Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Any Similarities to the US?

Listen carefully for similarities to our situation here in the US.

Rumor has it that President Obama, in his first two months in office, has spent more than all the other presidents since George Washington combined. That's quite a legacy to leave our children and grandchildren.

To think that I've spent years trying to eradicate mice and their various diseases and now our government is spending millions and millions of dollars to protect them in San Francisco. Only in the US would we spend an obscene amount of money to protect a rodent. Go figure.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What Might Have Been

As I have written previously, I have been studying the Old Testament. I concluded the story of Saul last week, but I am still thinking about him. His story has affected me deeply and saddened me because his life illustrates what might have been. I mourn what he might have done with his life and who he might have been if only he had chosen to follow God instead of his natural man.

We are all like Saul. We all have the opportunity to follow our divine destinies or to turn away and follow after our own desires. Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us. He will never force us to follow that plan nor will he stop us from abandoning it.

As a young man, my grandfather attended church with his family. His mother and father both emigrated from Europe and found the gospel. Unfortunately, his father worked in the coal mines and succumbed to Black Lung when my grandfather was still a teenager. Back in the early 20th century times were tough, especially for a widow with children. They constantly struggled to make ends meet.

Something occurred in their ward that offended my great-grandmother. Though she got over it, my grandfather never did and he carried that grudge with him for the rest of his life. He never had a good thing to say about the Church and was vehemently opposed to me attending church, seminary, or paying my tithing.

My grandfather was an incredibly intelligent and talented man. He could fix anything. He knew so much about electronics. He invented the mute button for annoying television commercials long before it was readily available on remotes. He had a kind heart—he consented to raising my sister and me after our parents died, even though he’d planned to retire without worrying about raising a second family. He loved my sister and me and, I think, he was proud of us.

He could have been an amazing leader in the Church. He could have used his talents to further the kingdom of God. He could have been a missionary and used his priesthood to bless our lives and the lives of others. He could have done so many things, but he didn’t. He nursed his grudge and he gave into his natural man, much like Saul. It makes me ache to think of what he could have done with his life, but chose not to, simply because he let Satan influence him instead of God. Perhaps, that is why Saul’s story has affected me so dramatically—instead of Saul, I see my grandfather.

His life as well as Saul’s serves as a reminder to me. Heavenly Father has a plan for me and it’s my responsibility to continually follow that plan. I can get glimpses of Heavenly Father’s plan for me through rereading my patriarchal blessing, inspiration while I’m reading the scriptures or attending the temple, or while I’m praying.

I hope that each of us will seek to follow Heavenly Father’s plan so it will not be said of us, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: `It might have been!’” (from John Greenleaf Whittier's poem Maud Muller).

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring is Here . . . Almost

The other day my kids asked if they could jump on the trampoline (I had to ask them to not shorten that to "jump on the tramp"). Since it was such a beautiful, warm day, I allowed them to go outside and jump even though they hadn't quite finished their chores. Unfortunately, my daughter trusted the weather too much and left her tennis shoes outside overnight. The next morning, her shoes were filled with snow.

The weather has been teasing us. A few days ago we had a couple of warm days filled with lots of sunshine. Then, wham, we woke up to snow and freezing temperatures. We like to say here in Colorado, "If you don't like the weather, just wait a day and it will change." So true.

At this time of year I never know if I should have my kids wear their winter coats or sweatshirts to school.

I love spring. I love to see the leaves beginning to bud on the trees and the grass greening up. I love the warm breezes and smells that float through the air. I can never decide which season I like best, but right now, it's definitely spring!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My New Website and Link to Article

I've built a new website dedicated to helping aspiring writers realize their dream of publication. I'd love to have you check it out and give me your feedback. Thanks!

Pursue Your Writing Dream

I also wrote and posted an article on writing a first draft of a novel.

Hope you enjoy it and thanks for any input.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saul and the Natural Man

I’ve finished the account of Saul in the Old Testament. What a sad, sad story. Saul was a man who was chosen by the Lord, through Samuel the prophet, because of his righteousness. Yet, he made choices that separated him from God. In a previous post, I mentioned that Saul relied upon himself instead of the Lord and that was the beginning of the end for him.

I believe Saul’s life is an example of a man who could never quite part from his natural man. We learn from the scriptures that the natural man is an enemy to God. “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever . . .” (Mosiah 3:19). Saul had the potential to be a great leader and faithful servant of the Lord. Unfortunately, he relied on himself and when God then instructed Samuel to anoint David as king of Israel, Saul lost all reason.

He became so jealous of David that he sought o take his life on a number of occasions. David had to flee from Saul and his armies numerous times. Saul’s jealousy of David and obsession with killing him, led Saul to make erroneous decisions as the Israelite king. He couldn’t concentrate on his job as king because he was so preoccupied with destroying his once beloved David.

One has to wonder if Saul might have suffered from schizophrenia as he vacillated between wanting to kill David and wanting to forgive and love him again. At times, Saul’s spirit was pricked, especially when he realized that David spared his life on more than one occasion. These momentary lapses into civility and reason shows us that, perhaps deep down, Saul wanted to overcome his natural tendencies, but in the end chose not to do so.

He allowed his natural man to grow in such stature that it effectively stamped out the life of his spirit. He gave in to jealousy and rage. He fanned the flame of hatred. He wallowed in his self-pity.

We can become like Saul if we are not careful. If we do not do all in our power to squelch our natural man, our life will be filled with the same natural tendencies as Saul’s. What is the key to overcoming our natural man? The answer can be found in the second-half of Mosiah 3:19, “ . . . yield[s] to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and putt[eth] off the natural man and become[th] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and become[th] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

If we heed this scripture and fill our lives with the Spirit by reading the scriptures, praying, and doing all in our power to keep the commandments we will not succumb to our natural man as Saul did. We will be able to withstand the temptations of the world and secure our place in eternity.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Softening the Sting of Suicide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 88 people in the United States die by suicide each day. The CDC also estimates that each suicide directly affects six people. The death of a loved one is always traumatic and sad, but a death by suicide seems to bring with it the added sting of guilt that somehow, someone should’ve been able to prevent it.

The act of taking one’s life is truly a tragedy because this single act leaves so many victims: first the one who dies, then the dozens of others—family and friends—who are left behind, some to face years of deep pain and confusion. The living victims struggle, often desperately, with difficult emotions.” (M. Russell Ballard, “Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not,” Ensign, Oct 1987, 6)

Though we all want to understand a person’s reasons for committing suicide, in most cases there are no answers. The unanswered questions may be the most difficult part of dealing with suicide.
While it’s challenging to know how to assist family and friends in the aftermath of a suicide, there are some ways to help.

“If only . . .” Game

When someone commits suicide Satan sets a trap for the survivors by ensnaring them in the “If only . . .” Game. If only . . . they’d spent more time together, talked more often, expressed their love more frequently. If only . . . they’d stayed home that day instead of going to work, called that afternoon, visited that weekend. If only . . . they’d been more attentive, seen the signs, realized there was a call for help. If only . . . they hadn’t bought the gun, had rope in the garage, had easily accessible pills. If only . . . they’d known, been given a vision, had the inspiration to know something was terribly wrong. If only . . . It’s a game that everyone loses. It causes more pain and agony because in reality, we can’t go back in time to change anything. We can’t look backward, only forward.

Don’t Pass Judgment

Close to the “If only . . .” Game is the temptation to pass judgment. In an effort to analyze the why of a suicide, we hope to avoid the same situation in our own family. Instead of finding answers, we pass judgment on the surviving family and friends. It may be tempting to wonder if the family had regular family prayer, family scripture study, or consistent family home evenings. We may think the answer lies in the fact that the family wasn’t active in the Church or the parents weren’t loving enough, were too permissive, or were too self-absorbed. We may point fingers and suggest the victim had bad friends, listened to evil music, or broke the Word of Wisdom.

The truth is, we do not know what is in the mind or heart of someone else. We do not have the right to stand in judgment of the victim or the survivors. We must leave judgment in the hands of the Lord because He is the only one qualified to make such judgments.

Elder M. Russell Ballard has said, “Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth. When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth.” (“Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not,” Ensign, Oct 1987, 6).

Time to Grieve

Not everyone deals with tragedy in the same way. Some people want to talk through it, while others prefer to say very little. Some want people around and others need solitude to process feelings and thoughts. One person may be able to function again in a few weeks, yet another may need months or years to make sense of an altered life.

We should offer unconditional support and comfort, not try to force those who are grieving to heal according to our proposed schedule. Those who lose loved ones to suicide not only have to deal with losing a loved one, they have additional fears and concerns.

“In addition to the feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and rejection which the victims of such a family feel, Latter-day Saints carry an additional burden. The purpose of our mortal lives, we know, is to prove ourselves, to eventually return to live in the celestial kingdom. One who commits suicide closes the door on all that, some have thought, consigning himself to the telestial kingdom." (M. Russell Ballard, “Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not,” Ensign, Oct 1987, 6).

The Lord will determine the status of those who take their own lives. We should not try to guess their status nor should we encourage those who’ve already suffered a great loss to entertain these thoughts.

Listen and Love

The best way we can help those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide is to listen without judgment and love without condition.

Sometimes, words offer little comfort at a time like this. Reach out with a hug and let those directly affected know that you love them. Be sensitive to their needs and extend help when necessary. Those left behind to pick up the pieces after a suicide sometimes feel an extra burden of guilt. Make sure they know you love them despite what happened. At this tender and emotionally charged time, simply knowing that others love them will help them heal.

Turn to the Savior

Suicide is a tragic end to a life. It leaves so much heartbreak, sorrow, and regret. The only way to truly deal with suicide is to turn to the Savior. He will not only guide those who earnestly seek to help, but through the miraculous power of the atonement, He will heal the hearts of those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Finally--The Sears Saga Ends

A few days ago I received a call from a manager at our local Sears store. He was very apologetic for all that's happened with our rototiller and told me that they'd decided to just replace our unit with a new tiller. I was a bit hestitant because that means we're once again tied to Sears if there's any problems, but I'm hoping this new tiller will work and we won't ever have to deal with Sears again.

Of course, when we went to pick up the new tiller we waited for over 30 minutes for them to get all the paperwork finished. If we hadn't been starving it probably wouldn't have been a big deal, but 30 minutes is a long wait. While we waited we looked over refrigerators, stoves, and exercise equipment all the while chanting our mantra that we'll never again buy from Sears.

This last store manager was a nice guy and worked hard to please us, but I will still never buy from Sears. I'm just glad it's over and done with and hope that we can get our garden spot tilled and planted and never have to think about the tiller problems again.

On a side note, the vehicle that our kids drive lost its engine. Cool. That on top of our van breaking down and my husband spending the better part of Saturday trying to fix the van to no avail. Oh, and we still have that April 15th deadline hanging lower and lower over our heads.

And how was your weekend?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Through Small and Simple Means

Last weekend we baptized our eighth child. He was so excited for his baptism.

We planned the baptism and included most members of our family. Our youngest son wasn’t formally on the program, but we knew he’d be loud enough to participate in his own way . One of my daughters spoke on baptism. I was very proud of her. She brought some visual aids to complement her talk, including a tube of diaper rash cream to symbolize the pain relief that repentance brings. She also showed a white paper that represented no sins, a paper that had lots of squiggles on it to represent mistakes we make, and then told us that after baptism our sins are washed away and through repentance we can have the white paper represent our lives. She also showed a fuzzy white blanket and likened it to how the Holy Ghost feels—warm and soft. It was an excellent talk.

Another son spoke on the Holy Ghost and how it can help us in so many ways, including protecting us and teaching us the truth. He shared some quotes. I was proud of him for preparing his talk, too.

Two of our daughters sang, Scripture Power, and other daughters gave the prayers. My son was baptized by his oldest brother, who returned from his mission to Italy last summer. My husband then confirmed my son and gave him the gift of the Holy Ghost. It was such a spiritual meeting. The bishop was choked up a bit when he asked my son to stand and bear his testimony. My son said, “Being baptized feels great. I’m so happy I could be baptized.” It was such a sweet experience.

Unbeknownst to me, my son had invited his elementary school teacher. She is not a member of the Church, but she really likes my son and decided to attend because it was important to him. She actually arrived an hour early because we’d miscommunicated the time (she lives more than 30 miles away from us). As she entered the building, my children and their cousins accosted her because she’d taught some of them last year. They all snuggled up to her during the service.
My son was thrilled to see his teacher and gave her lots of hugs to prove it. I’m sure he will always remember she attended his baptism. I was impressed that she made such an effort to come. After the service, we were visiting in the foyer about the baptism. I thanked her for coming and she said, “I was glad to. You could just feel something in there.” Then it clicked. She’d felt the Holy Ghost witness to her the truth. She’d felt his presence. From a simple child’s invitation to his baptism, she experienced the Holy Ghost. What will happen from here? I don’t know, but I do know she felt the Spirit. Attending my son’s baptism was a good experience and, perhaps, it will ignite a desire in her to learn more about the gospel. At the very least, she will remember this experience with a warm feeling.

Through small and simple means, like an invitation to a baptism, great and powerful things can happen. Of course, I hope she’ll want to know more and discover the pure joy and happiness that only the gospel can provide, but for now I’m thankful she felt the Spirit. Even more, I’m so grateful my young son was inspired enough to invite her.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Christmas Sweater by Glen Beck

I recently finished reading The Christmas Sweater by Glen Back. Though I'm still not sure if I liked the end, I definitely enjoyed reading the book.

I felt pulled into the story right away and found the writing easy to read. I also felt like Beck realistically portrayed Eddie and his feelings. I could empathize with Eddie. He was sometimes unpredictable (which is what teenagers are--unpredictable), but his goal was always clear and it was a realistic goal for a 12-year-old boy. The descriptions are well-written and Eddie's grandfather is a well-developed character with whom I could also empathize, especially as he dealt with an increasingly angry young man.

I admit, it made me cry. Call me sentimental, but I felt the emotion of this story. Maybe it's because I experienced losing my parents or maybe Beck pulled that out of me. Whatever the case, I recommend this book.

Here's the blurb:

#1 New York Times bestselling author and renowned radio and television host Glenn Beck delivers an instant holiday classic about boyhood memories, wrenching life lessons, and the true meaning of the gifts we give to one another in love.

We weren't wealthy, we weren't poor -- we just were. We never wanted for anything, except maybe more time together....

When Eddie was twelve years old, all he wanted for Christmas was a bike. Although his life had gotten harder -- and money tighter -- since his father died and the family bakery closed...Eddie dreamed that somehow his mother would find a way to have his dream bike gleaming beside their modest Christmas tree that magical morning.

What he got from her instead was a sweater. "A stupid, handmade, ugly sweater" that young Eddie left in a crumpled ball in the corner of his room.

Scarred deeply by the realization that kids don't always get what they want, and too young to understand that he already owned life's most valuable treasures, that Christmas morning was the beginning of Eddie's dark and painful journey on the road to manhood. It will take wrestling with himself, his faith, and his family -- and the guidance of a mysterious neighbor named Russell -- to help Eddie find his path through the storm clouds of life and finally see the real significance of that simple gift his mother had crafted by hand with love in her heart.

Based on a deeply personal true story, The Christmas Sweater is a warm and poignant tale of family, faith and forgiveness that offers us a glimpse of our own lives -- while also making us question if we really know what's most important in them.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Curious Savage

For anyone who's followed my blog, you know that my kids are all into theater. Some families spend their time on the football field or the gym, we spend our time in the theater watching plays. Last year, I had kids in 3 different plays all at the same time. I've had kids rehearsing for as many as 4 plays at once. So, yes, we are into theater--which makes sense since I have so many drama queens and performers at my house.

For the last two weekends I had two daughters performing in the play, "The Curious Savage." It's a play that's set in a sanitarium--many of the characters are crazy, but very sweetly insane. My older daughter played a character who fixated on a doll thinking it was her dead son. One of the characters survived a plane wreck in the war and lost his mind in the process, another was OCD about everything, while another one stopped talking 20 years ago because her husband told her to shut-up. One other character couldn't distinguish between reality and fantasy. What was interesting is how each actor developed such a unique character.

When the sane Mrs. Savage is committed to the institution by her money-hungry children who are intent on taking the family fortune for themselves, the patients befriend Mrs. Savage. She learns to love the patients and the last scene is about how she sees each of the patients. It's such a sweet and touching scene. She sees my older daughter as a mother to a real child (my youngest daughter played the son in the last scene) and it was so sweet. I cried.

If you ever have chance to see this play. take the opportunity. It's a well-written play that ties up so nicely at the end, and leaves you with a good feeling. I watched it 7 times and enjoyed each time.

Of course, it wouldn't be my life unless there was something else that happened. I let my youngest daughter have piece of gum to keep her occupied during the performance on Friday night but told her she'd need to spit it out before she went on stage. She did. On me. Or, my pants to be exact. So when it was time to go backstage for her call, she stuck to my pants with a gooey, sticky gummy mess. Color me displeased. I frantically tried to scrape gum from the back of her pants and finally had to send her on stage. Needless to say, she's not allowed to chew gum for the rest of her life.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

My Choice to Stay Home

After I had my first child, I told an old college roommate that I planned to stay home and take care of him. She replied, “How totally boring. You’re just going to stay home? I can’t imagine being stuck like that.”

Now, ten children later, I do not regret that decision. In fact, I have never regretted choosing to stay home with my children. People wonder how we can afford to raise so many children on one income. The answer is simple. Heavenly Father has blessed us to be able to do so. For me, staying home with my children has always been about exercising faith—not just about being able to financially do so, but also that my staying home will benefit my children.

I vividly remember struggling financially early in my married life. I’d graduated with a bachelor’s degree and it seemed like the answer was for me to go to work. Yet, my husband and I had made the commitment to keep me home. Faith preceded the miracle. Once we put our faith in Heavenly Father and then had a trial of that faith, he blessed us. And he’s continued to bless us in so many ways.

Over the years, I’ve received comments about the decision to stay home. My grandfather, who raised me, told me on several different occasions that I was wasting my life raising a bunch of kids. He said, “If I’d known you were going to waste your education raising kids I would never have encouraged you to go to college.” I don’t see my education as wasted at all. In fact, I believe my education has made me a better mother.

I have a solid testimony of following the counsel to stay home and raise my children. I shudder to think how my youngest son would be doing if I were not home with him reading to him, talking to him, playing with him, and encouraging him to strengthen his muscles. It’s a fact that no one cares more about my children than my husband and I do. It’s also a fact that no one can better serve my children, especially my youngest son, than I can as I stay home.

It is a privilege and honor for me to be a wife and mother. I have never wanted anything else. Perhaps, it’s because I felt cheated as a child since my parents died when I was so young. Maybe it’s because I always wanted a big family like the Brady Bunch when I was growing up. Whatever the reason, I am so thankful each and every day that Heavenly Father has blessed me with a large family and that he has blessed me with the opportunity to be able to stay home and raise them.

I do not judge those who make a different decision than I have. Everybody has to make their own decision when it comes to staying home. Not everyone is in a position to do so and it’s not my place to stand in judgment of anyone’s decision because I have not walked in anyone else’s shoes. I do believe wholeheartedly that if moms have the desire to stay home and are willing to put their faith in Heavenly Father, he will provide a way. I’ve learned in my life that Heavenly Father always provides a way to accomplish a righteous desire and staying home to raise a family is certainly a righteous desire.

I love being a mother. I love watching the kids play together. I love seeing their first steps, hearing their first words, and listening to them when they first begin to read. I love the choking hugs and sloppy kisses. I love to eat (well, maybe not all the time) sandwiches made by my 5-year-old. I love to listen to them interact with each other and play games together. While I don’t enjoy the fighting, whining, or complaining, I love to see them realize they’ve done something wrong and apologize for it. I love to hear them bear their testimonies and explain points of the gospel. I love to watch them develop their talents and share those talents with others. I love to see them serve each other and those around them.

Of course, being a mom isn’t all sunshine and roses and I’ve certainly experienced some hard times, but all in all, I don’t regret my decision to be a mom or to stay home with my kids. It may not be easy, but it is definitely worth it. I have no doubt that our families will bring us the greatest joy.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

American Idol

I was thrilled to see Scott MacIntyre enter the top 12 finalists. I think that sends a message to the world that no matter what your challenges may be, they do not have to limit your dreams. He has a dream and his blindness isn't going to stop him. Hooray for Scott--may all those who have big dreams go after theirs as well. And, he sings well. I really liked his song, "Mandolin Rain"--brought tears to my eyes.

Lil Rounds is extremely talented. She's very good.

I was super happy to see Ricky Braddy get another chance. He was amazing the night he sang but had some tough competition. I think he'll do well.

I'm glad they gave Jasmine another chance. She has a beautiful voice but didn't perform well on her night.

I agreed with most of the wildcard picks--except Tatiana. What are they thinking? Maybe she has a nice voice, but it's impossible to detect it through all the drama she causes. She exhausts me. Actually, I'm sure they know exactly what they're doing--Tatiana and her drama will make the ratings go up, even if she doesn't sing well.

I'm interested to see who the last 3 finalists will be. I think Ricky, Jasmine, and Anoop should make it in.

I predict the top three will be: Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds, and Adam (can't remember his last name). Should be a good season.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Tower of Strength by Annette Lyon

Here's a cool ad for Annette Lyon's new book, Tower of Strength. Annette writes historical fiction and each of the books in this series is based on a temple. This one is about the Manti temple.

Annette Lyon is an award-winning author. Her book, Spires of Stone, was a Whitney finalist last year. Her books are not only filled with great storylines but also interesting facts about the temples. She's a fantastic writer and I recommend her books.

For more information about Annette and her books check out her website.

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