From the News

Get Real and Stay in the Game

The title of this blog comes from something my husband Doug always says — “Get real and stay in the game.”

In his professional work as an executive coach and in his religious life as a former and current bishop, he counsels with a lot of people about their problems and challenges.

He said most of his advice centers around two things: helping people get real about what is happening in their lives and helping them find hope and stay in the game.

I have been thinking about this as it relates to the many troubling, daunting issues of our day.

When we first started hearing about COVID, I thought it would disrupt our lives for a short time.

Yet, here we are, entering fall, and we are wondering when or if we’ll ever “get back” to life as we knew it pre-pandemic.

This has made me think about Doug’s mantra — get real and stay in the game.

What does it mean to get real and stay in the game in the COVID world and even in this raucous political era?

Sometimes I feel like I’m cycling through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief in rapid succession.

A Psychology Today article in March suggested that our experience with COVID 19 may look like the five stages of the grief cycle — denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance.

It mentioned that we may grieve our loss of freedoms, or a future we envisioned, or the lives and roles we left behind.

We might miss our old way of life, and on some level, face the questions of our own mortality. (I’ve certainly faced those questions!)

The first stage of grief is denial. I’ve definitely visited this stage more than once, believing the pandemic is overblown or maybe isn’t a real threat at all, trying to minimize its affect or the level of my risk. If I deny its potency, I feel more in control, and less vulnerable.

The second stage is anger, and I’ve been here too – trying to blame somebody – a political party, a world leader, a country, anybody!  That doesn’t usually work so then I sink into a state of plain old virus fatigue and I pretend life is normal because I’m just so sick of it.

And then there is bargaining, the third step, which is another step I often revisit. I tell myself that if I wear my mask, social distance, wash my hands, and be careful, I’ll be fine. So, I can go to my fitness classes, walk with my neighbor, eat in an actual restaurant, fly on a packed airplane, and the list goes on. I need to bargain with the virus and all the confusing messaging around it so that I can feel some sense of personal victory over it.

Despair is the fourth stage, and it’s a step I avoid. That’s when I face reality and recognize all that I’ve lost. I mourn the loss of old routines and find myself wondering if life will ever be good or normal again. Will I ever go to church without a mask and actually socialize with my friends? Will I ever hug people or go to the theater and not feel completely claustrophobic behind my mask? Can I ever touch things in a store again? Will we ever be able to take the extended trip to Italy?

If I let myself stop here, it can be very discouraging, so I do my best to make these visits to the land of despair and depression very brief.

The fifth stage of grief is acceptance, which is really where I want to stay the longest. That’s when I realize I can’t control the pandemic, the racial unrest, the rioting and protests, the political divisiveness, all the injustices or unfairness in the world, or even the things my friends post on social media. And, instead of being crippled, depressed, utterly confused and afraid, I try to pivot quickly and adopt a healthier mindset that helps me accept that just because things are different, it doesn’t mean that goodness and beauty are permanently sucked out of my life.

I accept that life is not the same but I choose to believe that it can still be rich, rewarding, and beautiful.

In a Linkedin presentation on The Power of Hope: Get Real and Stay in the Game, Doug told a story of how our daughter, Annie got real and stayed in the game.

“[Annie] had a goal to run a half marathon… With the virus, the half marathon was canceled. She had been training for months. She really wanted to run the race, but the official pathway was blocked. She decided she would run it anyway on the day it was scheduled. She charted out her own course and ran it all by herself. She accomplished the goal, albeit by a different pathway, literally. When she got home, she took the top of a yogurt cup, made a medal out of it, and hung it on herself. She came in first in her division, but she also came in second, third, and last in her division.”

Annie’s victory!

This is what it means to get real and stay in the game.

Even when we are rapidly cycling through the stages of grief over what we feel has been lost, we can still find pathways of hope and hang on.

What can you do to get real and stay in the game? I’d love to know!

From the News, Personal

Playing the Glad Game

It’s time to play Pollyanna’s Glad Game.

I’m so over the pandemic.

I’ve been desperately wanting all the craziness in the world to just be over already.

You know it’s bad when you keep asking yourself, “What else?” Fully expecting there to be one more thing day after day.

We woke up early on Sunday morning to about 75 messages — some of them texts from family asking, “Are you okay? Were you evacuated?” and most of the rest of them in a neighborhood chat group that was blowing up with photos, videos, and questions about nearby fires that seemed to be heading our way.

I have to admit that I slept through all the danger.

While neighbors were watching the fires burn all night, thankfully, I was sound asleep.

And, just for the record, we are fine.

We were never threatened by the fires.

And, our neighbors to the west were evacuated but no homes or lives were lost thanks to some quick-acting always-on-the-job firemen who took care of it.

Then, last night, we saw another fire off in the distance from our deck, and found out some friends on the other side of the lake from us were evacuated for yet another fire.

So, what else?

That’s the question on everyone’s minds.

There are so many layers of unrest in our world that I’m losing track. There’s the pandemic, killer hornets, earthquakes and the aftershocks, protests and rioting, nasty partisan politics, and the list goes on.

Yet… there is something else.

Like the volunteer fireman who was helping with the evacuations and traffic control Saturday night who said when he arrived on the scene, “It was the perfect storm of bad circumstances all coming together for disaster…The flames were headed toward homes. Kids were hiking in the trails above the fire. The wind was howling and fanning huge flames. Then something happened. The wind stopped. It just stopped. For no logical reason, it just went calm…The wind should have blown this into a real tragedy, but somehow it stopped. Why it stopped is for you to figure out.”

Or like the fact that I hear things like this from my friends, family and neighbors:

  • Things are great for us. I don’t know what it is but my family is thriving.
  • My disabled son found an apartment and moved out on his own for the first time, and he’s loving it! I’m so proud of him.
  • I am getting more done in my home and yard than I ever have before.
  • I love working from home. It’s the best. I get to spend time with my family. I’m not sure I want it to ever go back to the office.
  • Our gospel study is deeper and more rewarding than it’s ever been.
  • I can go for walks because my older kids can take care of my younger ones and that has never happened before because they’ve always been so busy with so many extracurricular activities.
  • My husband lost his job but somehow, we’re okay. We’re confident that we’ll be fine and that he’ll find something when the world settles down. I don’t know what it is but we feel really at peace.
  • I have been trying to find a new, affordable apartment for a long time, and the perfect one just opened up.
  • I have experienced chronic pain for years and recently fell. I was afraid it would make everything worse. Miraculously, it made everything better. I can’t explain it.
  • I’m having Zoom calls with old friends, and it’s been so fun to reconnect.

The list goes on.

like having at least one daughter close by… 🙂
Or finding this beauty on my front porch from an anonymous neighbor (thanks Diann!)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know bad things are happening. We’ve had a few of our own.

But, I keep remembering an article I read by Sheri Dew, who said, “Many of you have no doubt had the same experience I’ve had of late. Grocery stores with long lines, no paper products or bottled water, and eerie rows of empty shelves. There are areas in the world where this is not uncommon, but in the United States and other industrialized nations, that is not the case. I imagine that for many around the world, there have been recent moments that almost felt post-apocalyptic.”

I nodded my head about the post-apocalyptic part because that’s definitely how it feels.

Then, she quoted LDS leader Elder Neil Anderson who said, ““As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.”

Image by Jorge Guillen from Pixabay

To me, that says, even when the world seems bad, if we do our part, God does his.

We took a short road trip to Yellowstone last week and the peace, stunning sunsets, wildlife, and natural beauty just took our breath away. We didn’t want to leave. It was a good reminder that there is still beauty in the world.

It reminds me of the book Where the Red Fern Grows when the little boy, Billy, desperately wants a pair of coon hound dogs. His grandpa says, “Well, it’s been my experience that God helps those who help themselves. If you want God’s help bad enough, you’ll meet him halfway.”

Maybe, for me, part of meeting him halfway is looking for the compensatory blessings rather than seeing everything as signs of the apocalypse, which you have to admit is pretty easy these days.

If you’re seeing some compensatory blessings during these upside down, crazy times, please share them with me! I need all the positivity I can get.

Pollyanna’s Glad Game needs to be in full swing.

From the News, Memoir, Uncategorized

That Time I worked for the President

At this time of the American Presidential Inauguration, and since the hospitalization of George H.W. and Barbara Bush, I have been reminiscing about the privilege I had to work as the communications director for the Bush ‘41 Presidential Inauguration.

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I remember standing on the lawn of the flag-draped U.S. Capitol when he said he wanted his first official act as President to be offering a prayer for the nation.

With cameras rolling and the world watching, he asked God to make us strong to do his work and to yield to his will. He asked that we write on our hearts the words: “Use power to help people.”

That message resonated with Americans in 1989.

It resonates with me today.

140329064024-george-bush-10-horizontal-large-galleryOrganizing a Presidential inauguration is a mammoth job. From the day after the election, you have only a few short months to pull off one of the world’s most momentous events.

For those working for the George HW Bush inauguration, after the election in 1988, it meant transforming an old government warehouse into a professional office building in a matter of days – literally building walls, bringing in computers, desks, tables, phone systems – everything from the ground up, all geared toward ensuring the “peaceful transition of Presidential power” that is so uniquely American.

Working on the Presidential Inauguration was the most exhausting and intense professional experience of my life, but it gave me some cherished memories including:

  • Dancing at an Inaugural ball with my dad. My dad was a true-blue Utahn who believed the only clothes a man needed were flannel-shirts, Levi Strauss, boots, and a ball cap. He hated crowds, big cities, and nonsensical fuss of any kind. But, he flew to Washington, dressed up for one event after another, and even donned a tuxedo for an inaugural ball. He spun me around the dance floor like a pro. It was an unforgettable night for me, especially since he died a couple years later.
  • Sitting in the press box with President and Mrs. Bush to watch the inaugural parade. Honestly, even though it was one of the great honors of my life, I could barely keep my eyes open.
  • Having a gold “All Access” pass to every blocked off street, and every event going on in Washington during what is surely one of the grandest times in that beautiful city.
  • Going to a small party at the White House with the Bushes just after they moved in. I wrote in my journal about that event, “Doug kept whispering ‘is this really happening? Are we actually in the same room with the President and the First Lady? Are we seriously going to meet them? Pinch me and let me know this is really happening.’” I felt the same way.

stocksnap_rfky6o3x2gWhen we went through the receiving line, I introduced myself as the communications director, and he said, “Oh, well you certainly did an excellent job of communicating. We couldn’t have been happier.”

He then addressed the group of exhausted staff, thanked everyone for their work, and said, “There is an interesting mood in this room. I wouldn’t call it one of irritability, but there is certainly a tension from long hours and sleepless nights.”

Barbara leaned over to whisper something in his ear. He smiled, and then said, “Please be careful not to step on any of our grandchildren.”

That was an appropriate warning because there were children running around everywhere in the White House. The family definitely felt at home there. In fact, one of the Bush sons came into the reception wearing a casual jogging suit. I now wonder which one of the sons we saw that day…

As the President mingled with everyone in the room, he approached Doug and me, and stopped to visit. He took my hand in his, and held it throughout our conversation, which I thought was so warm and personable.

He asked to know more about us. I told him we were married just a few days before I took the job at the inauguration and that there was an article in Utah’s Deseret News that said immediately after our honeymoon, I left my husband for another man: George Herbert Walker Bush. The President laughed, and said to Doug, “You can have her back now on one condition: That we can call her back once in awhile because we need her energy.”

Meeting the President left an indelible impression on my life. I’ve always had great respect for him. So, on this 45th inauguration, I reflect on the 41st, and the President who called for “a kinder, gentler” America, and a man that prayed for the nation as his first official act as our great leader.

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At the end of his inaugural address, he said, “I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so, today a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and generosity — shared, and written, together.”

A new breeze has blown, a page has been turned, and a new American story will unfold again. And I want to believe his words are as true today as they were in 1989 when he said, “There is much to do. And tomorrow the work begins…I do not mistrust the future. I do not fear what is ahead…Our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God’s love is truly boundless.”

Thank you George HW Bush for that beautiful perspective. May it still ring true.

Happy Inauguration Day America.

 

 

 

Community, From the News, Uncategorized

Refugee Relief — No More Stranger

Just reading and watching stories about the millions of refugees makes my heart hurt.

So when I heard our Church leaders focus on it in our General Conference recently, my heart rejoiced.

A friend texted me during Elder Patrick Kearon’s talk and said, “I just LOVE this new emphasis on refugees in the church! So much need. So Christian. Makes me proud of my church!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Sixty million refugees is unfathomable. 

refugee

 

It’s one thing to watch the news and read the stories about groups of people fleeing a country because of war or persecution. It’s another to know and try to understand their individual stories.

My Mormon history is full of stories of my ancestors being driven out of their homes by people who opposed their religious views. 

For me, personally, I can hear references to the persecution experienced by the Mormons in the 1800s and feel quite removed from it, but it becomes a lot more real when I consider the impact that persecution had on my family.

In 1844, Mormons built the city of Nauvoo, Illinois into a prosperous and beautiful city. But, people worried about the political and economic power being amassed by this growing group of people.

This led to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, and his brother, Hyrum being wrongly accused of treason and sent to jail.

Both were murdered by angry mobs that stormed the jail.

Hyrum was my great, great, great grandfather.

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Hyrum and Joseph Smith

He was shot in the face and killed by a bullet that was fired through the door of the jail.

I cannot forget the stories of how his wife, Mary Fielding, took the news or how his three-year-old daughter, Martha Ann, my great, great grandmother remembered being wrapped in a blanket and carried to see her dead father and uncle.

Because of the continued violence, Mary and her children were forced to leave Nauvoo.

Martha Ann said, “We left our home just as it was, our furniture, and the fruit trees hanging full of rosy cheeked peaches and apples. We bid good-bye to the loved home that reminded us of our beloved father everywhere we turned.”

This is not unlike what is happening across the world.

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Depiction of Mary Fielding crossing the Plains

Mary Fielding and her children crossed the Mississippi River and huddled around a campfire on the bank of the river as they listened to the bombardment of the city of Nauvoo.

Maybe it’s that heritage that makes me so sympathetic to the plight of today’s refugees.

 

One of our leaders, Linda K. Burton, recited the history of the LDS women’s organization, called The Relief Society, saying it was organized “to do something extraordinary.” She conveyed the message that we are expected, as members of the Church, to do the extraordinary by answering the pressing calls to help.

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Refugee Camp

In response to that reminder, church members immediately searched for ways to help.

This week, in my role as a public affairs representative for the Church, I met with local leaders of Catholic Charities, an organization that is doing amazing work to help the refugees.

They told us they were a bit overwhelmed with the calls from Mormons, asking what they could do to help. “A good problem to have,” they agreed.

I think we were all moved by Linda Burton’s question, “What if their story were my story?”

In many ways, the stories of today’s refugees are our stories. Many of us have stories in our families and our cultures of people fleeing their homes to escape war and religious persecution.

And, we all have a responsibility to help.

I loved Elder Patrick Kearon’s comment, “This moment does not define the refugees, but our response will help define us.”

I hope this moment will help define me in a positive and powerful way as a disciple of Jesus Christ who responds to the call to serve.

How will it define you?

In the Washington, D.C. area, you can find out how to help here and here.

To listen to Elder Kearon’s talk click here.

 

 

Community, From the News

There’s a kind of hush…

Remember the old Carpenters’ song, “Kind of Hush?”

If you weren’t alive when it was released in 1976, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I’ve thought of the lyrics every time I’ve stepped outside during the Blizzard of 2016.

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 “There’s a kind of hush all over the world tonight…”

This morning I went out to hunt for the Washington Post. (Wishful thinking.)

My neighbor was outside and we stood in the middle of the road in the bright sunshine, surveying the beauty around us, and enjoying the silence, the hushed stillness.

No high school kids bustling to school.

No UPS trucks, school buses, dogs barking.

No people rushing off to work.

No cars on the busy roads surrounding our neighborhood.

No planes flying in and out of Dulles airport.

Just a beautiful hushed silence.

We watched a lot of news over the last week, anticipating the storm and hearing all the warnings about this “life-threatening storm,” this “state of emergency,” this “historic blizzard.”

We joined the rest of the DC metro area in rushing to the grocery store and Costco for supplies.

Only a smattering of carts were left in front of the store and grocery store shelves were being quickly depleted.

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Thanks to Cynthia Hall-Tipping for this photo of the empty shelves at Trader Joes

We didn’t even really need anything there.

We just felt obligated to be part of the storm prep madness and excitement.

We bought bread and milk because that’s what you do before a storm here.
Most important, Doug got the snowblower ready — pumped up the tires, filled it with gas, and positioned it in the garage to be ready for the big dig-out.

We made a big pot of chili, charged all our devices, and pulled out the flashlights in case of a power outage.

And then it came.

Just as predicted, it started at 12:30 p .m. Friday and didn’t stop until about 10 p.m. Saturday.

Winds gusting, snow falling, everything being covered in heavy snow.

We ended up with 33″ on our deck.

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This was before the total hit 33 inches

That’s some serious snow.

We followed the newscasters and safety officials’ pleas to stay off the roads and hunker down at home.

And, we enjoyed every minute of it.

Mostly because we never lost power. Thank you for that tender mercy.

It might have been dangerous and epic, but inside our home, it was peaceful.

We had good books, old movies and lots phone calls and texting with friends and family who indulged us as we talked about the massive amounts of snow piling up on our deck.

Outside our home, in our neighborhood, it was peaceful too.

Neighbors were helping neighbors, and posting pictures on our Facebook page of the beauty around us.
Our reliable snow removal crews were out doing a terrific job of cleaning up our streets all weekend.
We formed a neighborhood brigade to dig out a neighbor whose husband is out of the country.

We even had a last-minute pot luck dinner with a few of our neighbors , sharing all our different pots of soup.

Now, the storm has passed.

The big melt begins.

We are slowly getting back to the business of living.

Hurrying to all the important places we have to go.

Keeping up with our busy, schedules.

Feeling more rushed, stressed and anxious than we like.

And waving quickly as we pass each other  in the neighborhood on our way to do all Our Important Stuff.

But we need to relish this last weekend when we had the gift of time to help each other, reconnect, slow down, and appreciate the power of Mother Nature.

She holds the trump card.

She always wins.

And maybe there’s method to Mother Nature’s madness.

She can stop the most powerful cities in the world, control the oceans, the skies, the very world that holds us at its mercy.

With one big storm, she can stop everything — redirect all our efforts and energies, make us feel helpless and out of control or sometimes kind, forgiving and benevolent.

She can make us pray for safety, run for cover, think of others, and get our acts together.

She always gives us chances to rethink, rebuild, and refresh.

Maybe Mother Nature is just God teaching us that we need to disconnect to connect.

Stop to start anew.

Hush to enjoy silence.

Feel stranded but never alone.

A historic blizzard might be just what we need to remind us whose really in charge here.

And, I don’t think it’s the weatherman.

So, for those of you still trapped by the snow, take a deep breath and enjoy this beautiful, rare kind of hush that’s over our world.

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Thanks to Mary Sears for sharing this photo of all the deer enjoying the snow in our neighborhood.