Sunday, May 31, 2015

Through Another Person

TJ and I have been trying this crazy new thing called budgeting.  It's really hard.  And sometimes it feels like we should just continue to ignore our finances and hope for the best--because we seem to have less money now that we're paying attention to it.  And two weeks ago today we addressed the issue in prayer, asking for help in making ends meet.

That very night I saw a neighbor post on Facebook that her mom was giving away her oven, and I jumped.  Our stove had lost two burners in the past six months, and the oven element had finally given way as well.  Although TJ fixes everything himself, even paying for the parts was going to be expensive.  So Anna Field gave us her glass top stove for free and our problem was solved.  

Also, I've always wanted a glass top stove.  So...clean!!!

Spencer W. Kimball said,
 “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom."
Thanks to Sister Field and my two strong men, I now have a beautiful, fully functional stove.  
And our bank account is still (relatively) healthy.  

And this is what we found underneath the oven when we moved it.  Yikes!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Be Careful What You Pray For

So here's the story.  TJ and I have been in a community choir for the last two years, and it's been a lot of fun.  It just wasn't challenging enough, though, and since we've always batted around the idea of starting our own ensemble, we thought maybe the timing was right to do it. But TJ's over-committed and I'm under-qualified to lead a chamber choir.  So I started bugging my friend Rachel, who gave me voice lessons last summer, to head something up.  She is already balancing a career teaching at DSU with her busy and adorable four children, though, so as much as she liked the idea, it really looked impossible.

I spent all winter praying that we could find a way to make it happen.

And then, we did!  Rachel's dad approached Dr. Paul Wiens, a recently retired professor from Wheaton Conservatory in Illinois.  He liked the idea and agreed to have a trial run.  I could have danced a happy dance when I heard this news.

So we rounded up five or six singers per part, bought the music he wanted to try, and started practicing.  We had four very demanding, two-hour rehearsals with Dr. Wiens, and at the end he agreed to go forward.  My chamber choir is born.

Did I mention the rehearsals were demanding?  Dr. Wiens is like a master sculptor and he must find working with me just like using Play-Doh.  I practiced at least six hours a week and still seemed to come up short every single time.  Being called on the carpet in front of my peers is pretty much the worst thing ever.

It's just too funny.  In my pride and self-satisfaction I told the Lord that I needed something better than the choir I was in.  And He gave me a better one.  One so much better that I'm really not good enough for it.  Honestly, I think He must be laughing a little bit.

Humbled?  Oh yes.  But this is my dream come true, and I have no intention of letting it slip through my fingers.  This summer I'll be practicing music theory so that I can make the audition into the choir that I helped put together.

And I'll be praying, too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Miracle of the Week

This morning, Mom and I drove out to LaVerkin to help Grandma with some housework ahead of Grandpa's arrival back home on Friday.  He had open heart surgery last week, and has beat everyone's expectations of how fast he could heal and come home.

When I think of Grandpa's sternum being sawed open so surgeons could fix life-threatening problems in his heart, I am scared all over again.  I can't believe how lucky we are to have him still a part of our lives.  Grandma, too, has had some serious health problems this year, and every time I see them I know deep down that my days with them are numbered.  So that makes every visit meaningful.

We were only able to spend two hours helping, but many hands make light work.  Lawson mowed. Eliza vacuumed and did cobwebs.  Naomi did mirrors and windows.  Mom and I did bathrooms, dusting, the kitchen floor, and beds.  While we worked, Mom told me a story which she titled "The Miracle of the Week," involving a lost Social Security card belonging to my prospective missionary brother.  It was found after five days of praying and worrying, blowing around the doctors' office parking lot.  I was struck less by the story than I was with my mom's attitude about it.  She has so many miracles that she needs to rate them, or number them, or have a miracle of the week.  This is how my conversations with her often go.  She always has evidence of God's love for her right on hand.

Going to LaVerkin is always food for my soul.  Grandma has never said so to me, but I am sure  I've always been her favorite grandchild.  She, Grandpa, and Uncle Harley always treat me like visiting royalty when I come out, and I never leave without armloads of fresh produce, hand-me-down household stuff, and whatever else they sense I need.

So many miracles in my life.  And since Grandpa's life-sparing operation was technically last week's mercy, this week I'm going to just say, my family is my miracle.  That they love me as much as they seem to.  That we have this life together.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

These Are My Jewels

For Mother's Day, TJ made this beautiful necklace featuring a picture of each of the kids.  I love it so much.  It reminds me of the story of Cornelia Scipionis Africana, who refused the Roman crown in favor of educating her children, two of whom turned out to be great statesmen.  When other women asked her about her relatively simple adornments, she called her two sons to her and, motioning to them, replied, "These are my jewels."

These kids are my jewels.  They're my trips to Europe.  They're my advanced degree in Literature. They're my gorgeous clothes and sporty car.  They're hours of free time for yoga, reading, and lounging by the pool.  They're the pool, too.

The Lord's parable of the treasure in the field is so perfect here:  a man discovered a treasure in a field, and knowing how valuable the treasure was, he sold everything he had in order to buy the field and obtain the treasure.  He counted the cost and knew it was worth the sacrifice.  Of course, the Lord was talking about the treasure of the gospel being worth any sacrifice it required.

But one principle of the gospel is that our families should be our top priority in this life.  It means that we had two kids before TJ graduated college, and that I never did graduate college.  This means that when everyone told TJ he should go into opera, he instead chose a career that would ensure he could spend time with his kids.  This means that we conserve money in every way imaginable in order for me to be at home with the kids.

We've paid a lot for these jewels.  And they're worth it. 

For Mom

Do you know the lady in this picture?  If you don't, you really should.  This lady is one of my heroes. And she's just as sparkly in person.

My mom and I wouldn't appear to have a ton in common.  She's a brunette and I'm blonde (ish.)  She loves rock concerts, and I'm a card-carrying choir nerd.  She is a classic extrovert, absolutely the life of every party, and I would much rather be home where people can't look at me and talk to me. She has an encyclopedic memory of grammar classes she took forty years ago, and I have trouble remembering even the last concept she herself tried to teach me.  She doesn't sweat the small stuff, and I sweat everything. 

And here's a big one: Mom's a convert and I'm a life-long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  But here the dissimilarities begin to unravel, because Mom's faith formed my faith in its own image.  Her stories of answered prayers, tender mercies, and gospel principles in action were some of the first things I learned in this world.  She read scriptures and prayed with me.  She set an example of courage and commitment over and over again when her marriage was hard, or when finances were tight, or when she had hard pregnancies and miserable babies.  (No one's naming names here...Nikki.) When I was difficult as a teen, she forgave and loved me.  When I was difficult as an adult, she forgave and loved me again (last week.)

Funny that I learned most from her when she was having a hard time, but I guess that's good news to every parent who's struggling.  She's just as important to me now that I'm grown as she ever was back then.   She believes in me and is proud of me.  She comes to my rescue when I'm in over my head. She loves each one of my children and is genuinely interested in their lives.   And she makes me laugh so hard my forehead vein pops out.  I usually destroy the evidence, so there aren't many pictures, but you get the point:

Sometimes I show hope of becoming like my mom.  I'm learning to put the financial needs of the family ahead of my own selfish desires.  And although I'll never catch up with Mom's reading--she's read more classics than many Doctors of English Literature--I do love great books because of her.  I definitely got the writing bug from her, along with every single one of her eight kids.  And I do love to laugh, just like her.  As a kid, I once heard a friend repeat her mom's criticism of mine: "she laughs too much."  I remember thinking, "is there such a thing as laughing too much?"  Mom laughs not because her life is perfect, but because she knows the power of a cheerful heart to make life better. She's certainly made my life better.

So though I know we have both asked ourselves at some point whether I was switched at birth, in my heart I know the truth.  I am absolutely Cathy Monnett's daughter.  And glad of it.  Thank you Mom, for everything. 

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Overwhelmed at Home? Ask Yourself Three Questions.

In our church, each of the women is assigned a teaching companion and a few women in the ward to watch over and serve.  It's called Visiting Teaching, because a big part of this service takes place in a monthly visit in each sister's home during which we can talk together about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Like most women in the LDS church I am both a visiting teacher and a visiting teachee. And when I am tempted to think that my role in the lives of those I teach is minimal, or that I am taking up too much of their time, or that I have nothing to give, I try to remember all the visiting teachers who have blessed my life over the years.  

Betty Owen was one such friend.  Three or four years ago, I was overwhelmed as a mom and suffering from depression and anxiety. She showed enough sincere concern and love that I was able to open up about my feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and incredible fatigue.  Betty gave me some of the best advice I've ever received--advice so good that I often call it to mind when I feel I'm over-committed, overworked, and overwhelmed.  She told me to ask myself the following questions:

"Why am I doing this?"

"Why am I doing this?"


"Why am I doing this?"

Does it seem like the same question over and over?  It's not.  

The first question helps me examine whether or not I'm spending my time on something that matters at all.  I can think of several things I do each day that are completely pointless.  I'm not talking about a long bath (which rests and refreshes me), or chilling on the couch with TJ (which helps us connect and strengthen our relationship)--I'm talking about things that are obviously wasting my time or even just making me unhappy.  Facebook is an easy target here, but not the only one.  I've also come to realize that there are TV shows and movies that aren't worth my time--especially if they seem to alienate the Spirit.  Free time is too precious to waste on something that doesn't make me happier.

The second question encourages me to think objectively about whether I could meet the same ends in a different way.  So say we have guests coming this weekend and I'm tempted to go a little OCD with menu plans and a fabulously clean house.  But what's the object of the visit?  Are they coming to see Pinterest-worthy rooms and meals, or are they coming to see me?  If I really focus on the end goal, I get ready for guests by getting the house as clean as I can within reason and having a few good ideas about food that don't take a ton of shopping or cooking.  Then I can really enjoy the visit as much as my guests deserve.  And what about obviously worthwhile projects and pursuits that are (equally obviously) too time-consuming for me?   This year, it looks like we're just not going to have a garden. I want one.  I love gardening.  But if it's the straw that's going to break this back, I'm not willing to do it. If it's actually stressing or tiring me out to the point that it would be better to buy the fresh produce, then so be it.  

Question number three is the big one.  There are seven people in this family, which means there is a lot of work to be done--but it also means that there are a lot of workers to do it.  Seems so simple, doesn't it?  Haha!  If you're a parent, you know it's simple but not easy.  You kind of have to be forced to give up on the dream of perfectly-done chores.  Sometime after the birth of my little number five, I realized that windows that get washed today (even if they're not perfect) are better than windows that I would do perfectly one of these days.  Delegate, my friends.  Your kids will fight it, but fight back.  Be smart about it.  Find what matters to them and make it worth their while.  For instance, we always hold a quick cleanup right before breakfast and lunch.  If they want to eat, they have to clean up.  Also, my kids are expected to do a half-hour of chores before they play with friends each day.  That effectively eliminates the vacuuming, the bathrooms, and most of folding laundry, as well as odd jobs here and there.  Some days I just would rather do it myself--and the great thing is that on those days, the kids are thanking me for the reprieve.  

Jeffery R. Holland taught in his landmark talk on mental illness:

In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face “depletion depression,” make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill.

If you are a home school mom

If you suffer from depression or anxiety

If you are struggling with health or financial difficulties

If you are facing trials of any sort

If you are feeling overwhelmed in your calling as a parent, I urge you to remember and ask yourselves these questions.  They've given me a perspective on parenting that makes a daily difference in my life.  And thanks, Betty.  You're the best.