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Resilience

I have 3 teenagers still at home and one child off to college. When my kids were in elementary school we had lots of activities, and I spent a lot of time volunteering at the school. I thought we had a lot going on. I had no idea how busy we actually could be. I homeschooled my kids through middle school, the last one finishing 8th grade this year. The older my kids get, the busier they get. Between school, sports, jobs, and spending time with friends, it seems like someone is always coming or going, or needing a ride. Life gets crazy. In some ways I enjoy all the stuff we do, and we don’t even do half of what a lot of families I know do, but in other ways, when there is a day at home to just be home, I relish those days.

This world is full of so much noise. We have information at our fingertips, good information, bad information, and harmful information. We have more ways to waste time now, and it seems more time to waste than ever before, and yet, anxiety and depression are on the rise, in adults, and especially in our younger generation. There seems to be a misconception that if we aren’t busy, or being entertained in our off time, we really aren’t living. The opposite is true as well. We have this selfish outlook, that we come first, that we need to take care of ourselves first, and that we are the most important thing, that doing only what we want to do is all that should be required of us. I believe that this is a false perception as well. True, we need to take care of ourselves, but that should not be the main driving force behind everything we do. We should be anxiously engaged in helping others, doing good, seeing beyond ourselves and seeing others.

Resilience is something I have thought a lot about as far as my kids are concerned. This past year has been extremely difficult for many people, not just financially, but mentally as well. Resilience to me is to become strong, successful, despite opposition, and especially in hard times. Able and capable of change, to recover quickly from whatever life throws at us. I have learned to love change. Change means new opportunities. Sometimes change comes when we are looking for it, sometimes it knocks us down, and we have to stop and think about how to proceed. I have found that some of the most resilient people I know embrace change, they look forward to change, they know it leads to something better.

There are several things that I think help me be more resilient and help me embrace change much easier. First, understanding that I am not the only person who has ever gone through this, and often, as in 2020, there was a world full of people going through very similar things. Second, stop looking at everything bad going on around us. Yes, we need to see the problem, but only long enough to start looking for a solution. We were blessed with the ability to reason and to think, and we need to use that ability to our benefit, as well as the benefit of those around us. A quote I found when I first started homeschooling my kids from Albert Einstein – “Education is not the learning of facts, but rather the training of the mind to think.” One example of solution thinking was the number of individuals who started producing masks, and videos on how to make masks, within just a few days of knowing we would need them. Larger companies produced kits for those who wanted to make their own, other companies produced and still produce not only large quantities, but such a huge variety of masks, from plain to personalized. Third, helping others around me. How often do we think we have it bad, and then when someone needs help, we go and realize we aren’t doing that bad. There are so many people out there worse off than us. And helping others doesn’t just benefit them, but when we help, we leave lifted ourselves. Fourth, be grateful. I wrote a post several weeks ago on gratitude, so I won’t elaborate too much, but gratitude helps us see what we really do have, to see how we really have been blessed, to have that 2020 hindsight. And lastly, praying has always helped me. We can receive help, we can receive answers. How do I know? Because I have. I see the course corrections I need to make, I see the opportunities for what they are so they don’t pass me by, and I have the reassurance that sometimes I just need to hold on a little longer, help is on the way. I am grateful for the answers I receive through my prayers

Resilience is an attribute, a characteristic that we can develop. It is also an attitude that we can choose. If we embrace what happens to us and around us, we can make a difference, not just in our own lives, but we can change the world around us, and who doesn’t want to change the world for the better!

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Gratitude

This week gratitude has been on my mind. Well, for the past several weeks. Gratitude to me means recognizing things or people in our lives and seeing the good in those things or people, or seeing how they have benefitted my life and recognizing that I wouldn’t be where I am without them, and then hopefully, if it’s people, letting them know I am grateful for them.

Sometimes people find it hard to see a reason to be grateful, sometimes it’s hard to see past the hard, the trial, the challenge in life and see that maybe it’s making us stronger, smarter, or more resilient. Sometimes the hard helps us to change courses, or see that maybe the path we are on isn’t going to take us where we want to go. Sometimes it’s recognizing that we are only going to get where we want to be through the hard, which for me is most often the path. But I am grateful for the hard, for the strengthening that comes from hard. I wouldn’t change any of the hard I’ve experienced in my life, because I wouldn’t be where I’m at without it. Always after the trial I am grateful, but the older I get and the more I have the opportunity to experience, I can see, even in the middle of hard that there are things to be grateful for.

This week I am grateful for good health. 2 weeks ago I got sick, mild flu like symptoms. It was over a weekend, and by Tuesday I was doing great, or at least I thought I was. By Thursday I was doing even better and realized Tuesday I wasn’t doing as great as I thought at first, and I was great before the next weekend. By Thursday my husband was getting sick. He wasn’t as lucky as I was. He is still sick, but has finally, 10 days later turned the corner to hopefully recover. I never really pay attention to my good health until it’s gone. How often do we not even realize how good we have it until something changes and we can finally see, 2020 hindsight is awesome. But we don’t need to look back to always be grateful. While I was sick I was grateful that my Church meetings are zoomed so I could still watch and benefit. I was grateful my husband let me sleep on the couch all day long. I was grateful my kids pitched in and helped out, and didn’t hound me with questions about what they could do, what they could eat, etc. I am grateful now for a strong immune system that helped me heal quickly. While my husband has been sick, I have been grateful for prayers, not just mine, but extended family willing to pray for his health and well being, and grateful for the comfort of the Spirit as I worried along the way.

One of the trials I wouldn’t trade for the world: We lived in my husbands shop the first 17 years of our marriage. The first 3 years we didn’t have water, the first 7 years we didn’t have power. We had all 4 of our children while still living there. Those were hard years. But through them I learned that there are a lot of things people take for granted that they feel like are necessities, that aren’t really, and there are ways to work around just about anything. The only detriment? I hate camping because I felt like we had been camping our whole married life. My kids are still irritated about that. But I learned how to make do, how to do things with very little, how to make money stretch, and with our money, what really was a necessity and what really wasn’t. I am so very grateful for those experiences and how they shaped me. We lived that way so that we could stay out of debt. We were able to build our home, very slowly, but with no debt associated. We still don’t make a lot of money, but the money we do make is ours, and not a debt collectors.

Over the years there have been so many people whom the Lord has placed in my path to help with not only the hard, but the happy, the sad, the learning, etc. to help me see, or navigate through my life. Some of those people have come and gone in what seems like an instant. Others have come into my life and stayed with me. I have had the opportunity to learn about kindness, compassion, small businesses, music, painting. So much of who I am has come from the random and lifelong people I have come in contact with. My best friends have come from opportunities to help with concerts, carnivals, and PTA and church events. I thought I was there to help others, but always I left lifted inside, or with new ideas, or new opportunities. I am so grateful for the many people who have touched my life, and the ripple effect those people have had over many years.

I guess what I have learned most, is it’s not the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but the way we look at what’s going on that really matters. We can choose to only see the hard, or we can choose to see the hard and recognize what it is doing for us. Muscles don’t get stronger by not being used. Likewise, we will never reach our full potential if we aren’t being challenged sometimes. Look at life as an opportunity. Recognize when things aren’t easy, but don’t dwell on it. Instead changing our focus to look for solutions, look for opportunities, and be grateful for the little (or big) things that happen on a daily basis.

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What is Love?

Today is Valentine’s day. The day of love, my favorite holiday! I love Valentine’s day and always have. When I was a kid it was an opportunity to tell my friends that we were friends and that they meant something to me. To tell my family that I loved them. It’s simple. Christmas is stressful. There is so much to arrange, even when it’s simple, presents to buy, worry that people won’t like things or that someone or something will be forgotten, etc. But Valentine’s day, there is no expectations, at least not from any one around me. A simple card that says I love you, I care about you, I am thinking about you especially today. That’s all it takes.

Over the years I have had time and opportunity to ponder on what love isn’t. I have learned several things, not only looking back on my life, but looking around me as well. I think when we think of love, we think of Hollywood. That burning, passionate drive toward someone we find attractive. And while I believe being attracted to someone can be part of the equation, it is not the end all. I think we put way too much emphasis on that, and not enough on the heart. That is not what makes for a good relationship, that is not love. Looks change, exhaustion sets in when there’s small kids and jobs and school and life. There are so many people now that view love like Hollywood, and when that attraction starts to dwindle, that burning starts to go out, when life starts to get real, they move on. That was never real love.

So, just as I’ve pondered on what love isn’t, I have pondered and learned what love really is. My husband and I are very similar in a lot of ways, how we believe, how we think politically, how we view the world. However, even though we have the same end goal, we have totally different ways of getting there, which on occasion clash with each other. Most of the time it’s little clashes that never go any further. Sometimes they are bigger clashes and we have to step back and think about things. One day my kids wondered if we loved each other all the time. I said, “of course we do, sometimes we just don’t like each other very much!” Love isn’t about living in this la la land of happily ever after all the time. Love is sticking with things even when they’re hard, because hard doesn’t last forever. Love is sticking with each other even when there’s nothing exciting going on, because most of life is pretty mundane. Love is helping each other, even when they don’t know, because it’s not about praise or recognition, but about getting the job done, just because it needs doing, and it really doesn’t matter who does it. Love is not about 50/50, but about giving 100% to the relationship, and when one person is weak, and only giving 75%, the other person steps in and gives 125%, knowing that when they need that same help back, it’ll be there. Love is never perfect, because well, there is no such thing as perfect in this life.

A few months ago we were sitting at the dinner table eating dinner and my kids were telling me that when they were little and would get scared at night, once in a while when they would try to wake me up, their dad would have them come over to his side so that I could sleep, because he knew how tired I was. I always want him to be able to sleep because he has to get up and go to work. That is love. We burn wood to heat our house. It’s the only form of heat we have. Sometimes when my husband is super tired, I volunteer to go fill the boiler for him. Always, without fail, one of my boys will volunteer to come and help me, knowing I struggle getting the last few pieces in because of their length. They hate filling the boiler. That’s love. I still get nervous about driving long distances to take my art places around the state. My daughter will get off work early just to ride along. She likes road trips, but doesn’t have to do that for me. That’s love. When I tell my kids we are going to go do something they don’t want to do, but we go and do it anyway, and sometimes it’s miserable, but they go the next time. That’s love. But I haven’t just seen love in my family. The friend who has done an advent calendar for many years for my kids every Christmas, not just the little cheap premade ones, but a really nice homemade one, my mom calling me just to say hi because I was on her mind, my dad sending me the Sudoku and crossword puzzles from the newspaper just because he knows I love them, my mother-in-law feeding us dinner every Sunday, a friend calling up and asking if I want to go walking with her and her dogs, etc. These are love.

We all have the opportunity to be who we are, to believe what we believe, and to become what we choose to become. I want to become like my Savior. He has said to love my neighbor as myself. I have beliefs and opinions that differ from many people, but that doesn’t mean I can’t truly care about others, because from they beginning, they are also children of God. And, after all, we are all loved by Him first. This world is a crazy place, and can be really hard sometimes. But it’s a lot easier when we can love those around us, and when we feel love in return.

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Optimism

Have you ever had a commercial inspire you? Usually, at least in our house, the commercials were either muted, or the time to go to the bathroom or get another snack. Rarely did we ever pay attention to them. Super Bowl commercials, those are fun to watch, in my opinion much more fun to watch than the actual game. But it seems like the most inspirational ones aren’t on tv very long. That is the case with my all time favorite commercial. It was an AT&T commercial done longer ago than I would care to admit. I only saw it a couple times on tv and then it wasn’t on any more. But the message that I got out of the commercial was something that has stuck with me ever since. And through the magic of YouTube, it’s still accessible. To view this commercial, click here: Commercial

How much in life can we control? We can’t control the weather, and there are few places on earth that have perfect weather all the time. Natural Disasters are ever present around the world. Civil unrest seems to be a more common thing, no matter where you live. Anger and hate seem to be more of the norm than the exception. All those things affect us in different ways. So if we can’t control all that, what can we control, how do we get through difficult times, how do we move forward.

Optimism can exist in any situation. We can’t control everything around us, but we can control our thoughts, our own ideas, who we are, our attitude. Life was never meant to be a walk in the park. We can’t learn from a walk in the park. But we can meet trials head on, with optimism, looking past the challenge and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, even if that light is simply in our mind and doesn’t yet exist in reality. This commercial reminds me that even in the rain we can enjoy life, we can help others enjoy life, we can share ourselves in a positive way, and help others do the same.

Optimism is defined as an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome. Also, a feeling or belief that good things will happen in the future: a feeling or belief that what you hope for will happen. Optimism has less to do with what’s happening around you, and more to do with what’s happening inside of you. Optimism can lead to change, whether it be a change inside us, in our location, in our perception of others, etc. But, most importantly, optimism is a state of mind, that is a choice we make everyday. Some people come by it easily, others have a harder time. If we come by it easily, we should share it with others who struggle, help lift others, help them see that light at the end of the tunnel that you see.

What helps me stay positive? Gratitude. Gratitude for my Heavenly Father, gratitude for His Son, my Savior. Gratitude that I can make mistakes, that I can fail, a lot, and that He will help me, that He will change me, that there is something more after this life, that no matter what, I don’t stand alone, ever. Gratitude can be hard, but through gratitude we can see that light at the end of the tunnel that no one else can, we can play our game in the sun or the rain, we can help others enjoy life a little more. The more optimism we can share with others, the brighter the future will be. I hope you can find things you are grateful for, that you can find optimism in your life, and that it will brighten your day. I am grateful that I can write my thoughts here, and that there are a few people who actually read them, I am grateful tonight for you, thank you!