Change, Personal, Uncategorized

Let New Adventures Begin

A “For Sale” sign is sitting on our front lawn.

IMG_6238Surreal.

I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area since I was a senior in college.

That was a long time ago.

I came here — like many others — for an internship on Capitol Hill.

And, I was smitten.

What better place to live for someone with a love of journalism, politics, and people?

When I got off the plane at National Airport, I watched for a woman named Claire holding a sign that said “Garn.”

Garn–  U.S. Senator Jake Garn from Utah — my new boss.

I had no idea then, at age 22, how that one summer on Capitol Hill would change the course of my life.

Coming from the dry climate of Utah, I felt like I’d entered a steamy sauna when I stepped out of the airport into the humid subtropical climate of Washington, D.C.

That was just the beginning of the changes I would experience.

Claire drove me to the U.S. Capitol, where, believe it or not, we drove right up to the front steps.

No security barriers needed then.

I got out and tipped my head back to take in the grandeur of that magnificent, historic building.

IMG_9131

“This is where you’ll be working. This is where it all happens,” she said.

Pinch me now, I thought.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

What did I ever do to deserve such a privilege?

All I knew is that I would work hard every minute of every day to be worthy of it.

From that moment on, I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else.

So, how did this “For Sale” sign end up on my lawn?

I wish I had a clear and concise answer to that question.

All I know is that one minute I was telling Doug I’d never leave here, and the next we were talking to a realtor, preparing to leave.

We thought we would live and die here, and be buried in the quaint little cemetery up the street.

Until one day, that vision of our future changed.

It was like we were used to looking into a kaleidoscope at something clear and beautiful and compelling.

Because we liked what we saw, we never bothered to twist the cylinder and see the many other beautiful patterns that could be created.

Then, one day, for reasons we still don’t understand, we decided to twist the cylinder ever so slightly.

What we discovered was that all the bits of glass gently realigned, presenting a whole new pattern, and a reflection of light we’d never imagined.

Since we missed the old pattern, we kept twisting the cylinder, trying to get back to the one we knew so well — the one that felt most comfortable to us.

But it wasn’t there anymore. The beads, pebbles, and bits of glass were all different.

So we decided to examine the new reflection a little more carefully.

And, that’s how we ended up with a “For Sale” sign in our yard.

So, call us crazy, but if our house sells, we’re packing up our pioneer carts and trekking back across the plains to live in the high desert of Utah.

Oh, there have been tears — lots of them — and there will be many more, I’m sure.

How can you leave a place you love so dearly and not be sad?

Like Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”

We’ve debated this move endlessly for months because it’s not just leaving a place that is our home, it’s leaving friends that are our family.

I’ve always loved the comforting counsel of  Gordon B. Hinckley. His words have led me through many transitions in life.

So, I’m trusting his words again: “Those who move forward with a HAPPY SPIRIT will find that things will always work out.”

I’m counting on that.

Maybe it will be like our friend Brian said — “Oh, everything will work out. You’ll love it. You’ll enjoy being with your family, and having a new adventure. Then, you’ll get it out of your system, and come back.”

Touché

But for now, there is a “For Sale” sign in our yard, and our lives could be turned upside down any minute.

Or, like one friend said, “Maybe your lives will be turned right side up.”

Yeah, let’s go with that for now…

Whatever happens, it will be an adventure.

So, we will work on our happy spirits, and look forward to new adventures.

In the meantime, anybody interested in a great house?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change, Family, Religion

Rising After a Fall

 

Today as I left my house to go for a walk in the woods, I noticed the tiny buds on our magnolia tree and a few blossoms.

 

Spring is trying to happen, I thought, as I walked down the driveway, bundled in my fleece jacket and gloves.

 

As I walked along the trail, I saw a robin perched on a limb, its bright color a beautiful contrast to the brown, leafless trees.

Sure sign of Spring - Robin - Bird
Sure sign of Spring – Robin – Bird (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Spring will come, I thought. After every long, cold winter, spring always comes.

 

It just always seems to take a little longer than we think it should.

 

Like life, so like life.

 

Change, improvement, second chances, sun on our path, light emerging out of darkness — it all comes.

 

It just takes more time than we want.

 

Like my unemployed friend whose full-time job is finding a job.

 

The wait is killing him.

 

“I keep being told to be patient. But, patience doesn’t pay the bills,” he says.

 

True. Waiting can be the hardest part.

Easter Eggs
Easter Eggs (Photo credit: .imelda)

On the eve of Easter, I think of those who watched the Savior die on a cross.

 

I can’t fathom the grief, sorrow, and pain they felt watching Him be crucified.

 

That unbearable Friday when He died; that Saturday in the tomb.

 

Those days had to be excruciating for those who loved and worshipped Him.

 

But, then, miraculously, on Sunday, he rose.

 

Like the long-awaited spring, He appeared, giving the world the priceless gift of hope.

Garden with some tulips and narcissus
Garden with some tulips and narcissus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I walked along the trail, I thought of all the people I know who have made miraculous comebacks.

 

My brother, so addicted to drugs, we lost hope in him. Drugs enslaved him, and stole the man we knew and loved.

 

We couldn’t see a road back.

 

But, day by difficult and long day, he overcame addictions.

 

He rose after a long, steady fall. And continues to rise every day to fight his battle and reclaim his life.

 

My other brother, diagnosed with vascular disease, and then bitten by a brown recluse spider, lost his leg.

 

An avid boater, fisherman, hunter, brick mason, and handyman, he was suddenly housebound in a wheelchair, unable to walk.

 

He lost his way; thinking his so-called life as an amputee  was no life at all.

 

He felt aimless and without purpose.

 

Until he discovered he was still a dad, a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend, and that even without a leg, he could love them all fiercely and deeply.

 

He could help the sister through cancer, the brother through addictions, the daughters trying to create their own independent lives, the nephew trying to raise four small children.

 

While his life is not the one he planned or ever envisioned — and neither is his amazing wife’s — they too rise every morning, greet the day with gratitude, and fully live the lives they’ve been given.

 

I nearly cried as I walked this morning, thinking of one beautiful example after another of the people I love who rise after a fall.

 

That is the real meaning of Easter, isn’t it?

 

Just when you think spring will never come, you see a Robin on the grass to remind you that winter is on its way out.

 

Just when you think the phone will never ring with a job offer, it does.

 

Just when you think you or someone else can never recover, you do.

 

Change happens, people make comebacks, life gets better.

Easter is a good reminder of that truth.

 

Change, From the News, Memoir

A Peaceful Transition of Power

1989 Presidential Inaugration, George H. W. Bu...
1989 Presidential Inaugration, George H. W. Bush, Opening Ceremonies, at Lincoln Memorial (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution)

Many years ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I had the privilege of working for a U.S. Presidential Inauguration.

George Herbert Walker Bush had just been elected President of the United States the week before I got married.

When Doug and I returned from our honeymoon and I returned to my job as the communications director for U.S. Senator Jake Garn, I got a telephone call from a friend and former colleague wondering if I would be willing to advise the inaugural committee on media relations and public affairs.

With my boss’ support, I left the office that day and went to the inaugural committee’s headquarters in SE Washington where they had transformed an old empty warehouse into a frenetic, exciting workplace for the President’s inauguration.

I walked in as a volunteer adviser and ended up as the new director of communications and taking a leave of absence from my Capitol Hill job.  I’d never worked in such an intense, fast-paced, exhilarating job in my life, and I never have since.

We had meetings for all the directors every morning and every evening and had a clock ticking the entire day, counting down to the swearing-in and all the traditional festivities that celebrate that historic moment.

I learned three of my most important life lessons in that job. At my first early morning meeting, the executive director, Stephen M. Studdert, went around the table and asked everyone to introduce themselves. I glanced around and noticed that I was one of three women at the table. I was 31 years old. Every one else had more experience, what I viewed as more prestigious jobs, and a history working with President Bush, either in the campaign, in Texas or in the White House when he served as Vice President.

The closer they got to me, the more nervous I became. The thought crossed my mind, “I have no business in this room with these people.” Right before it was my turn, an inner voice shot back, “That’s the last time ever that you are going to think like that. The minute you doubt your abilities, you’re done. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t qualified. If you give in to that way of thinking, you’ll fail. Now, just dig in and do this thing!

If I’d continued to compare myself to every other person in that room, I’d have walked out powerless and weak. And, I knew that in an environment like that, there was no room for insecurity and no time to nurse a case of fledgling confidence.

At every morning meeting, we received and/or shared our day’s goals. At every evening meeting, we reported on our progress. One of the directors got a little too long-winded in his report, and was quickly told, “Look, I don’t want your life story. Just get to the point.”

It’s true. We were marching toward inauguration day and didn’t have time for chitchat. The clock was steadily clicking. I learned to get to the point — fast.

The other more philosophical lesson I learned was the utter beauty of a “peaceful transition of power.” As I wrote press releases, arranged media interviews, and shaped messages, I marveled over the unique American ritual of a peaceful inauguration.

Capitol 9
Capitol 9 (Photo credit: afagen)

Today, as President Obama takes the public oath of office, I remember the day I stood in the press stands during President Bush’s inauguration and looked out at the throngs of people packing the lawn and the streets of the nation’s capitol.

Nothing brings greater feelings of patriotism that seeing all our American pageantry on display with our military bands; red, white and blue bunting around the Capitol building, and citizens from all over the country representing our nation’s uniqueness in the inaugural parade.

Despite your politics, take a minute today to appreciate America. In a world full of conflict, we should celebrate the honor of living in a country where a “peaceful” inauguration will once again occur — something we should never take for granted.

Change, Family, Parenting

Letting Go

As a mother of two college students – one of them only two weeks away from graduating –I am continually asking myself, “What would my mom do now?”

I want to be the kind of mother she’s been.

The area that needs the most improvement lately is trying to be a better listener.

Sometimes, I am more of a fixer than a listener.

When my daughters call and tell me their concerns and problems, I instantly, naturally want to fix everything.

I get worked up in my here’s-what-we-need-to-do speech, and then I think of my mom and an inner voice yells, “Shut up Laurie! They only want you to listen, not try to make everything all better! Think of Mom.”

Annie called a couple of weeks ago to tell me that she’s going to Uganda for a service mission with HELP International.

http://help-international.org/uganda

African child

It was an awkward conversation as I felt this rising, confusing objection, and wanted to say in a scolding mom voice: “Ah… no, you are not going to Africa. You are coming home, getting a job, sleeping in your bedroom down the hall from me. You are going to sing in the shower, bake cookies, have parties, and    scatter your clothes all over the floor, and play the piano for me. …just like you’ve always done.

I stammered a bit and kept thinking of my mom, and what she would do.

Just listen.

I calmed down as the conversation went on, and I told her she had to be patient with me as I got my head around her new, exotic, and oh-so-foreign-to-me plan.

In a moment of weakness, I blurted out, “Annie, I am just not ready for you to be this grown up. I know you have an adventurous spirit and I am trying to be supportive, but I am fighting some powerful mom instincts here that make me want to fling my arms around you and keep you close to me forever. I still see you as a little girl, not as a world traveler and humanitarian!”

I reminded myself of Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when his daughter, also named Annie, told him she was in love and wanted to get married. He looked across the kitchen table and saw those grown up words coming out of a little girl’s mouth.

While it’s a hilarious scene, it’s also painful to realize I’m Steve Martin.

I’m not transitioning well from seeing my daughters as my little girls to seeing them as independent, adventurous women whose passions are taking them in directions that feel further and further away from me.

Cover of "Father of the Bride (15th Anniv...
Cover via Amazon

And, I know they need me to listen more than advise.

They need me to support more than protect.

Yet my adviser and protector instincts are not easily tamed.

In my conversation about Africa with Annie, I vacillated between being supportive and curious and treating her like she was 10 years old, when I would have said, “Well, you certainly are not going to Africa. Now, finish your homework so we can get you bathed and ready for bed.”

As I navigate the new waters of parenting adult children, I think of my mom constantly and wonder how she did it.

I call her often and say, “Mom, really, how did you do it?”

I’m still trying to figure it out.

I think the real answer is that she did it a day, and a conversation at a time just like I am.

I hope my daughters can understand that this “letting go” part of parenting is not easy.

help letter annie

But, of course, like me, they will only really learn it when they become parents.

Then,  I hope they’ll call me for advice and say, “Mom, how did you do it?”

Change, From my Bookshelf, Memoir, Uncategorized

Bulletproof

Have you ever done something you thought was brave and exciting, and then recoiled in regret because you felt like an exposed nerve?

Mel Brooks “High Anxiety” movie comes to mind.

High Anxiety
High Anxiety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I experienced this kind of high anxiety a couple of months ago when I sent query letters to literary agents.

I stepped into an unknown arena to try something new.

The minute I hit the send button, I seriously had a seismic panic attack.

Every flaw in the book suddenly flashed in my mind in glaring high-resolution.

Laurie, what were you thinking? The story arc wasn’t strong enough; it covers too much time; it’s too personal, and not nearly dramatic enough. Seriously woman, what were you thinking? Call every agent that expressed interest and tell them ‘never mind.’ Tell them to forget it. You hit ‘send’ too soon and you need to spend the next several days contacting agents and apologize for wasting their time.’

I yearned for a reset button that could erase the entire day and every last email.

Doug stared at me, baffled by my anxiety, especially because many agents expressed interest and wanted to see either parts of or the entire manuscript.

“Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?” he asked, totally perplexed by my racing pulse.

Yes, and no, I thought.<;/em

I didn't realize how desperately vulnerable I would feel having so many agents reading and critiquing a manuscript I knew wasn't perfect. And, I couldn't control anything after I hit that "send" button.

They could hate the book, detest my writing, criticize my family, my religion, me, my life, my values, and everything from my sentence structure to my hair color.

Everything that matters to me was on the line. Talk about an epic fail!

Brené Brown, the author of Dare Greatly, calls these feelings of embarrassment and regret, "vulnerability hangovers."

When I stumbled upon her book and read that description, I immediately glommed on it.

(If you haven't heard of Brené Brown, check out this speech. http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html)

English: Photo of Brene Brown
English: Photo of Brene Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book title, “Daring Greatly,” comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizens in a Republic,” given in 1910.

“It is not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the triumph of high achievement, fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Writing a book and taking the first step toward getting it published was my attempt to “dare greatly.

In the book, Brown asks, “How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness?

23 - Brene Brown quote
23 – Brene Brown quote (Photo credit: justmalia)

I wish I knew the answer to that question.

She wrote that, “vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our own purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

If we go through life trying to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable, what do we get?

If we don’t take some chances, we end up with very little that really matters to us.

Are you daring to fail greatly?
Are you daring to fail greatly? (Photo credit: Chris Pirillo)

If we can’t love because we’re afraid of being hurt, won’t write because we might get rejected; or refuse to go for the job we really want, or not run the race because we might come in last, we are living in a place of fear.

We might believe we are choosing to feel safe, but we are really choosing to live a life void of passion, energy, and exhilaration.

After giving myself this little “be strong, have courage, try things” pep talk, my anxieties have mellowed. My vulnerability hangover has eased. My perspective is clearer. I still wish I had hired a professional editor to help me strengthen that story arc, but I’ve gathered my senses again.

I love Brown’s comment that, “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk out into the arena! We must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”

Thank you Brené Brown for helping me see that writing a book, sending it to agents, receiving rejections and suggestions for improvement do not add up to failure, but represent my effort to walk into the arena, show up, let myself be seen, and dare greatly. And, I know what I need to do better in case I ever try again.

How are you daring greatly? I’d love to know!

Change, Personal

Lightning Strikes and….

I once worked with a veteran news reporter named Frank Hewlett, who was a Washington, D.C. correspondent for The Salt Lake Tribune when I met him. He also was  an award-winning correspondent in World War II and longtime reporter in the nation’s capital.  He told me something about politics and Washington that has always held true.  He said, “In politics and in Washington, D.C., lightning can strike and everything can change.  Never count on anything staying the same in politics.”

photo credit: strangecosmos.com

The same is true in life.

Here are a few examples:

  • Lightning strikes and… my nephew is outside with his children.  His 6-year old daughter says, “Daddy! We have to hurry and go inside.  I can’t get struck by lightning tonight because I have dance try-outs tomorrow!.” (Okay so that one’s not really serious, but it’s funny and true!)

 

  • Lightning strikes and… hits a huge tree in my sister’s back yard, breaking it open and exposing all the rough and raw wood of the tree.
She said her tree looked like this after being struck by a bolt of lightning.

She and her son examined it closely, inspecting the damage, and worrying about how much it would cost to get it removed.  It’s their favorite shade tree and she credits it for keeping her un-airconditioned house reasonably cool.  She has a daughter returning home from an 18-month mission in Uruguay and needs to help her ease back into real life with new clothes, a phone, car, etc.  She couldn’t afford to pay for tree removal on top of everything else. She decided to pray about what to do.  Then she went to work.  She kept thinking she should go home and look at the tree problem again so that she could explain it to her insurance agent, the city, or the potential tree-cutter-downer. She took a friend with her and when they walked into her backyard, she stood flabbergasted and speechless about what she saw.

Her friend said, “I thought you said the tree was almost split in half.”

“I promise, it was!” she said, still staring at the tree.

Shaking her head in disbelief, she said, “I think the tree got healed.”

She moved closer and saw no signs of lightning damage anywhere — no exposed wood, nothing.

She called her son to tell him about it.  He too couldn’t believe it.  He came home to see for himself.

“It’s a miracle,” he said.

I can’t think of another word for it.  Can you?

Lightning strikes and…a miracle occurs.

  • Lighting strikes and…My adorable thirty-something niece who had nearly given up on meeting a decent man calls me at midnight screaming, “I’m engaged!  I’m engaged! I’m getting married!” After dating men that could easily be featured on a unfathomably bad sitcom of “The Jerkiest Men on the Planet,” this is amazing news.  While she was busily working to gut and remodel a kitchen,  the cabinetmaker on the same job, walked up to her and said, “I need to take you on a date.” She was so surprised she didn’t know how to respond.  After so many nightmarish dating experiences, she hedged and tried to think of an excuse not to go out with him.  “You have to eat, right?” he said.  He talked her into going to dinner.  That was only a month ago. Now she is getting married in October.  I guess lightning strikes and you meet a great guy; and then it strikes again, and you say yes to a marriage proposal because you know deep in your soul he’s the one you’ve been waiting for your entire life.

Frank was right.  Lightning strikes and everything changes — not just in politics and in Washington, but in life.

Frank Hewlett and his wife Virginia

 

Fill in the blank and tell me a stroke of lightning has changed something in your life or the life of someone you know.

Lightning strikes and ….

 

 

 

Change, My bookshelf

A Routine Check-up

I know I dissed O magazine and others for their headline hype that often leads to total disappointment once I open the covers.

Well, I gave into the magazine cover lure again and bought a Good Housekeeping magazine.

I’m happy to report I learned something.

Turns out that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project writes a GH column that is very instructive.

In the issue I read, she wrote about scheduling priorities and how our ordinary routines influence our happiness.

And, she disclosed the secret of adulthood!

Here it is: What we do everyday matters more than what we do once in a while.

There’s truth in that statement for me because I think I kid myself about what I do everyday as part of my routine and what I do once in a while.

For example, I think I go to the gym every day or at least five or six days a week. I eat good salads every day, and make healthy dinners nearly every night. I write something meaningful every day. I call my mom at least weekly, text my kids daily and call them a few times a week, go out with my husband every weekend, and call my friends regularly.

In reality, I make it to the gym five days a week on a really good, perfect week. I write something every day but not anything as structured and focused as I think. I sometimes forget to call my mom, and she calls me to remind me! I text my kids less often than I think, and I don’t’ always go out with Doug on the weekends. And calling my friends? I’m terrible at that, really terrible. I’m not a good phone caller.

According to Christopher Alexander, a writer and architect, most people have about a dozen routines. I wrote down some of mine – errands, cleaning, exercising, meal preparation, working, morning and bedtime routines, holiday, travel routines, etc.

Rubin said one way to make us happier is to add fun to our routines. So I thought of some of the more unpleasant routines like tidying up my house – emptying the dishwasher and organizing the mail. She suggested trying to make those routines more fun with music or books on tape.

So I went through all of my routines and figured out how I could make them more pleasant or fun so that I could pack a little more happiness into my life.

“By identifying these patterns and acknowledging their power to shape our lives, we’re better able to spot happiness-boosting ways to change them,” she said.

I like that thought because our routines end up shaping our existence.

So, while some magazines offer more headline hype than substance, Good Housekeeping came through for me, and I guess I have to give that the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.