Period. I had a Dr. Pepper last week, and even though I like it in the moment, I hated how I felt afterward. I would avoid coffee, alcohol (well, since I"m Mormon, that's a duh!), all energy drinks, and even Naked Juice (or Odwalla). Honestly, if you're going to drink something outside of water, I would recommend herbal teas. Herbal tea is not only good, but it's good for you! There are all kinds of fabulous kinds ready and available. Throat Coat is my favorite for when I'm feeling a cold coming on. Peppermint always lifts my spirits and gets me going. Warming teas, like apple cinnamon spice, are nice when it's cold. They're medicinal and mostly water! 

*Avoid all processed sugar and fake sugars. If you can't, keep it to less than 30 grams of sugar a day. Is that hard? You better believe it! One small Naked Juice (which is just fruit and veggies) has 27 grams of sugar in it. Some have 48 grams! The more raw, fresh, and homemade you go, though, the better your chances of eating things that have little sugar (and little sodium, unhealthy fat, and GMO's). 

Exercise: 
Just do it. I'm a horrible, horrible example for this because I have fallen off the wagon more times then I would like to admit! But honestly, there's no perfect way to exercise. I used to think that if I wasn't walking/running 4 miles every day or exercising for one full hour where I'm panting and sweating like crazy, then I wasn't exercising. And then what I was doing wasn't good enough, so what's the point? It was all or nothing for me. But I discovered that even a 30 minute walk could change so much --even just 20 minutes of jumping jacks, push-ups, and crunches every day! You don't have to be a marathon runner or tri-athlete to move your body. Do some stretching! Do some dancing! Go for a walk! Clean your house vigorously like someone is coming over to judge your entire character based on the cleanliness of it! Just move your body. 


There you go! Stuff to learn that you may or may not have already known! Cool beans. I left out many other subjects (like teaching, public speaking, easy chair upholstery, and self-care that isn't selfish), but this post was already way too long. If you found it fun or informative, maybe I'll do another one. If you think it's stupid, maybe I'll do another one, anyway. Ha! Happy Monday, dear reader.