Thursday, January 29, 2015

Simple Needs


I have simple needs. Sleep, food, diet Coke, the Handy Man. These are basic needs in my life. Basic. Without any of them, I would very quickly stop functioning.

Oh. I forgot laughter. I need this. Every. Day.

There are scientific studies about the benefits of laughter and how it increases endorphins and makes your brain sharp and cleanses your colon- or something like that.  (Maybe not the colon part.)

I can tell you very unscientifically that laughter makes you feel good.

Take tonight for example.

I spent three hours with several friends who I don’t see near enough. We talked about families and jobs and babies and maybe a little about sex. And we laughed. Oh, man, did we laugh. (Because sometimes sex is funny.)

But we’re friends, so that means we also talked about the other stuff. The hard things and struggles. The things that make us doubt ourselves and those that make us cry. It’s good to have friends who understand, (and who, if they don’t understand, nod and smile anyway). And during our discussions about the challenges of life, we said funny things and made jokes. And we laughed some more and the hard stuff seemed a bit easier to take and we all realized that we could go back home and face it.

Because sometimes, amid the stuff, we can take a break and sit with friends. And laugh.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Own It.

If someone asked me if I was a good cook, I would answer quickly, without hesitation. (I might even puff out my chest a bit.) “Heck, yeah, I am.”

I have no problem admitting that. None. Yet, if someone asked me if I was a good writer, I’d pause. “Well… other people have said that I am.” Then I’d probably follow up with, “I’m not published or anything.”

Why? Why not say what I want to say- “Yes. I am a damn good writer.” (Because I am.)

I think there’s too much self-depreciation in our humility. We’re afraid that if we say we’re good at something others will see us as conceited instead of confident. But this kind of humility doesn’t do anyone any good.

One of my favorite quotes supports this idea-

“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.”*

Perhaps we should ask ourselves what God would think of our false humility. Since He is the One who gave us our gifts, who knows better than anyone how talented we are, who wants more than anything for us to develop ourselves and shine in this dark world, He is the One who would want us to own who we are and what we can do.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. “

You serve the world by being confident. A confident person lifts others with their talent and knowledge. They aren’t boastful or proud, but they also aren’t afraid to share what they have.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

You have a light within you. Don’t snuff it out. Accept it. Own it. Let it shine, and as you do, others will feel the confidence to do the same.

*Quote by Marianne Williamson's book A Return to Love. Read the entire quote here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pushing at the Darkness

(I originally wrote this two years ago. But, the message is still true- the light is on its way.)

Darkness terrified me.  As a child it was all that was wrong.  You couldn't see and in the midst of that unseen world were monsters.  Real or imagined, it didn't matter. A child's mind has trouble differentiating between the two.  I avoided it, hid under the covers and ran from it.

Now, I can handle physical darkness.  I can find my way through the shadows without so much as bumping my shin.  I don't mind the night, there are times when it is welcome.
It's the other darkness that worries and overwhelms me. The kind that comes from within.

This year has been one of joy and discovery.  I've made new friends and learned so much. Yet, amid the happiness and good things, there was also some blackness. It slinked in without me knowing and suddenly I was enveloped in the gloom. My blood ran like ink, making my heart heavy and slow.  My hands hung down, useless and empty. The murkiness sucked at my feet, making each step a chore.  I felt helpless.

When you're in the darkness, you have only two choices--wallow, or move forward. I pushed against the darkness and chose to move. As difficult as the motion was, I kept at it. The night could not go on forever.

This morning was the winter Solstice.  I've never given the day much thought before. But, a couple weeks ago, Tara, at Faith in Ambiguity, wrote about celebrating the Solstice.  She shared such beautiful insight about the morning that follows the longest night-

"To me, Solstice is the essence of the true religion of December.  We meet the dark, it seems to encompass everything and then, in that nadir of blackness, new promise is reborn.  This physical fact seems to me to hold the key to understanding our lives. It may be black as ink now. Yes, it is darkest, but wait just a minute and see...Wait one more minute and you will see."

Wait one more minute and you will see. Those were the words my tired soul needed.  The image thrust hope into my mind and heart.  The light had been streaming slowly, steadily back into my life and, now, I knew I need only embrace it.






So, this morning, I went to my backyard, ready to welcome this new day.  It was so symbolic for me, I was almost giddy at the thought.  I sat in my chair, hot chocolate in hand, and waited breathless for the dawn.

As I watched, I pondered the light and the symbolism it held.  Today, I waited for the sun, but what I'd already experienced was the light of the Son.  He had been there for me during my darkest hours.  I knew He was near and that, when no one else could, He understood.  When I stood in the shroud of darkness, I felt Him next to me, pointing to the horizon.  "You see, it's there.  Just a glimpse right now, but the sun is rising and the light is on its way."

As the rays broke over the mountain, my heart thrilled at the sight.  How many sunrises have I lived through? Never noticing, never giving it a glance. But this one was different. Today, the aurora mirrored my life.  I could feel my soul reflecting the brilliance.  This was more than a sunrise, more than a new day.  This  was my new beginning, full of promise and hope.

Happy Solstice.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Rare Morning

Shhhh.

My house is empty. It's so quiet. I am all alone.

If I'm dreaming, please don't wake me.

I'm not dreaming. My boss asked me if I could work a later shift today. I told her yes before even considering what it meant.

It meant a morning to myself.

After I agreed, the numbers hit me. The kids would leave for school and I would have two and a half hours all alone. That's 150 minutes with no fighting or food fixing or remote finding. Just me and the dog and whatever I chose to do.

Oh. My. What to do?

I could deep clean the kitchen (that fridge!). I could fold clothes. (hahahahahaha!) There's some crafts I've been wanting to get to and I could paint without little fingers wanting to help.
I. Could. Sleep.
The possibilities were almost endless. But, in the end there's only one thing I wanted that is so much easier without all those distractions I love so much.

I could write.

And, so I am. I'm writing here. (Does this mean a return to regular blogging? I'm not promising anything.) And I'm working on my current book. (Dragons!)

And, I'm thinking. Thinking about all the time I had. The days on weeks on months and years where I stayed home and squandered the empty hours. I'm trying not to beat myself up over it. Learn from it and move on.

And take advantage of every opportunity.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

To Myself as a New Bride

23 years ago I woke on a sunny December morning, butterflies abounding. Wedding day. Is there any more thrilling day in the life? Our courtship had been short and fast-paced, starting wedding plans after only a month of dating. Now, the dress had been borrowed and altered, the tuxedos ordered and picked up, the cake made and the church reserved and ready for decorations. Just miles away, the temple stood waiting.



 That young woman is so very different than who I am today. I wonder, if I could sit with her that morning as she rushed to put on makeup and do her hair, what would I tell her?

Would I explain that the man she would soon kneel across the altar from was a good man? Should I tell her how he adored her and how he would do just about anything for her? Perhaps she already suspected this, but I know she didn't understand the depth of his adoration.

Could I whisper to her that he was not, in fact, perfect? That there would be times he would disappoint her, and that she would return the favor?

Maybe I should tell her that each baby she would have, whether the timing seemed right or not, was born exactly when it should be. She might like to know that she would have six boys and only one girl, but that girl would be all she needed and more. If she felt a bit disappointed that her daughter wouldn't have a sister, I could assure her that one would come along in a most unexpected way and that her two daughters would be the best of friends.

Would she want to know about the tears she would shed as she tried to figure out who she was when she was surrounded by babies and no friends? Could I tell her to not stop writing for years and years because she would one day regret ignoring that part of herself?

Should I give her some advice about body image and accepting the beauty within? Or maybe remind her the importance of flossing everyday?

Honestly, I don't think I'd say a thing. That young woman was not much more than a girl with stars in her eyes. She saw her new husband as her hope for the future, the father of her children, her best friend. The hard things she'd go through would test her to the core, but she would come out stronger and smarter. She would find out that love isn't easy, but he is absolutely worth the fight. She needed to learn for herself that marriage is a roller coaster with highs and lows, but if you hang on, it's a fabulous and thrilling ride.

I think of her that morning. Nervous, but excited. Hopeful and romantic, She was innocent and naive, but that isn't a bad thing. Because most of all, she was a girl in love.

And she still is.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tick-Tock



I hate daylight savings time.
Forget the 'extra hour of sleep'--I can get that on a lazy Sunday afternoon while my kids watch Nickelodeon. Daylight savings is a sleep schedule ruiner. It throws all of us off, and sleep schedules are important.

You learn this from the moment you have children. People ask-
"Is he sleeping well?"
"Is he sleeping through the night?"
"Is he on a schedule?"

My babies were never on a schedule. I figured that babies are intuitive beings. They are moved by need- they need to eat, they eat; they need to sleep they sleep; they need to poop, you know, they do. And, I met their needs, my own be damned.  While they were infants.

Now, however, they are not babies. They are old enough to have schedules. And daylight savings has messed it up- again.

My kids are early risers. 6am is a normal waking time. I try my very hardest to get them to stay in bed till 7- "See this clock, when it says 7:00 you can get out of bed."

It doesn't usually work.

But, now, with lame daylight savings, their bodies think 5am is 6am and they are up and bright-eyed long before I am. And after years of putting their needs before mine, it's time to say enough.
So I try to make them stay up later at night, Ever try to stop a 7 year-old from falling asleep? Kind of like fighting with a tidal wave. There's no holding it back.

So, I'll struggle for the next couple weeks, trying to get them back on track. Then they'll be on a schedule again and things can go back to normal. Until daylight savings rolls around in April and ruins things again.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Time Keeps Ticking



My dad had back surgery last week.
 The Sunday before, we gathered at my parent's home for dinner. Dad sat and explained the surgery. How they would open his stomach, push his organs aside and work on his spine. They would put everything back and sew him up. Then, after turning him over, they would open his back and work on him from there.

He explained this rather casually. I'm sure he'd heard it so much and was used to it. For me, I was shocked. It seemed so incredibly invasive. I know he needs it, he's been in chronic pain for a very long time. But it just seemed like so much.

I went in to see him after the surgery was over. I stood next to my sister and looked at my father. He was pale and frail. The man who had carried me on his shoulders as a child, provided for us, led us in family prayer, and seemed to have an answer for anything, had been reduced to laying on a bed, his breathing labored, eyes closed against the pain.

Time can be cruel. It beats us down physically and steals from our minds. Bodies that were once vibrant and strong are reduced and bent, as if we're reaching for the grave.

But, time is also a blessing. With time, we gain knowledge, wisdom and precious memories. Things that confused or confounded us early in life become simple and easy. Perspectives change. Understanding replaces fear.

When we feel like our lives are restricted--by financial circumstances, marital status, where we live, our families--we always have a choice of what we do with our time. But, one thing we don't know is how much time is in our life bank. We mostly live as though there is an endless supply. Maybe if we could see the balance we would be more careful. I know I would. For so long I was casual with my time. Not thinking much about how I spent it or wasted it.

I am coming to understand the precious commodity of time. Though I'm not very good at budgeting it. As a result, my priorities have suffered. I'm trying to get better. I'm trying to find a place in my day for writing and for  family. (And exercise, ugh.) That may be a good goal for this next year of my life. Because I don't want to look back and think I squandered what I was given.

*Have any tips on how you manage your time??