I went to graduate school with some amazing women. Since we have graduated over 30 years ago these women have done great things in the world to make it a better place for others. After graduating one of them started the Families in Crisis Center in our area and later she went to Law School and combined the two degrees to become an international expert on adoptions and helped countries write their adoption policies. She became a professor at an university and took students to Africa every summer to help the people on that continent. Another of the women I went to school with went on to get her PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy and worked with LDS Social Services to help developing countries set up their foster care systems. Later she became the vice president of student life at an university helping many people succeed in college life. Both of these women were my good friends in grad school and I admire and respect them greatly. After grad school I worked for a short while, got married and started having children and became a stay-at-home-mom. Sometimes when I looked at the accomplishments and the good these two women have done, about 2% of me feels a little sad and disappointed in myself for not doing great and wonderful things to make the world a better place. But at the same time, there’s a quiet voice that reassures me that I’m doing what I’m suppose to be doing. I have learned that there are different ways to make the world a better place, some grand and on a large scale and others on a much smaller scale such as quietly serving my family and neighborhood. All contribute to a better world. Overall, I have been content with my place in the universe.
There is a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln that I particularly like: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” It reminds me that life is how you look at it and perspective can make all of the difference. When my husband and I had been married only a few years and money was very tight and I would wash and reuse ziplock bags over and over again. I hated washing them and having them out to dry and I looked forward to the day when I could afford to buy ziplock bags and just throw them away after I had used them. Fast forward several years and the day did come when I could just toss them after using them, but then recycling became fashionable and I found myself washing bags and reusing them so I could be ecologically minded and help save the planet. Funny thing is I didn’t mind washing and reusing them then, in fact I even felt good about myself and my effort to be a conservationist. Nothing had changed but my attitude and in reflecting upon this I have wondered how many other situations I could have improved by changing my attitude. There are many things I have little control over but I always have control over my attitude and perspective.
When my oldest daughter was 4 years old she got hit in her eye. I don’t even remember how she got hit or exactly what happened, but I remember telling her that she was going to get a black eye and then we put a cold wash cloth on it to help with the swelling. She was very upset, wailing that she didn’t want a black eye. I reassured her it would be fine and not to worry about it but that it was definitely going to turn black. She went to bed that night still very upset, and the next morning she came running into my bedroom with a very bruised eye. She jumped up on my bed and very excitedly said “Mom, I looked in the mirror and my eye’s not black, it’s still green.” What was so obvious to me was not so obvious to her at all. I had no clue that she didn’t know what a black eye was and that she thought I meant the color of her eye was going to change. I’d like to say that was the last time I thought I was communicating clearly only to find out later that I wasn’t, but I have gotten better over the years at clarifying, asking questions, trying to understand and to be understood. It’s always a work in progress but it helps when I remember this incident of the ‘Black Eye.’
Any time I have had a question or a big decision to make I have found my answer by reading my scriptures. Many years ago my husband and I were trying to decide about buying a house. It would entail taking on considerable debt, and debt scared me then and still does now, and also leaving a house we had just finished remodeling and I thought was about perfect. We had put a ton of work into the yard and it seemed a little like the garden of Eden to me. We had managed to get the house and the yard just about perfect for us. The new house we were considering was on 4 acres of land and had a nice barn on it. For years my husband and I had talked about finding a home on some land for us to spread out on. He had grown up on a couple of acres of land and had great memories of building forts and climbing trees and other kinds of things kids like to do. He wanted the same thing for our kids, and he really liked the barn. It would give him a place to build things, something he loved doing. The house was nice and would give us extra room for our large family. It was a hard decision to make but we decided to put an offer on the house and as usual I turned to my scriptures to receive confirmation or not as I prayed fervently. This time though I thought “there’s no scripture that says go buy a house or don’t buy a house” so I thought my prayers would have to be answered some other way. I continued to study my scriptures hoping that I would receive my answer by immersing myself in spiritual things. One day as I was studying I came across a verse in D&C 45:65 which says in part “gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance” and the print seemed five times the size of the other print and I felt the confirmation that the decision to buy the house was the correct one, which to me is always an amazing process to me. It amazes me because it is an overwhelming concept that God knows who I am, and can and will answer my individual prayers. It was a great relief to get an answer and to know we were on the right track. I also learned that there is a scripture that says “go buy a house” and that the scriptures provide the answers to all of the questions of life!
If I could wave a magic wand and undo some things, one of the things I would undo would be how I handled the dishes after dinner when my kids were teenagers. In my mind my kids were busy with homework and other equally important activities so after dinner I would usually clean off the table and do the dishes. They had their after school jobs already done and I thought I was facilitating getting homework done. In reality I was teaching them to be oblivious to cleaning up after dinner. Even as adults, after family dinners they would leave the kitchen and gather in the family room to visit and play games. I would start cleaning up already tired from food prep and cooking for a large group while hearing laughter and talking and fun going on. If I asked for help someone would gladly come in and do one thing and then go back to the group. At first I was upset by this but since these kids of mine are usually kind and helpful people, I thought about it and decided that it didn’t even occur to anyone to help clean up, and it was because I had trained them to be oblivious. After discussing the situation, everyone has been much better at helping clean up, with bringing food and working together, and now there’s laughter and talking and fun going on while we’re cleaning up from dinner. Hmmm, maybe I do have a magic wand after all!
I recorded the following incident in my journal. “As I was getting dressed (my daughter) said to me “Mom, why is your tummy so big after having a baby? Now (this daughter, who was 5 years old) had been saying several things lately of this nature. She had just told me the day before that she was worried about me dying because I “wasn’t getting any younger and was looking pretty old.” So when she said this about my tummy I said ” You know, if you’re not careful, you’re going to hurt my feelings.” Well, you could just see from her face the thoughts flying through her brain trying to rectify the situation. Then she said, “You’re not fat mom, you just look fat. You just look fat.” I still chuckle about this from time to time. The innocence of a child.” That was the end of my journal entry and even now when I think about this it makes me laugh. Children are delightful and a joy to have and you never know what they are going to say. This particular daughter is one of the kindest people I know, and the great thing is she is now expecting her first baby and well, I think turn-about-is-fair-play!
I have thought a lot about failures and sometimes how crushing they can be. Sometimes we try and try, and try again and things still don’t go our way, no matter how hard we work, and we wonder why life is so hard or unfair. One time I was thinking about Joseph Smith, Senior, the father of Joseph Smith the prophet. He was a farmer who had crop failures after crop failures. He needed to feed and clothe his family and despite doing his best he kept having his crops fail. He lost his farms, moved his large family to new locations, started again and failed again. He finally ended up in Palmyra, New York where he heard the land was rich and the farming good. He was able to secure some land and start again, in the very place where God needed Joseph Smith, Junior to be. If his crops and farms had been successful he never would have needed to move. It seems that our failures, and when we keep on trying in spite of them, lead us along. We learn from them, become stronger and wiser. Like Joseph Smith, Senior, hopefully we end up where God wants us to be.
This is not a post about how to get a date quickly, but it is a post about one of the ways I coped as a mom with the chaos that comes from having 8 kids and all of the clutter and mess that is inherent with a large family. There were so many things I couldn’t control in my life but I found that if my house was tidy I could cope a lot better with those uncontrollable things, and the room or house didn’t have to be spotless, just tidy and picked-up. I found that if everyone would clean the area where they were or ran the vacuum or something else similar for just 10 minutes it was amazing what could be accomplished by several people working together. Even my little ones could participate by carrying a dish to the sink or putting something in the trash or putting away a toy. I would announce “ten minute pick-up” and everyone knew what to do (because it had to be done frequently!). My kids didn’t really complain about it because they knew it was just for 10 minutes and I tried to time it between TV shows and other activities. If they worked quickly it was usually less than 10 minutes and a room or area that was cluttered with clothes, shoes, dishes, books, toys and all kinds of other stuff was quickly transformed and I could cope better with the other kind of chaos!