Sunday, March 8, 2015

Living Joyfully in Troubled Times- Some Items of Practical Application and Inspiration

In Relief Society today, we had a wonderful discussion regarding Living Joyfully in Troubled Times, a lesson from the Ezra Taft Benson manual. I think it also was refreshing to talk about life, and the fact that we all have afflictions, whether visible to others or not. I'm glad the lesson went as it did, and while I don't mind that I didn't get to share much more of my prepared materials, I thought it might be beneficial to some to have reference to these items.

There are some great talks by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a personal favorite of mine. I love these ones about hope and how we mere mortals can be happy, successful, and handle the trials life gives us.
A handout with some 70 different coping activities for stress and frustration was passed out today. What I didn't mention due to lack of time was HOW we deal with something is incredibly important. Consider this quote by President Benson: 
"'Men are that they might have joy' (2 Nephi 2:25). Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. He expects us to be happy. But there is no happiness in a letting down of standards. There is no happiness when you fail to live according to your convictions, according to that which you know to be right. It is so easy to form the habit of taking it just a little easy on certain things. It is so easy to form the habit of faultfinding, or criticizing, of carrying in our hearts reservations regarding certain things in the Church. It is so easy for us to become a bit bitter, and then dwell on that, to become sad and carry a sad face with us. A sad face never won a battle in war or love."
It can be tempting to retreat into an ostrich mode, hiding our heads in the sand when it gets to be too much for us to handle. And in hiding, we instead of facing problems, we soundly abuse ourselves, calling ourselves lazy, incapable, slothful, not enough, failures, and then retreat to a place of distraction. I can understand that. Escapism is an alluring option when our woes and tribulations have no end in sight. Me? I love reading. I really love reading. A while ago, when Andrew was out of town on a business trip and stress was oozing from my eyeballs, what did I do? Not the dishes, that's for sure. I read 10 books in five days. I'm a relatively fast reader, and it didn't even take me whole days of reading to do it. In the time that I wasn't reading, I was looking around at the mess, beating myself up some more, and then picking up another book. NOT the way to fix a problem.

What is the way to fix the problem. Do something about it, no matter how small. As Spock, a personal hero of mine, once said: "One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower." This is in direct agreement with what Elder Holland taught:
"...Try not to be overwhelmed with your task. Don't assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to "stand still" or "be still"- and wait. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education."
                                                                                              ("Like a Broken Vessel")
In addition to physical activities to help you feel better, you can also call on the power of music. Hymns are a beautiful way to inspire and lift your heart and mind. I find the following hymns to be especially adroit at nourishing my soul. I encourage you to read and ponder on the words, and read the scripture references.
  • "Ye Simple Souls Who Stray" (No. 118). This has four of my favorite verses in all of the hymnal. 
  • "Come Unto Him" (No. 114).
  • "Does the Journey Seem Long?" (No. 127).
  • "There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today" (No. 227)
  • "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" (No. 214). These lyrics are a poem written during the Civil War, and the message is one of perpetual application: No matter the darkness, the hate, the despair, remember that "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men!"
But music need not be holy only to be inspirational and just what we need. It is an incredible tool available to us in many forms! I love classical music, particularly of the Romantic era. I listen to operas and ballet scores throughout the day. For extra drive during cleaning, I like to listen to video game music- those songs are propelling in their drives and themes, and really make attacking that pile of dishes or laundry seem like an epic battle of light and darkness, and you the courageous hero.

If you want something with a good and bouncy beat, Mindy Gledhill is a cute artist with happy songs. And swing/big band music. A little Frank Sinatra can make me smile any time. A variety of music will help keep you rounded out in your varying moods and needs. Music is versatile; be versatile and creative in how you use it.

Remember that when making comparisons of your weaknesses to others strengths, you are hurting yourself and the other person. By assigning perfection and strength to the other person, you may not be able to see or accept the fact that he or she is currently having a difficult, and desperately in need of some help. You will miss the opportunity to help, to serve, and the other person will miss the chance to be helped and served. Comparing yourself to other people hurts everyone. Compare yourself instead to what you'd like to be: more like our Savior. President Benson taught:
Let your minds be filled with the goal of being like the Lord, and you will crowd out depressing thoughts as you anxiously seek to know him and do his will. "Let this mind be in you," said Paul. (Philip. 2:5.) "Look unto me in every thought," said Jesus. (D&C  6:36.) And what will follow if we do? "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee." (Isa. 26:3.)
We will never be alone if we live as we should, because our Father will always be with us to bless us. He wants us to be successful. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to achieve the good goals we set. He will do His part if we do our part.
One truth we must keep in mind is the beautiful fact God's "work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). You are part of that work and glory. YOU are part of the glory of God, you and your progression along the path to perfection. "To live perfectly is to live happily. To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength towards perfection. Every action performed in accord with God's will is part of that growth" (Benson). The way of the Lord is happiness and hope. 

Near the end of the lesson, I spoke of Mary Magdalene outside the tomb of Jesus Christ. The Lord isn't always where you expect Him to be, and if you are so determined to find Him in one particular spot, you may just miss the fact that He's right behind you. If you would like more on that, you can read Get Your Head Out of the Tomb. Additional discussion on being happy in our circumstances can be read in How to Be a Blossoming Flower. Please note that these are thoughts of my own, and I do not equate them to doctrine. But hey, these thoughts helped me- maybe they can help you, too.

I'd just like to end this pseudo-lesson (everything I didn't say in RS today) by saying that if nothing else, we can be glad that Jesus is the Christ, this is His living church, and the gospel is the way to salvation. Jesus is the LIVING Christ. ALL things will be made right through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. ALL things. That's why when no matter how dark the night, no matter how bitter the weeping that may endure the night, joy will come in the morning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Turn A Sweet, Gentle Mother Into a A Shakespearean Curse Hurling Demon: Sleep Training

Have you ever wondered what a text conversation between Andrew and I looks like?  Well, here's one from last week:

 I can't do sleep training. I'm going to find whoever came up with it and punch them  
  brutally in the face. With a feather duster filled with pepper. Cayenne pepper. 
 2:35 PM  

Satan is the father of all lies, misery, and sleep training.
2:39 PM

2:40 PM

What is the purpose in abandoning your child to cry himself to sleep? 
Are we trying to teach him that no one hears him or cares?
2:41 PM

And leaving your child to sleep in a puddle of their own snot and tears seems cruel.
2:41 PM

 I bet flies and mosquitoes were in on the sleep training plotting committee. Few other creatures could be so vile and heartless.
2:43 PM

There is no joy or beauty any more. Only sadness, tears, self-loathing, and a lot of snot.
2:46 PM

I'm going to take one of those giant nerf guns with the big rotating rounds, and instead of darts, I'll use eclairs. Only instead of delicious eclairs, I'll make them of salt pastry cream flavored with anti-plague, and use playdough instead of profiterole. That way, when the hard-hearted stone creature who thought sleep training was a great invention gets hit with eclairs, he'll get excited and eat a bunch- and then he will be ingesting agony of the acutest sort, agony second only to sleep training. The agony of disappointed taste buds. 
2:51 PM

The church is true. That means that somehow Charlie knows that I don't hate him and the Evil One will get his just rewards. Rap, tofu, hangnails, overly scratched DVDs that won't play, and eternal spinach between the front teeth are just a few of those rewards. 
2:55 PM

 The Princeling is asleep now, but I'm too emotionally drained to shower. I'm going to go undo my morning workout by drowning my sorrows in the leftover brownies. And maybe some apples and peanut butter.
2:57 PM

Wow... Such vitriol... Those are some harsh curses. 
2:58 PM

If you and Hermione ever dueled, you would crush her. She wouldn't even know what hit her. She'd never stand a chance against you. 
3:02 PM

Such anger has been stirred in this mother's breast! Anger fueled by sorrow great, and woe unbounded. Anger seethed with lust of vengeance, vruel and swift. Anger shall bring this mother forth with haste, anger shall make her hunt brief in its rapidity, and anger shall make her heart deaf to the pleading of her prey. Anger shall deny her quarry of any refuge, anger shall defy her quarry's every attempt of respite, anger shall decry her quarry's infamy and disrepute. Anger shall be her release, and his captivity.
3:04 PM

And thus we see that hell hath no insanity in pursuit of vengeance like a mother of child scorned.
3:05 PM

 All done now.
3:06 PM

*Shakespearean-like applause*
3:07 PM

Charlie woke up again, so I ran in there, seized him to me, and now we're cuddling and eating. :)
3:20 PM

...can I quote you on any of this?
3:23 PM

 I like cuddles.
3:23 PM 

Not too soon to ask, I hope.
3:24 PM

Quote me? Like in a paper, or everyday conversation? Because if in a paper, we need to work out in-text citations.
3:25 PM

3:27 PM

So... um... how is your day going? Anything interesting happening?
3:30 PM

Nope. Next to that Shakespearean tragedy, my day doesn't even merit a cheap paperback.
3:32 PM

Has the lad recovered from the traumatic episode? Have you?
3:35 PM

This day will go down in history as the day we all died on the inside. In other news, yes, we are doing a little better. How are you? :)
3:39 PM

Now for a bit of commentary:

Tashya: "I said what I said and I'll stand by it until death."

Andrew:  I would like to make a few points.  
First of all:
Voldemort is lucky that Tashya is not in HarryPotterLand (and as it turns out, Sauron and Middle-Earth too, respectively).  
I think I now more fully understand the language of the Old Testament.  It's very possible that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others simply had children who would not sleep well.
 I think the little chap is doing even better than normal after the last couple of nights of this.  His mother, however, is at wit's end.

And now for a bit of art inspired by the above:

And one final note from Tashya:
Charlie really is a grand and wonderful baby.  None of this is a reflection on him, of course - just the evil souls who thought up the idea of putting a baby through something like this.

I would like to give thanks to people who were willing to lend me some great books, and share some personal experience with me. Rachelle, that book you recommended was pivotal in giving some insights. It makes a big difference if you understand what you baby might be trying to tell you about his sleep needs. So thanks.

Also, Charlie did really well when we tried this at bedtime rather than nap time. There was some crying, but not nearly as much as some other babies. The only good part about this whole thing (other than finding out that I have a penchant for horrendous hexes) was waking up the next morning and seeing the Princeling's happy smile and seeing that he still loved me. Relief and happiness! Charlie is the dream first baby, and always has been. I'm so glad he puts up so well with my parental blunderings. Together, the three of us make up a happy little family, and we feel so blessed. There is more to life than sadness, tears, self-loathing, and lots of snot. Life is actually quite wonderful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Taking Your Child To Church Makes Him Naked

The first time Charlie went to church was the day of his baby blessing. He wore a smart little white romper made for him by his Grandmother Heim. Very dapper. His Grandparents Chelson and Uncle Spud were there all the way from Tennessee. All adored, fawned over, and cooed at the scrumptious little baby boy. After sacrament meeting and the blessing, we went outside to take some pictures to remember the auspicious occasion. Cameras were pulled from pockets, flashes were going off, successes being achieved, when there came upon us THUNDER BELOW.

I knew I needed to change his outfit before his bright yellow poop became a beacon of incorrigible childhood shining for all to see on the back of his stark white romper. That blessing outfit was intended for the use of all grandsons. I was supposed to give it back. I was supposed to not ruin it. And thus, I dashed off with great haste.

I rapidly tore (in a gentle, non-tearing sort of way) the romper off just in time to see yellow seeping through Charlie's white onesie, the way that ink starts pooling out and spreading when you hold a marker or a fountain pen to paper for too long. I had saved the romper! With my mother's help, I then changed Charlie into a fresh diaper and onesie, and we all set off home. I took with me the lesson that it is imperative to have a spare outfit, as well as diapers, in your bag at all times.

The next time the young Princeling went to church, we were out visiting my family. He wore a smart little sailor romper bought for him by his mother. Very dashing. He was finally big enough to wear it without swimming in it. (Strange how swimming in his sailor suit is undesirable. Ah well, fashion at its finest, I suppose.) We made it through sacrament meeting without incident. Sunday School was forgone in favor of feeding the young Prince and chatting with Mum in the mother's lounge.

But then he needed a diaper change.

Mother set Charlie on the changing table while I gathered the necessary equipment from my bag. Everything was going smoothly until Charlie felt the need to shower us with his blessings.

Mother and I managed to save ourselves. but Charlie's debonair little suit was quite wet, even his as yet unfastened and formerly fresh diaper. I victoriously pulled the extra onesie out of my bag, and we set about changing the lad for a second time. Once cleaned and clad only in onesie, socks, and blanket, we deemed Charlie decent and adjourned to Relief Society.

Where I stayed for only about ten minutes. Talk about some thunderings down below!

After begging pardon for my savage son's comportment, I excused myself from the room, taking with me the pack of wipes, a diaper, and my sister Megan. Megan actually came because she wanted to, not because I picked her up with other diaper changing accouterments. We got Charlie on the changing table again, and got his little bottom all cleaned up, and as the diaper was going on, Charlie struck us once again with his benevolence.

After the Prince had finished, we took stock of the damage. Charlie was wet. His clothes were wet. His socks were wet. His diaper was wet. And he was upset. I quickly set to work stripping him of his wet things, and took a fresh diaper (a size too large) from the emergency stash in the mother's lounge. Fortunately, his blanket had been set down on a chair away from the scene of the incident, and was therefore dry. Instead of being able to victoriously reach into my bag for some more clothes for my son, I was reduced to wrapping my naked-save-for-a-diaper child up in his blanket. Good thing that he likes being swaddled.  He remained naked until we returned home and I was able to get more clothes.

The next time Little Man went to church was this recent Sunday. He wore a onesie and some sweatpants. Very comfy. We were running late to get to our 8:30 meeting time, and efficiency and speed were the names of the game. Actually, the predominate name of the game was try not to wake the baby as we get him ready for church now. And we played that game pretty well until we actually got to church, at which point Charlie required my attention in the mother's lounge. I missed just about all of sacrament meeting.

By the time I had calmed Charlie to sleep, Andrew had already reported to his duty of nursery helper, so I went to Sunday School. On the way, I was stopped by my friend Aleece. She presented me with a pair of pants that went with an outfit she had given me for my baby shower months ago.

During Relief Society, the young Prince required feeding. I once again retired to the mother's lounge. I was burping him afterwards, when rather than a burp from his mouth, he presented me with what Andrew affectionately calls an Australian burp, due to the fact that this form of belch resounds from down under. I made my way to the changing table. I pulled off his sweats and noticed that they were soiled. SOILED. As was his onesie. I changed his diaper and stripped him down of his dirtied things.

I rummaged about in my bag, and found a spare onesie. And then, thanks to Aleece, a small pair of pants came out of my bag.

Thanks to Aleece, the cycle of Bring Your Baby To Church Dressed, Bring Him Home Naked would perhaps be broken. Aleece, to you, I give my sincerest gratitude. Thank you for saving me from looking like a horrid mother who doesn't dress her child before taking him out but really had spare clothes all along but not enough. You're a real pal.

And thus we see that taking a little boy to church can be a perilous adventure, full of much clothes changing, diving for cover, and memory making. I will from here on out be keeping more than one spare item of clothing in my bag when I go out with our little boy in tow. otherwise, he just might end up naked. Lesson now learnt.

PS. I found the camera!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Introducing the Young Prince Charles


Hello again, family and friends. I know that it has been a while since you have heard from this source of news, but I assure you all that we are still alive. The healing, new (lack of) sleep schedule, continuing lack of sleep, and familial visits has made me rather reticent in my communications in this venue. Though fully equipped with this more than adequate excuse, I still offer my apologies and condolences to all persons who have been waiting anxiously to see our adorable baby. Worry not, dear ones, for the wait is over.

I know that a lot of new moms like to share their birth stories via blog. I think that's wonderful for them, but I opt out of that experience except for a sum up of the day. It happened. Charlie was born healthy, happy, and absolutely perfect in every way possible.

Charlie displaying an adorable little suit from Grandmama

That is a picture of little Charlie just one week old. He's pretty cute. Below you will enjoy looking at our first family portrait, taken when he was three weeks old. Charlie's little shirt matches his daddy's green polo, and I think that's just about the best thing I've ever done with my life. I'm very proud. I love my little family. I call Charlie my little Prince. 

Charlie modelling an attractive Instrument of Peace (a "pacifier" to the layman)

I take special pictures on his monthly birthdays, but it doesn't always work out so well. And by not always, I mean not ever. But it's fun to try and he's endearing when he throws himself away from candles and cake and ice cream. Don't worry- Andrew and I aren't feeding him all that junk food. No, we eat it in his honor right after blowing out the candle on his behalf.

NOTE: I am unable to find the camera at the moment. How unsurprising. I shall bring forth more recent pictures when I unearth the hiding piece of photographic technology.

Here is one of my favorite pictures of Prince Charlie and Andrew. Little Prince was smiling right up to the moment the photographer actually snapped the picture, and I love that little lip.

Charlie making an exhibition of the world's cutest lower lip

Since bringing the young Prince home, both Mother's Day and Father's Day have passed. I have been doing a lot of thinking about the critical roles of parents, and how much they do, and what a large and devastating impact it makes when they DON'T do. But those are deeper thoughts saved for another post. This one is fluffy and all about showing off our cute baby and proving that we're still alive. To achieve those ends, here are some more pictures.

Tiny Charlie wearing his daddy's Luigi hat.
Charlie's precious cheek receiving kisses.
Charlie climbing up Mt. Daddy
Charlie carrying on the cow tradition

The past two months have been filled with new challenges, many laughs, a camera that runs away all the time, long nights, long days, and plenty of joyfulness despite the hard parts of dealing with new parenthood. We love our baby, and we love each other. When the going gets tough, we relish in the fact that we have each other. We're still best friends, we're still here for each other, even if that's in a less-than-helpful-because-I'm-sleep-deprived sort of way. We've had some pretty low points while getting here, but we've had even higher ones. Charlie always knows the perfect times to coo, smile, gasp, and charm us right back into a cheerful mood.

I love Andrew. I love Charlie. I love my life, even when it's hard. No matter how great the trial- physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual- we can not only make it through, but we can conquer, we can come out on top, triumphant, stronger, and ready to thrive. How? By centering our lives on the gospel of Jesus Christ. It works. It will always work. It will always work because Christ's Atonement works. His Atonement always works when we apply it correctly and faithfully.

I rejoice in knowing that my family has the opportunity to be sealed for eternity. I have up days and down days, but at the end of every day, I give thanks for the greatest blessings.