Friday, April 20, 2012

Yeah, Join the "FUN!"

I have a confession to make: I STINK at being a Cub Scout Mother. Last night I had that point driven home to me for about the ba-jillionth time. (No doubt the more proficient Cub Scout Mother would not use the word "ba-jillionth," but trust me--it fits.)

Last night, on my second son's 11th birthday, he received his Arrow of Light Award at his final pack meeting... nothing like waiting until the eleventh hour, right? But he got it... and now he can attach it to his Boy Scout uniform. (It happens to be the only award that a Cub Scout earns that is displayed on the Boy Scout uniform.) I would just like to thank all the den leaders who made that possible. Really. Right now.

Pack meetings always have an adverse effect on my psyche. They remind me of all the areas where I fall short as a mother--or at least a CUB SCOUT Mother. Tonight as Aaron received his final award as a Cub Scout he wore a shirt that was missing a button and didn't contain ANY of the awards he had earned as a Cub Scout; plus, he was using a rubberband as a slide.

But at least it had the right pack number on it...

Six months after Jacob, my oldest child, began Cub Scouts, I decided it was time to make him look the part of an official Cub Scout, so one afternoon I sat down with my sewing machine and his shirt and began placing the badges in the appropriate spots. I sewed the numbers on THREE times, because they kept shifting and ending up crooked. The whole process took me THREE FULL HOURS. I was beside myself with annoyance and full-blown frustration. That night at pack meeting I asked a fellow Cub Scout mom about her experience placing numbers. Not without threat to her own life, I am sure, she divulged one of the mysteries of the Super Secret Society of Cub Scout Mothers: adhesive--no sewing required. I can only guess how I missed my initiation for this sisterhood, but I have been harboring a grudge toward the Cub Scout program ever since.

My boys have never been able to wear their Cub Scout uniforms with pride... well, except for that one time when Jacob FINALLY had all the appropriate patches on his uniform. That lasted one full week. Then the ward was split, the Little Valley 7th Ward was created, and we were assigned a new pack number. Sadly, my husband was/is the bishop of that new ward and I knew we were going to be in a new ward... I just didn't consider how it would impact our pack number.

I have one more shot at this Cub Scout Mother gig. My third son will turn eight in December. (Thankfully, we get an eight-month hiatus.) Now my dilemma is whether or not I dare to "dress him up right," because after all--what would the other boys think?

Like I said, pack meetings are a poignant reminder of my shortcomings as a mother. I hate standing up in front to receive the mother's pin when my cubs qualify for a rank advancement for a couple of reasons: 1)The den leaders deserve those pins far more than I do, and 2) The pins always leave holes in my shirts... and then I feel guilty for caring about the holes they leave in my shirts. Maybe that's three reasons. Anyway, last night I let Aaron pin it on his dad.

Is there an antithesis to the "Mother of the Year" Award? Because if there is, I am sure to be a frontrunner.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's In a Word?

Well over a year ago, I found myself in a dark theater with a friend (although I am at a loss to recall exactly WHICH friend) watching the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Only one part of the movie managed to survive in my head past the Exit doors. The main character, Elizabeth (played by Julia Roberts), is enjoying a meal with newfound friends at a restaurant in Italy. As they sit around the table, savoring Italian cuisine, one of them poses the question, "What's your word?" suggesting that everybody has one word that basically defines them.

When it is Elizabeth's turn to share, she shrugs her shoulders and suggests that "writer" might be her word. She is immediately shut down, being told that "writer" is what she DOES not what she IS.

So I asked myself, What is MY word? It didn't take long. My word is practical--it serves me as both a blessing AND a curse in nearly every aspect of my life. My practicality keeps me grounded. It keeps me from being on the extreme end of many debates, fashions, and movements. It often parades as Common Sense, even though I would like to shake it off at times. I can't. It is a part of me. It is me. I AM practical.

Practicality hasn't won me any Best Dressed Awards or made my home a candidate for Better Homes & Gardens. It means that my hair is very rarely (read: never) perfectly coifed. Sometimes I wear my running shoes to run errands. I have very few pieces of furniture that were purchased new. I drive old cars because I just can't see the sense in spending money on new ones. I recycle. In fact, I have a drawer filled with sheets of paper that all still have one perfectly good side. I wear a lot of jeans and t-shirts. I might be better suited to farm life than suburban life.

Truthfully, there are times I wish my hair was more prone to perfect coifing or my home had a better-home-&-garden look. I enjoy having beautiful things around me, and I occasionally want to splurge on some new furniture or decor.

So, where has this practicality gotten me?

Tonight I was thinking back to a conversation I had with a friend of mine some time ago. She was going through a particularly dark period of her life and was having a dreadful time falling asleep each night. One night as we were out walking, she confided in me that sometimes when she needs to fall asleep at night, she thinks of me. She insisted that it wasn't my dull company that helped to lull her to sleep, but rather my comfortable way of being. Thinking of me helped her to feel calm. I decided to take that as a compliment. Further, I wonder if perhaps my im-perfect way of being sometimes helps others feel perfectly comfortable (and hopefully safe) with me.

So now the question is...

What's YOUR word?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ever Wonder If YOUR Way Could Be the Wrong Way?

On Friday my three-year old decided she wanted some Ritz crackers... and she wanted to get them HERSELF... so she found the scissors. [Enter Mom who finds nine partial crackers along with their crumbs spread out on the table like a dot-to-dot, along with a partial package of crackers that had been, um... penetrated.] When I open a package of Ritz crackers, I turn it on its end and pull in opposite directions with my fingers until the seam gives way and the crackers are exposed. But when I saw my daughter sitting at the table, absolutely delighted with her accomplishment, I picked up the package and studied her work. Impressive. Done with a flair that was truly her own. What occurred to me next caught me totally off guard: What if HER way was the RIGHT way? What if I have been opening Ritz crackers incorrectly my ENTIRE life.

That was when I grabbed my camera. Perhaps you are in my same boat. If so, I wanted to provide you with an example of a possible CORRECT way of opening Ritz crackers. You may want to give it a try. Sure, the edge might not be the same amount of jagged or the cuts not quite as long, but with practice...

I have confidence you'll figure it out... or if not, you might discover the OTHER right way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Perspective is Everything

This afternoon I happened to be visiting with a handful of girlfriends, reminiscing about the "Good Ol' Days"... the 80's, that is. Our conversation began when I complimented one of my friends on the bright orange shirt she was wearing at church yesterday. She said how much she loved orange, and I immediately concurred... that, however, has not always been the case. As a child, I thought orange was among the ugliest hues on the color wheel. I couldn't believe that anyone would ever admit outright that it was their favorite color. This afternoon as I considered this childhood prejudice, I suddenly realized from whence it sprang... the 70's!

How could a teenager of the 80's have ever appreciated the rusty oranges and pea greens of a decade gone by? Oh, and let's not forget the mustard gold. (You will more fully appreciate the picture I am trying to paint if you will envision the aforementioned colors in SHAG.) On the other hand, I do have fond and vivid memories of my Grandma Wallentine sitting in her glider rocker, crocheting countless afghans and hot pads, all with at least two things in common: orange and brown.

Fast forward to today.

Now I love the color orange, especially the shades that I look good in--which, I might add, does not include the shade of the 2006 St. George marathon shirt. Just thought I would mention that. Orange Gerber daisies are my favorite. Orange is such a bright, happy, alive color! How could anyone NOT like it?

After my little epiphany regarding my former disdain for a color that had never really done anything to me, we moved on to weightier matters of a decade: Fashion. That subject led us very naturally to the subject of the 80's. I was never in fashion. Gerbeau jeans came up, and honestly, I have only heard of them. I couldn't pick them out of a lineup, and I can't picture the tag across the front. I was impressed that I spelled the brand name right when I Google searched them a minute ago.

The closest I ever came to being in style in the 80's was wearing a collared shirt with matching socks. I couldn't even bring myself to wear the collar up in back--outside of my bedroom, that is--for fear of someone thinking that I thought I looked cool. Banana clips played a significant role in my 8th grade year. Every day I would pull back one side of my hair with a banana clip (always careful to match my shirt and socks), and every day a girl in my AP History class would "fix" it so that it faced the right direction (!?). She may have viewed her service as payment for my answers on each day's assignment. (Never mind that my B+ was the lowest grade in the class. Go figure.) But now that I think about it, her services didn't come to an end when I quit providing answers, so she must have been doing it out of the goodness of her heart... should that make me feel better?

ANYWAY, after this walk down memory lane, I made my exit. As I walked home, I continued to consider the era of my life spent in junior high and I wondered, "If my teen years were made into a movie, would it be a comedy or a tragedy?" Perhaps that would depend if the audience consisted of my adolescent self or my adult self. Perspective is everything.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

National Entitlement Awareness Day

Linda and Richard Eyre will be releasing their newest book, The Entitlement Trap, on September 6. They are currently offering a great promotion for anyone who would like to raise less entitled children. Anyone? For details, visit the following website:

AND Speaking of entitlement, I have a few thoughts of my own (don't I always?)...

...the online Free Dictionary defines the term entitle as "to furnish with a right or claim to something." So when we discuss Entitlement among the next generation (Isn't it always a vice of the NEXT generation?), we are referring to their belief that they have a right or a claim to something that they haven't necessarily done anything to earn. When played out, it isn't pretty.

As much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes see it played out in my own life. I feel entitled to buy butter instead of margarine, chicken tenders instead of whole chickens, and fresh blueberries instead of frozen. I feel entitled to have a car to drive, shoes to wear, and lip balm. I feel entitled to running water, cool air, and a loving husband. Wait. Stop. Check that last one. Actually, I have NEVER felt entitled to have a loving husband. Or have I? I nearly always feel grateful for my sweet, thoughtful, and attentive soul mate... but there are times that I probably haven't treated him that way... times that maybe he wondered if he was really appreciated.

And isn't that the saddest, most caustic symptom of Entitlement? Ingratitude. It is ugly from every angle. We like to feel appreciated. We like to know that our existence matters. By the same token, it feels good to appreciate OTHERS--to value their contribution.

How do we overcome or avoid the damaging effects of Entitlement? In a nutshell, I think LESS is MORE. Thankfully, my children don't have a lot of expectations when it comes to Things, and during this period of unemployment, I have been most grateful for that. On the first day of school, not one of my four school-aged children started with new shoes, shirt, or shorts. They didn't even complain. My oldest son was itching for a new backpack--he had used the same one from kindergarten through sixth grade--so he found one he wanted online, and we split the bill with him. He didn't complain. He just had to decide how badly he wanted THAT backpack.

The less we have, the more we value what we DO have.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Speaking of Unemployment...

I think I am stressed. My ability to focus is worse that it normally is. I am not sleeping well. In fact, lately I have been reaching the end of rather long days only to find myself lying awake thinking. Just thinking. I prefer my old collapse-into-bed-and-immediate-slumber self. These days I find myself trying to talk myself into sleep. It sounds something like this...

Self: Just go to sleep. It's late, and if you drift off right now, you are only going to get five hours anyway.

Slumber-resistant Self: But I'm NOT tired. Maybe I should get up and write in my journal. Or read. Or make a blog post about how I can't sleep.

Self: Listen to your body. You can do any or all of those things tomorrow. You are getting sleepy... VERY sleepy.

Slumber-resistant Self: I sure like my house. I hope we don't lose it when we don't find employment in our near future.

Self: I said, "Go to sleep!" You are such a cynic when you get tired.

Slumber-resistant Self: I wonder what living in a shelter with six children will be like. I wonder if it is worse than sitting on a bench with them BY MYSELF every Sunday at church. Probably only worse because it could turn into days, weeks, or months (heaven help me!) of the same.

Self: Did you know that when you dream, you can dream yourself anywhere you want to be? Try it--it will make you feel better.

Slumber-resistant Self: Who does the cleaning at shelters? Do they mark the entire place off, grid-like, and then hand out rags and assign coordinates? I wonder if it would give my children a new appreciation for Saturday chores. Another plus would be the de-cluttering that I would be forced to do before we moved out.


Slumber-resistant Self: Hey, keep it down--I am trying to sleep here.

So, yes, my husband and I are in the throes of unemployment. For the most part, it's been fun. With my paper route, I have become what we call the Sole Breadwinner. Isn't that an illustrious title? However, I can't really claim to be "bringing home the bacon,"--more like the beans... bacon and fat are luxuries. Remember that.

Plus, I have had full-time help. Every summer I have been tempted to hire a nanny (at least one day a week), but this is WAY better than that! We were both quickly amazed (especially when school was in session) how my job could keep two adults so busy.

April 1 marked our first "official" day of being unemployed. April Fool's Day. Hmm. I won't think too hard about that one. My husband resigned. Yes, you read that right. He wasn't laid off. Fired. Let go. He resigned. With the economy in the toilet, we decided it was the right thing to do. Actually, WE didn't really decide anything. Heavenly Father told us it was the right thing to do. We just trusted him. Just.

For the first few weeks, I can honestly say that I was giddy with excitement. I was excited to discover the adventure around the next corner... or the next... OK, maybe the next. Because really--who in their right mind just up and quits a perfectly good job? OK, "perfectly good" is stretching it, but still--we had bacon.

Since then, there have been highs and lows. I won't lie. As sure as I am that resigning was the RIGHT thing to do, I get a little nervous to find out why. I mean, I don't THINK Heavenly Father would want us to lose our house... but then I know some perfectly wonderful people (REALLY perfectly wonderful) who have experienced just that. Maybe He thinks we need to be taken down a notch... but then, doesn't everyone? OK, not EVERYONE.

Right this minute I am feeling more optimistic than not. Hopefully, that optimism can get me at least one good night's sleep. But if not... at least I know how to blog a post.

At any rate, one thing I have learned over the past four months is...

It's not about the house, which reminds me of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of– throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

I must admit I had gotten quite comfortable with the cottage plan.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Running My Race

I ran 4 miles this morning. When I started (by walking to the corner), the air felt cool and crisp... well, as cool and crisp as air can feel in this desert in July! Then I started running. Thankfully, my bones didn't creak as much as they usually do, so I was off to a good start. By mile 2, I was really feeling good--a major plus, considering that I only had 2 miles to go.

Saturday I ran 15 miles. Yes, you read that right. FIFTEEN miles. Five miles into that run, I happened to look down at my feet. I was wearing my blue running shoes. My blue RETIRED running shoes. I wore them to deliver papers that morning, thinking I would change before I went running. Oops. Well, five miles into a 15-mile run is no time to run home to switch shoes, so I kept running...

Running is such a funny sport. Do you ever see people running along the side of the road and wonder what on earth they are running from? After all, they are rarely smiling. They are sweating. Profusely. Obviously exerting obscene amounts of energy. Surely there is a carrot being dangled ahead of them SOMEWHERE.

Actually, some people really do run for FUN. I am not one of those people. Running for the sake of running is a prescription for me to roll over and get another hour of sleep. I want to get somewhere. Do something. Have something to show for it. I signed up for the St. George Marathon this year with three objectives in mind:

1. To get in shape to hike rim to rim of the Grand Canyon in November.

2. To jumpstart my metabolism in hopes of losing the extra weight that resulted from my sixth pregnancy.

3. To finish the marathon and obtain my third St. George Marathon medal.

Some of the women I have trained with this year have a much loftier goal: Qualify for Boston. As we started running together, I quickly surmised that they were out of my league. Way. Out of. My. League. Suddenly my enjoyment had been replaced with dread, exhaustion, and self-doubt. It was time to pull back and re-evaluate.

While I enjoy running with other women for social and safety reasons, my favorite runs are by myself. I hope that doesn't make me anti-social, but I enjoy plugging into my tunes and being alone with my thoughts and my pace. When I run with my Soon-to-be-Boston-Marathoner friends, they sometimes ask me questions to which I respond, "GASP, Can I-, GASP, answer that, GASP, at the next, GASP, water break...?" And of course, their water breaks are never long enough for me to answer their questions with the depth that I would like. Of course.

When I am by myself and running up a hill, I mentally chant the mantra, "I can do hard things. I am strong. I can do hard things." When I start out with a group that eventually leaves me in the dust, I remind myself that I am not running THEIR race. I am running MY race. I choose to begin where I am and work from there. Boston has never been my goal, so I am not going to be disappointed when I don't get there. Each run that I finish is cause for celebration.

It's a great parallel to life really. How often do we try to run somebody else's race? They may be prettier, have an impressive career, cook amazingly well, have the most gifted children... and good for them! Good for THEM. They are running THEIR race. But what is YOUR race? What part of you will you share with the world?

You don't have to answer now... I'll wait until the next water break.;)