Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kids Who Stand Out in a Crowd

Celebrate Calm:

The Beat of a Different Drummer
I peek in at him late at night lying in bed, fast asleep, my no-longer-little guy sprawled out across his bed, long unruly mess of hair covering his face. . .and I smile. I smile because he is full of personality. He is so different than me in many ways, different than my expectations, different than the little boy I had always imagined. And for that I am grateful. He's his own person, knows what he likes and doesn't like. I look in at him, peaceful and innocent while he sleeps. The fight is gone and his little mind is resting. He's gone full force for the last sixteen hours, he needs a break.
I like it that he pushes the limits, like it that he questions everything, because one day he's going to do something spectacular. Along the way, he's going to make some big mistakes, but he's going to live large and dream large. Underneath the spunk and mouth is a heart not only lined with gold, but filled with it. It is large and feeling, and it wants to do good even when his impulses lead him astray at times.
I think God must look down and confuse him with a little tornado. But I also think God looks down and likes what He has created, likes the little tornado who is growing into a man.
I think He sees Himself in my little boy, funny as that sounds. The part of God who is the Creator, who by the sheer force of His energy and being created life and all that is in the world. The part of God who was willing to step into humanity and persevere on a rugged cross because it would help people. The part of God who walked among men, largely misunderstood, often reviled because He was different and didn't do things the way the rulers of His era thought they should be done.
But He kept going. Because He, too, had a mission. He didn't care what others thought. His vision was larger than a mere thirty-three years on earth.
I think God must see Himself in the part that sometimes misses out on earthly things because he's in tune with something deep inside another person. The part who remains an idealist even when the world around him is less than ideal. The part that isn't afraid to look into eternity and see better things in all of us.
That is my son sleeping there. We fought each other until we couldn't fight anymore. Until I realized that I was the one who needed to change, because I wasn't going to change his nature. Perhaps he has been given to me so that I would change.
That is my son. Sometimes he inspires anger, sometimes frustration. Then he makes me laugh, even smile in resignation. And as I look at him, he makes me cry. He is a wonderful creation. Through all the struggles, I can see the imprints of the Creator.
He is my son. He marches to the beat of a different drummer. Thank God.

-Kirk Martin (during his transformation several years ago)

I read this and see my daughter.  I also see myself, changing my perspective.  I love the honesty and bravery of Kirk.  Now Casey, of whom the poem was written, has begun to realize his own great potential and at age 16 is already holding motivational workshops and selling CDs for kids.  He's found his spark and his own unique mission in life, and that is what we all want for our kids.  Those of us with kids who don't fit in, who don't make friends easily, or subscribe to the popular societal way of thinking, we are fortunate!  Our kids are different!  If we don't frustrate their god-given purpose with our own anxiety and need to control, but instead lead as Christ would have us do, we will find a great treasure beneath that rough exterior.  I am begining to see it in my daughter--such a powerful soul, who is my daily gift and challenge.  She is an inspiration and a great, raw fountain of understanding,  perspective, and gratitude to God.  She changes me by being in my life.  I am a better person because of her.  I will always give thanks for my fiery angel. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A word about my husband

I have been married to my husband for 5 years, and at first, I thought I married him because I loved him.  Then I thought I'd married him because I was tricked!  Now I know that I married him because I would have been incomplete without him. 

I love this man more today than yesterday, and it's not because life has been smooth and easy with him.  It's not because he gives me roses or plans romantic dinners or surprises for me.  It's not because we have the same interests or talents, or appreciate one another's talents and interests.  It's not because we meet eachothers' needs, or even have the same ideas about life and raising children.  It's not because he never loses his temper, and cheerfully helps out around the house.  It's not because he loves the children.  It's not because he loves me.  It's not because he values the same things I value, or respects the same things I respect.  Those things, all of them, come and go.  The reason I love him is that he is part of me.  Living without him would be living only half a life.  He is not responsible for my happiness, but he is part of my happiness, as are my children. 

Last night I wanted to go to a George Dyer concert I'd been looking forward to for some time.  Kevin called, and had decided to eat out and wouldn't come home until an hour after the concert began.  I pleaded with him, but his mind was set.  I could have moped and decided to stay at home fuming that my interests weren't important to him.  In fact, I started to!  But then a friend called, and said, "why don't you see if you can pile the kids into my car and we can bring them together?"  I was going to say, no no, my needs aren't important to my husband, and I know my kids won't be able to sit for 2 hours and listen to singing, so I'll stay home.  But then I realized how stupid that would be!  We piled up the kids and went, then I was able to call my husband after an hour into the concert and the kids were tired, wired, and getting wild, and he came and took all three home.  He did not care about missing the concert, because his interests are not the same as mine, something that I am very grateful for at times!

He looked like a white knight to me when I saw him walk through the door of the concert.  He had such a beautiful, rested, and loving look as he embraced his kids.  I realized that sometimes, he just needs to unwind a little before facing the rabble.  Who can blame him?  He was able to greet them happily instead of with hunger and stress hanging over him.

I'm so glad I brought the kids, because before they ate quite so many cookies, they did have a wonderful time appreciating the incredible singing.  Peter especially, with his love of singing, was completely overcome with the beauty, and seemed to be singing with George in Spirit, eyes peeled, breathing with him, mimiking his facial expressions.  George Dyer, for those who don't know, is an Opera singer, who is a brother/nephew (nephew who was raised as a brother for a time) to my Branch President and cousin David Light.  George put on a free concert for the Floyd area as a greeting from the LDS church to the area.  What a marvelous, smooth, rich, delicious voice!  After singing two hours to a CD, he didn't have even a trace of raspy fatigue in his voice.  That is true talent!  (He also sung at Pampa's funeral, and learned in just a few hours, a very difficult song he'd never heard before, sung it perfectly, with feeling!)  David and George also sang together for a song, which was a real treat, as David also has a beautiful, rich and velvety voice.


After the kids were gone, I got to sit and enjoy a cup of cider, and feel all the muscles in my back unwind.  I was able to let the beauty in, and feel it fill my soul up with delight.  It was the perfect evening, thanks to a good friend, a flexible attitude, and my darling husband.

Kevin is my soul mate, because I choose for him to be.  My Mom used to say that about my Dad, but I didn't get how wonderful that is, until I experienced it myself.  I have a choice, and I choose him!  That gift of free will is the greatest gift that God has given me!  I look at Kevin, not as he is now, but as he can be.  I see in him, not what he does and says, but who he is becoming, the seed of a God.  I see in him the best parts of my children.  In his eyes I see that precious light that I also see in my children't eyes, that light that went out for awhile, when life was all about scraping from one day to the next.  Now, when life is about working toward quality and self mastery, the light has returned to all of us, and we're experiencing the joy and rest and peace that we never knew we could! 

This is undenyable proof to me that there is a God.  Purely natural selection would not give our minds the ability to find joy.  Survive, yes, but joy...joy is the design of a creator who cares! 

Joy, love, peace, enlightenment, self-control, all these things are not neccessary for survival of the species.  But they are available to those who are willing to believe in something higher than themselves.  Believe in the truth, no matter what men say, believe that truth is true, and no half-truth or lie matters.

This truth is why I am still married to my husband, and why I love him so dearly and deeply.  Without God, marriage is useless, and denies the species of a more diverse breeding pool.  Without God, there is no hope for becoming better or more than we are now.  There is no reason to educate beyond survival.  Why spend our lives learning if all that knowledge dies with us?  Why spend a lifetime working out problems with our families and spouses, learning tolerance, unconditional love, respect, and laughter if there is no such relationship available after death?  Why not just compete for the best and most we can get in life?  Why do we all feel drawn to this other way of living?  Searching for knowledge, improving relationships, finding truth and happiness isn't found in the animal kingdom.  Why are we different? 

It is because we are children of a God, and we all have seeds of greatness planted in us that we are unconsciously driven to realize.  Next time you feel that urge to reach beyond yourself, realize that it's because you have the natural pull toward godhood, because you are the child of a God.  You may not be ready for the fullest desires of your heart, but never give up, because this life continues on and on, and so can your marriage, if you make that choice, and do what it takes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Death of a Great Man

Dr. Vearl Gordon McBride

Vearl Gordon McBride, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed from this world to the next, December 8, 2009, after a full life of service to the Lord, his family, and his profession. He was born September 24, 1919, in Pima, Graham County, Arizona, one of 10 children, to Don Carlos McBride and Emma Jane Hubbard McBride. He is survived by his sweetheart of 66 years, Betty Jean Henderson McBride, whom he married May 14, 1943, in the Mesa Arizona Temple, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and by their children and their spouses: Maurice & Alicia McBride, Dr. Dane & Karma McBride, Darla Anderson, Tanya & James Skeen, Dr. Reo and Keri McBride, Bonnie Colleen & Dr. Alan Whitehurst, and Gina LaRee & Dr. Michael Jones, together with 34 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. He was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served in a variety of church callings. He served as Branch President or Bishop for the Church in Iowa, North Carolina, and Illinois. Together with his wife, he served as a volunteer missionary for the Church in the Houston Texas Mission, where they taught remedial and rapid reading to over 1800 people, most of whom were not members of his church. For the past 17 years he served as Patriarch of the Roanoke Virginia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in History and Political Science and his Master's in Educational Administration at Arizona State University. He earned his Ph.D. in education at the University of Virginia. He spent 30 years teaching at the college level, serving as department chairman at three colleges, Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa; Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. One of his greatest achievements was the creation and development of a unique reading program, which he called "Panoramic Reading." He taught over 10,000 people in 42 states, 3 Canadian provinces, the islands of Samoa, and in Hong Kong. He was able to apply these principles to helping problem readers, including the dyslexic, the emotionally disturbed, the blind and sight-impaired, autistic, deaf, and ADHD students. He felt deeply that the reading program he developed was received through inspiration from the Lord, and he was quick to share the blessings of that gift. The family expresses its deep gratitude to the entire staff at the Brandon Oaks Rehabilitation and Nursing Center who so lovingly and excellently cared for our father in the final weeks of his life. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 12, at 11:00 a.m. in the LDS Roanoke Virginia Stake Chapel located at 6311 Wayburn Drive, Roanoke, Virginia. A viewing will be held on Friday evening 3:00-5:30 p.m. at Oakey's South Funeral Home and 9:00-10:30 a.m. at the church prior to the services. Interment will be in the Ferguson Family Cemetery in Roanoke County.

I would like to add that he was a great missionary to the end, handing out over 1,000 copies of the Book of Mormon (after 900 he stopped counting) before his death, his last act, a great physical effort surged forth from him to offer his unspoken testimony to a male CNA who had cared for him in the hospital, having instructed his son to give a Book of Mormon and a tip to the man. He lived as though he were on a perpetual full-time mission. His handing out copies of the Book of Mormon was the same to him, as his mission to teach people to read and read faster. It is all education--giving people tools to improve their minds and lives.

Learning To Read


Patriarch gives away 880 Books of Mormon


New Methods Help Dyslexics Speed Read


Vearl G. McBride left behind his wife of 66 yrs, 7 children, 6 children in-laws, 32 grandchildren, 11 grandchildren in-law, 24 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, siblings, 1 son in law, and 2 grandchildren.

From the Deseret News, June 18, 1966: "Eleven year-old Tanya McBride claims to be the fastest reader in the world. She was trained by her father, Dr. Vearl G. McBride, chairman of the department of education and psychology at Methodist College, Dunn NC. He specializes in teaching rapid or 'panoramic' reading. Mr. McBride is the Branch President of the Dunn Branch, Raleigh Stake, NC.

I took classes from "Pampa" as we called him, as a child. One of my fondest memories was when I was embarrassed and frustrated that everyone else could speed read, but I, the youngest in the class, just wasn't getting it. In frustration one time, I pretended to speed through an entire book, and just fibbed about having comprehended it. I got all sorts of attention, "Ginny was the fastest! Wow!" and then he asked me to stay after as he sent the class out to do his specially designed exercises. He quizzed me about the contents of the book, with my parents nearby. When it became obvious that I'd lied, he didn't flinch for a moment, and just said, "Ginny, we are very proud of you. You can go now, thank you." My mother was tense, and I could tell almost jumped down my throat for dishonesty, but he smiled with a twinkle in his eye, knowing, and understanding why I'd done it. He never exposed my lie to the class, and continued to praise me, as though I'd actually done it. I knew that he knew, but I also knew that he didn't want to embarrass me or discourage me by direct confrontation. He never spoke to me about that for the rest of my life, and never told anyone else either. That's the kind of patience and enduring love it takes to reach children, and he reached thousands. Pampa, you will live forever, because of the legacy you left behind.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Help for the Harried Mom!

Help for the Harried Homeschooler by Christine M. Field.

This book is amazing, and poorly named, I feel. It is so much more than "help." It is a perspective check and if necessary, shifter. Field brings it all back to Christ, which is really what all of us are all about. She shows how laundry and dishes and mopping the floor can and are part of teaching our kids, and that these things can be used as tools of learning as we complete these tasks. She shows how we don't need to compartmentalize every aspect of our lives into categories. She gives so much that would be helpful to anyone, even non-homeschoolers, such as her advice on discipline how-to's.

1. Establish and Enforce Clear Lines of Authority in your Home and in your Homeschool.

The way to do this is not the way that you and I may have been raised with, by parents ordering us around, with harsh consequences for dis-obedience. That is not what Field is about. She says to establish Christ, or God as the Authority in our home! How simple! How true! "Let your children see you obeying and honoring God with your life. Then expect them to obey both you and God." Expect from them the same things that God expects from you.

She does talk about a woman who's No means no, and Yes means yes, (the second part we often overlook, but should not!)

She also teaches that to gain the children's respect, we respect their father. I have never thought of this in this way before, but it's true! "Acceptance of [the children's] dad's authority gives her children a healthy model for accepting hers."

2. Establish Clear Expectations based on Biblical Values

(This is made even richer with the advice of Kirk Martin.)

When we teach as Jesus taught, we teach in terms of principles. A much more powerful way of teaching "don't hit your sister," is to put it in a frame. "In our family we treat each other with respect. Hitting is not respecting, no matter how mad you get." You can frame it however you like, with "Loving," or "Kindness," but get down to the heart of the matter. In my personal experience, this can be done very well, or be done very badly and destructively. The difference is in the tone and manner. When I got mad at my daughter for hitting my son, my Mama Bear claws came out, and I ended up really hurting her feelings, and establishing battle lines, and her as the enemy! I did this by standing over her wagging my finger shouting, "IN OUR FAMILY...blah blah blah!!! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO RESPECT EACHOTHER! YOU DON'T HIT NO MATTER HOW MAD YOU GET! Don't EVER lay a hand on my son! Blah blah blah..." But since I was screaming at her, she was hearing: "I DON'T LOVE YOU! I CARE MORE ABOUT HIM THAN YOU! I WISH YOU WEREN'T MY CHILD!" She then acted out even more.

After learning from Celebrate Calm, however, these discussions go like this now:

I send her to her room, or force her to her room. After a few minutes to collect myself, I go in the room and sit down. I don't say anything until I sit down. Then, if I'm really upset, I put my feet up and search for and find compassion for her in my heart. If I can't, I pray for it. Then I say, "You want to roll a ball to me, and I'll roll it to you?" If she says no, I know she's really upset, and I ask if she wants to say a prayer with me. I may say it, or she may say it. If she won't cooperate, then I do anyway. When I'm talking about her, she'll listen. The prayer is genuine and a heartfelt confession and plea to the Lord. We do this, and after the tension is eased, I may or may not ask about what happened. Usually once she is feeling like she can talk about it, she'll confess or ask questions about what occurred. I will then tell her the above statement in context of what happened, with a tone of love for her. Then we explore options for next time. She helps come up with a plan of what to do next time she gets really angry. After this she will often apologize to her brother of her own accord, which is what I'm looking for, and praise her for! If she doesn't, I'll remind her that she will feel so much better once she does. I usually find, though, that after several hours, if I'm making sure to be positive and cheerful and loving, setting an example for them, they really are sorry, they will say sorry again, and really mean it. I love that my 18 month old Kenny says "Sahyee" (sorry) frequently. I also apologize to them every time
I can, even if it's just a moment of harshness, because it's really good practice!

(During Family Home Evening the other night, we renewed our Calm Family Creed, which needed some renewing and re-focusing as we were begining to stray, I felt. Kaylee, age 5, was teaching the lesson, sort of. I said most of it into her ear, but she felt proud of her role as teacher. Then at the end I asked her, "What's your favorite part about our Calm Family Creed?" She said, "You sit down." I knew then that the calm in our home is as priceless to her and her brothers as it is to Kevin and me.)

3. Establish Consequences and Consistantly Enforce Them

There are so many many books and programs all based on this. I won't say anything much, except that she sites a great author who gives guidelines for establishing consequences. She says, "finding consequences is an art:"

  • It should be reasonable.
  • It should be enforceable.
  • It should be clearly related to the offense.
  • It should be consistent with nurturing care.
  • Anger, resentment, and retaliation have no place in an appropriate consequence.

Those last two principles are often forgotten in other parenting books. But without them, the entire process is worthless, because the eventual outcome will be the very thing we're trying to avoid. Our children will become enemies to us and their siblings.

4. Reinforce Positive Choices and Behavior

She gives examples from the Bible to help with this. Proverbs 1:9, Exodus 20:12, Isaih 1:19, for special things you can do for your kids when they've been really good. Let them stay up late one night, take them out for a special meal, give them a crown or necklace to honor them. No really! Sometimes it just takes a little something extra to say, "well done!" We're proud of you!

5. Give gentle direction when required

See above Celebrate Calm way of giving gentle direction framed in love. She sites Ephesians 6:4 and Clossians 3:21. Then Proverbs 16:21, great scriptures to take note of.

6. Pray for Your Children

This can change the feeling in our hearts and homes faster than anything, and it is the source of my own transformation as a Mother. I believe it is everything and the key that will unlock many mysteries and closed doors in our relationships. The Lord WILL turn your heart to your children, and your children's hearts to you, and He will teach you what you need to stop doing, and do differently, and what you're doing right that you ought to feel good about and do more. If He can do it for me, he can do it for you!

Learning to Teach

"The woman [or man or child] who DOES not read has little advantage over the woman [or man or child] who CANNOT read."
-Author Unknown
I am teaching my children. This is my life right now. But all of us, whether our kids are in public school or not, are the primary teacher for our children. In this task I'm assisted currently by some important books that have helped me immensely! Here's one of them:
Learning All the Time by John Holt "How small children begin to read, write, count, and investigate the world, without being taught."

This is an incredible and inspired book about harnessing a child's natural ability to learn, and teaching them by sharing the joy of learning with them, instead of cramming it down their throats while remaining separated emotionally from them. The act of sitting down and reading with a child, a book they are interested in, is the best teaching they can receive, and this tells why. When I read this, I realized, I can do that!!!! I don't have to have special training, I just have to share my heart with them and my love for reading! He also tells about how it takes a maximum of 30 cumulative hours of sitting and reading to and with someone before they, (adult or child) will take the reigns and begin to read on their own. Some instruction will still be needed, of course, but should only be given when they ask. The importance is not that they read certain words in a certain order, but that they want to be successful. He says not to teach or focus on the direction of reading left to right, top to bottom. That is the way we write, but reading need not be so strict. My grampa, Vearl McBride, a professor as well, has taught me the same principle.
He taught me: Do not assume kids know that left to right = before to after, and don't teach it. Just teach placement. This letter goes here, this letter goes here. This says this, that says that. Holt says the worst teacher of reading in the world is Big Bird. It doesn't matter that Bat and Ball and Boy start with B. So what! Kids don't care either. It doesn't help them want to read. Many people for several generations have learened to read the Big Bird way. Those kids, while they did learn to read, grew up to hate reading, unless some other parent or adult also taught them to love to read by reading to and with them, subjects the child and adult enjoyed.
He teaches that our TONE is crucial in this. Don't talk to them like they're stupid. I once said to my husband in front of the children, "DUH..." when annoyed with him. My daughter instantly learned that "DUH" means stupid or dumb. Just from my tone. Yikes! I've been more careful about my tone ever since. So when I take a tone of annoyance and drudgery when giving her instruction, she thinks, "You think I'm stupid, You think I'm dumb. You think I can't do this." Some kids will try anyway. My daughter will not. Instantly she will stop trying if any negative tone is used with her. I am so glad I understand why now, and I can make sure I am very careful to be positive and patient, and more patient, and then even more patient. I've learned to say in my mind, "She WILL learn. She WILL learn. She is bright and intelligent, and smart, and she WILL learn, because she wants to!" That is where all talents and intelligence is begun. With the desire to learn them. So, as Holt has taught me, I'm teaching my kids to read from the time they are in the womb and I read aloud to them. As they grow to be babies, I teach them to read by handing them a book and saying, "This is yours." From the time they're born, we sit and read with them, laugh at the characters, I delight in the truths I find, and I explore the pictures and colors with them, and teach them how to learn from these things by taking those things and applying them to their world. "Do we have a ball in our house too? Do we have something that color in this room? Do you feel that way too sometimes? What do you thing she should do?" Teaching them to learn IS teaching them to read, and teaching them to read IS teaching them to learn. So that is all we're focusing on right now. Everything else is frosting.
Holt says: We begin teaching children to read when we teach them that there are great treasures found in books, wonderful stories and excitement to be found
Mr. Rogers said, "To read to a child you don't have to be an actor. You just have to enjoy the book with them."
That is the key to all learning I believe.
Have fun! Love it! Live it! Share it!

Create an atmosphere of reading and learning. Find a good book to enjoy, and if the child asks, read it to him. If it's too boring for him, he'll walk away, and that is just fine. What is important, is that when the question is asked, "Mommy, will you read to me?" The answer, if at all possible, must always be a resounding,
"Yes! I'd love to!"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Jesus Teaches Our Hearts"

My son Peter's favorite phrase is "Jesus Teaches our hearts." He, at age 3, is a great little missionary. He will tell anyone he feels is spiritually minded, that Jesus teaches our hearts, and tell them about the temple, and that we go there to "feel the holy spirit," and "coming with my Father, and promise to obey." He also likes to say, "Jesus will Come Again." The last phrase was from our primary program, his little part. During the program, he got very upset because he wanted to get up and tell everyone Jesus will come again. The minute we got to church he wandered up to the pulpit at least twice, and became very distressed when I took him out. He shouted at me, "NO! They are not going to let me tell everybody, 'Jesus will come again!' I have to! I have to tell everybody!" As soon as I brought him back in, he got to say his part. Shew! He was so happy, but then he wanted to sing, and he didn't want to wait for everyone. He called out to me, "Mom! Sing with me! Now!" I smiled, but then he called out again. "Mom! Sing!!" "MOOOMMM!!!! Sing right NOW!!!" Oh the shades of red my face can turn! He then wanted tried to sing on his own, (monotone,and very loud.) Needless to say, there were many broad smiles in the congregation.

Kaylee was very grown up. She sang with the group, she did her very best to remember all her words, and spoke loudly into the mike for her speaking part. She was so proud of herself, and we all beamed. When she was Peter's age, she would cry if she even got on the stand, and would always cry and turn away when we tried to get her to speak into a mike. So there has been measurable improvement in her confidence.

Peter gets his name honestly. I named him after Peter in the Bible, and he definitely reminds me of him. Strong-willed, and spirited! We had a baptism in the Floyd branch recently, and we drove the lady being baptized to the church. It is a 45 minute drive, so we had some time to talk. Instead of us talking Peter ran the conversation. He asked about Jesus getting baptized, why he was baptized, and wanted to know if Kathy were going to be baptized like Jesus. He asked her about the temple, and if she'd ever been to the temple. He talked at length about going to the temple, feeling the holy spirit, touching the wall, etc. He told her she needed to go. "You Hath to go to the temple, Sister Huff! So you can feel the Holy Spirit!" She said she was excited to go some day. He told her that some day when he was big like daddy, he would go inside, and Daddy would help him. He told her about Jesus, and the ow-ies on his hands and feet, and that Jesus teaches our hearts. He told her about getting to touch the "Jesus Statune." He told how the Statune talked and teached his heart.

Then he asked me to tell the story "When Jesus teached me to walk on water." (Talk about liking the scriptures to yourself!) So I told him the story, with lots of his help from him, of how Jesus and Peter walked on water. I stopped trying to differentiate between the Bible Peter and him, because he doesn't get it. But I do want him to know what I'm trying to teach him, which is that with Jesus, he can do anything--even impossible things.

So during the week Peter tells me he's ready to grow up now, and I need to teach him how. He says that Jesus will help him, so let's go! Ah to be so believing and full of faith, and yet, he must learn patience as well.

On this past Sunday, Peter called out during church, "MOM! I want to go to primary now! So now, he's the darling of the branch, and Sister Kathy Huff commented that his heart is in the right place, and that's what's important. I am glad she and others can see that, and not think that he's just disrupting and annoying.

We had a dentist appointment yesterday. The kids were nervous, but when they saw me do it, and I was fine, were less afraid. Then when it was their turn, I was going to hold them on my lap, but the baby wanted to nurse. (Yes, the baby still nurses, hold the lectures.) Kaylee? She shook her head. Peter? He scowled. So we changed the subject. The Dental Hygienist, wonderful lady, BTW, was very patient, and talked about all the instruments, and described everything she was doing, and didn't look either of them in the eye, or push at all. I smiled, knowing that they'd get up the courage soon. We did eeny-meeny-miney-moe, and it landed on Peter. So we focused on building up Peter's confidence. In spite of his NO, and shaking his head, after a few minutes of the DHy and I describing how fun the chair was, and how he was such a big boy, etc, he hopped up on the chair! He then laid still, and didn't fuss the whole time. He was so proud of himself, and was praised and praised. So Kaylee couldn't wait to have her turn after that! She was halfway through when I realized that I wasn't praising her as I had Peter. So I immediately told her what a big girl she was, and I was so proud of her, etc. She beamed. She did get ticklish, but laughed, and the excellent Dental Hygienist laughed too, and they were buddies then, and KL let her scrape her teeth. I was so impressed, and glad I'd chosen them. KL had a small cavity, but they didn't fill it yet. They gave us a chance to fix it on our own, with extra focus on brushing, and a fluoride chewable tablet prescription. That won my affections. Big Time.

We got a book in the mail the other day that is priceless to me! It's a homeschool workbook for kindergarten. It is perfect! Just what I needed. I needed more direction, and this is it! Kaylee is so excited, she spent about 45 minutes last night looking at every one of the 200 pages! I I will order another one for Peter, because this is really what we need for the rest of the year! It's really a great start to learning, and way better direction than I was giving off the top of my head. I am so happy to have it! Thank you to my big sis Tami who recommended it to us.

Homeschoolers need support, not people telling them to give up if they can't get organized or motivate their kids, or be patient. As Diane Hopkins says, "When was is you were going to learn those things?" I'm challenging myself to learn those things while my kids are young. I want to become a better mom as the years roll by, not just survive and get by while running my kids to and fro and pulling my hair out and just coping until tomorrow when I'll have some peace and quiet. Not saying all moms who send their kids to public school do that, but I am saying that I would. I know my weaknesses. I know that sending my kids to school would be a cop-out for me. It would be giving up and giving control of their intellect and future to a system I don't agree with, and don't trust. It may happen eventually, but not before they are 8 years old. They will have a firm base of confidence and spirituality before I send them to the wolves.

So that's our family update. We continue to try to "keep our power," by staying calm under pressure, and addressing the root of issues rather than the outward behaviors. We do not always succeed. Sometimes I still do yell at my kids, I will admit. Change takes years, not months. But I do apologize when I yell, and I humble myself so that they can see I'm trying to change. We repair our relationship quickly, and don't let the anger or resentment fester. We still find our happy faces, and the kids call them up themselves, when they're trying to turn the corner from a bad mood.

I start each day with a prayer for patience and to have the Spirit guide me. I read scriptures daily, and that makes a world of difference. I never realized why that makes such a difference. It really changes who we are. It takes us out of the world, and places our mind into the spiritual realm.

Based on the changes in my children, their overall confidence, passion for life, and all things spiritual, I would say we're headed in the right direction. There are days, of course, when I think back to the early days, and fear that we may some day be back there. But I overcome that anxiety, and smile at those great kids of mine, and see the good in them. I then look in the mirror, and see the good in me. I know then, that we're all going to have a great life, and that looking back, we'll remember more good then bad, because it's the good that is winning at the end of the day.

Focusing on the positive really changes everything. While Kaylee was in the dentist chair, I was tempted to tell them, so that she would be scolded, that she hates to brush her teeth. But I didn't. I simply warned that she was ticklish in her mouth. Instead of embarrassing her, even when they mentioned that she must be the candy-eater, I praised her for sitting still. Afterward, I told her about the cavity, and we made a goal to be better about brushing her teeth. Neither they nor I talked at length about it. So when we got home, she was excited to brush her teeth with her new toothbrush. I still addressed the problem, but without embarrassing her, or focusing on the negative. She has gained a great deal of sincere confidence, and I am happy to know it's coming out in all areas of her life. Her Pre-K teacher said that she is becoming more of a leader, and invites other kids to play with her. She speaks out now, instead of simply staring and being shy. She follows less, and is more independant. She's making efforts to befriend others, instead of waiting to be befriended. She's finding her light. I don't even want to think about the sad little girl she once was.

Peter and Kaylee were once angry, sad kids with lots of hate brewing beneath the surface. All of that, or almost all of that, has now been replaced by love, faith, courage, self-love, and confidence. I'm so proud of them. I love them, and I love the changes our family has made.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I thought we'd be taking a few days off of homeschooling when we took our trip to the Temple this past weekend. Instead it was a wonderful hands-on field trip, giving them an opportunity to live their faith. I say their, because they love Jesus and the church just as much as I do! Kaylee told me she wanted to get married in the Temple, and Peter told us that he couldn't wait until he grew up and could go inside, "and Daddy can help me!" They soak in every religious lesson they learn, and want to live it all! Peter and Kaylee often tell me that Jesus loves them "so very much!"
We took a flag with us, and practiced the Pledge of Allegiance. I was amazed that with coaching, the baby can say the Pledge! Wow! I loved this trip. We told very few people we were going, and we enjoyed peace and harmony there and back. Kevin's parents and we rode up in their RV. I was so happy to give the kids some undivided attention for a change. While it wasn't a without any hiccups or disagreements, it was overall a great experience, and we were able to resolve any harsh feelings quickly, and still enjoy ourselves. I guess that's the joy of homeschooling. I could just pack up and leave with the kids, and answer to no one except God!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

"Zen and the art..."

"I think that if we are going to reform the world, and make it a better place to live in, the way to do it is not to talk about relationships of political nature, which are inevitably dualistic, full of subjects and objects and their relationship to one another; or with programs full of things for other people to do. I think that kind of approach starts it at the end and presumes the end is the beginning. Programs of a political nature are important end products of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying structure of social values is right. The social values are right only if the individual values are right. The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then to work outward from there. Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value."
Robert M. Pirsig (1928 - )
Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : An Inquiry Into Values, Page: 297

About a year and a half ago I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I learned a great deal from that book, and consider him to be an inspired genius, even though I'm a confirmed Christian, and he a Zen Buddhist. I respect Robert's bravery, and admire his intellect. As a surprise to many of my friends and family, I gained key knowledge about how to be a better housewife from that book. Therein I discovered deep rooted truth based on observation of surface things. As I read, I was drawn toward the things that were true, and the things that were only Robert's thoughts and opinions, I overlooked. Most of it was eye opening, as I read it with a prayer in my heart.

You see, I had been praying for help to be able to keep my house clean. I knew I needed to. So I read this book, and it completely changed my perspective, but as I've stated before, I believe the only source for real change is Jesus Christ. So I believe it was through that book that Christ was able to open my eyes and teach me.

These are some of the basic things I learned from his philosophy:

-Seize each moment of every day as an opportunity for improvement.
-Constantly inspect, pay close attention to small changes, and tweak as needed; my life; my house; my family; my soul.
-Be prepared with my own set of tools to fix my own problems, rather than relying on imperfect and often incompetent "professionals" to fix them for me.
-Do not wait until a problem exacerbates itself before I address it. Stop as soon as I notice it, and fix it with my tools and intuition.
-When raising the children, and teaching myself, celebrate improvement and hard work; passion and genuine talent, and do not focus on competition with others.
-Take joy in my life now, and find excitement in performing my daily, albeit mundane, duties the very best I can, creating quality in my work.
-Pursue my passions and develop my talents, and do not expect perfection or expect to be talented in everything. Enjoy the journey of continuous learning and improving.
-Focusing simply on grades in school is a way to allow mediocre work to slide by, and passions and talents to go unrecognized. Both student and teacher look at the numbers instead of the person, and because of that, years are often wasted pursuing gifts and talents they do not possess or find joy in.
-When faced with a difficult task, first clear my mind of all clutter.

-Maintenance manuals are sometimes intentionally designed to be confusing, because the writer does not have working knowledge of the product,

-When climbing a mountain, recognize that it is the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.

-Sometimes it is crucial to stop, gaze, wonder, and contemplate.

Friday, September 18, 2009

To remember when teaching a child

"It's not showing, but sharing and feeling. What do we care if the [child] fails to remember the name of a wild flower? Does he remember its fragrance; the texture of its leaves? Does he know where to find it? And does he know, not because someone told him he should know, but because for him it is a thing of enjoyment and beauty?" -Steve Van Matre

I am homeschooling my daughter this year. I should say, I am homeschooling all three children, because even my 3 and 1.5 year old participate. But my primary focus is on the 5 year old. Some days are better than others, some are filled with insight and learning, and others seem to be a waste of time. I remind myself that public school is no different. Every day we make prayer and scripture study part of our lives, and the kids get to watch me, and participate with me, in repenting and seeking the Savior's guidance as I search the scriptures. Every now and then I'll come across a scripture I think would serve them well, and we set out to memorize it. It's good exercise for all our memories!

I try to remind myself as we read, that what is most important is that they learn to whom to turn (some proper grammar there for my mother,) for comfort and peace, and a remission for their sins. I do not care, at this point, if they know the Lord's prayer by heart, as long as they learn to plead with the Lord from the heart. I help them pray that the Lord will help them learn to read, write, count; help them learn to skip and tie their shoes, and help me to be calm and in control of myself so I can teach without fear. By making prayer a part of learning, they are not threatened by my authority. It is not just MOM trying to force knowledge on them, but a loving Heavenly Father who is helping them. They are much more open when we approach it from that angle. Especially my head-strong daughter!

Kaylee takes to homeschooling naturally. She despises someone teaching her. She prefers to teach herself, based on the examples she sees. The other day she copied down letters from a printed text she found lying around. I was impressed at how studiously she worked--for over an hour she practiced her writing skills and making her letters smaller and more clear. She would ask me the name of the letter, and repeat it with me several times, then get to work on another. I didn't force her to stop, she stopped when she was ready. I didn't make her do it at all. She took pleasure in learning, and set about teaching herself for the joy of it!

She would definitely have problems in school, because she chaffs so much against authority, and she refuses to be led or controlled. It was when this aspect of her personality came out that she and I started to battle on a daily basis. She was 18 months old when it began. I remember it like it was yesterday. It grew stronger and stronger, and I countered it with stronger and stronger negative reactions as she grew older. I was trying to control her, and she was insistent that never, no matter what, even in the face of hurt and pain, emotional or physical, would she ever surrender her precious agency. It wasn't until Kirk Martin's philosophies came along that I considered that perhaps she was made this way for a purpose, and I, through my efforts against this side of her, was frustrating that purpose.

I realize now that some children, including her, are made to be independent, and I have grown to love that about her. I do send her to preschool so that she can learn to work in a group, and learn leadership skills, as well as respect for other authority besides just parents. I want to teach her the necessary things of society, but I also don't want to kill her love for self-teaching. So I am seeking to nurture that natural love, and develop it. I hope it lasts a lifetime!

Do you control yourself, or does your 'self' control you?'

"This is just the way I am."
"It's the way I was raised, so..."
"This is my personality."
"I've been this way ever since I can remember. There's nothing I can do about it."
"I can't help it. I was born this way."

Have you ever uttered these phrases? I know I have. All of the above statements are excuses for complacency in unhappiness, and for us mothers, that unhappiness spreads to our children. Not sometimes, all the time. If we are simply a victim of our personalities, then we don't have to try to change, because change would be impossible.

Why don't we want to change? Why is it easier to do the same things we've always done? Is it laziness? No. There is no such thing as laziness. I am a firm believer of that, and so is Kirk Martin, my most quoted philosopher. "Lazy" is a put-down, as hurtful as "stupid" and we should never use the word to describe ourselves or anyone else. But what is the cause for lack of progress, growth, and hard work, if it's not laziness?

There can be many causes for this hiding from progression. It can be lack of vision, direction, motivation, but today I want to address the one that is often the most elusive. Safety. There is always fear, no matter how old you are, of the unknown. If none of my family or friends do things my way, I'm alone in my thinking, and it is scary. I firmly believe humans are herd animals, and it takes overcoming the herd instincts to discover our higher nature. There is a false perception of safety in a herd. We think that if we do what everyone else is doing we will be fine.

But all too often, herds are in danger and don't know it. They follow eachother off of cliffs and into high water, and wander into dangerous places where they are attacked by preditors. If we truly want to be safe, we have to rear up on our hind legs, and look out ahead to where the herd is going, and search those few sheep who've been to the edges of the clearings, and ask what they have seen. Safety is not garunteed, even then, but we will not make the same mistakes as we would have if we weren't paying attention. Think of how scary it would be for a sheep who's only looked at the ground and followed the sheep next to him, to stop and raise his head above the crowd, to see where they are going.

Can you remember being a child, lying in bed, certain there was a monster under the bed. Simply looking under the bed would have calmed your fears, but it seemed safer to simply stay put, and not move.

That is the instinct we have to overcome if we want to grow. How do we overcome those fears?

Thought patterns that portray ourselves as victims are evidence of lack of Hope. If we want joy, we must have hope. Naturally, my next question is: How do we find hope?

That is when my answer is give up.

Want to grow. Then give up trying to force growth on yourself. Seriously. Surrender. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to change yourself. Certainly that has been my experience. Sure, I could change myself for a few months, even years, but eventually, I just couldn't keep up the effort any more, and slipped back to who I used to be. The phrase "Lift yourself up by your own bootstraps" was first coined to show how impossible that is! So where does that leave us?

The only way to change is through a higher power who possesses the strength and growth we need as well as the ability to endow that upon us, and then instead of trying to change ourselves, we are acting in faith in that higher power. We do not need to believe in ourselves, only believe that something bigger than ourselves, who cares deeply, and knows all will do that which we cannot do.

So if my goal is to stop smoking, or to stop yelling, and I have tried for years and years to kick the habit, but always find myself retreating back to a percieved, false safety, the answer is to first surrender--not to the habit, but to a loving God, and admit my powerlessness.
Then, I will receive a gift that will enlarge my soul, and change my very desires down to the core. Falling off the wagon, turning back to old habits, and other retreating actions, often stem from a desire for safety. Whether it be to follow friends and family like a herd animal, or to retreat toward a habit--to do what we have always done when we felt threatened--in other words, safety in sameness, it all stems from the same basic fear.

Fear of what? I have already stated that fear of the unknown is a factor, but searching deeper still, I ask, unknown what? Often the real triggers seem hazy. Perhaps nothing happened, or our reaction to something that happened was unbalanced. So the answer is then to dig deeper. I believe the deepest core of the issue is found in the truth in this quote attributed to Nelson Mandella:

"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 enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is 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." -

My goal this week is to rely in the arm of God when I feel threatened or scared, instead of my own base coping mechanisms. My goal is to believe in Christ when I cannot, and have proven that I cannot, believe in myself. My goal is to surrender every day to a loving God through prayer. My goal is to release my crutches, and walk in faith, not in my imperfect self, but in a Jesus Christ, my savior. I love that this works every time. HE can do what I cannot do--again and again and again, He's proven this to me, and I am learning slowly, to let all the Glory be his forever and ever, Amen.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Movie Review

The kids and I went to see The Tale of Despereaux in the theater. Now it is out on video. This movie goes where no kids movie has gone before, and teaches lessons that I've never seen taught in a big-screen movie like that. A lesson that I've been trying to impress on my kids, that I was so excited to be validated, was that you don't have to have super-powers, or be faster, stronger, or bigger than others in order to be heroic. Being true to yourself, your beliefs and values, even when ridiculed and looked down upon, makes you a hero, and changes the world. Honor, loyalty, valour, all those things can be ours, with only a decision, and most of all, courage. My son has been going around the house saying, "I am, a gentleman!" With a true idea of what the soul of that means, and it's so much more than simply having good manners.

A powerful lesson that summed up the movie, and was stressed by the storyline itself was something I have never seen in a kids' movie. The power of forgiveness. "One single act of forgiveness can change everything." It was a lesson that resonated with me, and brought tears to my eyes. It had me thinking, 'have a forgiven anyone today? Is there anyone in my life that I could forgive, and thus change my life and theirs?' It had me almost wishing for that opportunity. Go ahead world, I dare you!

This movie does show hurt, pain, and even evil, and good people doing terrible things. But it also shows how to overcome all of those things, for those on both ends of the hurt. I think that is a priceless lesson our kids these days need, and we parents need too. I hope my kids take all of the lessons in this movie, and make them a part of who they are.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

...Then it was a good day

Today started out rough. All week has been rough. Kevin and I have been discussing, and sometimes arguing about politics; both of us are uneasy out about the economy, our personal future, and our house that wasn't everything we'd hoped would be. We will be selling our house, because Kevin can't stand that it's slightly crooked. There is an ever so slight slant, (only a few milimeters) to the right side of the house and the soil is packed full of iron, that stains the toilets in spite of our spending a fortune on a high-powered water filtration system. There is also a 12 ft wall that would be very easy for my kids to fall down, so I have to stay tense, always checking, and if I hear crying, the first thing I do is dash to check the wall. Kevin wants to sell and start over. The older I get, the more I desire a place to rest my head that is mine. A place I can hang my pictures and create fun spaces for the kids. I feel like a little mole, wanting to have a burrow of my own to experiment and work with, to build on and expand as the years go by. Now we are going to have to start over--again. We really love Floyd, and we hope to stay in the area, but we may have to move somewhere else, with only the promise in our hearts that we will return some day.

I needed to get ahold of myself, and I didn't for a full week. I was immature, snapped, ignored the kids a lot, and they immediately started getting angry again. It is amazing how quickly we can digress. However, because we do have tools to help us, we put them to use as soon as we matured ourselves enough.

Finding our happy faces

Audrey Christley, a good friend of mine told me that when her little girl was cranky and just all around negative, she'd say--"Where's your smile? Can you find it? Is it...in your pocket? In your shoe? In the grass? etc."

We started doing this, though saying 'happy face,' and I found that often, when they "found their happy face," I did too! The kids latch on to this and use it as a tool--it really works, and they absolutely love it! When it's a really, really rotton mood, we will go running around looking for the happy face, which provides psychological and physical movement. We look in silly places like 'in the light bulb' or 'in the peanut butter,' and eventually, when they are ready, they'll tell me, 'I found it mommy! It's right here in my shirt" or "in the laundry" or wherever they decide it was. We cheer and hug and welcome back the happy face, and we all agree that laughter is the best cure for a cranky mood! My oldest child is 5, so I am not sure how long this will last, but I am happy to continue it as long as it works. So thank you Audrey!! We have needed to find our happy faces several times this week.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Let's Make a List!

I have creative children. They love some good, artsy, brain-stimulation. There are days, however, when my patience and strength of character is tried to the very core. The image of discovering my children with an unbelievably huge mess is so vivid in my mind, I think that is the keenest memory I will be taking with me as they grow older. Let's make a list, while we're thinking of it, to show our kids some day when they are changing our diapers and wiping our spittle:

-Diarrhea in the bathtub; both kids, 'nuff said. (shudder)

-Black Permanent Marker all over selves, walls, doors, shelves, furniture, floors, and cabinetry, (on three separate occasions that I can remember. Once was just Kaylee, black head to toe, and a long horizon line going down the stairs, and a bedroom with artwork on the walls. She must have been playing Harold and the Purple Crayon.)

-Vaseline all over self, pillows, carpet, and blankets. (Peter--on at least two separate occasions. Kendon--once.)

-Purple lip gloss all over all three children.

-New lipstick, mascara, eye-liner, all over two older kids, bathroom cabinets, sink, mirror, and floor. (I still remember seeing the mascara lines all over their legs.)

-Breakfast cereal all over living room carpet, couches, and hair.

-Pink and purple nail polish painted all over arms, legs, and fingers and toes, as well as a large spherical shape hand-painted on the wall, and nail-polish foot prints on the floor.

-Nutella chocolate spread, and on another occasion, chocolate frosting, all over wall, with arms and legs, as well as face and hair painted brown.

-Ice cream, painted all over table, and themselves (K and P), eating it with a spatula and a whisk. (Freezer door standing wide open.)

-Peter and the yellow paint at grandma's house: All over self and carpet. (Thank goodness it was washable, though it didn't all come out; and thankfully she has a sense of humor!)

-Closet walls, clothes, door, sprayed with Aussie hairspray; the entire floor of the closet was flooded with a 1/2 inch hairspray puddle .

-Flooded bathroom, can't even count the times. (In the old house, they would dump cups of water out of the bath onto the bathroom floor, causing it to rain in the basement, right on top of daddy's computer, desk, and important papers.)

-Kendon eating fist fulls of white, permanent paint and painting the floor.

-Crayon/Pencil/Pen all over freshly painted walls, more times than can be counted.

-Peter and cousin Keith, covered head to toe in mud, 5 minutes before I need to leave to conduct a class. (Then we discover them outside during class, Peter naked from the waist down, covered once again, in mud, and little Keith who'd failed to get his underwear off, was also covered in muddy pee.)

-Blue dishwasher soap gel packets, burst on the floor, feet, and cabinets, etc. (They were stomping on them. Apparently, it's lots of fun.)

-Toy Mountain, 5 minutes after 2 hours of organizing.

Wow! That felt good! I'd love for you other parents to post your own list as a comment. This list is far from complete, but it is accurate. I think we all need a list to confront our kids with when they grow up and look back. When they are looking at the messes their kids made, they need to know that they too made messes, and they can put themselves back in their own shoes. My own mother has several times reminded me of the messes I made, such as the lipstick art all over the back of the couch, carpet and wall, as well as myself. She laughed when I told her of my kids' permanent marker art, because she remembers the time we were selling the house, and the last night there, she discovered me and a friend on the top bunk of the bunk bed, drawing on the textured ceiling with bright blue permanent marker. I still remember that. We were making a beautiful night sky. It was going to be gorgeous, if they'd just let us finish! I was 4. Then she reminds me of the time I painted the bathroom in poo when I was 3. So perhaps the apples do not fall far from the tree.

I have a very vivid memory of potty-training when I was 2, and going #2 in my training pants when we had company there. I was embarrassed, but Mom very calmly and and patiently took my hand and we walked to the bathroom. She washed out my training pants in the potty, smiling at me patiently while doing it. Because of her calm reaction, that feeling of embarrassment was replaced with adoration of her. I left the bathroom with a feeling of confident self-esteem. I knew that I would learn to use the toilet, because my Mom wasn't worried about it, even when I had an accident.

I have reminded her of that, and thanked her for that example, and even though I didn't have the emotional maturity to do that with my first child (so sorry Kaylee,) I developed it with help, (from the man upstairs and his angels on earth,) and now I can honestly say I'm there.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Humble Pie

Every time I think I have it all figured out, I get to have a big old humble pie smashed in my face. Then it's back to humility again.

The past week I started bickering with my husband again, and naturally I blamed him. If he would just do everything I told him to do, we'd all be happy! Well, what does Kirk say to do? What do I keep saying I have to do? Control myself, and only myself. But wasn't I already doing that? Wasn't I already doing my very best? It was time to walk a mile in his shoes.

1. I pretended that I didn't have it all figured out, but I was living with someone who was certain he did. I pretended he had read and listened to advice that wasn't mine. I pretended he was constantly trying to teach me. I bristled at the constant better-than-you attitude, I rolled my eyes when he cheerfully reminded me of all his newly acquired wisdom. Even if it were right, there would be times, when I was sick to death of humbly accepting his direction. I wanted to be treated as an equal with ideas and wisdom equally valuable. And then, I knew what I must do.

2. I apologized: I admitted my wrongs, I apologized for my weaknesses, and I let him know that I could see it from his point of view. He was absolutely right. I could use some more growth, and some more practice in humbly setting an example rather than bossing him around.

3. I thanked him: It never hurts to thank someone, even if you feel awkward or silly saying it. I remember getting embarrassed to say thank you. I would turn red and fight the desire to make a joke and hide my true feelings. I used to use this baby voice, or sarcasm to ease tension, because I just didn't have practice being 100% honest. Starting with thanking others, genuinely, and telling them the whole truth of how much they've blessed you is a wonderful, fulfilling way to start. Take it from me, it gets easier each time.

4. I recommitted myself. Humbling one's self gets easier each time as well, which is the beauty of celebrating "progress, not perfection." Letting go of the need to control also gets easier with practice. I had slipped, without realizing it, into a habit of trying to verbally "teach," which came across as "force," my husband to be calm and not controlling. He had been doing great, but the more I tried to "teach" him, the further he backed away from my advice. So once again, I got to have a great lesson in personal relationships. A very valuable lesson I would not have received had I been single and simply been able to walk away.

5. Recognize that his desires are just as important as my own. Do all bloggers have messy houses? There are some days, some weeks, when all I can seem to force my right-brain to do, besides providing basic needs to the kids, is sing, write, read powerful books, have deep conversations with my sisters on the phone, research subjects I feel strongly about, and open my mind to wonderous possibilities in this great, magical world. These things do not a tidy home create. My left-brain husband, who is easily overwhelmed, who thrives on order and structure in all things, and is able to find order within himself when it exists on the outside, needs me to find a way to feed my soul while keeping up with things. There is a way, I've done it before. If I'm working hard and doing my best, he pitches in. He just doesn't want to be doing it all. I get that.

The Reward:

My husband thanked me. He cleaned the house. He expressed more patience and willingness to help and support me, and he was extra patient with the kids. He didn't complain when I invited my sister and her three young kids to come stay with us, and the glow in his face along with the extra long hugs and extra soft kisses-warmed me down to my ankles and brought a little sunshine into our cozy home. He wasn't perfect, and when I found myself starting to nag again, he pointed out that I was doing it again. After my initial defenseiveness, once again it was humble pie time. I reset my control barometer back to myself. I have a feeling I never will perfect this. Still, each piece of pie goes down easier, and comes more quickly, and that is the best we can expect!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some Perspective Each Day Keeps the Darkness Away


There is a part of me that is wild. It wants to lash out at all meanness and fight with fury all injustices. This part of me is a flame that consumes, and when I fuel it, it burns me more than anyone else.

This was made clear to me several years ago when I was praying earnestly, sobbing on my knees because I'd seen the light in my children's eyes, that sparkle they were born with, go out. It broke my heart. What was worse, my own sparkle seemed to be gone. I had no joy left in my life, and the joy in my children that I knew I should be experiencing, was completely out of my reach.

I prayed: "I have seen other women who have children who are happy, confident, and their children are well cared for; they have clean homes, and they may not be perfect, but they have a light in their eyes and a cheerfulness that I don't have. Why not me?? Why can't I have that too?? Why not my children? Why can't they be like other children who laugh and are happy? Why are my children pale and sickly looking, timid and sad? Please.." I pleaded and begged, "I will make any change, I will do anything, I will leave my husband if that's what it takes. I will give my children up for adoption if that's what it takes. I will do whatever you tell me to do to be happy and to secure the happiness of my children. What should I do???" I opened my heart completely to feel the answer. Slowly, and softly, a warm wash of love came rushing over me, starting with the top of my head and running down, like a glass of warm water that penetrated deep into my soul and body. This was not the first time I had felt God's love, but each time it is magnificent.

I fell into a sort of trance, half asleep, half awake, and in my mind, I saw myself and my interactions with my children and Kevin. I saw all of the hurt I'd caused them, and felt the exact pain they felt each time I lost my temper, spoke sharply, criticized without love, or pulled away emotionally from them. I realized how immature I'd been, and how I, not my husband, had caused the light in their eyes to go out, and I, and no one else, was responsible for my own loss of happiness. I was flooded with guilt and self loathing. I thought my heart would come flying out of my face, I cried so hard. As I begged for forgiveness and asked for help to be a better person, all the pain and guilt was replaced, in one full-bodied spiritual hug, with overwhelming love and resolve. My tears changed instantly from pain to joy. Only the keenest, most infinite anguish can result in true, life-altering change. This is what I experienced, and it was magnificent.

I spent the next few years undergoing gradual change, and finally, as a massive surge toward the direction I was seeking to go, I found Celebrate Calm, which has given me extra guidence, more resolve, and opened my eyes even more to truth that was right in front of me the entire time! My own religion was teaching me all along what I should do, but I wasn't listening! I wasn't turning my thoughts inward and applying what I heard to my own actions in the home. I had to learn to trust God enough to do what he said, ALWAYS.

Once I began to do it, the peace in my heart became palpable. With Christ's help I finally found the way to change the nature of the flame that was consuming me, and turn it into a beam of light-of hope and love.

How does a person change? I begged forgiveness, asked for help, was accountable to my family for my actions. Believing that Christ is real, and that HE has the power to change my heart and make even me, a sinner and a destroyer of the spark of hope and joy, a better person, I strive toward strength, maturity, humility, and calm. Basically, I am now ready to grow up!

As C.S. Lewis once said, "Of all the miracles Christ performed...and still performs today, none has been so miraculous to me as the one he performed in my own heart."

"Some people mistakenly think that responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But to "love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]" (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all,...courage."

"When we do not retaliate-when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger-we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is...courage."

"To be meek, as defined in the Webster's dictionary is "manifesting patience and longsuffering: enduring injury without resentment." Meekness is not weakness. It is a badge of...courage."

"This is not to suggest that we compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs...We should never confuse boldness with Satan's counterfeit: overbearance...As true disciples, our primary concern must be others' welfare, not personal vindication."

To be truly happy, we must be without guile. "To be guileless is to have a childlike innocence, to be slow to take offense and quick to forgive. These qualities are first learned in the home and family and can be practiced in all our relationships. To be guileless is to look for our own fault first. When accused, we should ask as the Savior's Apostles did, "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:22)

"To help [those who hurt or challenge us,] to be an example for them, is not for the weak. It is for the strong. It is for you and me."

-Robert D. Hales

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writer's Block Unblocked

Writing takes exercise, like little childhood legs that appear small and weak, but have great strength beneath the surface, from hours and hours of use.

When I was young I could write for hours on any subject. I was full of wonder about the smallest details of life.

For instance: Hurricane Hugo came through my town back in the 90s. I couldn't have been more than 10. I remember walking through my neighborhood, contemplating the destruction. Tree after mighty tree lay across the road, debris had exploded everywhere. The day before the hurricane, I'd gone to my secret place-my retreat from the world. A church that housed a swing set in the yard. If I sat in one particular swing and looked very closely at the ground, I could see tiny, white wild flowers hiding in the shadows of the grass. I had watched the bees busily working, buzzing from blossom to blossom, and admired their tenacity; after all, a hurricane was coming. I expected those flowers to have been thrashed, just as the trees I'd seen groaning and swaying, then finally giving in to the power of the wind the night before.

I climbed the long hill that led to the church where my favorite swing set sat, my thin yet strong legs accustomed to the steep climb. I began to quicken my stride as I neared the place, hoping there was at least something of those flowers left. One flower I was particularly worried about; a flower that, the day before, had only three petals hanging on by thin strands. I felt protective of my little friend. Who else would appreciate her simple, fragile beauty? I was certain she had been destroyed. I didn’t know why, but I grieved inwardly.

I retreated to my spot at the crest of my thoughtful hill, and marveled at the difference in scenery from the day before. I slumped on my favorite swing, listened to the wail of fire engines, and watched the bruised land with broken limbs and the adults trying to splint them. I took a break from the complicated world of grown-ups, and trained my eyes to look closely at the grass once again. There, in the shadows of rain-bent grass, standing as straight and small as ever, was my weakling little flower. All three petals still hung firmly to their staff. I imagined those ripping, watery winds of the night before, and all the grand structures they’d destroyed. Yet this tiny flower, too small even to be noticed from afar—the smallest of all, bending and whipping through the wind, those little petals deceivingly delicate, proved themselves mightier than the 40-foot oak trees laying on their sides.

A voice spoke to me: "That flower is you. You are small, but your tiny strength will someday shame the grandest trees." A seed was planted. As years went by, I did not seek the approval of the world. I didn’t try to show off and become a great tree because that was not me. Gradually, my spirit would flex and firm, ever so quietly, and no one would see it, perhaps not even me, until a hurricane tested that strength.

I remember this event with clarity because I wrote about it with detail in one of my many childhood journals. Today, I have children and a husband to distract me, and it is easier sometimes, to simply survive, and not write, not marvel, not wonder. I went several years without writing. I looked around at my life recently, and it seemed dull and uninspired. It had begun to lack beauty, and I had begun to dry up, whither, and die inside.

And so I decided I must write, because the richness of my life depends on it. But after sitting in the attic of my mind for so long, the muse was stiff and dusty. All the childish wonder and excitement for the little things seemed to turn to sand in my fist. I looked at my distractions. My crying baby, my complex children, my needy husband; the very people I cared for-were they at fault for this? I looked at the laundry and dishes, the floor that needed mopping, and the rugs that needed vacuuming, and I rebelled in my heart. These were ugly to me. I wanted beauty! I wanted meaning! I wanted innocent wonder! I wanted ... my childhood back?

This last thought nearly made me laugh out loud! I wouldn't go back to my childhood for anything! Along with all that wonder was confusion, fear, inhibitions, and powerless frustration. How much had I learned since then? How much had I grown? My muse may have been dusty from years sitting in the attic, but that attic was busily collecting things just waiting to be cleaned up and polished. I gazed into my innocent children's deep and exploring eyes, and realized that there was poetry looking in as well as looking out. I looked at my husband's beautiful glow as he watched our children, and saw a portrait of true art, living, breathing art, that would someday be forgotten if I didn't record it. Even my home and its laundry and dishes seemed to cry out to me, "Make me beautiful! Make me your canvas! I am the backdrop to your portrait of life!"

Now I write, with my bed stand filled with page upon page, of mostly fluff and nonsense. But every now and then, I find a truth I hadn't before, or discover the ability to step back and wonder when I might have otherwise just trudged on. My English teacher Mrs. Yosafat used to tell me, "A true writer writes, not because he loves to or wants to, but because he has to--for to not write would be to die." I experienced this death. Now, by the grace of God, I carefully tend a freshly tilled garden of talent, full of the chance for rebirth.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Saturday Evenin' Jamboree

So THIS is what the country is like! We attended our first Jamboree as a family on Saturday. What fun! We brought our own chairs, water, and zero expectations. I had read about this, I'd seen it on TV, but I'd never experienced it for myself. My 3-yr-old immediately picked up a stick and started hitting the ground and drawing in the dirt, and then pretended it was an instrument, and blew on it, keeping time with the band. The band was a guitar, Ukulele, a large stand-up bass, a "fiddle," and a banjo. The songs were old folk songs, some of them I'd heard before, most I hadn't. My daughter loved the music, but was shy about dancing. My son pulled me up there and we danced until he dropped, then I danced with the baby until he spat up, and then my daughter got into it finally, and copied the flat-footers, and eventually, we lost all inhibitions and had the time of our lives, dancing together! Even Grampa got up and danced a little. The flat-footers, cloggers, and tap-dancers were excellent, but we just kept time and had fun.

Next to me at one point was a couple dancing a slow dance with some complicated foot-work, together. They must have been in their late 60s or early 70s. I noticed they were up there for every slow song. The man gently led his wife with a soft hand on her back. They were in jeans, but to me they looked like a prince and his princess.

At one point, much to her embarrassment, she lost the rhythm; I looked at her husband's face; I looked for annoyance or frustration; he didn't so much as flinch as he maintained his own rhythm until she caught up, which she was able to do by relaxing into his his never-faltering rhythm, and gentle embrace.

I learned something about marriage from their example. After all, marriage is very much like a dance, is it not? A still small voice spoke to me. It said: "When your spouse stumbles and loses his way in life, even when he has no one but himself to blame; instead of judging, giving up on him, criticizing, or scolding, you just keep time on your own, with a soft hand on his back, he will learn to trust in your rhythm. Let him see your unfaltering eyes, and gentle embrace. He will find his way back quickly."

The goodness and humility in everyone's eyes, whether they were friendly, stubborn, held-back, or outgoing; told me that this is a wonderful place to be raised. Universal morality, simplicity, self-confidence, caring about others; this was the sort of town that would pitch in and help the 'So-N-So' family build a new home after it burned down.

This is the sort of town that shuns Wal-Mart and big movie theaters, yet has about 20 natural food stores. If I could describe Floyd in one word, it would be "ORGANIC." If they could describe me in one word, it would probably be "naive."

I feel as though I have come home to this place I am completely foreign to. My children drank in the country experience, and embraced it with an expression I have rarely seen on their faces-- relieved, almost giddy relaxation. Something about this place is healing to this once materialistic, rushed, anxious family.