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Milestones and Proud Mamas

Today my daughter, Sara, graduates from college.
This milestone brings to mind so many memories…

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  • When I took her to orientation day at preschool to meet her teacher and classmates, she walked away from me to interact with the other children. She kept looking back at me, surely needing reassurance that I was still there. Then she walked up to me and said, “Mom, it’s time for you to go home now!” I pointed out that parents had to stay. “Why? I’m fine. Just go home and pick me up later.” I told her I couldn’t leave, but I tried to fade out of her sight to help her enjoy her independence. So much for her needing my reassurance.
  • After her first day of kindergarten, I met her at the bus stop, and asked about her day. “It wasn’t anything like I thought it would be,” she said. “I thought I would just sit at a desk and learn, but all we did was play!”
  • When we went to New York City for the first time, Sara was about six years old, and took on the job of calling all our cabs. We couldn’t believe this little blonde child standing on the corner of those busy streets waving down cabs and directing us around the city.
  • When she was in elementary school, she used to slip notes under my bedroom door or put them on my pillow that said, “Mom, this is my schedule for the week.” She had detailed weekly agendas with all her activities and plans neatly written on notebook paper.
  • When she was 10, we sent her to Utah to stay with her grandparents. She sat down and planned out her entire itinerary. She planned to go to the northern end of the state to the small town of Syracuse first to be with Doug’s family, then she would go to my hometown of Springville about two hours away to be with my family. “How will you get from one place to another?” We asked. “I’ll call a cab,” she said. We had to teach her about the small towns of Utah and the lack of available cabs on the rural roads. But, she developed an alternative plan, stoically got on the plane without hesitation, and took off for her first journey alone. Annie and I stood at the gate and cried, amazed at her confidence and poise.
  • We went with Doug’s sister’s family and his parents on a Disney Cruise when Sara was about 11. When we got home, I put all our photos in a scrapbook and asked everyone to write their favorite part of the trip to put in the book.  Sara wrote, “My favorite part of the trip was having my own room key and being able to go all over the ship with my cousins.”
  • When I dropped her off at her college dorm for the first time, I wondered if she might get a little emotional. True to form, she hopped out of the car and off she went. We’d spent several days together before that so there was no need for a big goodbye. I watched her walk into the dorm and felt torn between wanting to sob that my baby girl would be living thousands of miles away from me and feeling overjoyed that she was so well-prepared for her new college life.

I’ve watched her apply these strokes of independence to her life as a college student — detailed day planners and calendars, keys to her own apartment and her own car, sitting at a desk learning, organizing a study abroad to London and traveling throughout Europe. Just like she led us around New York City, she escorted us around the streets and the underground of London. She’s boarded planes, buses, trains, subways, boats, and bikes, and loved every minute of it. She’s made lifelong friends, had her heart and mind stretched in every way, and received an education far beyond what shows up on her diploma.

Now, today, I get to watch her in her blue cap and gown as she marches into the commencement exercises at the Marriott Center with all that knowledge, experience, growth, maturity, and beauty under that cap. And, I get to say, “That’s my girl — the smart, striking blonde in the high heels wearing that pink lipstick. Yeah, that one, she’s mine.”

These milestones are more for the parents than the students anyway, right?

We need our moments to marvel, and say, “See that one, she’s mine!”

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Congratulations Sara!

 

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Forget Perfection

I’m starting to feel like someone is spying on me, noticing how hard I can be on myself for falling short in one area or another because targeted messages on the dangers of perfectionism seem to be coming at me from every angle. 

It’s like when I send emails, search a particular topic on the internet or buy something online, and then suddenly I get Google and Facebook ads related to those exact topics. I hate being watched and monitored so closely.

In Church, we talked about perfection and how expecting to become perfect “at once” leads to disappointment. “Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today,” we were taught.

Then I got an email from a writer’s group with the headline, “You Have to Be Okay With Less Than Perfect.”

It included this poem:

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in”

–from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”

Then, another email arrived from Oprah about Brene Brown’s “Four Totally Surprising Lessons We All Need to Learn.” http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Life-Lessons-We-All-Need-to-Learn-Brene-Brown.

Brene-Brown-On-Being-Graphic-Recording
Brene-Brown-On-Being-Graphic-Recording (Photo credit: On Being)

It quoted the same poem about perfection I’d read in the writing group email.

Brown’s lesson number three was “Perfectionism Is Not About Striving for Excellence.”

She said, “For some of us (including me), what I’m about to say is horrifying: Perfectionism is not about achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.”

She said, “Somewhere along the way, we adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. A ticker tape began to stream through our heads: Please. Perform. Perfect.”

According to Brown, research shows that perfectionism hampers success and often leads to depression, anxiety, addiction and missed opportunities, due to fears of putting anything out in the world that could be imperfect or disappoint others.

“It’s a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight,” she said.

So I’ve wondered, “what 20-ton shield am I lugging around that I think is protecting me?”

I don’t believe I’m a perfectionist. I’ve never cared about being perfect. I’m fine with my cracks.

Or so I thought.

But, then I thought more about those three words: please, perform, perfect.

I realized that while I don’t expect to be perfect, I do expect to improve and get better.

I’m learning there’s a fine line between obsessing over being perfect and feeling driven to be better.

If we’re not careful, they end up being the same thing and putting us into the same destructive cycles that create feelings of never being good enough.

Because of my health history, it is vital for me to diligently take care of myself.

So, I do my best to move more and eat less. I expect to see results from those efforts. Yet, week after week, the scale doesn’t budge and my clothes fit the same as the week and months before. Then I wonder, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? Other people succeed at this. Why can’t I?”

Those questions never lead me to a happy place. They only lead to frustration, disappointment, and insecurity.

So, I try to concentrate on improving my behaviors. I tell myself to forget about being perfect in this area because it’s impossible. I want to be happy doing what is best for my health even if nothing changes. 

This is not easy.

It requires me accepting that I am a cracked pot — you know, the flawed pot that couldn’t hold any water and the water leaked out through the cracks while being carried by its owner from the creek?

The poor little pot hated its cracks and wanted to be perfect like the other pots around it…until it notices the flowers that sprung up on its path. Everywhere the pot was carried there was a trail of beautiful flowers.

Public Flower Garden in downtown Seattle
Public Flower Garden in downtown Seattle (Photo credit: FallenPegasus)

This has to be one of life’s toughest lessons because it means we can’t stop trying to improve even though we don’t see progress being made.

A little self acceptance may sooth my feelings about all my cracks.

I’m hoping that if I give myself some slack, I’ll notice the flowers I’m watering along my path without even realizing it.

It’s worth a try.

Religion

Ready for a Sweet Weekend

 

 

Imagine spending eight to 10 hours of this beautiful spring weekend parked on the couch listening to about 30 religious speeches.

 

 

 

That’s how millions of Mormons will be spending this April weekend – glued to the television, listening to the radio or taking advantage of satellite and Internet broadcasts from Salt Lake City where more than 100,000 people will be watching it live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of Conference Center spire taken from sou...
View of Conference Center spire taken from south of the Center on North Temple St., Salt Lake City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We call this General Conference. And, we’ve been doing this twice a year since 1831 – every October and every April for all those years.

 

 

 

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It’s a Mormon ritual and we love it. We happily, even excitedly, tune in to be taught and uplifted by the leaders of our church.

 

 

 

While growing up in Utah, I remember listening to General Conference on the car radio or watching it on our local CBS News affiliate station.

 

 

 

It sounds like drudgery, doesn’t it? Listening to one speaker after another for hours on end during two of the most beautiful weekends of the year?

 

 

 

Typically, the first weekends of October and April are beautiful, and most people want to be outside enjoying the weather.

 

 

 

Not us Mormons.

 

 

 

No, we turn on our televisions, set the DVR in case we miss something, pull out journals, pens and paper for serious note taking, settle in for each two-hour session, and soak it up like other people who are outside soaking up the bright spring sun.

 

 

 

It’s crazy, isn’t it? But, General Conference is a staple in our religious culture.

 

 

 

Silly fools that we are, we live for it. I think we spiritually thirst for it like nomads thirsty for water in the desert.

 

 

 

But, why, what do we get out of it?

 

 

 

For starters, spiritual sustenance and manna, hope, courage, strength, faith, knowledge, revelation, wisdom, peace, comfort, insight, love, compassion, understanding, a sense of belonging and well-being, and motivation.

 

 

 

What I like most is the feeling that pours into our homes as we watch it.  I imagine it’s how an infant feels while being cradled by a loving parent singing a soft, melodic lullaby – safe, protected, and nurtured.

 

 

 

So, while it sounds crazy, we love conference weekends. It’s like church, but better because we can wear pajamas if we want.

 

 

 

Although I rarely do because my Great Aunt Anna would scold me good for being so slovenly during Conference. She sat up straight in her old rocking chair, dressed in her finest Sunday clothing and didn’t miss a word that was spoken. She loved and reverenced those prophets and apostles so much that she wouldn’t even consider not wearing her finest clothes around them, even if they were just on TV.

 

 

 

While I won’t be dressed in my finest clothes, I will be taking in every word, just like my sweet Aunt Anna. And you know what? I’ll be sad when it’s over. When the Tabernacle Choir sings the last hymn and the closing prayer is said on Sunday evening, I’ll feel like it all went by too fast, and I’ll want to run around my house and gather up all the sweetness that distilled on my home over the weekend and savor it until October when I can experience it all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Parenting Advice from the Pros

My beautiful nephew, Logan
My beautiful nephew, Logan

Doug and I were asked to teach a parenting class at church, so in preparation, I pulled out some information I’d kept from when I moderated a panel on parenting a few years ago.

I found a list of parenting tips I’d compiled from conversations with women whom I’d considered as excellent and experienced mothers. I’m sharing some of my favorites:

  • Kids respond better to rewards than punishments. (This seemed to be the conclusion from parents that commented on my blog on how to encourage kids to get good grades.http://wp.me/p1zHNf-7jb)
  • Remember you are raising God’s children. He knows and loves them even more than you do. Do what you can, and that’s it! Don’t let yourself feel guilty or punish yourself if they don’t do what you want. Realize that your kids have agency at all ages.
  • Say “yes” as often as possible. They hear “no” all too often. (I love and believe this one!)
  • Have fun together. Ease up. Have general family rules based on values and principles. This is easier than having so many rules you can’t enforce them consistently.
  • Work together as a family. Ask your kids for small bits of time for chores. “Can you give me 30 minutes to mulch the yard?” Set a timer and keep your 30-minutes-only promise. (With small children, set the timer for five or ten minutes for picking up the toys or another chore they can easily do.) Then, make it fun. Have races, play music, laugh. Do something fun afterward like go get an ice cream cone.
  • Be strict with bed times when your kids are little. You need the time to refresh and they need the time to sleep. (Even if they don’t sleep, they’ll benefit from the quiet time.)
  • Ask yourself, “What kinds of experiences do we want our kids to have during their years at home with us?” Then, plan for them. If you don’t plan, they won’t happen.
  • Loving, happy families don’t happen by accident. They require a lot of work. Similarly, quality mothering doesn’t happen accidentally, but by design.
  • Tell them you love them all the time. Hug them. Show affection. Even when they act like they don’t want it, hug them anyway.
  • To new parents: don’t get caught up looking forward to the next milestone. Enjoy every minute. They go by way too fast.
  • Teach them correct principles, then watch them like a hawk. (My favorite one. Or like Ronald Reagan used to say about arms control: “Trust but verify.”)
  • Be at the crossroads. Be there when they come and go. They’ll be most likely to share experiences with you at those times.
  • Avoid giving attention to negative behavior and focus on positive attention.
  • Kids want your reassurance. Learn how your children give and receive love (Like “The Five Languages of Love” for couples.)
  • Tailor disciplinary actions to each child. It’s not a one size fits all deal.
  • If your kids won’t communicate with you, sit on their beds at night and tell them you won’t leave until they share at least three things about their day with you.
  • Go to their activities. They might act like it doesn’t matter to them, but they appreciate it and it gives you topics for conversations.
  • Ask yourself what one thing you can do to improve as a parent, and then do it.
  • Your kids learn best when they experience the natural consequences of their choices.
  • When your children make mistakes, make sure they know you disapprove of their conduct but not of them
  • 20130404-220802.jpgTake time to recharge. Put yourself in timeout. Pray, read scriptures or meditations to keep you strong and at peace.
  • Nurture your own friendships. Women, keep your girlfriends close. They’re cheaper than therapy.
  • Be the safe house where kids can hang out. Make your kids’ friends comfortable in your home. Feed them!
  • Be your child’s biggest fan. When the world is hard and cruel, make sure home is their safe harbor where they feel peace and love.
  • Have family dinners at the dinner table without distractions.
  • Don’t try to be your child’s best friend. They usually have plenty of friends, They need parents who lovingly set and enforce boundaries.
  • Remember that teenagers are egocentric They have narrow vision and feel invincible. It’s a phase! Remember they will become nicer and more caring as they mature. Be patient and don’t back away from parenting them just because they are difficult.
  • Take care of yourself — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you don’t who will?