Sunday, April 7, 2013

Just a Little Eye Contact

We've moved house. Again.

As you know if you've followed my blogs at all, after living for most my life in the same town, we moved 6 years ago just over the hill into the country--which was in a different town, with new shopping, a new church congregation, new friends, etc. It was HARD. It was also a lot of fun and how I loved that life. But now we've moved AGAIN. So after over 35 years of living mostly in just one town--my hometown, I've moved twice over the last 6 years. Sigh. I don't like it. At. All.

Of course, I can't complain about the new house:
It's big and beautiful and in a great neighborhood, which I really enjoy. There's a lovely greenbelt with a great running/biking/walking trail just one block away, lots of trees and flowers everywhere, not a single ugly house in the entire town, and every person I've encountered on my walk smiles and says hello. So far, it's been a great place to live.

But this time we've moved even further away from my hometown friends--a little too far away for the casual drop-in visit or the quick trip to the favorite store. And we've moved away from the friends in the little country town too. And we've moved into yet another new church congregation. That's the hardest part. And the best part. For one thing, in the LDS church, every congregation is part of the same whole--we all share the same organization and, of course, the same doctrine. We consider ourselves to be brothers and sisters. It's comforting to know that wherever I move in the WHOLE WORLD, there will be an LDS congregation, whether large or small, to welcome and embrace me.

However, even though I have been welcomed into this new congregation, nothing can change the fact that for me, the chapel is full of strangers. And that's the hardest part for me. The majority of my life has been spent among long-time friends. The people at my hometown church watched me and my siblings grow up, then they welcomed me back as a married woman and they watched my children grow up! Those hometown church folk were my FAMILY! They made the social aspect of church pretty comfortable--I knew them and their families and they knew me and mine. It's so nice to be KNOWN. So when I sit in this new congregation, full of strangers, my spoiled heart just squeezes and I wish I were back where I know people.

Now. I've been in this new town for about 2 1/2 months, so I've met a few people at church. I'm teaching piano lessons and I really enjoy chatting with the moms as they pick up and drop off. I'm getting to feel friendly with a few ladies here. And here's the point of this whole blog: on Sundays when I enter that chapel, I scan the faces, I look for those who are becoming familiar, I seek to exchange some mutual recognition of budding friendship with those I've chatted with: I look for that eye contact, that smile. And it's surprising to me how often it is not there! Why is that? Are these ladies too busy with their children and other friends that they're just not in the noticing zone? Do they figure that I've been here long enough so that they don't need to make the friendly effort with the new girl? Are they just a little insecure and don't think I'll smile back if they were to meet my eyes and grin? Oh, how I wish they would!

And it spurs me to ask myself: how often have I skipped past the eye contact with someone who was seeking a little visual confirmation of our friendship? How often have I been too wrapped up in my own agenda that I didn't even look at the faces surrounding me? All too often, I suspect.

So I resolve to pay attention to the little things. Most people don't need the big gesture, just a continual supply of the small indications of friendship--a quick email or text, a smile, eye contact with just that little raise of the brow that says "we share stuff". This is the kind of warm stuff that friends share with little or no thought. Just a little eye contact.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Several weeks ago a friend of mine asked me what brought me joy. I had a quick answer for her: my family, the gospel of Jesus Christ and solitude. She further asked me: what if your family was gone? What, aside from God, would you  need to allow you to find joy?

Setting aside the definition of "joy" (that's a blog for another day, I guess), I really started thinking about what 4 or 5 essentials I felt I must have to be happy. I finally decided on a few.

I need meaningful relationships. Loving ones, trusting ones. Just a few. When my paternal grandfather died, my grandmother, who was quickly descending into the depths of senility, never forgot that she was alone. She missed having that someone, that person who was just for her. I think I am like that. I need that someone who is just for me, who loves me best, who always defends me, who listens to and believes in me. Since I was 16 or so, that person has been my husband. Nobody loves me better than he does, I think.

I also need self-expression. I need to be able to talk/write about important feelings and ideas and conclusions. I have kept a journal since I was 8. I keep records of what I wear and how I felt wearing it. I write my concerns, my gratitude...everything. If I'm not writing, it's because I'm talking. But even after I talk about something, I will need to write it down. So I don't forget it. So I get it down just right. So it is real.

 I need learning. I need access to ideas and information. I need to figure out things. I think this craving must be an inborn part of my character because it drives me in a way that very few things do. I don't know if you'd consider my house organized, but I think my mind is highly organized. I must figure out how I feel or think, why I feel or think that way and what I'm going to do about it. There are few or no dark, cobwebby corners in my head. I'm always in pursuit of ideas and how they fit into my reality. It's probably one of the most defining aspects of my character. I don't think I'm unusually smart or highly creative or an original thinker or anything like that. Just that what goes on in my head is probably the most active part of me. For better or for worse.

 As I have gotten older, I have come to greatly value self-mastery. I used to believe that total freedom to do what I pleased just when it pleased me to do it (within the realms of basic righteousness, of course) was the ultimate in happiness, but I have discovered that self-indulgence is rarely followed by joy. More often it's followed by guilt, regret, anger, even self-contempt. I think the most effective path to self-mastery is through seeking after God's will. That's a tall order, though, and one I think it will take me all my life to figure out. Anyway, I now know that if I don't master myself and my desires (for shopping, for food, for entertainment, etc etc), I cannot be happy.

Finally, I need quiet time. In my life now, that time has come alone in the car (waiting for some kid somewhere, most likely), reading in a comfortable chair, sitting up alone against the pillows in my bed on a quiet morning, looking out the window, scrapbooking, sitting at the beach, looking out at the hills that surround my house, standing in the wind, smelling the air.... I wouldn't say that this time is thinking time--cuz I do the majority of that stuff through expression. But this is just refilling time. It's time to just be, away from all the things that define the bulk of my time. Remembering who I am when I'm all alone.

So I think that's how I would find my joy. Aside from the great concerns of my life--my family and my religion--these are the things that it takes for me to find that deep happiness and peace inside that I think joy is.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My "Carpe Diem"

Here's my brother, with his youngest asleep in his arms.

I've read several things lately on the internet written by young moms who sound tired and a bit overwhelmed. Their complaints remind me of when I was a young mom, sometimes feeling overworked, misunderstood, sleep-deprived, lonely and unappreciated myself. I still have kids at home and my little kid years aren't too far behind me that I've forgotten how much a mixture of joy and fatigue they were.

What I hear these moms saying is that they don't want to be lectured about enjoying these years wholesale. They find them a lot of hard work and are satisfied with finding the small beautiful moments among the general chaos. They look forward to the time when the kids aren't so dependent and demanding and when they themselves (the moms) can find some more time for themselves. Don't tell them "carpe diem" while they're busy just making it through each day without totally losing it. I well remember feeling something of this myself.

But what I remember more clearly is the ending of each little event in each of my children's lives. Being a mom is to know what endings feel like. When my first daughter was born, each night brought the end of another precious day with her. When she stopped nursing, that unique bonding time between us was over. When she crawled, the days of her infancy were gone. When she walked, her crawling days were done. When she began speaking, her baby coos were gone forever. When her teeth appeared, her gummy smiles ended. Every birthday was the closing of a year of her babyhood that would never come again. When her brother was born, my days alone with my firstborn were gone. And so it continued with each of my precious children. As each chapter began, it meant the closing of another chapter. I looked forward to every step they gained, every evidence of maturity, every new experience, but I also mourned the ending of the times that I had loved with them. Every beginning was also an ending.

Now I have adult children and teenagers. They are lots of fun to spend time with. We shop, we talk, we hang out, we enjoy our time together. But sometimes I really miss those baby days. I miss the unconditional love and affection. I miss the easy hugs and kisses. I miss tucking them all into bed and going to sleep myself, knowing that they were all safe under my roof.

And I feel even more keenly the endings that loom in the not-too-distant future. In just a few short years all my children will be gone from my house and building their own lives in their own houses. Hopefully I'll have grandchildren and a whole new chapter of my own life will begin. But those years when they were just mine, just my babies, just my little family to love and to spend time with... those days will never come again.

Honestly, I don't want them back again. Things are as they should be. My kids are growing up and going places and that's just right. It's rather bittersweet. They leave as I raised them to be--independent, hard-working, ambitious, righteous--but they are leaving. I miss them when they go. I don't mean for them to stay, I don't wish for them to stay. But I miss them.

Yes, we moms are the expert at endings. We've experienced them over and over. I think this should make us all natural experts at enjoying THIS day, THIS smile, THIS baby, THIS experience because we know it'll all be different in a week, a month, a year. And it'll never come back. So you young moms, don't reject the carpe diem idea. You're already doing it. It comes with the territory. You're already the expert at grasping today because no one knows better than you do that it'll truly be gone before you know it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good for what ails me

Oh, how I love potato chips. The smell, the taste, the texture... I love it all. A perfect day to me still seems like spending most of it sitting my deep velvet chair by the open french doors, a warm scented breeze brushing in, the hills green in the distance, a book in my lap (2 more in a pile beside me) and a tall glass of ice water on the side table AND an open bag of chips within reach of my (non-page-turning) hand. Sigh. This is often what I long for, but I know from sad experience that this kind of indulgence only leads to regrets--in the form of mental anguish (guilt) and stomach distress (all those chips!!).

And yet, even though I know how I'll feel if I spend an afternoon eating chips and reading... when I feel worried or afraid or sad, that scenario calls to me at the top of its lungs. I hear it today. But I won't be answering its call. For one thing, I have no chips in the house. But that's easily solved. No, today I won't answer the call because lately junk food really hurts. And having sacrificed precious energy to several sleepless nights over the last weeks and months because of accidental indulgences (I just wasn't paying attention and my body has become far more picky!), I am absolutely firm in my choice to avoid the fat laden food that my mind is calling out for today.

I read a couple of books lately, too, that have really affected my thinking about emotional eating. First was a book I really disliked called Women Food and God by Geneen Roth. Couldn't stand the author's voice, but I got one really powerful idea out of it and that is that when I overeat or eat something that is bad for my body, I am numbing a feeling that I don't want to deal with. From a previous book I already understood that eating beyond hunger becomes feeding the mind rather than feeding the body. Now I have a clearer idea of why I've been wanting to ignore what my body prefers and why I've been wanting to feed my mind. Now I can clearly see that when I want to eat potato chips, it's never about hunger--it's because I want to numb a feeling I'm having and am not prepared to resolve.

A not unreasonable desire, it seems to me. I'm perfectly capable of dealing with feelings. But sometimes, it's just not the right time, or I'm just not ready to bring that one out of the dark. And chips are the right answer. Or so it has seemed to me for years.

The second book I learned something significant from on this topic was The End of Overeating by David Kessler. He showed that eating fatty foods induces the body to crave more fatty foods. Once I read that, I immediately saw how it works with my own eating habits. Fat leads to more fat. I felt it myself. So that put me on my guard in regards to eating the high fat foods that taste so good. It's just like starting a chain reaction. Of course, knowing this, and observing it in my own body, it's a lot easier to shut down the cravings. I eat chips with my sandwich and when the serving I've given myself is gone, I want more. Since I know it's just fat calling to fat it's a lot easier to just say "no".

So I'm off chips as a cure for what hurts in my heart. Cuz it just creates a bigger hurt in my body. But now I'm a little bit at a loss. What do I do with these feelings that I'm not ready to take out and sort through right now? I feel worried today about a problem I'm not going to be able to solve in the near future. I want chips. I want a long book and a soft chair. Not gonna happen. My options?

These do help, even without the chips.

So does this.
This would undoubtedly help, but why is it always a little bit down on the list? I think it's because with a book, playing the piano or chips, I know just what I'll get. On the other hand, God's answers are always the BEST for me, but not always the most expected or even the most palatable. I expect that's because I need more practice aligning my will with His. But that's a whole other subject. At least I know I can access His peace, even if He doesn't always bless me with the immediate solution I'm wishing for, right?
This works for me too, especially when it's accompanied by the perennial escapist choice:

Some other things I'd like to try:

And maybe even:
If I get really desperate.

Yes, there are definitely other options besides potato chips. And yet, that's still what my emotions cry for when I'm worried or upset. I guess it will take awhile to change that pathway. I've been walking it for a lot of years. Meanwhile, I still feel worried today... what palliative shall I choose this afternoon?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

10 Things

The sun set right in the dimple of the hills behind our house. Very cool. I LOVE living in the country. It's changed my feelings about so many things.

1. I am not convinced that conflicts can be resolved through better communication.

2. I didn't realize that when my son left on a mission he wouldn't ever be "home" in the same way again.

3. I don't think it's a good idea to criticize myself when I'm talking to my husband--I don't want to give him any ideas.

4. Being in my 40s is VERY different from being in my 20s. And it's better.

5. I am one of the laziest people I know.

6. My children are the greatest joy in my life; they are so good.

7. I chain read vintage romances sometimes. I've read over a dozen of them in the last 5 days. Is this a waste of time or what? But they're so sweet!

8. In homeschooling, the subject that used to be our achilles heel is now one of our strongest ones--math!

9. I am 5'10". I wish I were taller.

10. Today I finally looked at pictures of the devastation in Japan and cried. I see the pictures but I can't imagine the reality for all those survivors.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Marriage

Here's the man I'm lucky enough to be married to. He's as beautiful inside as he is on the outside. I found him when I was only 16 and I've spent the last 27 years being in love with him. This photo was taken on his birthday in July, less than a week before our 22nd anniversary. If I were to choose one word to describe him I would choose the word SERVICE. This man is always doing something for others. He has the gift of knowing what is required or wanted and then DOING it. He really does live his life in the service of others. Even his working life is spent serving: in the medical industry and in the teaching profession. At work he does over and above what he is paid for. He serves his students, his patients and his co-workers. He is a man who gives all of his personal time to me, his children, his extended family, his friends and acquaintances and his church. And he is especially good to me. He shops, he cooks, he cleans, he preserves food, he plans menus, he folds clothes, he maintains the garden, he listens, he gives advice when asked, he takes me out, he brings me flowers, he laughs with me, he scratches my back, he does his utmost to make me happy. I am very grateful for him.

I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants the other day and I read this scripture. It is the Lord, speaking to Joseph Smith's wife, Emma:

"And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto . . . thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness." (D&C 25:5)

As scriptures so often do, this one spoke to me directly. That week I had been feeling sorry for myself, feeling I was overburdened, feeling my personal needs were unmet, beginning to blame my husband for some of this. I think my feelings were hormonal (gotta have some excuse!!), but this scripture was just what I needed to remind me of one of my purposes in life. It is my job to be a comfort to my husband! To love him, to build him up, to speak kindly to him, to make sure he knows how I respect, love and honor him. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own angst over one thing or another, I forget that I promised 22 years ago to love and cherish this very good man.

I like what Elizabeth says in Pride and Prejudice after she has become engaged to Mr. Darcy: "My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible." This is how I feel about marriage. I am the protector of all of my husband's good qualities and it's my job to notice, to promote, to celebrate them all. I also wish to ignore, forget and never think about any possible "weakness" or "bad" quality that he might have. In my eyes, he will be a hero, my forever sweetheart and partner. I love my man!

Friday, November 13, 2009

O remember, my son!

"The morning frost on the manure looks lovely."

That's what my daughter said this morning, partly in jest and partly because it really does look pretty. We've got manure spread all over the back "yard". All winter the rain will come down on it and all winter a lovely slushy manure tea will sink into our clay-like dirt and then, come spring, we'll plow all that yummy manure into the dirt and we'll hopefully be able to plant anything there and it will GROW. That's the plan, anyhow.

Here's what grabbed my attention in my scripture reading this morning--a description of us pitiful humans: (from Helaman 12:4-8)

"O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world.
Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yeah, how slow to walk in wisdom's paths!
Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God."

So even the dust of the earth remembers and obeys better than we do. And so, according to the scriptures, do the hills, the mountains, the oceans, yes, the whole earth does better than we who claim ownership of it do.

Poor, tired Nephi (son of Helaman) has preached to his people all his life and they constantly forget all the teachings of the prophets and all their past experience with God. Here's the part that scares me:

"And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him."

I don't have a good memory. And it's the chastening that I fear. :)

Sometimes I think that the reason all today's saints (that's us!) aren't going to completely forget, embrace wickedness and lose the gospel on the earth--as we've been promised will NOT happen--the reason that won't happen to us, perhaps, is because of the media. We vilify it for its use in furthering the agendas of Satan, but it also furthers the purposes of God--the building up of His kingdom on earth. We've got satellite TV, webcasts, books, magazines, websites, conferences, podcasts, blogs, etc, etc. It is so easy to access all kinds of media that remind us forgetful humans of God and His commandments. Of course, perhaps we--those who have been saved for these last days--ARE stronger. Perhaps. But it IS easier to remember for us. We read, we write. We have been commanded to keep personal journals of remembrance.

It seems that one of our greatest weaknesses as mortals is our permeable memories. I blame a lot of my failures on forgetfulness. That lady I felt impressed to call yesterday when I said my morning prayers? I got caught up in the day and forgot. I forget to pray some nights when I'm really tired and distracted. I wait all day for the "perfect" time for family scripture study--when everyone is home from work and fed--but then time passes and I forget all about it.

But this is the age of memory assistance! Post-it notes, personal planners, the iphone, Blackberries, even the standard cell phone has alarms and calendars and notes! Forgetfuness has never, I believe, been easier to overcome.

Helaman 5: 12 "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."

Seems simple enough. Remember and be protected. Remember and be saved. Remember, remember, my sons and daughters.