Thursday, May 15, 2014

Humble Pie



I once joked that the difference between my husband and me was summed up by the way we approached the last piece of pie. My husband: “I’ll leave it for someone else.” Me? I’d squeal, “Ooh, pie! Yum!”

That is how we lived as husband and wife for our first 20 years of marriage, my husband giving and I taking. Between us, I received more of empathy and kind words. He offered help and I received it gladly. I had more stuff, too. More clothes, books, nights out, shoes, and you name it, I had more. I’m pretty sure if I’d purged my unneeded belongings, our house would’ve raised up an inch or two.

You probably think I was happier than he. I’d say you were dead wrong. I was pretty happy, don’t misunderstand. But day in and day out, he was happier than me, that’s for sure. I believe that truly happy people are kind, vulnerable, and grateful. My husband is such a person.

Steve has always been about the most content person I know. His sister once remarked that he has the patience of a zombie. It’s true. He lives in complete serenity. The guy accepts everyone as they are without a hint of judgment. He’s the first to help and the first to offer a kind word. Never speaking ill or worrying what others think of him, he’s the epitome of guilelessness. And all the women in our family adore him. Sheesh, I spent the first 20 years of our marriage trying to convince his mother, two sisters, three daughters and my own mother (the traitor), that he wasn’t really all that perfect. They still don’t believe me.

So, what’s a self-absorbed perfectionist to do when you’re married to someone like that? One thing I learned is that it starts within. It’s the melting away of “Me, Mine, My” and choosing “Him, Her, Them.” It’s letting go of shame and pride. It’s looking for what’s wonderful and living in that wonder. It’s letting go of perfectionism, judging, and worrying what others think about me. It’s allowing myself to be vulnerable and grateful, kind and loving.

Vulnerability is when I allow others to see me as I really am, my authentic self, and feel ok with it. It’s the opposite of perfectionism. A vulnerable person recognizes that, hey, nobody’s perfect. A perfectionist can’t let their guard down, ever. Brene Brown said that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity….the source of hope…. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But the truth is, when I decided to drop my fear that people would see my imperfections, that’s when I started to feel whole, content, and at peace. And surprisingly, I started to act a lot more like my husband. Nowadays, I am more accepting and less judgmental. I feel more grateful and seek out opportunities to serve. Gossip pains me! And finally, it’s ok with me if you come over to visit my imperfect house and imperfect family. My life is messy. So is yours, I bet. And that’s ok, too.

So, here I am, a changed being from that 22-year old bride. I blame it all on my husband, you know. He’s the one who showed me that true kindness, accepting myself and others, and living in gratitude is the path of contentment and happiness.

And now, I think I’ll make some pie.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Are you allowed to give yourself a haircut?

A burning question. Why do we think a service is somehow superior when we've paid someone to do it?

For instance, what is it about pedicures?
Doing it myself - Ok.
Paying someone - Fabulous! Money well spent. I'm definitely doing this again!

or Mowing the lawn:
Doing it myself - Sweaty, tiring.
Paying someone - Well worth it. Necessary budget item.

Reality check: The polish will wear off just as fast. The grass will grow just the same. So why do we pay? Is our time so extraordinarily valuable that we can't do simple tasks anymore? What oh so important things are we doing instead?

Big admission here. I often cut my own hair. In fact, I am the haircutter for my whole family. I cut my husband's hair. I cut my daughters' hair. I cut my sons' hair. Paid for maybe 20 haircuts in the 28 years we've been a family.

And the list goes on. Repair our own appliances. Paint our own rooms. Clean our own carpets. We do do do for ourselves everything we can. Gasp - how archaic.

So why don't I pay? Sometimes it just takes less time to do it myself. And at first we couldn't afford to pay for things like haircuts. But now, mostly, it's because I like the feeling of accomplishment. I like knowing that I'm capable, that I know how to do things. I like the sore muscles of a job well done. I like stepping back from a project and knowing that I did that great thing!! Talk about empowering! I'm dizzy thinking about it. Which is not good because -

I'm due for a haircut.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Inner Bohemia

Recently a friend from Church expressed his outrage over some decisions that local and general Church leaders have made of late. He's so mad about that and other things that he's decided not to come to church anymore.

I liken this to a patient, furious with his doctor, who exclaims, "Well, then. Remember those pills you told me to take? The ones that help save my life? Ha. I'll show you. I WON'T TAKE THEM ANYMORE. So. There."

What is my friend thinking? Has he forgotten that our obedience to God and God's law protects us? Blesses us? Molds us into a better version of ourselves? Indeed, saves our spiritual lives?

And the question of the day is this: How do I protect myself from getting to that strange place of disobedience to God just because a Church leader or member has disappointed me, offended me, or made me angry?

What I have found to be helpful is to measure my "inner Bohemia." A little phrase that Steve and I've used for years regarding that deep in the heart peace that we expect to have when we're living right.

So then, "How's my inner Bohemia?" Is it at peace? Do I feel that God's pleased with me? Am I humble? or Am I proud? These are the hard questions I have to ask myself frequently because I often find myself not quite at peace, not quite feeling right inside. Then, the even harder question - what do I do about it? Do I turn away from God and complain (yes, sometimes I do. sigh.) But that never brings the peace that I seek. Only, only, only when I strive to acquire the virtue of submissiveness that the Savior exemplified is my "inner Bohemia" restful. Serene. At peace. Every single time.

To my friend: Guess what? Complaining, criticizing, and ranting about the Church will never hurt the Church. It will keep growing and improving all those who pattern their lives after it's teachings. No. The only one hurt by your anger is you. And your wife. And your children. And those who have been your friends. Please take a moment to check your inner Bohemia today. It just might save your life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Manure Pile


My Grandpa Hyde turned 101 last May. He's amazing! He and Norma (married now for 37 years) still live at home, make their own meals, and keep up with the political and financial scene. Even more importantly, they keep track of all the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids with great interest and near-perfect memory. If you want to know who's where and what's happening, you can just ask Grandpa.

Since moving to Maryland almost 4 years ago I've tried to get up there to see him every few months. These moments have been a treasure. Every time I go up, Grandpa has another story, memory, experience, or family fact to share with me. I am learning what an incredible man he is.

And so, why "manure pile"? Because it is my favorite of his childhood stories.

Grandpa and his sister lived with their aunt and uncle. They had horses, cows, lots and lots of dogs, cats, chickens, and other animals. Their next door neighbor had children the same ages and all the kids would often play together.

One day, they were in the midst of a rousing game of tag. The corner of the barn was "home." It was also where the manure pile was located. As his older sister, Cee, came running around the side of the barn yelling "home freeeee", she tripped and fell, face first, mouth wide open, into the manure pile!

I still laugh out loud at this story. Not just because it's so funny. I laugh because every time Grandpa tells me about this little moment in his childhood, he doubles over with belly laughs and loud guffaws as if it just happened. I love that, just for a moment, a 101 year old man can feel like a kid again.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ideal Me

Feeling dissatisfied with myself, I recently decided to create an "ideal me" list. All the things I should do, in a neat, orderly column. The perfect life I should be living. A well-thought out description of who I should be. So, I contemplated. I pondered. I deliberated, I mulled, I reflected. For weeks I went over and over in my mind the things that I should be doing, saying, feeling, spending time on - you name it, I covered it. What a list I had going. "Prepare Seminary lessons before noon every day." "Ironing done once a week." "From now on my garden will be weed-free." It was a masterpiece of detail and design, my list.

When the day came to write it all down, I was prepared. I was ready to commit. Ready for a better, more refined, more organized, more spiritual, more self-controlled me.

Then I prayed. I asked Heavenly Father for specific direction in composing my list. I asked for His will, His insight, His divine help.

He answered me. To my mind came this list:

* studies scriptures daily.
* fulfills Church callings faithfully.
* keeps an orderly home.
* is a blessing to my husband.
* carefully nurtures all my children.
* mindful of needs of extended family.
* industrious.
* fills mind with useful knowledge.
* cheerful and pleasant.
* kind and loving.
* has meaningful prayer.
* cares for my body.
* is progressing.

Reminding me again that what He thinks and sees and knows about me is much greater than what I think, what I see, what I know.

My list was limited and limiting. My list was daunting and full of potential failure opportunities, I see that now. His list allows for daily life. His list uplifts and encourages. His list holds the promise of true growth. His list is, in fact, ideal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tender mercies

One of my favorite scripture verses is in the 1st chapter of the Book of Mormon. I love it because it gives a name to those moments when I've felt the touch of a loving Heavenly Father. It reads:

... I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even to the power of deliverance. (1 Nephi 1: 20 )

One of many in the Old Testament:

The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. (Psalms 145:9)

Tender mercies. Extensions of divine help, divine intervention, divine watchcare. Sometimes so tender and gentle that we fail to recognize them.

I heard a talk one Sunday on this very subject and that night I set out to compile a list of the tender mercies I had already seen in my life. I was amazed at the number of moments that easily came to mind.

The time I glanced down (just for a moment, I promise) and when I looked back up the car in front of me had stopped dead in the lane. No time to react. Immediately, the steering wheel wrenched from my grasp, literally taken over by an unseen power. We swerved around that car, just inches away.

Another time, feeling beyond lonely. Words to a forlorn spiritual I learned in school repeating in my mind - sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home. Out of place in Texas, no home in New Jersey, truly "home"-less. And then, a clear thought permeated my mind. A simple phrase. A tender reassurance. "You have a home." A heavenly reminder that there is more for me than this earth life.

And more, so many more moments. Others may attribute such experiences to coincidence, karma, whatever. But I know these sweet moments are just what the scriptures say they are. Tender mercies. From a benevolent God extended to me, His daughter. Just when I need them.