Mining for Gold During a Pandemic

Yesterday I was awoken at 6:12am by another earthquake. It wasn’t like the one that had the whole house jumping and rumbling, but I lay in bed until the swaying and the rocking stopped. My heart was pounding and I couldn’t believe everyone else slept through it. But there wasn’t an earthquake… Until 8:12am. It was just me in a panic.

I am so fortunate. My shelter, food storage, and income are more secure than so many right now. I have the luxury of being able to do a proper quarantine. While the economy is tanking, and some families are living day to day, I’m buying stocks and having someone deliver groceries to my doorstep. I AM SO VERY, VERY, VERY FORTUNATE.

But that does not make me immune to anxiety. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just struggling like so many others. In times like this, I think it’s normal to be grateful and still freaking out.

I’m amazed at those on social media and in my podcast library who are putting out the most inspired content right now. They’re sharing deep spiritual messages, complex ideas and practical suggestions on how to use this quarantine in beautiful ways. I am so wowed by this and I am squirreling away their nuts of wisdom for when I will be able to digest them.

But for now, I’m barely absorbing anything and I’m hardly able to get a coherent sentence out. My brain is a jumble of anxiety, not creativity. My former life from two weeks ago feels IMPOSSIBLE. I’m in such a fog. I feel stuck in the bottom part of Maslow’s Heirarchy of needs.

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I know exactly what I need to do to get out of this funk and get higher on the pyramid. Everyone knows. It’s so easy. The answer is my normal routine: Exercise, healthy meals, fresh air, prayer and scripture study, meditation and staying connected with loved ones.

BUT IT FEELS SO OUT OF REACH. Instead I feed myself garbage. I shower at some point. I voraciously read scary headlines while avoiding talking to anyone I love. I either cling to my children in desperation or swat them away like flies. At night I toss and turn amid terrifying dreams (okay that part is fairly normal) before doing it all over again.

I’m writing today as an attempt to pull something good from the deep recesses of my soul  NOT because I feel like I have something to offer anyone else. I’m just hoping I can tunnel down deep enough that I can bring out some of my spiritual gold before the whole mine collapses. The canary in the shaft is not chirping. So that’s not a good sign.

So here are a few things I want to remember, that maybe could give me enough motivation to slowly climb upwards:

Above the clouds, the sky is always blue. 

Sometimes you have to laugh to CREATE joy. 

Seemingly opposite feelings can coexist. 

Now is not forever. 

One small improvement is enough for today.

That’s all I’ve got for now. But if you have any suggestions, or better yet, some hilarious memes or videos, send them my way.

20 Something

The anxious father watches his teenager back out of the driveway and hopes he’ll be safe. Love. It’s what makes a Subaru.

The couple with a few gray hairs decide it’s time to reevaluate their finances and make wills.

The enthusiastic woman reclaims her life, peddling a bicycle along a green path now that she takes vitamins.

A woman eats yogurt like it fulfills her every sexual desire, (and it also happens to make her bowel movements more regular!)

These advertisements have yet to affect my consumer choices, but I recently realized I AM THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE. What? How? When did I become the middle-aged woman drying her hands on a towel, smiling as her muddy children clomp through the house – inspiring the purchase of Tide laundry detergent? When it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be Tide. 

I could swear I was still the 20 something who goes on spontaneous road trips and can leg press more than twice her bodyweight. But my search history belies me.

Wrinkle Cream

Stew Recipes

Best stock to buy during a pandemic 

72 hour kits

Where did that girl go? The one without wrinkles? The one who knew loneliness but didn’t know the grief of miscarriages and infertility? The one who said “When I’m a parent, I’ll never do that!” The one who lived a vibrant life, yet felt so unfulfilled? The one who had no idea how much she didn’t know?

AND WHY DO I STILL THINK I’M HER?

Aunt Dawna turns 90 in a couple of months, so it surprised me when she recently said “I think all of us still see ourselves as 20 something.”  She says she is shocked when she sees herself in the mirror. You too??

Perhaps we lock into this self-perception because our brain development stops in that decade. Perhaps it’s because so much of our identity is cemented at that point – it is the bridge between childhood and adulthood. Perhaps it’s because that is our “prime”.

The last few months I’ve had flashbacks to my 20’s and its been excruciating. I think about how I felt I had to prove myself. I think about how I treated some people. I think about how I lacked healthy boundaries. I think about how I didn’t take advantage of silly things like travel miles, or I didn’t start investing sooner… My list of cringe-inducing memories just keeps growing. IF ONLY I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW! (Although, in reality, I haven’t actually grown up or learned that much since then.)

Why am I cringing over my 20’s when I was doing pretty well? Why am I not cringing over high school when I had no idea how to dress my body, no clue how to apply myself and be ambitious,  and had soooo many emotional scars to deal with?

Well, who knows. Maybe I’ll start cringing about those now too. All I’m saying is that it sucks to suddenly look at my “prime” through a critical lens. And I need to stop.

It’s interesting how history books keep being re-written. Things that were once celebrated are now vilified, and things that were once overlooked are now highlighted. History changes depending on present!

The same is true for our personal histories. But let’s try not to do it the cringy way I’ve been doing it. Let’s do it in a way that’s helpful. The way we see traumas and trials can soften into lessons learned and strength grown. The way we see our naivety can turn into gratitude for the passage of time. The way we see missed opportunities can encourage us to stop putting off important things. The way we handled relationships can remind us of how good forgiveness feels and apply it to current situations.

I can’t go back in time and appreciate the waist I had at 25 (which I thought was unacceptable at the time but would kill for now.) But I can slap on some moisturizer to take care of my 37 year old skin, and still embrace some of who that 25 year old was – a hard worker, an adventurer, and a tireless friend.

 

What I Mean

You open the shower door and lean in to kiss me goodbye before work. I say “Have a good day!” But what I mean is “Your voice wafts through my mind all day like your cologne does in the shower steam.”

You’re away on business and I text you at midnight to say “I don’t sleep well when you’re not here.” But what I mean is “Your presence makes me feel safe and loved.”

We lay next to each other, each looking at something and I ask “Will you read this?” But what I mean is “I want to see the world through your eyes for a minute.”

You text an update about meetings and contracts and I reply “What time will you be home?” but what I mean is “My favorite part of the day is celebrating your return.”

On Saturday morning when the kids start jumping on our bed, you herd them out and  close the bedroom door. I sleepily grumble “Leave it open.” But what I mean is “Listening to the kids laughter as they play with you is the best feeling in the world.”

You notice the mountain of clean laundry is gone when you get home and say “I would have done that tonight.” I say “No worries.” But what I mean is “Every time I stack your giant socks I get the same comfort as when I hear your footsteps.”

The kids are lost in play as we watch them and you comment on how fast they’re changing. I say “Can you believe we made them?” But what I mean is “The closest I get to comprehending eternity is seeing the product of our love.”

Someone asks about how we met and I say “He wasn’t my type.” But what I mean is “I always knew it was you.”

You say “I love you.” and I say “I love you, too.” But what I mean is “I know how lucky I am to take for granted someone who is better than I ever dreamt of having.”

 

 

The Virtue in Fallibility

Many have questioned the validity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints because of the fallibility of it’s leaders. There are some uncomfortable parts in Church history that have caused members to abandon the Church, and many an outsider to assume that the Saints are living in blind faith.

There are sticky points in Church history, culture and doctrine for me too. But my discomfort, when I have turned it over to passionate study and sincere prayer, has increased my faith every single time. This is because my faith isn’t just wishful thinking or filling in the gaps with optimism. My faith is spiritual knowledge gained by experience.

I love that God, in scriptures, has extended challenges such as “Prove me now herewith…”

What does it mean to prove something? It means to have indisputable, replicable evidence gained by experience.

I like how David S. Miller put it: “Faith is more like being faithful to your husband or wife than it is like believing in magic. Fidelity is the key. You may fall in love with someone because of how well they complement your story, but you’ll prove yourself faithful to them only when you care more for the flawed, difficult and unplotted life you end up sharing with them. Faith isn’t the opposite of knowledge. Rather, like love, faith perfects knowledge by practicing fidelity to it.” -Letters to a Young Mormon

Faith has ample room for questions and doubts. In fact, I think those are essential components. In my experience, every doubt has become a blessing. Every question has been a chance to grow closer to God. Every human error has been an opportunity to see God’s hand (I’m pretty sure the Prophet Joseph would agree with me.)

I am, unequivocally, a believer in the restored church. I believe that God the Father and Christ the Son called upon a young, uneducated boy, Joseph Smith, to bring forth the Book of Mormon and re-establish Christ’s ancient church, in preparation for the second coming. And I believe that the current Church is led by true and living prophets. But you’ll never hear me say the oft repeated testimony, “I know the Church is true.”

Why? Because the Church, God’s Kingdom on Earth, is not a glorified, completed, perfected organization.  The GOSPEL is true, the Church is not. It’s still growing, still receiving further light and knowledge, and currently being led by prophets who are good good good and inspired men called of God, but still imperfect humans.

So why get baptized? Why give a tithe? Why sacrifice a large portion of time and means? What’s the difference between this Church and any other? What’s the use of organized religion anyhow?

I’ve worked over many years to get answers to those questions for myself. And I’ve received them. I won’t share all those answers now, because it was the process of working for answers that has been the greatest spiritual gift. But one of the outcomes of my effort has been to discover the virtue in fallibility.

God works miracles through the weak and the flawed.

Jonah was a reluctant prophet who never really got it.

Joseph Smith lost the manuscript pages and fell prey to human weakness.

Peter denied Christ 3 times and then went on to be the head of the Church.

God doesn’t call perfect people to the work. He calls the weak.

When I was employed by the Church, members would often say “It must be amazing to work for the Church!” With stars in their eyes they seemed to imagine that angels would come down during PowerPoint presentations and give us clear instructions on how each project should be done. Then, of course, the prophet would meander down the hall and nod his approval.

In reality, a lot of the work wasn’t ecclesiastical. It was corporate. There was a lot of politics and bureaucracy. There were ineffective programs and failed projects. There was even, dare I say it, sexism.

BUT.

I still believe that the Church, including it’s corporate holdings, are part of God’s Kingdom on Earth. A perfect God is willing to put His name and blessings on our flawed attempts because He is using it to educate us and prepare us. He is proving US by experience. He is refining us as we wrestle to subdue our egos and ambitions as we  attempt to do His work “To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”.

We saints may be fallible and flawed. But we have been bound by covenants to an infallible and perfect God, through the blood of an infallible and perfect Savior. And those covenants give us access to the Power of God in the tiny details of life. Miracles. Unbelievable miracles. And even more wonderful, personal growth as we see what He can do with us even in our weakness. All of this He does because of LOVE. Love for us not because of our potential, not because of our productivity, not because of our proven worth. But simply because we are. We are loved IN our fallibility, not in spite of it. A lot of healing comes from that. And with that healing comes the faith and motivation to keep building up His Kingdom.

 

Like a Dream

I wake up in a sweat. The details of my dream swirl so powerfully through my mind that I can’t separate them from reality. The feelings, the images, the people, the place, even the smell… all of it is so graphic and real that I am still living in it as I stumble to the bathroom to pull on my gym clothes. I drive through the black of pre-dawn. The snowflakes hitting the windshield make it easy to imagine I’m flying through space, whizzing past stars… or at least still dreaming. I’m on the treadmill as slowly, the haze begins to lift. I’m trying to make sense of the dream and finally realize that none of it was real, except for the strong emotions it left me with. I swear though, the details are so, so real. I’ll never forget this dream. It will likely flash into my mind a hundred times a day until I die. But then, by afternoon I can’t tell you more than a wisp of the storyline. By evening, I don’t remember anything except that “I have really weird dreams.”

“Do you think Flora is getting in her two year molars? When did the big girls get them?” “I have no idea.”

“Look at that baby. Were the girls ever that small?”

For some things, I feel like I’m still in that swirly wakeup part where I’m separating reality from the dream. The emotions are still fresh but the details are getting hazy. But for so many others, I feel like it’s evening and I just vaguely remember “that stage was really demanding”.

With some deep reminiscing with RJ and the help of photographs, I can remember quite a bit right now. But I feel the memories slipping like sand through my fingers.

“Momnesia” is both a blessing and a curse.

Blessing: During a formal visit, the girls get into a scuffle. Millie’s head misses the stone mantle by an inch and she retaliates with a fierce blow to Georgia’s stomach. The rolling, screaming ball of girls reminds me of cartoon fights between Tom and Jerry; a tornado-like puff of dust with limbs randomly jutting out. I notice Flora’s foot in the melee and swiftly pull apart the 3 combatants.   Trying to maintain composure I turn and ask the dignified septuagenarian mother of 7 on my sofa “What did you do when your kids fought?” She sighs, looks to the ceiling as she scans her memory and says “I don’t think my kids ever really fought!” Okay sure, Linda. That’s unrealistic. But I’m glad you don’t remember it.

Curse: I don’t remember when Georgia’s cheeks went from the slack velvet of newborn to the full roundness of baby. I don’t remember when Millie’s thigh rolls were replaced by lean muscular quads. I don’t remember when Flora first said “I yuv you, mama”.

I restrain an eye-roll when well-meaning strangers advise me to “Enjoy every moment!” I have never met a mother who enjoyed potty training, or who thrilled at using a public restroom with three tiny people who were verbal enough to observe and comment loudly on everything, capable enough to open the stall door while you’re still wiping, but not yet wise enough to restrain from licking the sink. Perhaps what they really mean is, “Take in what you can, because you won’t remember most of this.”

I’ll forget how the weight of an infant on my chest will seem to double when she goes into a limp sleep.

I’ll forget how soft, warm (and perpetually sticky) are the hands of toddlers. And worse, I’ll forget how loved I felt when those hands reached up for me (even if it was simply to squish my face into painfully hilarious contortions).

I’ll forget that there was ever a time when I could fix nearly any problem with a bandaid, a lollipop, or a hug.

I’ll forget the specific exhaustion of nerves and stimulus  that I feel after tucking rambunctious rascals back into bed for the nth time, only to go to my bed and scroll through pictures of them for an hour.

I’ll forget things I haven’t even experienced yet.

I’ll forget the anguish of feeling unpopular. I’ll forget the exquisite joy of a hard-fought victory. I’ll forget the agony of forcing homework. I’ll forget the backward glance and lip-bit smile as they drive away on their first date. I’ll forget the first time they call for a recipe. I’ll forget the first mention of a name that will change the course of their life, and therefore mine. I’ll forget which songs they played on repeat. And when they make me a grandma, I’ll forget anything helpful, yet still dole out advice nonetheless.

At the evening of my life, most of it will blur together. It will feel as if it were all just a dream. I won’t recall the vivid details, and may not even be left with the strong emotions of it. But I will always remember one thing:

That I loved them all along.

My word for 2020: Fail

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Last year I took a handful of watercolor painting classes. The instructor, Anita Kimbler, would catch me hesitating on something and proclaim “It’s only paper!” I *knew* that. I knew nothing would be lost but a few cents of paper and a little bit of time. But it didn’t stop me from freezing up. Then, in my anxiety, I would overthink the painting and make color choices I would regret. I let the fear of failure take the fun out of trying something when there was very, very little at stake. Other times I would paint with reckless abandon. These were always the pieces I liked the most. These too, would be marred by mistakes. Whoops! That paint splatter wasn’t intentional! But in my free-spirited mood, I would embrace it and add more splatters to give it friends, or turn them into leaves falling. My failures taught me to be creative. My fear only ruined the fun.

There are other times, though, when my mistakes and failures have had higher stakes. When I was serving as RS president for my ward, I made some poor dating choices. One of those caused heartache for a sister I had been desperately trying to help. God turned that “paint splatter” into falling leaves, though. He not only helped me gain her forgiveness, He helped me become her friend and introduce her to her future husband.

Intellectually, I am deeply grateful for the mistakes and failures I’ve experienced. They have taught me much more than my successes and good fortune. But instinctually, I am ashamed of them, and often don’t try something for fear of failure.

But in the year of 2020, I shall seek the blessings and the lessons of failure! With any luck, I will show my children not to fear mistakes.

On many a trail, I’ve learned that a stumble may prevent a fall. Similarly, I love the conference talk where they were lost and prayed to know which road to take. They were inspired to take a road that quickly became a dead end. At first frustrated with the Lord, he later realized it was a mercy that the dead end gave him full confidence in the other route. Sometimes what seems to be a mistake is actually a valuable detour.

“O happy failure, from how many evils have you saved me!” -Saint Therese of Lisieux

In my day-to-day life, I am constantly asking “Am I failing them?” I lose my temper. Our scripture study is pitiful. What am I even feeding them? I have no idea how to discipline. Where will this current path of parenting lead them? Does RJ know how much I really love him? Am I nurturing our marriage? THIS IS NOT JUST PAPER, ANITA! These are our immortal souls! I need to stop obsessing over failure and have faith in the compounding effect of small efforts to improve every day. None of this is final. And although I am a parent, I’m not the One in control. There are unseen forces, both evil and divine, that are influencing us. God is using my mistakes to grow us. Satan is using them to paralyze us. But my mistakes and failures are not final. They are not being kept on a scorecard. The more I trust God, the more “all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.” 

How am I dealing with the failures of my children? Am I instilling fear or teaching them to grow from it? When they mess up, I don’t want them to think “Mom is gonna be so mad.” I want their reaction to be “I need mom.”

My friend, yet another artist, Megan Schaugaard,  posted something she learned about mistakes from her own mother. “It’s all a process – even the failed attempts aren’t worthless if they help us grow. (This painting that my mom did before I was born) It was hung in our house for as long as I can remember and is still on my parent’s wall today. If you look closely, she missed a letter in “beginning” But she didn’t toss it and call it worthless. I love that it still had a place on our wall regardless of the misspelled word. It reminds me that life isn’t perfect but that every step to get there is of value. It also helped me remember that though none of us are perfect, we are loved and still have a “place on the wall”. I dibs inheriting it!”

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I currently have dozens of writing ideas in my drafts folder. They’re imperfect. They’re partially developed. And because of my fear of failure, they’ve sat there for months to years. Some of them have lost all meaning to me and I don’t even know where I was going with it when I abandoned it. I don’t vow to stop doing this, because that is unrealistic. But I vow to try and let the flawed, incomplete and underdeveloped ideas get out of ‘drafts’ and into ‘published’ more often. ITS ONLY (digital) PAPER! There is a place for it on the “wall”! The more I do with passion and the less I do with perfectionism, the more I will grow.

So WHO IS WITH ME? Lets get out there and FAIL IN 2020!!!!

2019

I’m a list maker. An inventory taker. But as I look back on 2019, I can’t think of much to tally. In fact, the whole thing is a biiiiiig blur. (Maybe because my eyesight took more of a plunge this year. I really do need glasses.) Maybe because nothing “major” happened. We didn’t have any serious crisis! I didn’t travel, write a book, give birth, run a marathon or cure cancer.

But in my ripe old age of 37 I’ve discovered that the VALUE of my time is not determined by the PRODUCTIVITY of my time. And most of what we “accomplish” is immeasurable. Yet… I still crave some satisfaction by making a list. So lets see what we can drum up.

2019:

  • Read 38 books for myself, and hundreds of books to the girls
  • Took one family vacation (2 nights down to Cedar Breaks Nat’l Park/Brian Head)
  • Wiped bums thousands of times
  • Dragged children on dozens of hikes, a few of which were trails we hadn’t done before
  • Shopped for, prepared, and cleaned up at least 1000 meals
  • Replaced the refrigerator, outdoor freezer, fireplace, tires, TV, couch and console
  • Cheered on RJ in callings, work and the backyard landscaping
  • Accepted things about myself and the world:
    • I don’t enjoy playing make-believe
    • I don’t like arugula
    • At odds with my love for the planet, I love ziplocks
    • I need validation and its okay to ask RJ for it
    • Its okay that my artistic hobbies are all just phases (2019 was the year that weaving and watercolor fizzled out)
    • Its worth the quiet  – let the kids watch TV for an hour
    • Barbies are not totally evil
    • The kids will usually outgrow whatever thing I’m freaking out about (and replace it with something new to freak out about)
  • Let go of several traditions to make room for new ones
  • Reconnected with dear friends from years ago
  • Published 3 articles online (and had one poem rejected)
  • Lost one dear friend to age (Christel Mueller). But another friend who really didn’t want to, survived the entire year!
  • Was B&B to 21 people from 2 nights to 2 months
  • Baked dozens of cakes
  • Sent Georgia to Kindergarten
  • Yelled at the kids less than the year before
  • Got a lot more sleep than the 5 years before
  • Kept the gym M/W/F and Trail T/TH exercise schedule
  • Learned about intuitive eating
  • Stopped spending energy on friendships that weren’t mutually beneficial
  • Did 6 months of amazing budgeting and 6 months of… mindful spending
  • Cut bangs, began considering coloring my white hairs

Flora just woke up, so its time to skedaddle. I doubt that was as satisfying for you as it was for me. But GOSH it feels good to make lists. And even an ‘uneventful’ year can look significant if you tally it up!

Really, though, the biggest takeaways from this year are not on this list. The biggest thing this year was learning, just a little, how to see people more fully, and to stop seeing MYSELF so much. I’ve got a long ways to go yet. But it has felt really good to be just a little less self-centered, and take things less personally. It has felt really good to see others, warts and all, and love them all the more for it. MUDITA!!!

 

A revelation: She’s Two

“I think Flora may be coming down with a bug. She’s been really cranky today.”

“Oh, sweetie… you must not have had a good nap today!”

“Do you think Flora may be getting in her molars or something?”

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out why precious little Flora has been so  irritable. She arches her back and screams when you buckle her into the carseat. She growls when she can’t have a “moot mayack” (fruit snack). She WILL NOT NAP unless we turn her toddler bed into a tent. She goes boneless when its time to get dressed. My once polite toddler now screams her demands instead of saying please. (She and RJ had a 20 minute standoff this week because she wouldn’t ask nicely. His determination beats mine by about 19.5 minutes.)

This morning, though, I had a revelation. A lightbulb flashed so brightly above my head that it could have been mistaken for a lightning bolt.

You guys.

SHE IS TWO!

How on earth did I forget what its like to be two?? With Georgia, I don’t think I took a deep breath the entire year she was two. I got all of my oxygen in tiny gasps of air. With Millie, my sleep, self-confidence, and parenting skills reached record-breaking lows. But mom-nesia is real. I had forgotten about how hard it is to have ALL OF THOSE BIG FEELINGS in such a tiny body.

Amazingly, my revelation this morning has transformed her behavior from aggravating to adorable. She’s not sick, tired, or teething. She’s just TWO! Without realizing that, I might have missed how cute it is when she tries to stomp her feet in anger. She has yet to master the skill, so it’s a bit clumsy. She picks up her knee and then tries to slam down her foot, but rather than the heel, she uses her tip toe. This causes her to wobble a bit and she has to re-steady herself before she tries again.

With each of her heartbreaks today (I think we are up to about 20), I’ve swept her into my arms and tried to sooth her, saying “Oh, it’s so hard to be two!” Sometimes she arches her back, clenches her little bum and tries to kick me. When I’m expecting rage, she has melted into my arms, hands around my neck, face on my shoulder.

There is a real perk to being the 3rd and last child. My patience and appreciation is much higher than it was with her sisters because I know this is the last time I’ll ever have the magic or the rage of a two year old.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully expect to lose my cool with her many times. But this year will rocket past me. Her baby squish will be gone. Her whispy hair will thicken up, and she will no longer look like Cindy Loo Hoo. Her enunciation will progress to where I don’t have to translate for strangers. Soon, her pudgy feet won’t dangle so high from the toilet. Soon, she won’t ask me to take her outside to listen to the “kickits chipping” (crickets chirping) during her bedtime milk. She won’t be so excited about hand washing and flushing toilets. She may not lay in bed yelling for me, fully capable of getting out by herself, but wanting me to lift her into my arms for a book. The off-beat cadence of her trot may steady into a rhythm. She won’t demand to wear her “Mickey Mouse simming-suit” under her clothing EVERY SINGLE DAY. When you tell her she’s cute she won’t smile back “No YOU coot!” She won’t end every argument with “No evvow again!” Tutus won’t likely be an essential part of every outfit, including pajamas. Mommy kisses won’t be able to magically heal every pain. Cuddles might be harder to come by! 😭

The things that will replace TWO will be magical and rage-inducing as well. But they won’t be so little. And TWO will be gone forever.

So for now, at least while the revelation is fresh, bring on the tantrums. Oh, precious TWO! The memories we will make!

2019: The Year of Mudita, in review

For decades I was irked when I would encounter what I called The Concept of Limited Good; the notion that there is only so much GOOD STUFF to go around, and if one person got it, there was less for me.  Of course there are levels to this false belief. There are the harmless expressions like “You’re so pretty. I hate you!” And there are the grimy resentments because so-and-so got the job you applied for. And then there are the bitter tears because THAT girl got married, and you are still alone.

When God opens a door for one, He closes a window for another.

When we consciously or subconsciously believe there isn’t enough good to go around, tragically, it becomes true. Less good comes our way (or at least we notice it less). Now perhaps we don’t delight in the misfortune of others, but we may feel like victims of their good fortune.

ALL OF THIS IS A LIE! The more we can celebrate the good (in ours or other’s lives), the more we receive. This may, in part, be because the more we see, the more we SEE. But I also believe gratitude and MUDITA make us magnets for blessings. God rewards a grateful heart.

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I ran across this Sanskrit word a few years ago and it resonated with me. Last year while reading The Book of Joy it seemed to glow on the page and therefore became “My Word” for 2019. I think it hits me so hard because it’s the opposite of the Concept of Limited Good.

This year, I’ve been seeking Mudita.

I don’t have an abundance of spiritual gifts, but I have been blessed with the lack of an envious heart. I don’t catch myself resenting others for their blessings, or wishing I had what they had, so I thought it would be an easy attribute to acquire. But Mudita goes a step further. It CELEBRATES the blessings of others. As I’ve tried to consciously apply that, it felt a little awkward. I mean, there are the obvious things to celebrate with/for someone (basically all things new: Job, marriage, baby, etc.) But on a daily basis, I wanted to cheer for others and celebrate them, without piously counting their blessings for them.

So I looked around for examples. I didn’t have to look far. My friend Jan embodies Mudita. I felt it in the way she listened with genuine interest, even if what I was talking about wasn’t interesting. I felt it in the way she gave me unique compliments that said “I really see you.” I saw it on social media. Within our shared network of friends and associates, I noticed that she was generous with her ‘likes’ and often accompanied them with heartfelt comments of support. Jan made Mudita uncomplicated for me. Being around Jan is like being in a warm hug. She’s not an  exaggerated character who seems to adore every stranger, lavishes you with praise, or plasters on a fake smile for everyone she sees. She’s genuine. But she showed me that Mudita is simply living with your eyes wide open to God’s blessings, and being grateful for them wherever they land.

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Mom Guilt

Sometimes on Saturdays, when the tots jump on our sleeping faces, RJ will hurriedly scuttle them out the door and take them downstairs to make breakfast, leaving me to sleep for another (much needed) hour.

He deserves major kudos for this. Because he’s awesome and kind and wonderful. But that’s not what this is about.

I frequently do this same thing for RJ on the weekends, taking the kids and making breakfast to let him sleep. I believe relationships should be generally balanced in the giving/receiving thing, but I don’t believe scorekeeping is healthy. That’s also not what this is about.

RJ is their father. He is equally responsible for them as me. SO WHY IS IT THAT I FEEL THIS STUPID GUILT when I get to luxuriate in bed for an hour and maybe even take a shower without little ones squawking at me?!

MOM GUILT.

We feel it when we read them only 7 books but turn them down when they beg for an 8th.

We feel it when we only grudgingly share that piece of chocolate we hoarded away to enjoy during quiet time, only to be caught by their supersonic ears that can hear a wrapper opening behind closed doors on a separate floor of the house.

We feel it when we send them outside after dinner to play with dad so we can clean the kitchen ALONE instead of playing as a family or teaching them to work.

We feel it when we realize how few vegetables they’ve eaten this week… or what percentage of their diet consists of things you aren’t sure qualify as food (I’m looking at you, fruit snacks).

We feel it when we let them watch “too much” tv.

We feel it over… well… everything.

Now lets back up a bit. Before having children. In my pre-married life I woke up at 5am to go to the gym Monday through Friday. I’ve never been one to sleep in, but on Saturdays I loooooooved a good “lay in”. Sometimes this lasted until 7am when I was ready to tackle a project or go for a run up the canyon. Sometimes it lasted half the day where I lounged about in bed, reading, writing, dozing, whatever. How much guilt did I feel about this? EXACTLY ZERO. Come to think of it, I felt zero guilt about, well, most anything leisure related. It was rejuvenating and necessary to make the GRIND part of life worth living.

But a dramatic, plate-tectonic mind-altering  shift happens when you become parents and suddenly ANNNNNNYYYYYYYTHING can cause you to feel guilt.

You don’t maintain relationships well because you’re tied up with kids. Guilt. You DO maintain relationships and that takes away from family time. Guilt.

Your kids don’t get your full attention when you (exercise/work/whatever). Guilt. You don’t exercise/work/whatever and you are worried you aren’t a good example to your kids. Guilt.

You are too hard on your kids. Guilt. You don’t demand enough from them. Guilt.

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THIS IS. I just know that its real. And honestly, for most of these areas, thats fine. I’ll take the guilt. It keeps me paying attention as a mom. But LEISURE???? Someone please tell me how to make that a guiltless venture again. Someone. PLEASE. Teach me how to actually enjoy a breather again and not taint it with guilt. Or maybe teach my children how to just lay in bed quietly with me on a saturday morning and not have any needs?

Ooooh. Maybe thats what the teenage years are for.