I have written many times before about how I have had migraines for many years. I had my first migraine when I was 21. At the time I didn’t know it was a migraine. I was shopping and all of a sudden my head really hurt, I felt a little nauseated and my eyes hurt. Aspirin had always helped with my previous headaches, so I went home and took two aspirin. I was surprised when aspirin didn’t help. I continued having headaches, and I continued taking aspirin, and I continued to be surprised when it didn’t help. Being a poor student I didn’t have any money so I didn’t go to the doctor about it.
I graduated from college, went to graduate school and got two Master’s Degrees, all the while having headaches. I met and married a wonderful man (he’s still wonderful!), and had two children. One day I was reading a magazine article about headaches and the descriptions of the different types of headaches. I was really surprised when my headaches fit the description of migraines. It had never occurred to me that they were migraines. I did go to the doctor about them but there was little they could do until I was through having children.
I continued to have debilitating migraines and the funny part about all of this is that it didn’t occur to me to pray about this problem. Of course I usually prayed for help with individual headaches, but overall it just didn’t occur to me to pray about it. I think I was thinking that everyone has something to deal with and this was just one of my things to deal with. For many years I stumbled through my days trying to deal with my responsibilities with children, a home, a husband and well, basically my life.
Fast forward several years when I was pregnant with my sixth child. For some reason I decided to pray about a way to treat them. I’m not sure what changed or why it finally occurred to me to do this. By this time I had been having migraines for 18 years, and yes, sometimes I’m a little slow.
I started asking for guidance in my prayers. I asked to be directed to find a way to treat the migraines when they happened. I even hoped that maybe I could find some way to prevent them. I prayed about this for several weeks. At this time I was serving in the Young Women’s presidency in my ward at church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). We were having a presidency meeting when one of women in the meeting started talking about headaches she was having. Her doctor had told her to take an aspirin with a Coke and lie down for a while. When she said this I strongly had the Holy Ghost tell me to do this too.
Not being a Coke person I tried Pepsi with the aspirin. It worked! It worked fairly well most of the time. Sometimes it just dulled the pain and sometimes it didn’t work but this was the first thing I had tried that even came close to working. I did some research and found it was the caffeine in the Pepsi that worked so I switched to aspirin with a caffeine tablet. Later on I alternated between aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen with the caffeine. This gave me the ability to function much better for several years. In hind sight I wish I had prayed about it many years sooner.
So the lesson I mostly learned from this experience is that God is often just waiting to bless us but that we need to ask Him. We need to humble ourselves, recognize that He is our Father in Heaven and ask (sometimes beg) for the blessings we need. We need to show our faith in Him by asking and then moving forward in faith knowing the blessing will come, when it’s the right time and in the right way. Sometimes this means it’s not the way or what we expected, but He will bless us. I recently read a talk in the May 2019 Ensign by Dale G. Renlund about qualifying for blessings that God wants to give us. “Most blessings that God desires to give us require action on our part-action based on our faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in the Savior is a principle of action and of power,” said Elder Renlund.
Since then I have learned that sometimes I’m the one denying myself help from heaven because I haven’t asked for it. I have also learned to be more specific in my prayers, to ask with faith in Jesus Christ, and then watch for the hand of God in my life.
I grew up hearing a lot of expressions that I don’t hear much any more. Things like “were you born in a barn?” if I left the door open. “You make a better door that you do a window” if I was standing in someone’s view of the TV. I often heard “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” implying that I would get what I wanted easier with a kinder mouth. I heard that one a lot! Usually it was because I was being bossy, which is one of the problems with being the oldest child. My usual response to that one was “why would I want a bunch of flies anyway.” Obviously I was sometimes bossy and mouthy.
Sometimes these kind of expressions make no sense. “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water” had me stumped for years until I realized it was saying don’t throw out the good with the bad. “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” helps people get their needs or wants met, but I usually replied, “yes, but it’s also the first one to be replaced.” Sometimes I had a problem with being told what to do too. Another saying that I heard frequently was “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” meaning don’t spend your money before you have it. All of these sayings communicate pretty clearly what the speaker wants you to know.
There are a lot of different expressions like these. And it makes me wonder how these expressions came about. Who makes up these expressions? How do they get started? So I looked up the ‘baby in the bath water’ expression and it originated in Germany in the 1500s and implied the concept of not discarding good ideas with bad ideas. It seems that some of these expressions have been around for a long time. One website I found had 1800 expressions and sayings with their explanations and histories. Who knew there were so many!
All of these sayings use common terms and concepts to communicate an idea. I wonder if these expressions originated to help people communicate ideas more clearly. Humans communicating with humans is always an iffy thing. Sometimes I think I’ve said something very clearly with no room for misinterpretation. I find out later that the person (usually my husband) interpreted what I said in an entirely different way. Miscommunications happen so easily. Expressions can paint pictures in our minds, add reference points. These expressions might help someone understand more clearly what someone is trying to say-to get the point across.
In the bible we read that Christ often taught people using parables. These parables helped His listeners to understand His doctrine and teachings more clearly. Parables seem to be related to expressions that are in common to us, as they use ideas, concepts and cultural references to convey a message. Of course, some thought Christ was merely telling nice stories but the careful listener got the intended message. Maybe that’s the secret to really understanding the message of the speaker: careful listening. Sometimes I’m thinking of what I’m going to say back to someone instead of really focusing on what he or she is saying. I’m more interested in getting my message across instead of trying to understand another person.
So maybe I need to “strike while the iron is hot’ when someone is “spilling the beans” and “read between the lines.” Listening to someone really is a “labor of love.”
Life Skills Class at Junior High
A few years ago my daughter, who has Down Syndrome, transitioned from junior high school to high school. She had been in a Life Skills class in junior high where they teach many of the basics such as reading, math, writing, and other skills that are needed to function in society. In her Life Skills class were other teens with developmental disabilities. She was lucky because she also had many classes in the normal school setting that allowed her to participate in classes like choir, sewing, health and cooking. It’s a great blending of experiences and classes that the students are offered.
Talking About His Accomplishments Produced A Big Smile
At the end of her junior high experience the Life Skills teacher held a “graduation” for all of the teens going on to high school. As part of the graduation the teacher read all of the accomplishments of each student during his or her three years at the school. She had the student stand as she read off the list. One young man, as she was talking about his accomplishments, was smiling. His smile got bigger and bigger as the teacher kept reading. When the teacher finished, with a look of awe and joy on his face, he said, “I’m amazing!” The teacher said, “You are amazing!” Of course everyone in the classroom started smiling too. He said it with such wonder and sincerity that it was really a joy to have witnessed it.
Making the World a Better Place
I have thought about that sweet experience many times since then. The look of awe and wonder on his face still brings a smile to my face. He didn’t solve world hunger or end international wars. He didn’t figure out the solution to the homeless problem or fix the political divide. The things he accomplished were actually quite simple things. Because of his developmental disabilities he obviously will never accomplish much by world standards. Yet in his own way, he has added to the goodness of the world. He excelled where and how he could, and added light to the world through his small accomplishments. And remarkably, if each of us could say that we have excelled where and how we could, the world would be a better place. I often think of Gordon B. Hinckley who was known for his optimism and encouragement for each of us to be a little better every day. He once said, “There is room for improvement in every life. Regardless of our occupations, regardless of our circumstances, we can improve ourselves and while doing so have an effect on the lives of those around us (October 2002).” That young man improved himself through the things he accomplished and made the world a little better. And that is the challenge each of us has. To be a little better than we were the day before and to make the world a better place by doing so.
A Basketball Tournament For Teens With Disabilities
Recently I attended a delightful basketball tournament for people with developmental disabilities. This tournament is sponsored by the local school district and is run by volunteers. Each of the teams consisted of 3 teens with some kind of a disability and 2 peer tutors. A peer tutor is a teenager who is normally abled and helps another teen with disabilities be successful in the school setting. This time the peer tutors were there to teach, encourage and help the teens be successful in basketball. Whenever a peer tutor got the ball he or she would throw it to a teen with disabilities and then instruct them where to go and what to do. Sometimes teens would throw the ball and miss the basket and then the ball was given to them to try again, and then again. Everyone would stop playing to allow the teens to be successful. If they actually made a basket, it was pure magic! The look on their faces was so sweet, radiating pure happiness. The whole day was all about helping these teens have a great experience.
For The Fun Of It
There were even a few teens in wheelchairs with a peer tutor manning the chair and running down the court with everyone else. I say running but really, at best, it was just a fast walk. Most of the teens with disabilities just couldn’t be hurried. Parents and coaches would shout “hurry” or “run” but it just wasn’t important to them. They would walk down the court holding the ball, not even bouncing it. Sometimes a teen on one team would help another on a different team by giving them the ball or saying encouraging things. They were there for the fun of it, not to win. The great thing is that no matter which team made a basket, everyone cheered.
Pink Shirts Everywhere
What was truly amazing to me was that there were 8 games going on at the same time, and each team played 4 games with a half time show from the various high school dance teams. And of course there was also the big playoff between the two highest scoring teams, with trophies for the winners. When you add up how many volunteers it took to pull this tournament off it’s astounding. Adult organizers, score keepers, coaches, people who got the school ready with directional signs and the peer tutors were just the obvious volunteers. All of the volunteers were in pink shirts and I saw hundreds of pink shirts! The volunteers, mostly peer tutors, were spending their Saturday helping these kids with disabilities play basketball.
Hope For The Youth Of The World
I have been to this tournament two years in a row now and both times I have been completely overwhelmed with the kindness, camaraderie, friendship and genuine caring exhibited by everyone involved. It’s really hard to understand the feeling that is there unless you have been there. Everyone was there just for the opportunity to help someone else. Sometimes we hear about a lot of bad stuff happening in the world today, a lot of it involving young people. This event and others like it give me a lot of hope for the youth of the world. There are some caring, unselfish teens out there doing some simple and yet significant things to help and serve others. Service truly brings a sweet feeling into life and this event was all about service. There are so many needs and so many ways to serve others and I can guarantee that if you reach out to serve others your life will be happier.
When my husband and I were newly married we often had tomato soup and tuna sandwiches for lunch after church on Sundays. The only problem was I liked my tuna with mayonnaise and tomato soup made with milk. My husband liked his tuna with miracle whip and his tomato soup made with water. I couldn’t believe he liked it that way! After a light teasing about who had better taste and who was right, we came up with a solution to the dilemma. Whoever made lunch would get out two pans and divide the soup and put half into each pan, and to one add milk and to the other add water. The same happened with the tuna. It would be divided into two bowls and to one was added mayonnaise and the other miracle whip. Even though this was extra work it went on for several months and solved the problem of accommodating completely opposite tastes. One Sunday after church my husband was making our usual lunch of tuna and soup and I noticed he only had one pan out and one bowl in which to make them, and he was making them the way I liked them. I asked why and he responded it was just too much energy to divided everything, and being the kind person he is, he did it the way I like it. We have done it that way since then, almost 34 years. Yet, if he hadn’t simplified it, I would have kept it up because it’s so easy to get upset at stupid things and to let little things become big things. Little, unimportant things like tomato soup and tuna sandwiches get blown up out of proportion and cause unkind feelings between people. I once read a letter someone submitted to an advice columnist. It seems that the wife liked to keep her peanut butter in the cabinet and her ketchup in the refrigerator and the husband liked to keep his peanut butter in the refrigerator and his ketchup in the cabinet. They had been fighting about the right way to store them and they were asking the columnist to solve the problem. The answer? Keep ketchup and peanut butter in both places, the cabinet and the refrigerator. So simple, and if I had been the one to write the letter asking for help I would have wondered why I hadn’t thought of that obvious solution. Maybe I would also have wondered why I had spent so much energy and unkind thoughts on something so insignificant. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in who’s right or the emotions of the situation that we don’t get to the problem solving stage. Most problems have solutions and if we take a few minutes to think about it we realize that usually it’s just a matter of taste or even habit, not what’s morally right. Realizing this allows us to think of solutions to problems that confront us and then everyone wins. Relationships take a lot of effort, energy and compromise but when both people are happy, life is good. I have found the when I take the time to focus on solutions to the problems that confront my husband and myself that we’re both happier.
When I was 16 I started watching a soap opera called All My Children. It was really popular at my school and it was fun to be able to talk about it with my friends. It wasn’t long before I was really involved in the story line and the “lives” of the characters in the show. When I went away to college I scheduled my classes when it was possible so I could watch the show. There were TVs set up in the student center and several of us would gather and watch it almost daily. After I graduated and had a job I would usually go home for lunch and watch the show and I was glad the timing of the show fit in with my lunch schedule. I was heavily involved with the show even though in the back of my mind I knew some of the show’s content was inappropriate. I rationalized that some of the bedroom scenes were okay to watch because I really knew what was right and I would never do those things so it really didn’t matter. Sometimes I just didn’t think about it at all because I didn’t want to. Unfortunately it was really easy to fool myself into watching a show I knew was wrong.
After my first baby was born I was a stay at home mom so it was really easy to schedule my day around the show. When my daughter was about 8 months old I was watching the show one day when I had the thought come to me, “Do you really want that show in the background while she’s growing up.” I thought, “No, I don’t!” and I turned it off and never watched it again. What’s really interesting to me is that a show I had been heavily involved in and had watched for 14 years was suddenly unimportant to me when compared with my daughter and her welfare. I’m sure I had been prompted before to quit watching the show but had ignored the warnings. I have found in my life that often it takes the right motivation for me to make changes. In this case it was love for my daughter which was greater than a TV show.
I once read there are 3 main reasons for doing just about anything. The first is the fear of not doing it, of getting punished if we don’t do it. For example, getting bad grades because we didn’t do our homework, or disappointing people we care about. Gospel analogy would be loss of the Spirit, having people think badly of us or eventually going to Hell. The second would be for the reward we get for doing it. Keeping with the same example would be getting good grades, or getting a pay raise or promotion at work. It could also be receiving awards or public recognition. Gospel analogy would be for receiving blessings, having the Spirit with us, or feeling good about ourselves. Sometimes it is receiving the praise of others or being known as a good person. The last reason we do things is just for love of it. For me that was the case of loving my daughter more than the show. Sometimes people exercise just because they love it or go to work because they love what they do and the pay is secondary. People often quit smoking or start healthy habits because they love someone. In gospel terms it would be because we love God. We don’t keep the commandments out of fear or hope of reward but because we love God. This is obviously the higher law or reason but too often not why I do something. In the scriptures we are told to love God with “all of our hearts, might, mind and strength.” Usually the word heart is listed first because when we love God with all of our hearts everything else falls into place, our motivations are pure. As I try to love God with my whole heart and try to do things for the right reason my focus becomes clearer and I fear less. I am less worried about what others think. It seems like it should be something so easy to do. Yet it is so hard for me to do things for the right reason. Doing something because I love God and not because of the reward I get is something I am working on. This involves changing my heart and focus, and for me it will be the quest of a life time.
Many years ago I struggled to figure out most nights what I was going to fix for dinner. When I waited to think about it until 5:00 not only was I tired but my children were also tired and usually wanting my attention. Crying, crabby children didn’t make it easy to think clearly about planning dinner. In this situation I could usually think of about 3 or 4 things to fix which night after night didn’t go over so well. Often I wouldn’t have all of the ingredients I needed to make the dinner, which added to the stress. It was then hurry to the store or find something else to fix. Life is stressful enough without increasing it with this nightly dance. So I decided I was going to be really organized and plan menus for each week. That way I wouldn’t be trying to figure out dinner in a stressful situation, and I would always have the food available I needed to make dinner. The first time I sat down to write the menu all I could think of was the same 3 or 4 things. That obviously didn’t work so I came up with a plan. I decided to look through cook books that I often used and made a list of main courses, side dishes, salads and desserts. I put the meal option list in a page protector and on a clip board. This gave me a quick reference list for menu planning. I then photocopied all the recipes on the list and put them in a binder so I would have quick access to them when making dinner. I didn’t want to have to take time to find the recipes because sometimes I only had a short time to pull off the nightly feat of meal prep. I also made a shopping list with categories like produce, can goods, breads, meats, dairy and other similar things. That also went on the clip board along with the menu page. When I plan menus I look over the list, figure out the meals for each night, make out the shopping list and then I’m ready to go to the grocery store. Having everything on a clip board made crossing things off while shopping easier.
All of this took some time to organize but when it was done it was well worth it. Not only did it stop the 5:00 scramble to figure out dinner but it saved money by being organized in shopping and reducing wasted food. It also made it easier when cleaning out the fridge to know how long a particular food item had been in it. Some times if I was running late I would call my husband and have him look on the menu to see what was planned and get it started. There were also times when things didn’t work out for what I had planned for a particular night so I would switch nights around. Being flexible with it helped a lot. My kids also liked being to see the menu and know what was for dinner that night. Of course there were still tired, crying kids and one really tired mom on some nights but having what to fix for dinner already figured out really did help relieve a lot of the stress. There are many different ways to do menu planning and maybe some these ideas will spur your own ideas. For me this was a tool that helped life go a little smoother and reduce some stress in our lives.
When my oldest daughter was a toddler she was a hand full at church. To help keep her quiet and entertained, my husband would take his silk handkerchief that matched his tie (an 80’s thing) and roll and fold it in such a way that it looked like a canoe with “babies” in it. He would rock it between his hands and she would sit quietly and play with it. One time at church he forgot to wear his handkerchief and as we were listening to the speaker my daughter started looking through his pockets, moving his tie around and getting in his face. Since she was being quiet we didn’t think too much about it until she loudly shouted, “Where’s that little thing you use to make babies with daddy.” That quickly got our attention, especially as the people in the pews around us started laughing. We immediately put our heads down in deep embarrassment and explained that daddy forgot to bring it. Of course we laugh about it now! When she was a little older, she and her sister opened a 20 lb bag of flour and had a “snow” fight. When I found them, all I could see were two white faces with big eyes looking at me. That was a huge mess to clean up! Another time she and this same sister blocked off the bottom of the door of the bathroom with towels and filled the floor full of water to make an indoor slip and slide. I was downstairs doing laundry when I saw water pouring down from the ceiling. I ran up stairs and found 2 girls having great fun. I was amazed at their creativity but not amused with the damaged ceiling. One time I found my electric skillet in her bath tub with dried up food in it. It turns out that she and her partner in crime (this same sister) would take my electric skillet into their bedroom and cook things when they were supposed to be asleep. All of these things were basically harmless but they kept me really busy because what one daughter didn’t think to do the other one did. Of course there were a few things that weren’t so harmless like when she let her 14 year sister take her car and drive around with some friends. We were really lucky no one was hurt with that escapade. The years have passed and now this same daughter just celebrated her 33rd birthday. She has grown into a compassionate, thoughtful person who champions the underdog (humans and animals alike!). She has this knack for reaching out to others and becoming friends with them, and still keeps in contact with high school friends. When she is your friend you will have a friend for life. She will always have your back and she tries harder than anyone else I know to improve herself. She cares about her family and reaches out to build relationships. She is an amazing person who brightens our lives. In spite of all of her antics, I am glad she’s my daughter. Happy Birthday!
Recently I heard a delightful story in a talk at church. The story told of a woman who awoke one morning and only had three hairs. She looked into the mirror and said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today,” and went happily on her way. The following morning she awoke and only had two hairs. “Today I will part my hair,” she stated and again went happily on her way. The next morning she awoke and only had one hair left. “I think I will wear my hair in a pony tail today,” she said and of course went happily on her way. The fourth morning she awoke and had no hair at all on her head. “How lucky am I,” she said. “I don’t have to do my hair today.” Needless to say, she went happily on her way.
What a great illustration of looking someone looking at what she has instead of dwelling on what she didn’t have, and of making the best of a not-so-good situation. Each of us have not-so-good situations in life. Some of them easy so we can be like the woman in this story, although being bald would not be easy! Other times our challenges can be very difficult and it’s hard to focus on the positive. In the Book of Mormon we read of a group of people who were being persecuted and having difficulty bearing their afflictions. Through prayer they received help. The burdens weren’t removed but the people were strengthened to bear them with ease. In Mosiah 24:15 we read that they did “bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.” I think being cheerful, especially in difficulties, is another way of expressing faith and something I need to do better in. When I’m in the midst of a terrible migraine I find it difficult to be cheerful and sometimes I settle for pleasant. Often I’m not even close to pleasant and just have to grit my teeth and endure. Sometimes I find it hard not to be frantic with pain wondering how I’m going to survive. Even though I know the pain will eventually end it’s so hard to be patient and endure it. I truly admire people who are cheerful and look at what they have without dwelling on what’s not right in their lives. The story in Mosiah gives me something to shoot for: patiently and cheerfully submitting to the will of the Lord and looking for ways that He has strengthened me to endure this affliction easier. I hope that a year from now I can say that I have increased my ability to be cheerful, despite my circumstances, and thus more faithful. It should be easy. After all, I have more than three hairs on my head.
Last week I wrote about migraines and how they have plagued my life for over 40 years. I also wrote about a 6 year time frame where I had migraines almost every day, most of them excruciating and so bad I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep on living. Several months into this time frame I had an experience that helped me cope a little more with the situation. It didn’t help with the pain or lessen it but it did give me a new perspective. I had a migraine and was sitting in church at a funeral of a neighbor, and the speaker was talking about the scripture of how God has told us He will not leave us comfortless during our hard times. I felt so forsaken as I sat there in great pain. I was silently crying to myself and thought “You have left me comfortless.” Immediately I had the thought come to my mind “I blessed you with a love for church music to help you through this time.” I thought of how I have always loved to sing church hymns. Even as a little girl I would go around the house singing them as loudly as I could. I walked home from school every day singing Primary songs. I joined the Ward Choir when I was 12 and was a dedicated member until I left for college where I also joined the choirs of the various wards I was in. As a teenager when I was bored in church I would read the words of the hymns and sing the songs in my mind. The words somehow filled me with comfort and peace as well as teaching me doctrine, and they sank deeply into my soul. By doing this I ended up memorizing many of the hymns. When I had severe migraines I would lie in bed or sit in the hot water of a shower and sing the hymns that I had inadvertently memorized. Sometimes when it hurt too much to sing out loud I would sing the words in my mind. I felt comfort and my Heavenly Father’s love as I focused on the words and music of the songs. At this funeral when I had this thought about being blessed with a love for church music I instantly felt humbled and chastened. It taught me that for some reason that this was part of my Heavenly Father’s plan for me. It also taught me that He knew me and knew about my pain and the hardship I was enduring. It taught me that He had prepared and strengthened me to be able to endure this affliction. It also taught me to look for the ways my Heavenly Father has quietly blessed my life to deal with the difficulties and challenges that I personally face.