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First’s

Today is the first day of school for my last 2 children. I have been reminiscing about how long it’s been since all of my kids were gone on the first day of school together. This is the first year in 7 years that I am not homeschooling at least one of my children. My girls are not currently in school, my oldest is gone on her mission for my Church, and my second is at a remote hunting lodge working until the end of September. This is only the third “first day of school” that I have been home by myself, as my kids were only in school at the same time for 2 years while in Elementary school. It’s crazy to me how fast time flies.

The first day of school is always exciting, a little bit scary, maybe some stress depending on how smoothly it goes. There are a lot of firsts in life that are the same way. In fact, I think most firsts are like the first day of school. I remember when I had my first baby. We were so excited! We had been trying for almost 5 years when I got pregnant, we had almost given up and had started to talk about looking in to adoption. But, when I went in to labor, things got real. And when I had to take that little tiny baby home, just me and my husband, I was terrified. Fortunately she turned out alright, even though we had no idea what we were doing. That first time though made the next 3 after that a lot easier, and a whole lot less scary.

First’s are like that. A bit scary, but once you pass the first, you become better at it, and it’s not scary any more. It’s no longer a first. Eventually, if we do it long enough it becomes an old hat, and we are more comfortable with moving ahead. Life has a lot of first’s, but fortunately, there are a lot of seconds and thirds, and so on. First’s are fun because of the excitement, even because of the little bit of stress and apprehension. But when you have done it more than once, like the first day of school, the first baby, or whatever it is, the second time around you have more confidence in your own abilities. That’s why seconds are great. But, if you remember and look back at all the first’s you have accomplished or pressed through, you can have confidence even when you are approaching a new first. You have done hard things, you know you can persevere through, and you can move forward with more of that excitement, and hopefully less apprehension or fear. Having confidence in yourself and your abilities helps you become a more resilient person. You learn you can adapt and change in hard circumstances, you learn that you can grow and learn, that you can have confidence in who you are and what you are capable of.

I am so grateful for the many first’s I have had in my life, and how they have shaped me into a more confident, resilient person. I am grateful for the opportunity to do hard things in my life, and for the ability to overcome and progress. Life is challenging, but we can each choose to be up for the challenge. What are some first’s you have experienced lately?

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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.