Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Internet down blessings

Every year, the Monday before Halloween, we carve our pumpkins, roast the seeds, drink apple cider or hot cocoa, and watch the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Disney style).  It is one of my favorite evenings because we are enjoying each others' company, spending time as a family doing something fun, and just hanging out together.

This year, we had also promised one of our children they would be able to watch a TV show for their help to clean up the building after a funeral this week.  Unfortunately, their 'reward' was going to fall on last night, our traditional Legend of Sleepy Hollow viewing.   I was not very happy.

For whatever reason, the stars and the cosmos aligned and our internet was down from about 4 p.m until 9 p.m.  That wasn't so great for our son, who was disappointed at not receiving his reward last night, but it made me supremely happy, because we have the Legend of Sleepy Hollow on video.  Unfortunately, that wasn't working either.  We did, however, have apple cider, carve pumpkins, enjoy family home evening and watched our favorite comedy series, Studio C.

Spike LOVED carving pumpkins and getting the seeds out.  This year I must have roasted them just the right way because the children ate almost all of them.  (Sorry, no photos).  But I simply washed the seeds in the colander, melted butter on a cookie sheet under the broiler, stirred the seeds into the butter and topped it with a ton of salt.  Then we broiled them for 10 minutes, stirred and broiled for five more.  Voila!  Delicious!

After the children had gone to bed, and the internet was up, I watched the Legend of Sleepy Hollow!  Well, more realistically, I fell asleep to it.  Guess I'll watch it again later today!
Happy Halloween!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Clearer Perspective

I have been struggling lately with all of the drama going on here at our house.  I called one of my visiting teaching people on Thursday to invite her family to our ward Halloween Party and ended up taking her to the emergency room at the hospital.  After 5 hours in the emergency room, they decided to admit her.  I got home just after midnight, got my little family up and moving on Friday morning and was exhausted throughout the day, trying to manage home and visit my friend.  Her husband was out of town and she literally was all alone.  She really did need me there, as she has not been active for awhile and does not have many close friends.

Friday evening was the party, so there was that business of helping the children to get ready.  And then the toilet overflowed in the carpeted bathroom, but also backed up into the tub and the shower.  It has been a lovely weekend of talking to five plumbers in 24 hours trying to get that bathroom functioning (because every time we run a load of laundry, it overflows the toilet).  It has been just lovely!  Anyway, Friday night I just started to cry because of the stress and I personally bagged the Halloween party but sent the kids.

Saturday morning started bright and early with the Primary Program Practice, which we are presenting today.  The other ward in our building is also having their program today, so they wanted the building at the same time and they had actually scheduled it, where we had not.  We moved our practice to an hour and a half earlier.  Which all ended up being very good and wise because we had an unexpected memorial service that afternoon in the building as well (which for us, ended up being 5 and 1/2 hours, with set-up and clean-up) all the while trying to coordinate with multiple plumbers about our bathroom.  More crying for me on Saturday.

The bathroom is still not functioning (which means no laundry as well) and we will see what happens on Monday.  At least by the end of today, the Primary Program will be over.  One thing off of the list.

However, with all of our drama and stress, I watched this video this morning:
And I realized, that my life is really not so hard after all.  I do not have to flee my homeland or leave all of my things behind.  My daughter is not paralyzed from our journey and someone shooting her.  I have all the things I want and need, including two other bathrooms that work.  I have hope, and faith, family, love and all of the necessities of life.  Life is good!

I know my Father in Heaven loves me!  I know He is aware of me!  I know He will help me and comfort me, if I let Him!

Have a beautiful Sabbath.  Life is good, even when the toilet overflows onto my new carpet.

Update:  After I posted, I read this article on lds.org: "The Surprising Science Behind 'Supremely Happy' People."  It is well worth your time and happiness!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When bad things happen

I know!  I missed my Family First Friday blog.  Oh well.  I guess that happens.  When all is said and done, I wanted to have 52 Family First Friday posts.  So far I have 37.  So I won't hit the mark, but I will be so much closer than last year, when I think I had seven.  Maybe next year I will have all 52!!  But that is not what my post is about today.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the temple.  It was amazing.  We didn't get to attend a session for endowments because two stakes were having their stake temple day.  The locker room was packed before we arrived and when we were leaving--standing room only, in the locker room!  Crazy!  But it was great to see so many people there worshiping together.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

While we were coming home from the temple, my family was having another adventure.  We live on a very busy intersection.  (Not busy by big city standards, but very busy by super small city standards.)  Our intersection is the main place to turn to get to the church building and a major route to the only hospital in town.  Because it is busy, we probably have about four accidents a year at our intersection.  Most are fender benders and people just not being very careful.  We usually hear the accident and then we (all the neighbors included) run out to see who needs help and what we can do, call the ambulance, or police, or whoever needs to be notified.

Around 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. yesterday, there was a major crash at our intersection.  My husband went running out to check on the vehicles and passengers.  His adrenaline went through the roof when he saw that the car which was hit had four elders in it (missionaries) with blood everywhere, and three were unconscious and unresponsive.  Various emergency vehicles were called.  The sisters were just a few car lengths in front of them ahead of the accident after they had made the turn to the building, so they pulled over, and called their mission president and the zone leaders.

Two missionaries eventually walked away from the accident.  Two were taken to the hospital.  One was released last night after eight staples in his head (I think that is where all the blood came from).  The other was flown to a larger hospital down south.  I think he will be alright, but obviously his injuries were bad enough that our hospital didn't feel like they could manage his care.  Please add your prayers to our and pray for those boys and their families, include their companions too.  Because even though they are physically alright, it doesn't mean they are emotionally and spiritually alright.

Today I have been pondering how we manage life when hard things happen to us.  When we are struggling with our emotions because we are hurt, afraid, sad, depressed, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, disappointed, when our spirits are low and life seems dark, how do we manage?  Where do we turn?

In my life's experience, it seems to me that we turn one of two ways.  We either turn toward God, or we turn away from him.  If we turn away, we may turn to alcohol, drugs, pornography, anger, apathy, food, or any number of other avenues we may try to use to soothe our negative feelings.  Unfortunately, these things do not take away or fix our negative feelings, they simply mask them so we don't have to feel them right now.

The only way to truly manage them properly, to eliminate them or help manage them while we are working through them, is to turn to God---to give them to Him, through the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Read this story to give context for the next part of our discussion.

It took me a minute or two of pondering to put some concepts together in my head and help me gain a clearer picture.  I struggled with how the Savior has paid for all sin, when the scriptures teach us, in D&C 19: 15-18:

 15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

 16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

 17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

 18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

It seemed to me that it wouldn't be just, for justice to be paid twice, once by the Savior and once by those who do not repent.  That didn't seem right.
But if you look at it as each sin needing to be paid for twice, once for the one who committed the sin--the driver in Joe's story, and once for the person who received the pain and suffering of the behavior (Joe), then it is easy to see how the Savior has paid for all sins, at least on one side, or both sides of the equation, while still requiring the unrepentant perpetrator to pay for his own sin.

When bad things happen to us, especially due to no fault of our own, the only place to turn to that will adequately mend our souls, is to the Savior, who has paid the price already for all of our pain and suffering.  He has felt it all and is intimately acquainted with our grief and sorrow and pain.  When we choose not to turn to Him in those moments, we are denying the power of the Atonement and the Savior's ability to succor us in our moments of trial, hardship, and despair.

Lest you think I am on a soap box and preaching at you, the truth be told, I don't know exactly how to do that myself.  Intellectually, it makes total and complete sense to me.  Application wise?  I am still learning and struggling through my mortality as much as you are.  I don't know the how of it, I just know that I need to do it.  In our times of emotional difficulty, we can and must turn to the Savior, if we are going to manage it properly.  I know He has suffered for my sorrow, my grief, my pain, my anguish, my guilt, and even my sin, if I am willing to do what He asks of me and repent.  If I have done no wrong, I still know He knows my sorrow and pain.  He felt it.  He understands.  He knows what I need to do to get through it and learn from it.  He will never leave me, if I turn to Him.  But that has to be my choice.  He will not force me.  He will only reach after me.  The choice to come unto Him, is mine, and mine alone.

I read this article by President Uchtdorf this morning.

Instead of thinking about it in terms of gaining my testimony, I though about it in terms of strengthening my testimony, of shoring it up, gathering the oil of conversion in my lamp of testimony, so when the storms of life come at me, because they will, I have enough in there to give me light through the dark night of trial and adversity, the storms of life.  I think this post is more for me.  I feel a storm brewing on the horizon.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Service -- Pass it forward

Many moons ago, when we were young married college students, and our ward was all of three blocks big (seriously, it really was only three small city blocks!!), I was thinking about one of the other families in our ward.  They had one small daughter.  The wife had just started working because things were tight financially for their family.  I just was feeling bad for them and wondering if there wasn't some way that we could show them how much we loved and appreciated them.

I started talking to a few of the women in my ward who were also friends with this family.  We did a little brainstorming.  I don't remember whose idea it was, but we decided that one night, we would go into their apartment at the appointed time, clean it and leave dinner on the table.  We also baked bread in their oven so the house smelled like homemade bread.  I'm sure it is only in Utah that we could do something like that.  Here in California we would probably have been put in jail for breaking and entering and/or the apartment manager who was also in our ward would have lost her job.  But one of their friends knew they didn't ever lock the sliding glass door, so we didn't have to ask the apartment manager for keys.

On the appointed day and time, we (the four or six of us) showed up and cleaned their two bedroom apartment and left dinner.  Because the wife had just started a full time job and they were adjusting, the house was a mess.  She was not a messy housekeeper.  She was usually pretty on top of it.  But we did our good deed and left dinner with a note as planned.

Not only did our friend break down and cry, but that particular day had been horrible for them.  Their daughter fell at day care and broke her arm.  Our friend had to leave work early to take her to the hospital, where they had spent the majority of the afternoon.  When they arrived home, tired and exhausted, they came into a clean home, with dinner and homemade bread and a little note that just said, "We love you and we are thinking about you today!"

We didn't leave our names.  It was a secret service!  Because she thought she knew who had done it, our friend gave a similar service for the person she thought had given her service.  That person wasn't involved in our service.  But that family then went out and paid a similar service to someone else.  We actually started a service wave in our ward.  It was very cool and really sweet to watch the benefits and the joy of those who received the service and then to hear about their secret service.
Can you imagine the good will and feelings of love and support our ward felt about each other as various members here and there received a non-solicited service, an expression of love, and friendship?  It was amazing!

I have not been able to figure out how to do something similar with our children.  But I have been able to reach out and serve the one.  Ocassionally I have been able to bring someone bread, or take a dinner, or watch their children, or talk with someone having a difficult day, or just smile.

Our world is a little out of the service loop.  We try to help others by giving them money or maybe donating to charities or giving of our time to organizations.  None of those things are bad or wrong and they help many people, I am sure.  But what about a teeny, tiny service to your neighbor?  What if you just mowed their lawn sometime?  How about if you brought them dinner or had them over, just because!

Here in California, in my neighborhood, my boys have helped our neighbor put together a bar-b-que grill.  She needed some help.  My neighbor next door, always kills the weeds that are next to his property.  I know he is probably doing it just so they don't blow onto his property, but I need to take him some bread and just tell him 'Thank you! I notice you do that and I appreciate it!'  I wish I was more on top of our yard work, but there is only so much work one woman can manage, even when she is also directing several other people to help her.  I need to reach out to my neighbors a little bit more, especially because they don't go to church with me.  But just to build some good will and positive happy feelings in my neighborhood.

What about you?  Could your neighbors use a little loving service?

Friday, October 10, 2014

FFF#37---Teen-Parent Relationships

Speedy came home the other day and told me of an interaction he had at school.  One of the 4th years (Seniors) was speaking with him.  She is not someone he particularly knows.  They were in the same place at the same time.  She let him know that our family "is really strange and a little disturbing".  At first, I was a little put out, but I decided I really wanted to know what she meant by that so I asked Speedy to elaborate on their conversation.  'What did she mean by that exactly?'

She went on, "When we were all here for registration and our parents had to be here and we were all standing around in line, you and your mom were joking and laughing with each other and obviously had some inside jokes and looked like you were having a great time."  Speedy told me that she doesn't have a good relationship with her parents, in fact, it is quite the opposite.  She called our relationship 'disturbing, weird, and just wrong'.

I laughed out loud for a few minutes and then I was just sad.  I realized that even when I am just being myself and being what I would call 'normal' people are watching us.  I wasn't sad about the watching part, as much as I was sad that her experience led her to believe a positive and fun relationship with your parent is just 'wrong and disturbing'. 

As I pondered more over the next few days, I realized that as an adolescent, I didn't have a good relationship with my parents either.  I didn't feel like I was understood or that I could be myself.  I did not feel valued or loved for who I was.  Those feelings led me to be very active in my parenting and make significant efforts in the relationships I have with our children.  I want them to feel like I am honest in our relationship.  I want them to be able to believe the things I tell them.  If I make a mistake, I say so.  I apologize to them when I have mistreated them.  I try to treat them like I would my best friends, except I have to be their parent, not their friend.  But I am courteous, and kind.  I ask for favors, like babysitting (I don't just expect them to be available).  I do give them assignments and chores and I discipline when that is necessary.  But I really, really like my teenagers for who they are.  I appreciate their uniqueness.
One of the most important things I believe parents can do, besides teach their children about the gospel, is to validate their feelings.  They have feelings.  Infants have feelings.  Toddlers have feelings.  Children have feelings.  Adolescents have feelings.  They are people.  They deserve to be treated that way regardless of their age.  If they are hurt, sad, upset, afraid, embarrassed, or angry, those feelings deserve to be addressed and ministered to.  Children do not know the best ways to handle all of their emotions.  Unfortunately, most adults do not either.  But if you think back to your childhood and can recognize when people treated you in a way you did not like and when people treated you in a way that made you feel confident and happy and loved, then you will have some clues about how to help your children and teenagers have those feelings as well.

If as a parent, you are emotionally struggling with an issue, it is alright for your children to see your struggles.  It is alright for you to admit that you are scared or having a difficult time, especially to your adolescents.  You do not need to burden small children with your emotions or make them feel responsible for fixing your negative emotions, but it is completely appropriate to tell your children that you are sad, or hurt or afraid or sick and allow them to comfort you.  Then you just say something like, "Mommy is going to try to help herself have better feelings," or "Mommy is going to ask Heavenly Father to help her," and then model appropriate behavior.  If your children see you struggle and then watch you make positive efforts to manage your negative emotions that gives them an example to follow when they are having some of those same feelings.

Especially when emotions are shared without blame and anger, teenagers can be a huge source of comfort and solace.  And when teenagers explode with their emotion for whatever reason, kindly let them know their feelings are valid, they are OK, but their behavior is not.  Then give them other options for behavior when they have negative feelings.
To be very honest, your teenager needs your time.  He or she needs you to take time to listen to them.  Teenagers are a group that have real adult kinds of problems.  In the circles they run in, they have friends who are using drugs, alcohol and/or tobacco, having sex, discussing birth control and abortion, have parents getting divorced, they are abused, etc....  One of the things we adults do not always do well, is to listen to our teenagers.  They are trying to solve some seriously adult issues with teenage hormones and brains.  That is not an easy thing to do, which if you think back to your adolescence, you can personally validate.  Your teenagers may not be doing any of those things, but I guarantee you they know other teenagers who are.

Speedy has been upset lately because people at school are approaching him for 'dating' advice.  He is flattered, but he is also 15, so he doesn't have any experience to be giving advice.  It is a little daunting for him.  He is completely stressed out about the amount of homework he has.  It isn't more than my college boys have or more than I had at his age, but for him today, it is a huge stress.  That feeling is valid.  It is more homework than he has ever had to manage and it is causing him grief and stress.  If as his parent, I tell him to just 'suck it up and deal with it' or 'that he doesn't have anything to complain about, his load is not that hard to manage,' then I have just invalidated his feelings about his situation.  I have done nothing to help him expand his ability to meet the load or to help him feel like he can manage it.   I have invalidated his feelings of stress at his circumstances.  If, on the other hand, I remember how I felt at his age and the amount of homework I had and felt overwhelmed by and just say, "Ya' gosh!  I remember that!  It was hard to get all of that done," even if I do not give him any new strategies, just letting him know his feelings at that age are normal for those circumstances does a lot for his ability to manage those feelings.  If I then go further and help him to reorganize his workload or pick up some of his chores so he has more time for his homework, or sometimes just encourage him to go to bed and get a good night's rest and then face the problems again in the morning, I am validating his feelings and helping him to manage his negative emotions.

We all need help!  If we were perfect at always managing our feelings, we wouldn't need to be on the earth anymore.  The fact that we are still here, means there is more for us to learn.  Teenagers are trying to manage more adult situations with an entirely new set of hormones.  They deserve extra consideration, time, and love.

I think teenagers have always been my favorite because they can think like adults, work like adults, and are in a place where they are making decisions to guide their future, but they still want to play like little children.  They are going to make mistakes, some big mistakes in how they manage themselves and their circumstances, but if they are shown enough love and understanding with proper boundaries for their behavior, they are usually very teachable, if their childhood experience has given them the opinion that the world is a safe place.

If, through their childhood, they have learned that the world is not a safe place, then adolescence is much more difficult to navigate, though it is not impossible.  It just takes a lot more work and prayer.

LOVE your teens!!!  And if you are overwhelmed and exhausted with them, pray for them and pray with them.  Ask your Father in Heaven what you can do for them to help them make the right choices and show them of your love and concern.  Then do what He tells you to do, even if it doesn't make sense to you.  Trust Him.  The child you are raising was His child first.  He knows him/her and He knows what will touch his/her heart.

If you do not have teenagers, start working on your relationship with your children.  You are building the relationship you will have with them through their teens!  Build wisely and validate those little people feelings!  Overall, sometimes us stuffy adults need to let loose and have a little teenage, or childhood fun.  The children and youth need us to play with them.  Those who do, will have better relationships than those who don't have time for childish things.  LOVE and PLAY....that is my advice and counsel for today.