This is an open blog, to any and all that would like to share their thoughts on ways that you find strength throughout life.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Tradition of Happiness and Love

If you are like me the fall season is a feeling. Even though in my neck of the woods its still relatively warm for nearing October, I can still feel it is fall and I can't help but get that nostalgic pull to pumpkins and the obsessiveness with colors like orange, brown and hunter green. I can't even walk around stores like Target right now without wanting to buy up all of the Halloween and fall decorations. In fact, I came home from Target with a solitary bag of pretend leaves just because it was in the dollar section and I wanted to buy something that felt like fall. Part of it I think is because we've had our fill with the scorching heat...and the feeling of the holidays right around the corner fills the air with excitement. For me its always been special because my birthday is in fall and now so is my baby's, so it's an extra special time.

I was thinking about it today and this time of year reminds me of family and tradition. Last year for my birthday, a friend gave me a wonderful book called, Heaven's Touch: A Tribute to Women, featuring art by Greg Olsen. He is one of my absolute favorites. The above picture is actually one of his from his "Childhood" collection. I found this picture in my book and so I went on Greg Olsen's website to search for it. I loved the description of the picture, called "Fall Leaves". It reads, "These young children are in the enviable state of not yet having learned that raking leaves is supposed to be work. They have turned a chore into pure fun. The reward of their raking is the creation of a mountain of leaves large and soft enough to catch them as they jump from the branches of the tree above. All this, while a neighbor leans on a rake in his garden in front of a trash pile of burning leaves. Greg Olsen - 2006"
So, it got me thinking about the importance of family time and the pure joy and happiness that can be created in the culture of any particular family. And I think it really is individual "culture". More than anything else in the world, we remember how things were done in our home growing up. The effects our upbringing and homelife have on us, is arguably more effective than any other experience in life. It is during a crucial time where we are learning about life and discovering who we are.
The quote that went along in my book with Greg Olsen's picture was one from prophet Joseph F. Smith. He said, "There can be no genuine happiness separate and aprt from the home....There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life....The strongest attachments of childhood are those that cluster about the home, and the dearest memories of old age are those that call up the associations of youth and its happy surroundings."
What better way is there then, as parents, to make those few short years a positive and memorable experience, than creating family traditions? Definitely, specific holidays and times of year remind us of certain traditions, which is why I bring it up now. Certainly though, there are everyday traditions that can and should be established in a home like family scripture study, home evening on a weekly basis, attending church services together, enjoying at least one meal a day all together at the dinner table enjoying one anothers company, etc. For example, one mine and my husband's traditions since we were dating is that we go on evening walks. We've always loved to go on walks together...(or a run), but its something that we plan on continuing with our children as often as possible throughout the week. I am sure there will be times, when we have teenagers that they will not be as happy to go on the walks as they once were, (just ask my dad about trying to get me to go on bike rides with the family at sixteen years old. I mean, seriously, seven plus bikes riding down the street...helmets and all, and I swear he'd go right in front of my friends' houses just to drive me nuts, haha) but I'm hoping that creating this tradition in our "family culture" will help to cultivate our relationships and teach them that family togetherness and quality time is important.
This is something important to my husband and I because we learned it from very loving parents who knew that family time was important. It wasn't always expensive trips or extravagant events...but they were significant enough that it imprinted in our hearts the importance of this family time.
Getting back to this time of year, I wanted to share some of our families traditions. Some of them more "typical" some of them more "sentimental". I think for my husband's family, the food they've made at certain holidays has become significantly sentimental. What is a Thanksgiving dinner without Mom's homemade rolls? Pumpkin pie will always remind us of his dear grandpa, who even in his very ill days, would enjoy a piece because it was his favorite. Going around the table before eating on Thanksgiving to express what we are thankful for. The beautiful table settings and display of food that looks to gorgeous to even eat. The matching pajama's on Christmas for all of the great-grandchildren from Great Grandma. The list goes on and on.
For my family, it has always been a tradition that on Christmas morning, before going out to the Christmas tree, we stood oldest to youngest and covered the eyes of the one in front of us to walk out. Dad always makes a fabulous Christmas morning breakfast. Mom always makes fudge and english toffee. The race to find Baby Jesus within the mounds of packing popcorn in the box of the Nativity set. Chris Mouse and his microphone to Santa Claus to make sure we were being good little boys and girls. The letters we would write to him and the notes we would get back on tiny stationary. We used to leave him cheese and he would nibble it down leaving only crumbs...or a stick to come back and see "mouse bites". (I can't believe the effort Mom and Dad put in for us to have the Spirit of Christmas. They truly love us).
All of these times have created memories that we will never forget, and we hope to continue on with our children. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the specific tradition is, as long as there is a pattern of love in our homes and the things that we do as a family, I hope that they will look back on their upbringing with happiness and love. And if we acheive that, there will be no greater accomplishment. Because as David O. McKay said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”
If you feel so inclined, I'd love to hear of your family traditions (or ones you hope to start) that you'd like to share. I love hearing from you...I plan on getting better at commenting back. Nonetheless, I read them all and getting your insight and comments makes my day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


My husband and I have been running every night. We've been coming home and lifting weights. We've been eating healthily and have been successful in staying focused on our program. We are slowly but surely seeing and feeling the results which is a phenomenal reward for our hard work. However, last night, we were checking ourselves out in our closet mirror (don't pretend you don't do the same after a work flex as if you'll actually see an instantaneous result from that very days efforts! haha). I started to complain to my husband, "When the heck did I get hips??" Definitely, I have born a child. Just ask my backside. "No matter how many crunches I do, the stretchmarks will always remain." (Unless one day in the distant future I go under the knife for a tummy tuck.) As he empathized and gave me the typical sweet husband responses of, "I think you're beautiful..." etc., (I love him so much, by the way)... I responded still somewhat negatively with, "You're lucky that you're a guy, because your body is not permanantly changed just from becoming a father!" He, however begged to differ and pointed as his belly saying, "My body has changed since becoming a dad; problem is, I had complete control. You didn't." (Again, I love him so.)

Anyway, as I said the words, "You're lucky" I instantaneously felt guilty...truly, the joy of conceiving, carrying and bearing a child, is my most cherished accomplishment, some of my fondest memories, a divine gift...and something I do actually look forward to doing again a few more times. And I thought of my stretchmarks finally as the "stripes of honor" that people joke about. But, this time, to me it didn't feel like a joke. And I started to think of why I got stretch marks. Well, I did gain a little over what I needed and I was insanely swollen due to hypertension, but ultimately, stretchmarks come when your body is getting bigger faster than your skin thought you would be. Basically.

Then I started thinking...I hope that my soul has stretchmarks. I know that sounds silly, and utterly impossible since your soul isn't something physical. But, I hope that my soul has stretchmarks, figuratively speaking. As human beings, in our general nature we have a drive inside of us to press forward. This drive motivates us to be better and stronger. To acheive beyond our personal limits and accomplish. At times we are more motivated than others, but generally, none of us get up in the morning and say, "I don't want to do better. I want to be a worse person than I was yesterday." (At least, I hope none of us say that.)

So, everyday, we try to push ourselves just a little bit harder...stretch our bodies, our hearts, our souls to reach beyond the limits. This is where I get my silly notion of hoping that my soul has stretchmarks. I want to feel like I am stretching every day...beyond the capacities that I even thought I could be, therefore creating stretchmarks, a.k.a. stripes of honor. And the state of our souls should matter more than our physical state, because ultimately, one keeps eternally, and one does not.

"Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." ~2 Corinthians 4:16

Everday our bodies get older...the outward man does perish. Deteriorates. Thankfully, its relatively slow, but inevitable nonetheless.

Our soul does not deteriorate, rather it is replenished, renewed, strengthened...STRETCHED!

President Hinckley said, "We can improve, and when all is said and done that's what this is all about: improvement, changing our lives so that we can help people change their lives and be better; building Zion on the earth."

I hope my soul is covered in stretchmarks. I know that if it is, some are self inflicted but many are the product of others helping me to grow. Thank you for that.

Learning to love my physical stretchmarks may be a constant battle...a love/hate relationship if you will. Sometimes (most of the time, to be honest) I will want to to wish them away. But my spiritual stretchmarks, the ones I've earned and hope to earn, I hope that those stay eternally...and continue to multiply. Because we've all earned those ones too, as our "stripes of honor". Each and every one.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Get Real

I can't sleep. 1AM on a Friday night...and I will freely admit, its because I am too full to relax. I ate like a BIG NASTY tonight on a "Girls Night Out". I mean, I don't even want to estimate the calories...but I'm sick. Bleh. And it's been this way for 2+ hours now...go away.

Well, as I try to digest, I'll type to get my mind off of the dizziness of my bursting stomach. I've had something on my mind tonight. I have turned over a new leaf in my life the past few months. I've decided to "GET REAL". And by that, I mean, I decided to be true to myself. I have spent much of my life trying to be someone for someone make others happy. I LOVE to make others happy...especially those I love, and usually that love and happiness is reciprocated. That's called healthy relationships. That, I have not changed. I still very much live to show those I love the service and happiness they deserve for making me the happy and blessed person I am.

What I have changed is trying to make people who don't care if they are making me happy, happy. Make sense? Of course it does, because you all know what I'm talking about. We're talking about being fake, people. I mean, we all do it at one point or another. And sometimes its not intended but we concern ourselves SO much with impressing others or not wanting to offend someone, that we put our own thoughts, feelings, desires...EVERYTHING aside, to make others feel more comfortable. All the while, we are not being true to them or ourselves.

And frankly, I have had ENOUGH of it! I am me...this is who I am. I ate 20,000 calories tonight. Sometimes money is tight and we worry how we'll pay our bills. Sometimes, I go ballistic from stress or lack of sleep or for no real apparent reason at all. Sometimes I curl in a ball on the floor and cry when its that time of month. I weigh myself daily because I have issues with it. I watch MTV reality shows sometimes. I secretly dream of being a super star and sing in the mirror with my hair brush. Oh, the list goes on and on of things that aren't easily admitted. And its okay to admit it, because I am human, and I know all of you out there have your quirks too. It's okay to be real. We don't have to be THAT real all of the time, but you get the point.

And it's okay to love yourself for those things. It's okay to be proud of yourself. I've recently discovered that there are things I really like about myself. I have discovered that I think some things about my looks are really pretty. I have musical talents that I am proud of. I feel I am a good person. I am successful in my life because I try everyday. And a recent development...I am REAL.

I have discovered in trying to be me for me and the people that really love me, that I love myself more than I ever thought. I measured my own happiness and my own self worth on what other people thought of me, and therefore thought that I always had to be better. But for who? I've discovered it was not for me. It was for people that I was never, ever going to please. Because people like that are not pleased with themselves, and they want you to feel that same feeling of defeat. No more...I want to give myself credit, by myself, for myself.

I looked for validation in every possible area. Every one's opinion had to be calculated until I could decide how I "really felt". I couldn't be impressed with myself until someone else measured the worth of my achievements for me. It's a depressing way to live. I want to walk into a room and feel beautiful because I just looked at myself in a mirror and I thought I looked beautiful...not because ten heads did or didn't turn as I walked in.

It's possible to have that feeling. I am just catching the glimpse of it, and let me tell you, it is a magnificent sight to see.

I did not bring myself to this point. Those in my life who really love me, who really cared about me, forced me to this point. Short of shaking sense into me, people like my husband and my sister in particular (who are both very real people, by the way) forced me to see that I was killing myself from the inside with the craziness of trying to be something to everyone. It was a lie. You can't be something to everyone. Once you are true to yourself...once you decide that you are going to be you for you, and no one else, the evidence that we all are trapped in that same nightmare of acceptance comes out, and has a rippling effect.

"When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her." ~Adrienne Rich

If you seek out to be true to yourself, then you will find those around you who want that too. And you will weed out those who don't.

Because if you are not true to who you are, you are betraying yourself in the worst way possible. And your whole purpose for betraying yourself, to be everything for everyone else, is a catch 22 that will come back to bite you, because how can you be true to others, if you can't be true to yourself?

"If one is estranged from oneself, then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others." ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"A man who doesn't trust himself can never really trust anyone else." ~Cardinal De Retz

And if that costs you friends, relationships, etc, what is more important? The relationship built upon superficial lies, or your own self-respect and self-worth?

"I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence." ~Frederick Douglass

And there-in, in that self respect, you will find exactly what you need to be the best you. The one you were striving to be from the very beginning. And that best you, the one always trying to progress to be better and share that light, will accomplish volumes more than the persona that was once the role you played, could have ever dreamed.

"To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves--there lies the great, singular power of self-respect."~Joan Didion

I am barely breaking the surface of my new-found freedom, but I am at a point where I am comfortable with myself and as Mark Twain said, "The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself."

It is the truth. Because you are the one that will lay in bed at night worrying about what others think. You will be the one bending over backwards for people that would never think twice to do the same for you. That loneliness will eat a hole inside you that will never be filled by those acts of self destruction.

I am me. I have always been me...deep inside. Don't get me wrong...I am not a completely different person...who I was wasn't a facade or role I played completely. I was a good person then, too. The personas we play are derivatives of who we really are inside. It's when we start to cater to our own feelings and desires instead of those who are impossible to please, that we can be comfortable to admit and be who we really are and who we really want to be.

And in this discovery of my reality, I have found that I am more respected by those in my life for it. And those who do not respect it, do not need to be in my life. But like I said, I have found human nature is generally kind and accepting. It's what we don't like about ourselves that we point out in others. None of us need fingers pointed at us...we do it enough to ourselves.

This post felt more like a soap box then I've ever felt before. It's not meant to be. I don't know, maybe because its almost 2 am...and I'm getting delirious, I just made myself sound like a babbling idiot. But two things I know for certain, I am happier with who I am today than I ever have been in my life...and I'm STILL insanely full.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Study Suggestions and A Personal Challenge

K, all three of you out there...I have a question for you. :) )And if there are more out there hiding, I'd love your advice as well...anytime.)

I have made a habit of being pretty self deprecating and brutally honest about my shortcomings on this blog, so I guess why hold back now.
There. I've said it. Sometimes they say when you admit it you feel better. I actually don't. Maybe I will if you can help me and something actually comes from this admittance of one of my most private weaknesses.
I try, really I do. I have the best intentions, but for some reason, it never sticks like I expect it to. I always feel like I've found the best method for me, but I fall out of a routine pretty quickly. I kind of lose faith in myself and my ability to keep up with things I know I should be doing. I mean, I always keep trying, I never give can I? I know they are true, I find such joy in reading...I could read through conference talks and gospel topic books for days...but honestly, sometimes the scriptural languages is harder to catch onto.
I have a friend, who is such an example to me...I kept trying to get her to read this fictional series I was reading and she said she didn't want to start reading until she finished with the scriptures. Her method was, she read them like a book. It wasn't like a set number of chapters a night...she just read them like you'd read a novel...until you decided to put it down for the night.
I've done this...and its a good method. I've also been trying to follow the Sunday School schedule. It really comes in handy for Gospel Doctrine when you actually read what you are talking about. This is a good method too. I've also heard of people that reference and study specific topics. Or skip around from book to book.
I probably have the wrong attitude about it...and I don't want it to come off like I want it to be some game, but I just wondered if any of you have had a specific method that has had an affect on you and has therefore increased your love of the scriptures and desire to study. I'd LOVE to hear your experiences.
Remember, you can post anonymously.
Ultimately, I want to follow the prophet Gordon B. Hinckley's counsel, "Let us establish in our lives the habit of reading those things which will strengthen our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world."
What I need is for it to be more of a priority...a habit. Something I do without question. And I will always continue to try, even if its an uphill battle for the rest of my life.
Secondly, I was thinking about the movie "Pay It Forward" with that kid from "The Sixth Sense", Haley Joel Osment or something, Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey. Have you seen it?? It's amazing...great message. The jist is, you pay forward good deeds. Acts of kindness and its a trickling effect. Kind of like the Liberty Mutual commerical also...have you seen that? Pretty cool. Anyway, I am challenging myself and any of you who want to challenge yourselves (people make changes in themselves better than other people asking them to) make a difference today. Somewhere. To somebody.
"I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid."~3 Nephi 12:14
Let your light so that we all might help each other see the pure joy and beauty that is life and loving one another.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Savior, My Brother, My Friend

Lately, my mind has been swarming around a lot of different topics. I've actually been studying a lot of politics, watching a lot of Glenn Beck and CNN. Also, my husband and I have been working out a lot and so I've been studying healthier food and meals, and calculating my miles run, etc. Not to mention, my life has been going on as normal and so I've also had the joys and stresses of motherhood and life on my mind. I have to admit, my central focus has not been where it should be. But...

I've been thinking about today's post topic for a few weeks. It's always on my mind, but I've felt very inadequate to even write about it. (Not that I am even experienced enough to write on any of the topics I write on, which is kind of the point...I find strength in the topics as I study about them, and vent about my feelings via this blog). But still, this particular topic is of the greatest importance to me...and its very sacred and personal. This is my relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I was explaining to my friend that this relationship is SO multi-faceted- so many angles to come from when writing on the Savior. However, its also completely simple. He is my Savior. He suffered for my sins, and He bled and died for me that I might live eternally one day.

There is nothing more important or sacred to me. And at the same time, there is nothing more that I take for granted each day, than this. I'd say, the majority of the time, I forget to think about it. Even in my daily supplication and prayers, I feel like I pray for my thankfulness of the Savior and His Atonement, but that sometimes its said without real remembrance and no more time spent thinking about it than the few seconds it took me to say it.

I read an amazing book a few years ago called, "Believing Christ". The main point to me was that if we believe in Christ, we have to believe that what He suffered was for each and every one of us individually. That there is no one exempt from the redeeming power of the Atonement if we but come to him with a humble heart and contrite spirit, and a true desire to change.

In today's world, a lot people view believing in Christ to be a childish myth, much as a belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Honestly, maybe that was partly the reason I was afraid to write about this...because I've written about a lot of things that most people can relate to as human beings. Parenthood, Marriage/Relationships, Love of Country, Honesty, Kindness, The Golden Rule...etc. Talking about Christ or God now days is like something that people are afraid to do publicly for fear of sounding like a fanatic. But, after beginning this post and now writing it, I am ashamed I ever let what the world thinks influence me into believing I should maybe keep my mouth shut about this topic.

There is no topic of greater importance. No topic that better applies to the lives of each and every one of us, because whether you believe it or not, Christ suffered for YOU! He is your Savior, your Brother, and your Friend, every bit as He is mine. Whether you believe in Him or not.

Without my belief in Him, to live in this world without the hope that I can one day return to live with eternally with God, my Savior and family...I would be lost in this world, and life would be without purpose. He is my ultimate source of strength.

Christs Atonement for mankind was part of God's Eternal plan. For God to give us a world where we had the free agency to choose, there had to be Savior, because we would inevitably make incorrect choices at one point or another. How then can He expect us to live a life worthy to return to Him, if there is no one to be our Advocate? The fact is, is that we do have an Advocate. We have a Savior who understands every suffering, because He has suffered it, and He will speak on our behalf and take upon our sins, if only we let Him.

Yeah, like I said, multi-faceted topic...and I could go on for hours. Instead, I wanted to quote yet another page from Stand A Little Taller .

Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? -1 John 5:5
Believe in Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer, the Son of God, who came to earth and walked the dusty roads of Palestine- the Son of God-to teach us the way of truth and light and salvation, and who, in one great and glorious act offered an atonement for each of us. He opened the way of salvation and exaltation for us, under which we may go forward in the Church and kingdom of God. Be not faithless, but believe in the great and wonderful and marvelous blessings of the Atonement."~ Gordon B. Hinckley
It was for you and for me. He is your brother and you've known Him before. All He asks is that you come unto Him and remember Him.
I was reading a blog of someone who was describing their sister-in- law, (we'll call her "C") who was born missing part of her brain, the corpus callosum, which is responsible for the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain, leaving her in a child like state, unable to learn things like speaking and walking. She described how "C" has a hard time recognizing faces. Even her own brothers face, this woman's husband, and she, her sister-in-law, as they don't see her every day. But she described how "C" became attached to a picture of the Savior that she found in a church handbook. The one of Christ in the red robe that I have pictured above. "C" carries that picture every where she goes, by her own free will. The sister-in-law explains how no one has forced this idea upon her, but that it is something that is a constant in her life. Her parents placed it onto a piece of wood in order to keep it from tearing, but still have to keep back up pictures in case one is lost. If "C" can't find her picture, she freaks out until it is found. She recognizes her Savior, her Brother, her Friend. She knows Him well and remembers Him.
What a testimony builder to me...Christ knows us all. This young woman doesn't physically have the full capacity to understand a lot of concepts, but she understands more fully even than I, the importance of a grateful and loving relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. I, too, should be just as attached to His image. I, too, should be constantly reminding myself of what He suffered on my behalf, so that I may live my life according to His will.
I testify that He lives. He lived a life of teaching, healing and miracles. He suffered in the Garden of Gesthemane, and died on the cross at Calvary, all for me and you. And He rose and lived again in similitude of the opportunity He has given us. To live eternally, if we but turn our hearts to Him, live our lives worthily and believe.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Land That I Love

This blog is definitely not a political outlet or forum, but I don't think a love for one's country has to be completely political. I think it has the power to be just as much on a spiritual and emotional level, as a political level.

And today, out of all days out of the year, we as a nation, remember together, why we fight to be free.


Turn on the tv...the up an internet browser...walk outside and see the flag being proudly displayed, and you can't help but remember. None of us will ever forget what happened that day that took the lives of thousands of our brothers and sisters of this nation and devastated our country. We were all affected and for a brief time, we were in all senses of the word, UNITED! And even though we were riding a wave of disaster, we hung tight to each other and to our love for our country. I think its important to remember today, not to be dramatic...but because real people lost their live, and still do, everday, because our country is free and we fight for that freedom.

We are in the midst of a big election, with many promises and proclamations for change have been made. I, too, hope that there is change...for the better. One thing I pray, is that this blessed nation, one that I believe is "under God", will continue to be just that: Blessed.


Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever."~D&C 109:54

May God bless this nation of which you and I are a part. Bless her leaders that they may rise above pettiness and live after the tradition of the Founding Fathers. Bless our industry that it may benefit all mankind. Bless our science that out of it may come health and happiness for the peoples of the earth. Bless the people of this nation, you, every one of you, and me, and all who walk beneath its glorius flag with gratitude and appreciation, with respect and reverence, as well as with love." (Stand A Little Taller; Gordon B. Hinckley)

I pray that whoever is elected to lead our country is one that will preserve the essence of what America is and love her more than themselves. I am so grateful for the country I live in and hope that I can work hard to do my part to make change for the better and ensure that our freedoms remain.
Lastly, I was thinking about these words today...and how long its been since I've said them, and how much longer than that, that its been since I've thought about what they truly mean...I pray that we never forget. I know it has been since changed, but this is how I remember it:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

God Bless America, and God be with those who lost loved ones, seven years ago today in the tragic events that took place that September morning.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Positive Reinforcement

We are all human. We all have insecurities. Some are better than others at hiding them and some people scream insecurity. The point still being, everyone has insecurities.

Now, no one can take away anyones insecurities for them. It's something we all have to deal with and reconcile personally. However, our words and actions to others play a major role in attributing to the security or insecurity of others' and their feelings.

We do this in two ways, whether through words or actions:

Compliment: (a) an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration; especially : an admiring remark (b) formal and respectful recognition

Put-down: (a) depose, degrade (b) disparage, belittle (c) disapprove, criticize (d) humiliate

I'd venture to say all of us have probably received both of the above. Compliments that have left us floating on cloud nine and put downs that have left us crippled. I know I mentioned this in a previous post, Divine Reflection, and how we have to realize our divine potential and have confidence regardless of how others around us treat us, but I wanted to focus on helping build each other up. Most importantly, building up our spouses and close family/friends.

In marriage, most couples aren't exactly alike, right? I mean, they don't say opposites attract for nothing. Definitely you have similar interests or personality traits that attracted you to be with one another in the first place, but there will inevitibly be differences. In Stand A Little Taller:

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. ~1 Corinthians 7:3
In a marriage, each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for differences, and lathough it is important and necessary that both the husband and the wife work to ameliorate those differences, there must be some recognition that they exist and that they are not necessarily undesirable. In fact, the differences may make the companionship more interesting."
It's important that we accept our spouses for who they are. We need to build them up about themselves in their strengths, and help them progress in their weaknesses. ***IMPORTANT NOTE: Weaknesses are best acknowledged and defined by the indivudual. We should not point out areas that the other needs to work on and try to change them. A huge part of progression and change is realizing ourselves what the problem is, and desiring to change it of our own free will and choice.***
The way that we do this is with positive reinforcement: COMPLIMENTS!
My friend and I were just having this discussion, which prompted this post, and it dawned on me that while I might tell my husband every day things like, "I love you" or "you smell nice" or "Thanks for working hard"...maybe what I need to do is compliment him on something that maybe he's more insecure about. For example, he already knows I love him and that I am grateful for his hard work...its good to tell him that, but he knows that. He knows he smells nice, because he put cologne on that morning for that very purpose. What I need to think more about is saying things like, (and forgive the cheesiness), "That shirt really accentuates your rock hard biceps and makes you look really buff!" Okay...if you know my husband, that would be a compliment! And it wouldn't sound cheesy. You come up with what works for them. When my husband tells me he loves my body, well, I have a hard time really seeing that, but...I accept that HE does and that he really means it, and that compliment gives me a lot of confidence.
I had a friend recently relay an amazing compliment that a friend of hers had said about me to her. It really touched me that someone I barely knew had made an observation about me that I would never think someone would, and it meant so much for me to hear that. We never ever forget those kinds of compliments. They stay with us forever.
We also know that the opposite, PUT-DOWNS from a spouse can be worse than any other kind of put down. I know of a situation where someone I knew, who is absolutely gorgeous, had a spouse who constantly called her names, berated and belittled her. It blinded her to that fact that anyone could see that she was gorgeous, let alone herself.
We've all been the victim of some sort of abuse with a put-down and just like a great compliment, we will never, EVER forget it. I remember a girl in 6th grade telling me I had ugly hair. I remember a guy in 8th grade telling me to go drink a Slim-Fast. I remember a guy I was dating asking me if I'd ever considered braces...YOU DON'T FORGET THESE KINDS OF THINGS! They stay with you forever.
So, regardless of what relationship you are dealing with; spousal, friendship, family members, church or work acquaintances...we need to remember that we are touching others' lives...and we need it to be in positive, meaningful ways.
Ye are the light of the world. ~Matthew 5:14
No man or woman proceeds alone. All of us are largely the products of the lives which touch upon our lives." (Standing A Little Taller)
We are responsible for the lives of others that we touch...we will be blessed for our acts of kindness and selflessness, and we will answer for the things that we have said or done to injure or criple others along the way.
The most insecure of people are those that put others down. I'd say the opposite affect of this would be that the more that we build up the confidence of others, the more we will build up in confidence about ourselves. As we seek to see the good in everyone else, we will begin to see ourselves in that same light and love ourselves.
Below are some great quotes on Critiscm and Kindness:

"We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves." ~Henri Frederic Amiel

"Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you." ~William Arthur Ward

"No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves."~Amelia Earhart

"So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs."
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves."~James M. Barrie

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless." ~Mother Teresa
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." ~Philo
"The little unremembered acts of kindness and love are the best parts of a person's life." ~William Wordsworth
And just to let you know, you reading my blog is one of the biggest compliments to me. I may not even know that you are there because there may never be a comment made; but for me, to be able to voice my thoughts and have others take the time to read them has touched my life in a way that I can't even describe. So, thank you.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Talk-aholics Anonymous

Hi. My name is "S" and I am a talk-aholic.

Yes, it is true. I have decided to come out in the open and say it. I am addicted to talking.

It's something that has been a love/hate relationship in my life. There are times where I felt it was one of my most redeeming qualities; the ability to socialize and communicate with others. But there have been times, where my talking has hindered other abilities. One of the most important abilities that excessive talking can do, is hinder your ability to listen.

I have come to terms with the fact that being social and talkative is a quality I was given for purposes that I have recognized in my life, and probably things to come in my life. I have accepted that I do not have to change that part of me completely. There was a time where I felt very trapped inside my own personality and viewed my qualities and tendencies as negative traits. I sometimes had people in my life who would make fun, tease or ridicule me for these things, and instead of seeing in what areas I could use it as a strength, I came to detest the whole idea of it.

As I said before, I have since realized the importance of certain traits and gifts we are given, and that I do need to embrace this part of my personality and use it in positive ways...however, I have also realized that just because it can be a useful and positive thing, that it does have very much potential to be exactly the opposite.

When I was a little girl, my parents used to have to tell me at the dinner table to "stop talking and eat". I have been known to interrupt. More than 99.9% the of the time the interupption is unintentional, but an interruption none the less. I am a sentence finisher...gosh, isn't that so annoying? I annoy myself with it. I have been known to go on and on and on, writing about something in a blog and.....oh...okay, moving on from this point...

The problem with all of this, is that I am still seeking that balance in my life. To accept that I am who I am and that being a talkative and social person is part of my personality, but also on the flip side, to be a better listener and realize that there are others with just as important, if not more important, things to share.

What brought this on, was that our Bishop came to visit our home the other night to get to know us a little bit better, and he left us with a small booklet entitled, "3 Simple Ways to Become a Happier Family". I decided to read it that night as my scripture study, and I highly recommend it. There were some phenomenal ideas and solutions to stumbling blocks on the road to a happier family. You can request a free copy of this booklet from by clicking HERE and going to the bottom of the page.

Anyway, one particular part that struck me that I could start to implement into my young family and my marriage today was the section entitled, "Are You Really Listening?" I want to quote what it says under that question. There is no specific personal credit given for the wording, as far as the author goes, but I'd say it was generally approved in the church leadership. I always like to give the credit to the person who said whatever quote I use, but in this case, its an LDS publication. It says:

"Listening is more than just hearing. An important way to express your sincere interest in your family members is to listen to them carefully. Listening to what people are feeling as well as what they are saying takes concentration and effort. But the rewards are worth the effort-your family members will be more willing to open up and tell you what they thing and how they feel."

I could really relate to that, because, I remember a specific conversation I was having with my husband where this issue came up. He is not so much the intense talker, as I am, and so in the midst of a discussion, he said something to the effect of, "You may hear me, but you're not really listening to me." And it totally hit home. I was definitely "hearing" his words...but I was taking them in just to, and forgive my crudeness, regurgitate a defensive response. I was taking his words and throwing them back at him in order to further my own thoughts or feelings. I wasn't REALLY listening and internalizing his thoughts and feelings with a humble heart. As the above statement mentioned, this kind of listening takes concentration and effort...but the rewards will be worth the effort. I would always ask him why he didn't open up to me more, and it made me realize that my lack of listening did not invite that kind of a submission of his feelings. Why would you want to share your feelings with a wall... or worse, a rubber wall, where every feeling shared bounces off and hits you back in the face?

So, naturally, this portion spoke to me directly. The booklet then gives several steps that will help us to learn to listen more effectively.

*"Show that you want to listen by looking at them when they are speaking."

That eye contact means to the person speaking, that what they say is important enough to you, that nothing else is worth being distracted by. Even better, I think its nice, especially with couples to try to hold hands or sit closely. Focusing all of our attention on that person is not only a great respect, but it clears your mind of all distraction and helps you to internalize what is being said.

*"Avoid interrupting with your own experiences and opinions. If the one speaking pauses, don't rush to add your own ideas."

I should highlight this one in bright red and make it 100 times font. My mind sometimes works at a lightening speed and my wheels are always turning during a conversation. I like to be able to add my experiences. Honestly, and don't think I'm weird, but sometimes I get anxiety if I get a thought and don't share it. I have improved, but sometimes I almost have to hold my lips shut in order to not explode with my thoughts. Definitely something I am working on, and I have caught and noticed myself interrupting or waiting for someone to take a breath and jumping in. Not to mention trying to finish sentences or throw out words when people pause to recollect a word or idea. Seriously, that's annoying. And I really need to work on this one. Plus, it kind of gives the other person the impression that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say, or that you aren't even really listening to what they are saying in the first place because you are thinking about what you are going to say next.

*"Watch nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and posture."

It's not enough to just say to someone, "How are you?" If the response is "Fine," with a tone of frustration, or a frown, or slumped shoulders, survey says....probably not fine. Sometimes people don't know how to come out with it and share their thoughts or feelings. I think this is important for our kids especially. If parents are aware of non-verbal cues, there will be a lot more picked up on. You can often tell when a child or teenager is dealing with something...most of the time, they wear it on their sleeves. Being able to recognize these tones, expressions and body language is a huge step to opening those lines of communication. However, its very important to do-so positively, and with an attitude of acceptance, understanding and willingness to listen. Besides, most husbands know by now, if your wife says, "Fine," with any kind of a tone or expression...she's definitely not "fine". ha ha

*"Be accepting of how family members describe their feelings, motives, and goals without lecturing on how they should think or feel."

Often times we think that every one should view things the same way that we do. Sometimes, a solution to a problem can be in plain sight for one, and another person is blinded to that fact. One of the worst things that anyone listening to another person can say to them is, "You shouldn't feel that way." Everyone has a right to their feelings. No one likes to be told that the way they think or feel is insignificant or invalid.

*"Demonstrate your understanding by describing how they seem to feel: 'It sounds as if you feel...'"

I know this does sound a little bit "therapisty" but it really works! My husband and I have tried it, and it is amazing what is implied or assumed in our minds without reiterating to the other person what you heard. My mom always used to tell me, "You hear what you want to hear." And I think it is true...the same words said in one way, can be taken the complete wrong way by the listening party. It's important to clarify what we understand from our words so that the person really feels as though their true thoughts are being assessed and understood.

*"Share your perspective to offer your insight and alternatives. But unless serious matters such as health, safety, and moral issues are involved, wise parents often allow children to make their own decisions and learn by experience to the extent appropriate for their age and level of maturity."

It's important the we use our experiences to be able to aid others with options on how to handle situations that they confide in us with. Especially our children...they need to know that we have been there, and this is how we handled it or this is what we would have done differently to handle it. But at the same time, you cannot force someone to learn something just by listening to others' experiences. Part of this life is experiencing with our free agency in order to figure out what we want out of this life. As parents. or older siblings, or leaders, we want to teach people who have gone through something to "not go there"...because I've been there. However, after giving the advice and counsel we have to give, it is left up to them to react how they will with the guidance provided. It's a hard one...and I don't look forward to the day when I have to send my children off into the world to make their own decisions and hope I've taught them enough, but that is what makes them who they are and when their real character will shine through.

This section of this pamphlet really just made me realize in my life how much I might be missing out on because my mouth is too busy going to hear other important things that others are saying to me, that can help teach me to be a better person. And sometimes, the most important lessons can come from the simple conversations that we have with those in our every day lives. As Stephen Covey said, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Be Thou Humble

Humility is such a multi-faceted thing. You may be completely humble in one area, and not at all in another. It's a quality that you can attain and lose very quickly. When thinking about humility, my first reaction was that I feel I am a humble person. I don't in anyway feel conceited or boastful...I don't feel like I think I am better than anyone else.

But, I am not truly humble. Especially, because I thought to myself, "I am."

I like to be right. Who doesn't? Who likes to be wrong? No one. It's a really hard thing to admit when you are comes with lots of feelings of vulnerability. It's like opening your soul to someone when you admit to them that you are wrong and humble yourself before their mercy. I've felt that feeling completely, and been so built up in my pride that I am too afraid to let it down, and therefore will be wrong and still not admit it. I've done this especially to my husband, and thats so not fair. Sometimes, we don't even necessarily have to be completely wrong. I've been in a situation where someone I knew and I both felt valid in our concerns and points, and realistically, we both could feel the way we felt. However, we both could have sat and argued our points back and forth and without the humility to accept that we might have hurt the other person, whether intended or not, we might never have gotten past our own selfish points of view. Luckily, we both were able to humble ourselves enough to apologize for our misunderstandings and move beyond the problem. Without humility, that never would have happened.

Pride is a dangerous thing. From Stand A Little Taller :

Be thou humble and the Lord they God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers. ~D&C 112:10
There is no place for arrogance in our lives, no place for conceit, no place for anything of that kind. We are very ordinary people in many respects. We must walk our own way. We are here to do a work, to make something of our lives, and God our Eternal Father will bless us in so doing if we will walk in humility and prayer."
Humility is definitely something that has to be made with a concsious effort. In fact, if we think, " I am so humble..." we actually probably are not, because we are boasting about it. The most humble people would probably never say it.
And to me, true humility is recognizing God's hand in our lives. So much of our world today is "self-proclaimed". Many people feel they can do it all themselves, without any help from a higher power. Many people don't acknowledege God's presence at all and are thus built up in their pride for themselves and all they've accomplished. If we as a society, nation or world are so prideful that we remove God's presence from our lives, He will be forced to humble us.
Humility is a process. As I said above, I think that there are times and areas of my life where I feel complete humility and submissivness to the Spirit. But there are other areas where, whether I want to believe it or not, I have pride. President Hinckley acknowledged that we are here in this life to accomplish things, to "make something of our lives". With those accomplishments, does come a sense of pride in your work. It's how we react and treat others that shows the true nature of our pride. Whether we are boastful and conceited about the things we've done, or show gratitude for opportunities to learn, grow, progress and help others through those accomplishments.
This is something I am still learning. There is a fine line between feeling humble and being truly humble...its definitely a tough thing to decipher. I think truly if our heart is always in the right place and we are acknowledging God's hand in all we do, we are on the right path.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Positive Attitude

Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live skit about Debbie Downer? If not, you have to see it. It's funny, but it really also proves the point made in this post. Click here to watch.
Debbie ruins everything with her negative outlook on pretty much any subject. Even at Disneyworld, in the above sketch, she makes all of her friends and family upset by her pessimistic comments. Obviously, the extent of a personality such as hers is exaggerated, but I have met people somewhat like this before. It's really a hard thing to be around someone who is negative much of the time, and keep a positive attitude yourself.
I myself at times have been very negative and have watched that drain the positivity right out of those I come in contact with. No one likes to be around people that are like this.
However, on the flip side, have you ever been around someone who is generally happy and positive? You want to be around someone like this because it makes you feel hope. Even in the midst of problems, these types of people see the light at the end of a tunnel.
President Hinckley tells us in Stand A Little Taller, that we as followers of Christ, have nothing to be gloomy about for very long...
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing....Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thanksful unto him, and bless his name. ~Psalm 100 2,4
Do you feel gloomy? Lift your eyes. Stand on your feet. Say a few words of appreciation and love to the Lord. Be positive. I do not know how anybody who is a member of this Church can feel gloomy for very long. This is the day which has been spoken of by those who have gone before us. Let us live worthy of our birthright. Keep the faith. Nuture your testimonies. Walk in righteousness and the Lord will bless you and prosper you, and you will be a happy and wonderful people."~Gordon B. Hinckley
If everyone could "Stop and smell the roses..." so to speak and decide to recognize our blessings more, then the effect on each other would be inevitable. Positivity is contagious. If we spend too much time thinking negatively, we will lose opportunities to find the happiness that awaits. Alexander Graham Bell said, "When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."

And along those lines, how can we have any faith in ourselves and accomplishing anything in this life, if things that we do are laced with pessimism? Helen Keller, someone who in my opinion could have lived and wallowed completely in self-pity, and no one would have ever question why or thought it wrong, had one of the most positive outlooks in human history.
"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit. "

She knew that if she dwelled on her deafness and blindness, that she would never accomplish anything in this life. She accentuated the positives and recognized the blessings that she had, and with that, she has changed lives and made history.
We have much to be positive about in this life. One of the positives every person has in common, is that there is always time to change and be better. To make a difference. That leaves endless possibilities at our fingertips, that we all have. Positive thinking gives us power beyond what we think we are capable of. Pep talks and motivational speakers and books are not just for fun...its because positive thinking creates positive action. Negative thinking does the same thing, but with the opposite effect.
And for me, when there is something negative staring me in the face or that I am dealt with in my life, I try to think of the phrase, "This too shall pass". Because it will...and we will emerge stronger than before.
Think not only how positive thinking will bless your life...that is inevitable. But don't under estimate the power your positive outlook will have on those you come in contact with. Be a ray of sunshine in someones day, instead of a storm cloud.