Favorites: Unexpected Acts of Kindness

A little over a week ago, on an otherwise unpreposessing Monday, I opened my email inbox to find a wholly unexpected gift card for a book.

Four Elkhart Institute Ladies with Book, undated (11467224905).jpgIf you know me at all, you know that books are some of my very favorite things in the world. Even better than chocolate. (Heresy, I know). Sometimes even better than my kids. (Shhh. Don’t tell them I said that. Though of course I love my kids, sometimes it takes a good book to revive me enough to return to the parenting fray).

My morning immediately took a turn for the better, and I spent the rest of the day musing over the perks of an unexpected kindness. There’s something wonderfully validating about finding yourself in someone’s thoughts, for no reason other than that they care about you. Continue reading

We’re All Mad Here

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum’s Reasons for Admissions, late 1800s

I found the above picture a fair while ago, snared by the bewildering reasons people were put into insane asylums. Asthma? Novel reading?  Really? I stopped counting after 20 possible reasons I could admit to, and I wasn’t even halfway through the list (there’s about 90).  Maybe “insane” meant different things back then, or the existence of asylums created different behaviours or needs? It seems human nature to put definitions on things, both sleek and clunky. There’s a quote that often makes the rounds on Facebook that I can’t stand. It says something along the lines of “depression/anxiety/crying isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’ve been strong too long.” I think that’s a load of stupid piled onto a mountain of useless.  The first part I know and believe – depression (or the others) is not a sign of weakness. Far from it. But it certainly is not a sign that you’ve been strong too long.  We’re all mad here, we just may not know if we’ve gotten there yet.

Nearly two years ago, a tower was built way down the bottom of a mine shaft in my mind. Of course it doesn’t make sense – it was depression and that is one slippery, sly sucker punch of sneaky jerkitude that has the superpower of making the nonsense seem totally rational and acceptable.  I found myself spending longer and longer in the tower, noticing distantly that part of it was being walled off. Within months, there was a section totally blocked off from light, from peace, and while “I” would be going about my day hanging out laundry or baking a cake or attending classes or work or praying, I could hear the broken, constant sobbing of myself on the other side of the wall. Nonstop. All hours of the day and through my nights. A noise more constant and way louder than my own heartbeat, my conversations, my common sense. I couldn’t outrun it, drown it, ignore it, do anything about it… except accept it. Depression sure messes with your senses and ability to make sense of anything, let alone what you’re feeling.

Turns out, my ovaries has mutinied. Continue reading

Peculiar Treasures: Write On!

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Discipline is a complicated word and verb – what if kids respond to a different approach by writing alternative responses before they are needed by the kids and parents alike?

Writing epistles is one way a family loves and supports their son, serving a mission in prison.

How the story we make up impacts our emotions, conversations, our relationships, and even the way we breathe, as explained by Brené Brown.

Writing a new entry in the Ranger School history books, two women are graduating this week from the Army’s top training facility – the first women ever to do so.

A short writing exercise that changes lives, especially for students, including the idea of “self-authoring”.

Throwing away the life script, by considering the quote by President Ardeth G. Kapp  “When I was young I thought the noblest thing in this life was to be a mother—I have since learned that the best mission in life is the one the Lord has prepared for me.”

When your talents are used to help others, writing poetry is helping rebuild lives.

When the love of books is in lines of the drawn and painted variety (and no doubt inspiring more writing, including the following First Draft Poetry by Kel…)

Artist’s Medium

I’m so bad at drawing

like, wincing ouch that’s gotta hurt bad at drawing

within three weeks my primary class

7 year olds well acquainted with bandaids, face pulling and flickering broadcast artworks

encouraged each other

with gentle, sympathetic smiles

like, how on earth did you get so old and still be so awful you poor thing tilted smiles

to ease the chalk from my hand

and save myself and their own eyeballs

from my sickly stickmen efforts and filled the board with their enthusiasm

while I wrapped my spoken tinsel and tripwires of stories

around them so at times I’d have them balanced

like, so that they would all hold their breath and the chalk up from the board unknowingly balanced

on the edge of the sword fight or grisly war

or avenging angel of a next syllable to soar from my lips

waiting for the art I made with my words, chalk dust dancing between us.

Found any writing related or book art related links lately you’d like to share? Or a first draft poem inspired by the shared treasures?

Sabbath Revival: “To be an Help Meet for him…”

Today’s Sabbath Revival was originally posted in January 2007 by Angie.

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I’m a person who believes in equality, fairness, and logical thinking. I’m also stubborn, independent, and outspoken. When my first daughter was born nine years ago, I wasn’t about to become a traditional wife and mother. Because of that back story, and the events that followed, I was fascinated by Sharlee’s comment about not being a natural born wife.

I launched into marriage with the idea that I was an enlightened, modern woman. I bristled at the suggestion that might be any absolutes in gender or marriage. Instead, Don and I built our marriage around what we believed to be our individual strengths and needs. I went to grad school and got a job. Don stayed home with the baby. I loved my work, and my friends all congratulated me on my modern, enlightened relationship. Don was a great homemaker. He cooked wonderful dinners, packed me a homemade lunch every day, and made sure I never ran out of deodorant. It drove us to the brink of divorce.

I can’t logically explain why our marriage crumbled from the inside. It still seems to me that it should have worked. But it didn’t. When the Spirit told us that our home was not properly ordered, we finally responded. I came home, and Don went to work. And as hard as that was, the rewards were immediate. Our relationship blossomed. And what’s more, in the intervening years, the positive turning points in our relationship have always involved me figuring out another (usually “traditional”) piece to the puzzle of what it means to be a wife.

So what’s a modern, enlightened girl to do?

I’ve been reading Beverly Campbell’s book, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden. I especially love the section in which she analyzes the original Hebrew in the section of Genesis dealing with the creation, and she suggests that a more accurate translation of that passage might be something akin to “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a companion of strength and power who is equal with him.”

Strength. Power. Equality. Now we’re talking. And it occurs to me that if I had understood myself that way from the beginning, perhaps I would not have struggled so much to embrace my own feminine side. Perhaps a little more of my attention would have gone to understanding feminine power and influence, and perhaps a little less into making sure I could prove myself on a masculine playing field.

Of course, there are advantages to developing traditionally “masculine” attributes, but when it comes to that feminine side, I’m still learning. I had to learn how to be comfortable with my husband earning the living, leading out in major decisions, and even presiding over family prayers. More recently, I’ve learned that I can have a tremendous influence for good by creating a safe space in our home where my husband feels respected, and where he is reminded of his own divine nature and nobility of character. That’s not to say I didn’t respect and love him before. We’ve had a great marriage for years now, but despite that, communicating my respect and love wasn’t my focus. It was something I squeezed it between loads of laundry and editing projects. I’m discovering that I want it to be my focus.

So here’s my latest epiphany. Promise you won’t think me unenlightened? You know that saying about “Behind every great man there is a great woman?” A couple of months ago I finally started to grasp what that means. I used to visualize the great woman either running her husband’s life like a puppeteer or picking up the pieces he left behind. Mostly I wondered why the heck she was wasting her time standing behind him. But I’m realizing that I have the ability to impact many, many people for good when I nurture my husband. The spiritual feeding that he gets in my home extends out in ripple form, touching our children, our extended family, and our friends, neighbors, and associates.

So what about you? Were you a natural born wife? What have you learned along the way?