The Choices You Make Matter

image1 (3)The lesson I taught the Beehives two weeks ago was called “Do the choices I make matter?” In preparation for the lesson, I started listing and writing about choices I’ve made that have mattered. I especially tried to focus on choices that seemed small at the time that ended up making a big difference in the course of my life or the state of my soul. I could have written for hours. Here are a few from my list:

  • Choosing to run for student body secretary when I was in high school. I lost. And it was so hard for me. But I learned to find a place for myself. I learned there were other places to serve and different ways to make a difference than the one I had imagined.
  • Choosing to believe in myself–probably in 8th or 9th grade? I can’t remember exactly when, but this was a distinct choice I made. I was (am still, in a way) very self-conscious and doubted myself. I was very aware of the things I wasn’t good at. My parents gave me How to win friends and influence people and another book. I can’t remember its title–something like Go for it–but it came with a stack of affirmation cards for the reader to read to themselves. I know, totally something from Saturday Night Live. But I read those cards aloud every night and as I did so, it made me think about what I believed about myself and what I based those beliefs on. I decided to believe that the things I read on the cards were true–that I really was a good listener and I really could make friends and I really was a person worth knowing and worth talking to.
  • Choosing to try to have children right after we got married. I didn’t want to have a baby right away. I wanted it to be just my husband and I for a little bit. But it felt wrong to me. I already had a master’s degree, I’d had some great jobs, I’d traveled a lot around the world. I had no excuses that seemed legitimate in our circumstances for postponing children. So we tried right away. And it took us a few years and a lot of tests and procedures before our oldest joined us and many more before our youngest 2 arrived. That small choice turned out to be huge–I’m not sure I would have the family I have now had we waited to try having children.
  • At the same time I was preparing to teach the Beehives about choices mattering, a high councilman from our stake called me up to see if I would interview a number of people, mainly older high priests, in the stake and write 5-minute life sketches of them to be read at the stake high priest group social. So I decided to ask the people I interviewed about choices that mattered in their lives. Some were “big” (marriage, choice of college, etc) and others “small,” like the woman who told me about the difficulty of her family’s move to Utah when she was in high school, leaving her lonely and friendless. Until she decided to look up. “I told myself that I would look up. That instead of looking at my feet as I walked through school, I would look in people’s eyes.” That decision changed her life that year.

    I loved the answers I got in these interviews because they revealed to me, just as when I looked back over my own life, that Heavenly Father is in the details, that the choices we make matter to Him because we matter to Him. That knowledge gives me humility and confidence as I try to make conscientious choices in my daily life.

    What choices have you made, big or small, that have mattered in particular in your life? What choices have shown you Heavenly Father’s love for you?

    Call Me If You Need Anything

    I stared at the woman’s Facebook entry. It was several sentences long about how her family just gotten some bad news and when were they ever going to catch a break and didn’t life just completely suck a lot of the time? I read the update to my husband. He is the Home Teacher to this woman and her family. I know he cares about them and would want to help.   I scrolled through the comments and most were variations of, “Oh my gosh, what happened? Call me if you need anything!” “Yeah,” my husband nodded, “tell her to call me if they need any help.”

    If they need any help???

    Good grief almighty. Of course they need help. Look at that Facebook post!

    I’ll tell you what I told my husband: Never say the words, “call me if you need anything!” We need to strike this phrase from our collective vocabulary. Usually we say this to someone who we know needs help; whether it’s because they aren’t feeling well, or they’re have family issues or they just got called to be the Primary President; this is a phrase we blithely offer to someone who is in a more difficult situation than they normally are. This sentence, meant to be helpful, places the entire responsibility of help on the person who is already struggling.   And we all know how easy it is to ask for help! I don’t care how low I’ve been, I would never dream of calling up a friend to go to the post office for me or to fold my laundry, even when these are the very things I’ve needed. Even when a dozen people have invited me to “call them if I need anything.”

    If you really want to be helpful, call a person and ask how you can help, not if you can help. Give them a couple of options so they know you’re serious. (“Could I pick up your kids from school and have them stay til bedtime?” “What day would be best to bring you dinner this week?” “Could I do your grocery shopping for you?” “Could I drive you to any of your appointments?”).  Some people are very stubborn about accepting help. I’ve had to say to sisters in my ward, “listen, I’m going to help you. Either you can tell me what you need or I’ll just pick something.” They always laugh at that point and say, “well, ok then!”   There is always something that can be done.

    Listen, friends, good intentions are nice but we aren’t a church of good intentions. We are a church of action. That is what Christ has asked of us: to bear each other’s burdens. Not to pat a friend on the back and give her a frownsmile. As nice as it is to commiserate with somebody on Facebook, the true Christian actually shows up. The true disciple picks up the phone and says, “I can tell you’re having a hard time right now. How about I bring over some lunch and we can talk?” Or one of a thousand other things that a hurting person might need. The Holy Ghost can give you some great ideas.

    Don’t make a friend beg for help. Most of us would rather suffer in silence. Be the person that is an answer to someone’s prayers.

    Quiet Women Warriors

    a-majestic-woman-climbing-on-a-very-small-mountain-web(1)

    Lately stories from women who help take care of an elderly parent, a child with disabilities, or even a neighbor they check in on every night have crossed my path. I listen, or observe, or hear a third party story and their quiet strength and firm exhaustion hangs heavy inside me.

    Some of these same women say they hear the phrase “I just don’t know how you do it”  a lot.  And from the sounds of it – those words become blankets of frustrated suffocation rather than of comfort.  “You just do it, they say.” All  while shouting Oh My Gosh in their minds.

    “You do it because you have to,” they say.  And tears often stream, while forcing a smile, when they explain. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s an honor and a privilege, but it’s hard.” And with the rhythm of their caring and mourning and working and soothing, so beats their expansive hearts.

    I think they’re quiet warriors.

    My mom spent one to three hours a night, five to seven days a week, for five years in a nursing home.  By choice, and by duty. It simply became a way of life.  She went to her mother’s side and talked, fed, bathed, and clothed her.

    It’s what one does.  It’s what mostly daughters do.

    On a sunny spring day, after many ups and downs the gradual end began.  The family was called and we set up camp in my grandma’s home. We never called it her home, she would be repulsed at the thought of living out her years in such a place.  But coming into this world and leaving this world is a tricky business.

    As I lay on the bed of the Home, my eyes opened, then closed then opened in a batter of will.  Warm sun rays streamed into the room as if paying homage to her. She often rolled her chair and her dog into the hallways of this new Old Home and felt the light and sun on their skin.  Sun baths, she’d say. I bathed my tired soul in the warmth as I rolled over on the bed, in and out of sleepy consciousness.  My mom sat next to her bed for hours and days, and readjusted blankets and laid her hands on her hands, and swept the hair out of her closed eyes.  Her two sons came in and out of the room with nervous steps between phone calls in the halls; a general discomfort and dis-ease with naked skin and fragile mothers.

    My grandma reached out one last time and chose to leave during the short moment when people were making a phone call, or briefly stepped out of the room – the weight of exhaustion heavy.  In silence, we, the women of her world proceeded to touch her hands and her cheeks and looked upon her soft skin – listened for more breath, but none came.  And while we all breathed a sigh of release and the sun stream in behind us a new hole took shape.

    How do we take care of others around us? How has it changed you?  Have you had this duty and a privilege?

    Parenting Works Cited: the Next Level

    In a post a couple of years ago, I talked about my parenting works cited page: the books I read as a first time mother for each stage along the way. I’ve found myself grappling with some serious parenting challenges over the last couple of years: wrangling a toddler and a preschooler while figuring out how to handle ADHD and ODD in one of my older children.

    ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) often presents itself with ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). What this means is that a child who has a hard time staying focused is also wired to resist authority and rules. Things have gotten steadily better over the last year, and part of it is that I’ve done a lot of research and implemented the parts that worked for me. The other part of it is therapy, and the last part is medication. All three of those components are necessary–I wouldn’t do the medication alone without therapy and parental research, but I also saw the most dramatic results with my parenting techniques when we combined them with medication.

    For a long time I kept hoping that there would be just one magic book that helped me know everything and fix all of our challenges. I tend to latch on to authority figures–if someone wrote a book about it, I figure, they must know more than me, so part of me wants to do everything they say. It’s the opposite of oppositional defiance–an unhealthy tendency to defer.

    But the truth is that there is no one book written for my family. I write the book. There are works that have helped me, though, and if there’s someone out there who is wrestling with ADHD/ODD, this post is for you. Continue reading

    Peculiar Treasures: Libraries , Learning, and Life

    A library makes a place.  Let’s sing its praise. We all need the library. I also happen to want a little one of my very own, and turns out it’s not so uncommon. Have you seen the free little libraries in your neck of the woods?

    How about a video library of things to make you smile and say “yes!” in minutes, seconds even?

    And/or say yes to just this one: a perfect video bite of students learning a Led Zeppelin Medley on xylophones.

    And this beautiful film trailer that affirms life and love.

    Zen Pencils draws out what a life of learning looks like, and feels.

    Maybe the best part are the dreamy places you can buy the supplies at.  Dreamy real-life bookstores, anyone?

    Now back to the library with Shannon Hale (Mormon YA author extraordinaire) talking to kids about her books and the writing process, and no boys allowed, say what?! 

    This week’s first draft poetry is brought to us by Melonie.

    Us

    Winter takes a final stroll on my city street
    exhaling the fog from a long cigarette.
    He stops under the streetlight
    and stares up at my window
    like a forlorn lover.

     

    I distantly focus on the white of his eyes,
    the row of small teeth,
    moons in the fingernails,
    Creating small remnants of memory
    to cover
    the nights we shared
    in the bed of the last few months.

     

    The sleeping slope of a shoulder,
    the tuck of the head,
    The bony hip adjusting itself
    into the mattressed ground -

     

    I see his outlined form
    through the cold window between us -
    a menacing comfort.

     

    He inhales
    on the promise of a return
    and steps out of the round light,

     

    one more ghostly breath
    and the pane would shatter.

     

    What inspired you to write, read or pause this week?