I received two Masters Degrees, one in Social Work and the other in Marriage and Family Therapy. After I married and started having children I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and was glad to be there with my children but in the back of my mind I always thought that some day I would go back to work, and maybe even go back to school. Turns out I really didn’t like Social Work in a clinical setting but because I have good organizational skills and wanted to help people I thought I would be good at doing something like organizing a soup kitchen or a refugee center or something similar. I also have other interests such as children’s literature and geology, and I spent a lot of time thinking about the skills and abilities I have along with my interests and wondered what I would do when my children were older. I thought about it over the course of several years and I never could pin it down. I just couldn’t come to any decision and the more I thought about it the more confused I became. There were so many choices, so many possibilities, and over time I started thinking about it more and more and it really started to bother me. I wanted to figure it out because I hate loose ends and because I wanted to have something I was working towards, and I wanted to have my future planned out. But I just couldn’t decide and then one day it occurred to me that this was, as the scriptures say, a stupor of thought. I couldn’t decide because none of it was right for me. This realization was startling and created a different focus on my future. I would never go back to work or school because for some reason that wasn’t the right path for me and maybe I would do a mission or service of some kind or something else totally different. Once I figured all of this out I quit worrying about it because it didn’t matter anymore. And even though I like having my future figured out I am content knowing there is a path for me. Now, if I could just figure out what that is…
A week after one of my sons was baptized, when he was eight years old, he came to me in tears. He said “I just can’t do it. I’ve tried and tried but I can’t be perfect.” He was very serious and crying because he thought that all was lost. He said that he had tried all week-long and just couldn’t be perfect. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to explain about the atonement of Jesus Christ and sincere repentance and grace and how they work in our lives. God knew that despite our best efforts and intentions that we would make mistakes and we would sin. He lovingly provided a way for us to overcome these mistakes and sins through the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And the atonement of Jesus Christ not only gives us opportunity to repent of sins but also give us strength and help during that process and during the process of life as we try to overcome ourselves. David O. McKay, a great prophet, once said “The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to make bad men good and good men better.” The Gospel, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, helps me to be better and do better.
I’ve always known food storage was important and I started even when we didn’t have much money. Sometimes I would just buy a few extra cans of vegetables, and I bottled fruit from my father-in-law’s garden and orchards. It wasn’t a lot but it gave me security knowing that we had a little food put aside for emergency situations. When I first started I bought some cheap, hard plastic shelves to store the food on and I knew I needed to write the dates on the cans but usually didn’t have a marker handy or scissors to cut the packaging to get to the cans. By the time I could round up the materials that I needed to do the job properly, my time was gone or sometimes I got sidetracked by something else that needed to be done and the dates didn’t make it on the cans or the cans even out of the boxes for a long time. I have learned some things about making food storage a little easier since those days. One thing is to buy good sturdy metal shelves that can bear heavy loads. I had stacked 25 lb bags of flour on my shelves and after several months the shelves gave way and collapsed taking out other shelves on the way down which had syrup on them. It was a gooey, terrible mess of flour and syrup that not only was difficult to clean but I also loss those food items. I learned to pay attention to the load rating and start with a good foundation of sturdy shelving. Another thing that made it easier was to keep a permanent marker, scissors and packing tape in my food storage room. I could quickly write the dates on cans or boxes, and the scissors were handy for opening difficult boxes or packaging. It made it so much easier and saved my fingers and nails. Sometimes boxes would break apart and then I could quickly tape them back together and place a whole box of soup on a shelf which helped with organization and grouping. I also learned that loading new food to the back of the shelf was very important so that older cans of food could be used first. One time I cleaned out my food storage and found cans of pears that were older than 10 years that had started to leak. The seams had burst and there was another gooey mess to clean and more wasted food. I also learned to inventory what we had and what we needed so I didn’t waste money on buying more of what we already had. I would make a list of what I wanted to buy and the quantity and stick in my purse. Then if I ever came upon a sale of can goods, paper products, laundry soap, etc., I could check my list to see if I needed those items and how much to buy. I also learned that as we increased or decreased in family members, our needs changed so I had to do periodic assessing of amounts needed. One thing that really helped me save money on food storage was to shop case lot sales. There is a store in my area that has a big case lot sale once a year. When we didn’t have much money I would put away $25 dollars a month (that amount increased as our income did) and saved it for the year. Then when the case lot sale happened I would have $300 to spend at it. During the year I made note of how many cans of chicken noodle soup, green beans, noodles and toilet paper as well as laundry soap and cleaning supplies, etc., we used so I knew how much to buy for our family for a year. I also learned that some things don’t store well like mayonnaise so I only bought a couple bottles of that at a time, and that oil is light sensitive and to store it in the dark so I placed a small blanket over my oil bottles. I was once taught that if oil smells rancid or old to wipe the outside and inside rim of the bottle with a paper towel and smell it again. If it still smells bad to stick your finger in it taste it before throwing it away. Sometime it’s the oil on the bottle that’s bad not the oil inside. We keep our food storage in our basement where it’s cooler because heat is hard on canned food, and I’ve heard of people who didn’t have much space so they put their cans of food and other supplies under beds. These few things have helped me do better and be better at food storage and I have slowly learned to be less wasteful and more efficient at it. There was a time when we were really low on money so I couldn’t go to the store but we had our food storage and I was able to make bread and use our can goods as well as toilet paper and we were really thankful that we had the resources to tide us over.
Sunday mornings at our house were always hectic and chaotic while trying to get everyone ready for church. My husband usually had church responsibilities that took him away from home Sunday mornings and it always seemed I had a new baby or was pregnant a good many of those crazy years, which meant I was extra tired! Somehow we always had the 9:00 church schedule when I had a new baby which added to the difficulty of getting there on time and since my babies always nursed every two hours I had to feed a baby twice before actually getting out of the door. It was stressful but I found a few things that helped Sunday mornings to go a little smoother. Most of the time I got up earlier than my children and got myself ready in the quiet of the morning, and that left me free to help my children after I got them up. I usually made a simple breakfast which helped entice my non-morning children to get up, and I didn’t worry about cleaning up until after we got home from church. After church I confiscated socks and shoes and put them away so they would be easy to find the following week, which actually worked most of the time. Any older child that was ready was assigned to brush the hair of a younger brother or sister and help get his or her shoes and socks on them. I read once that it sometimes helped to have your children pick out their clothes the night before and I tried this and found my kids changed their minds by morning, so it didn’t work so great for me. The biggest thing I did to help everyone be ready on time was to set my ready-by time one half hour before church began. So if church began at 9:00 I tried to be ready by 8:30 which then gave me time to look for lost shoes, missing ties and deal with any problems that came up. One time one of my daughters had a talk to give and had gone outside after she was ready for church and had taken her talk with her. She set it down outside somewhere on our 4 acres and couldn’t remember where she had put it. That half hour even gave me time to deal with that as we frantically looked for, found her talk and got to church on time. I think one of the reasons I tried so hard to be on time was that I was aware we were a large group and caused a commotion when we entered late, which detracted from the reverence of the meeting. I also felt quite of bit of stress to be on time and if we were running late I found myself yelling at everyone to hurry up which is ironic to go to church yelling at your kids. It doesn’t do much to create feelings of reverence and love to enter the building having been yelled at. Most of all, I really liked having about 10 minutes to enjoy the music and shift my thinking from chaos to reverence and focusing on the sacrament. It didn’t always work and sometimes no matter what I did there were bad mornings where nothing seemed to go right. But the sweet thing was that most of the time it did work.
At dinnertime, when my older children were younger, any food that looked out of the ordinary or different would immediately provoke a comment such as “I don’t like that” or “can I have cereal instead?” Of course we would always respond “you’ve never even tried it so how do you know you don’t like it” and then a battle would happen with frustrated parents and crying kids. Since I like to cook and often tried new recipes this was an ongoing occurrence. One day we got smart and introduced the “no thank you bite.” If someone didn’t want to try something new, or even some of the suspicious looking foods I fixed that weren’t new, they would have to take a “no thank you bite.” One bite and then if they didn’t like it, they didn’t have to eat it-no snide comments or probing questions asked. At first it was kind of a battle to get them to go along with it but as they tried things and said they didn’t like them, we just thanked them for trying the item and let the matter drop. The process became much easier, and the battles and coaxing stopped and we found that about 90% of the time they ended up liking the new food they tried. This became reinforcing, so it was no longer difficult to get them to try something new and of course as other kids came along this system was already in place and followed their siblings example. My kids became adventurous eaters even trying new and different things in restaurants, sometimes trying things that looked even suspicious to me! I knew we had been successful with this when one day a friend of mine observed “your kids will eat anything!”
I have a 16-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. She is an amazing person who was born with faith and when I tell her something, she believes me. She loves going to church and participating in Sunday School and Young Women’s classes, and she takes seminary classes through her high school. She always reminds me to do family scriptures and prayer and I know she reads her scriptures on her own and says her prayers each night, and she always remembers to ask for a blessing on her food- even in a restaurant. Sometimes after she gets home from school when she’s had seminary or after a Sunday School class I will ask her what the lesson was about or something that she learned. Her reply is always said with a little frustration “I don’t know.” I can ask her several questions to try to prompt her memory but she genuinely doesn’t know what was talked about. In some ways it’s even more remarkable that she persists in doing these righteous behaviors since she doesn’t remember what she’s taught or read. I have thought about her diligence in attending these classes and doing her own personal reading and remember the scripture in the Bible from John 14:26 which says in part “…the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance…” The knowledge is in there and some day, because of her diligence, she will have all things brought to her remembrance through the Holy Ghost.
I remember a time when I was young sitting in my family’s car with my brother and poking him with my finger just to annoy him. I was probably about 10 and he was about 8 years old. Of course my brother complained to my mother, who was driving our car, and she told me to quit poking him with my finger. So I started poking him with my elbow and of course he complained again and of course she told me to quit poking him with my elbow. Then I went to pinching him, and then to hitting him with my leg and anything else I could think of to be annoying while still being “obedient.” I was having a lot of fun playing the game of being obedient but not really obedient, because I was doing what my mom said while still trying to get around it. Since then I have learned the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law and doing something to be obedient and doing something because I love God. Too often even now I do things because they are right to do, not because I love God and want to serve Him and show my love through obedience. And although it’s better to be obedient and do something that is right than to not do it, it’s even better to do something because of my love for my Savior. I recognize that obedience as well as other gospel principles and doctrines really require giving my heart to God for me to get the most out of them and so really serving God with my heart and being obedient out of love benefits me the most.
Many years ago I had a friend who rode his motorcycle from Minnesota to Provo, Utah to go to school at BYU. He did it to save money on gas and to get his bike to school, and he said that while he was driving to school no matter what was going on he had to stay on the bike. He rode in rain, wind, heat as well as pleasant weather. He rode when cars passed him and splashed water or mud on him. He rode when his body was stiff and sore and he was tired of sitting on the bike, and when he wanted to sightsee. His goal was to get to school in a certain time frame so he had to keep on riding no matter what. Obviously I have thought about that over the years and how it compares to life, and even though I don’t have the same time crunch, I really need to keep on going no matter the circumstances, no matter what life throws at me. Of course sometimes it’s a pleasant ride and life seems good. But sometimes life is hard and I would like to curl up in a ball and hide until it’s all better. Sometimes it’s not going to get better soon, so I need to remember my goals and where I am going, I need to keep making good choices and loving people, I need to stay on the bike.