Sunday, November 29, 2015

Teaching From Rest

I have the haziest memory of this book being prescribed to me by a loving friend, months ago. Now I don't even remember who it was that recommended it, (THANK YOU, anonymous friend) but thankfully the title of the book kicked around in my skull for long enough that I was able to find it when I needed it.  

I finally read it this week and wish so much that I had read it my very first year of home schooling.  It is inspired and powerful and it has brought me a great deal of hope and joy already.

I consider myself really good at simplifying, so a lot of the practical elements of this book were refreshers for me.  But at the core of Sarah's writing is one of the most honest and relatable discourses on grace I've ever read.  

"Rest" is the place between anxiety and neglect.  Sarah teaches that we all tend toward one side or another of rest most of the time.  Sometimes we even swing back and forth.  I spend most of my time on the anxious side.  But when we can still the pendulum on our trust in the Savior we are truly at rest.  

"After all, our job is not to be successful--success itself is entirely beside the point.  It's faithfulness that He wants.  God is good!  He isn't going to let us pour out our hearts for our children only to be left choking on the dust of our mistakes...The heart of this book is about remembering what our true task really is and then throwing ourselves in completely. Giving our all.  The raising of children, the teaching of truth, the sharing of life, the nourishing of imagination, the cultivating of wisdom: These are all his anyway; we are merely His servants." 
Oh, it is liberating to remember who we are and whose we are, and to remember that we are only helpers in God's great work.  It frees me up to enjoy the work more and worry over it less.  

"You are where you are (which is likely to be exactly where God wants you).  So work hard every day.  Value academic work because nurturing the intellect is part of what makes us fully human, but don't elevate it beyond its place.  There are relationships to cultivate, books to read, oceans to swim in, forts to build, toilets to scrub, bills to pay, paintings to create, dinners to make.  This is why we homeschool--because we want to engage in a full-to-bursting life."

 "Lavish" is a word Sarah uses over and over to describe the way a home school mother teaches, loves, and listens.  I have been working this week on loving lavishly in my home.  It is slow, satisfying work.  I love thinking about what a great privilege it is for me to be with the people I love all day every day.  Who gets that?  When I am miserly with my time and my love, my work is tedious and discouraging.  But this week, I've had a few magical moments of gratitude--of living truly in the moment.  I want to love lavishly every day of my life.

And one last, lovely thought from this book that I will treasure: a woman who embraces her unique strengths and teaching style is a woman who enjoys her work, and a woman who enjoys her work has a happy family.  I have often tried to do another woman's version of home school. It is unnatural, stressful, and no fun for me or the kids.  But when I think about the things that I absolutely love and do those with the kids, we have a great time.  So the schedule includes necessaries like math and spelling--yes--but it also honors my love of reading and conversation with a 45-minute chunk for studying the classics together.  And that bright spot of teaching from my strength makes all the other hard work worth it.  

There is simply too much beautiful, simple wisdom bound up in this surprisingly thin volume--you've got to read it for yourself.  Or buy it for that wonderful woman on your list who could use a little rest.    You can find more of Sarah's thinking at

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Today my wonderful mom shared with me a prompting she had to spend this week praying only with messages of gratitude. This sounded like just what the doctor ordered for me, too.  So I'm going to challenge myself not to ask anything of the Lord this week, but only to give thanks.  I am excited for how this will shift my focus and fill me with the pure peace that gratitude brings.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Why I Home School

Last week Naomi asked if she could go to public school, and it kind of broke my heart.

I shouldn't have let it get to me so much, but I spend so much time questioning my ability to do this thing right--that I took it as a vote of no-confidence.  Eliza, too, has been talking now and then about how nice it would be to go to school with her friends.  And this job is just hard enough that I spend a little time fantasizing about it myself.

I keep thinking about the local charter school with its progressive philosophy on education, its no-homework policy, and its great teachers with real lesson plans and beautifully decorated learning environments.  I think, maybe I'm not good enough to do this.  Maybe home school is just too hard for the likes of me.  Maybe I should give up this dream while these kids still stand a chance.

Eliza found me crying in my room, and she blew me away with kindness and wisdom.  She pragmatically identified a major fallacy in my thinking: that when she and the other kids fantasize about public school, they are not thinking the way I think.  They're not dreaming about academic glory; they're thinking that it would be one big happy play date with friends.  She also pointed out that Naomi has made huge strides since we took her out of public school, and kindly told me that she thought I was doing a great job teaching.

How fitting and slightly ironic that it was Eliza who came to my rescue that day.  Eliza, who can see every one of my flaws.  Eliza, who can sense that she would be a huge success socially at intermediate school. But really, her highly thoughtful nature qualified her perfectly to help me.  She may be perfectly aware that I have failings, but she's also highly attuned to my strengths.  And I'd like to think that her beautifully rational mind, her critical thinking skills, and especially her deep compassion have been in some way developed and enhanced because of our decision to teach her at home.

And you know, she's right.  We've done great things here.  And all the well-trained, amazing teachers in the world can't replace me if this is what God has planned for our family.  And He has.

Naomi and I had a talk the next day, and I told her that she's staying home for the time being, because I know in my heart that it's the best place for her.  I reminded her that she kind of hated public school, and that she kept asking me to home school her.  I told her that if she wants more time with friends, she has at least six within walking distance.  And I told her that she has intermediate school band to look forward to.

Keeping public school or the charter school up my sleeve in case of emergencies served me well for the first few years.  But the more time goes on, the more I feel that back door is letting in a chill of self-doubt.  And while I don't require of God a twenty-year plan--even if he tried, I'm not a good listener--yet He has given me my marching orders for this year.  And I want to feel more settled.  I want to feel that I'm in the right place, doing the right thing.

So this is my quest this year.  To see more purpose, more blessings, and more long-term joy coming out of this little home school experiment.  And to close the back door.  I won't lock it, but I want to feel warm here, so it needs to close.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sun Touch Plus Giveaway Winner!

Dear friends, thanks so much for sharing my posts on beating depression without meds.  It has been a joy to write them and especially to see them getting out there where they can do some good--thanks to you!

I am so grateful for NatureBright for generously donating a brand new Sun Touch Plus for this giveaway.  It felt wonderful to have their vote of confidence in this venture.  I hope very much that you'll all go out and buy one, if your name isn't...

Lindsey Morris!

Congrats, Lindsey!  I hope the lamp makes your winter brighter in more ways than one!  And again, a thousand thanks to the rest of you for reading and sharing.  It means the world to me.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Connect!

This is the last of my series on beating depression without meds!  Thank you for reading, and especially for sharing these posts.  If you still haven't had a chance, please enter my contest by sharing on Facebook and Pinterest, and then letting me know in the comments.  Each share is worth one entry--so if you share all seven articles, you'll be entered fourteen times.   At 9 PM MST on November 8, I will randomly choose the name of one lucky reader for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

It was December 2013, and I was in a state of near-catatonic depression--which is natural for me during the chaos of the holidays.  Parties every night.  Parties all night.  I was so sick and tired of going places all the time, I texted my sister "WHY do people have to plan parties all the time?"

But duty called me to the home school co-op dinner and talent show, where my little class of girls were to perform a few songs we'd learned.  And so, despite a deep longing for my couch and a good book, to the party I went.  TJ jokingly made me the name tag below, and despite my best efforts to pretend I was at home on the couch with a book, I found myself being drawn into a wonderful conversation with the family across the table from me.  Stupid people.  Why do they have to be so interesting?  I'm sitting here being miserable, just let me be miserable.

Over the years, even before reading The Depression Cure, TJ has picked up on the fact that I never want to leave the house when I'm depressed, but that I really should.  I beg.  I plead.  I promise.  And like the wonderful man he is, he reminds me that I always enjoy it and he makes me go.  And, darn it, against my will I always find myself feeling better at the end of the evening than I did at the beginning.  

So it wasn't a huge surprise to find that one of Stephen Ilardi's six steps is get connected socially. Depression and isolation are almost synonymous in the American songbook.  (Cue All by Myself by Celine Dion.)  And we reserve total isolation for the worst criminal offenders in the country.  Human beings simply aren't meant to be alone.

Even a cursory glance at native peoples of the past and present will tell you that we evolved socially.  We hunted, ate, slept, worked, and played together.  But now we do most of our daily activities alone.  This isolation is a by-product of our affluent American society.  As Dr. Ilardi points out, we're willing to sever family ties and move across the country for that high-paying job.  We sacrifice time with family and friends to work longer hours to earn more money. And then we spend that money to buy a bigger house, meaning that even at home with our family--we're alone.

Once again, we find ourselves in a vicious cycle of depression.  Just like any other sickness, depression prompts victims to stay home, focus on healing, and minimize risk to others; how many times have you told yourself you were doing others a favor by keeping yourself and your negativity at home?  But where withdrawal may help fight the common cold, it actually exacerbates depression.  And so we find ourselves feeling worse and even less fit to socialize.  

Luckily for me, I am a part of a strong family and church organization.  Opportunities for social interaction come way more often than my introverted self might prefer.  But some of you might not be so lucky.  Here are some ways to reach out.  I know it can be terrifying, but take a look.

Join up and show up-  Join the city bowling league.  The community choir.  The soup kitchen brigade.  Being involved in something you love will not only provide opportunities to connect with others--it will lift your spirits just to be doing something.  Remember last week? Overcoming rumination is often as simple as getting out and doing something.  Also, being involved in the care of others--even just a pet--can give you a great surge of hope and perspective.  Dr. Illardi highly recommends church because it offers a common purpose and a great deal of love and support from those around you.  Many people refer to others in their congregation as their "church family."  And family is the gold standard for care in times of trouble.

Open up--  Maybe you already have good friends and family members, but you're just not as close as you used to be.  It's common for depression patients to find their most important relationships flagging.  But these relationships can be our greatest sources of help in healing, so it's worth every effort.  Reach out to those closest to you, share your struggle with depression, and educate them on how they can help you stick to your 6 steps.  An excellent suggestion from the book is to pick one or two friends to watch over you, let them know that your condition makes it hard to reach out, and ask them to do the reaching.  If they haven't heard from you in awhile, they should be one showing up on the doorstep with Cafe Rio and a listening ear.  Or gelatto would be fine.  Are you getting all this, St. George friends?  ;)

Be tough and just do it--  When you are faced with the decision of whether or not to reach out, do it.  Perhaps it's going to that pottery class for the first time.  Maybe it's going to a womens' social at church.  Maybe it's calling your mom and letting her chat you out of the dumps. Force yourself to take that step you need to take.  It won't feel like it did in college, when friends were fun.  It will feel hard.  But it gets easier the moment you walk out the door.  And I speak from experience when I say, it'll always make you better.  But it starts by forcing yourself.  Just think of it as medicine that needs to be taken if you want to feel better.  Be a good girl and just take your medicine.

I am full of gratitude for the many friends and family members--especially my rock of a husband--who've loved me through my illness.  Whenever I express my extreme indebtedness they always tell me they are happy to help.  I don't know where they get all their strength for carrying, but I have never.  Ever.  Been sent away empty when I approached a loved one in my time of need.  You have such angels in your life, who are just waiting for the chance to help. Let them help.  They want to and they can.

This is the last of my posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary program.  

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  ;)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dad Will be so Proud!

One thing that's tough about home schooling is getting TJ involved.  We do almost all our school work in the morning, and by the time we're sitting around the dinner table, the kids can't answer the question: "what did you learn today?"  TJ finally got tired of their bored and boring answers and stopped asking altogether.

But we want him to be involved, because when he gets excited about their work, so do they.  For instance, Isaiah (4) has been gradually getting less and less excited about the half hour of work I do with him each day.  But yesterday when he did his work without complaining, I jumped at the chance to get some positive reinforcement going.  I emailed TJ about it and asked if he'd make a big deal about it later, which he did when he got home.  And since then Isaiah's been stoked about the great things he's learning.  

Another thing that disrupts the Daddy-schoolwork connection is my dislike for stuff on the fridge. I'm a minimalist, so I love clear counters and zero clutter.  But even a freak like me can concede that this folder on the side of our fridge is visible enough to catch TJ's attention without being obnoxious.

See?  The only thing obnoxious about this room is the windows, which I gave up on long ago.

TJ doesn't check the folder every day, or even every week.  But when he has a minute and the kids are around, he goes through page by page and gives them the recognition they crave so much.  And somehow this little ritual carries through to every day of home school.  The kids look forward to sharing their success with TJ.  And when they're discouraged or even just lazy, a reminder that he's excited to see their progress is usually all the impetus they need.  

It's so easy to forget as a home school mom that you're not alone in what you do.  Your husband provides for the family so that you can focus your best efforts on nurturing the children, but his influence doesn't have to stop there.  Especially if you have boys, but even if you don't, the more Dad is involved in the education of our children, the better they will do.  And the more interest he shows in their daily comings and goings, the closer they feel to him and the more likely they are to live a happy life.  It's a win, win, win.  

Hooray for irreplaceable fathers!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Friend Loveth at All Times

Have you been ponderizing?  This is the scripture I've been thinking about this week, and wow, did I have opportunities to think about it.  A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

I thought about it Monday, when Cassie brought me her van to use for a week while TJ worked on ours.  

I thought about it Tuesday, when I just couldn't stop crying, and I called in some prayers from Georgia.

I thought about it Wednesday, when I counted up the friends and neighbors who've come and spent time under our van with TJ this week, struggling to get the old beast running again.  Dave, Chuck, Dennis, Shane and others all showed up at least once throughout the week.  They loaned us vehicles. They got us parts for cheap and helped us put them on.  Sometimes Chuck was knocking on my door asking when TJ would be home from work so he could help.

I thought about it Thursday, when Rachel gave me a ride to choir.

I thought about it Friday, when Kimberly told me that she wants to give me her old car.  She's been praying to know whom the Lord would have her pass it on to, since she doesn't need it anymore, and she wants us to have it.

I thought about it Saturday, when TJ's parents, visiting for a few days to look at real estate in the area, did so much housework that I kept hoping they wouldn't find a place and have to move in with us.

And I thought about it today, when John's jokes about our horrible primary program practice made me laugh enough that I decided not to cry.  Just kidding, it was no more horrible than any other year. And in a week it'll all be over.  But commiserating with fellow Primary workers makes it a little less like torture.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.   

Sometimes the world seems so full of kindness that I can't even wrap my heart around it.  It's as if I can't even feel the full measure of gratitude because I know in my heart that I don't have that much kindness to give--and a part of me refuses to acknowledge how very deeply I stand in the debt of others.

A friend loveth when he sees you stuck under a 2001 Toyota Sienna.  And a brother will pray for you even if you're not willing to go into all the gory details.  

Lord, please grow my heart to absorb all this kindness, and please give me the greatness of heart to be willing to pay it forward in thine own good time.

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Stop Thinking

This is the sixth of my seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest and Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8, I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

I'm afraid that I'm going to lose you here, but stay with me.  I'm about to tell you to think positive. I know, I know.  I feel like a traitor even writing it, because when people who've never experienced major depression tell me to think positive, I have to bite my tongue.  Otherwise I'll say something snarky about them thinking their way out of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.

So I know.  This might look like a pep talk you've heard before, but please keep reading.  

Last winter I was really struggling with depression, and because I knew a spiritual lift would do me good, I headed for the temple to do an endowment session.  This meant getting up early so I could be done by the time TJ had to leave for work, but I knew it'd pay off for me.  Only, it didn't.  By the end of the session, I was so distressed that I was crying.  One sweet matron at the front of the room noticed me and was concerned, but luckily I escaped at the end of the session without a Q&A.

What went wrong?

Well, my body was in the endowment session, but because of the quiet and even introspective nature of that ordinance, I had allowed my mind to be totally absent.  Basically I spent the whole hour and a half ruminating on my failures, my fears, my disappointments, and my heartaches.  And that's enough to bring anyone to the brink.

Is rumination playing a big part in your daily battle with depression?  For better or worse, it is.  

A cow ruminates when partially digested material from one of her six stomachs comes back up for more chewing.  It's gross.  But that's the same word we use to describe how we mentally "chew" on something over and over.  This can be gross for our emotional health.  

Don't believe it?  Download the app at and you'll begin to see that you have opportunities to ruminate all the livelong day--and that your mood corresponds almost directly to what you're thinking.  

There is a great table in Dr. Stephen Ilardi's The Depression Cure that I need you to see:

Think about how little of your attention is commanded by a lot of things you do every day.  If you work construction.  If you work retail.  If you are the mother of small children.  And even if your job is very mentally stimulating, the temptation to ruminate in the car, in the shower, in bed, and even while watching TV or "reading" can be huge.  If you charted your rumination in a day and your corresponding mood during that time, what would your results look like?  The fact is that the more mentally engaged we are with what we are doing--or in spiritual-speak, how well we "live in the moment"--can have a huge impact in our emotional health.  

Like a lot of other mental health concepts, this one operates on a spiral.  Dr. Ilardi explains that our mind's filing system is based on emotion, so when we're feeling low, our mind starts pulling all the files marked with a frowny face and replaying them for us.  So helpful.  It's like, "I remember the last time I felt this terrible, was when I had that huge fight with Mom.  Almost as bad as when the baby was in the hospital for ten days.  Which reminds me, I only have ten days to get ready for Cindy's baby shower and I just know it's going to be a huge failure.  Just like always."  Thanks, brain.  Now I feel even worse.

The trick with this spiral is to push back enough that you're headed up the spiral instead of down. And the key here is to monitor your thoughts.  Know when your brain has too much down-time and act to engage it in what you're doing.  In the shower, focus on how wonderful the hot water feels, how great your new shower gel smells, and how much better your showtunes sound in the great acoustics of the bathroom.  In the car, focus on talking to your kids about their day, or even pop in a book on CD and start learning a new language.  Engagement in what you're doing is optimal, but even diversion can save you here.  I am a huge fan of podcasts.  And speaking of podcasts, you MUST listen to this fabulous TED Radio Hour about happiness.  There are four parts, so make sure you get all of them.  And if you've been hiding under a rock for the last two years, listen to this song as well. It never fails to lift my mood. 

So you see where I'm going, here?  Instead of letting your mind drift along with the current of your emotions, captain your ship upstream to something worth thinking about.  If you have the gospel library app you can listen to fifteen minutes of general conference every time you put on your makeup.  I have been doing this a lot lately.  It takes so little effort and it gives me such a lift.  

And if you go to the temple, pay attention to what's going on.  I've heard it makes a big difference.  :)

This is the sixth of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary program.  Come back next week to learn how socializing can help you beat depression!

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  ;)