Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 181, June 30

I have always appreciated the story of the tortoise and the hare. The hare sprinted ahead, confident of his abilities to win the race with little effort. Meanwhile, the tortoise made slow but steady progress. In the end, of course, the tortoise won the race.
This story is a metaphor for life. I have friends who are amazingly talented in their writing. They write quickly, send out a "partial," which is a synopsis and three chapters. When they receive a call from an editor to submit the whole manuscript, they promise themselves they will write two pages, five pages, etc. a day and submit it in a timely fashion. Too many never send in the complete book. Like the hare, they waste that opportunity and ability.
I have never been a hare. I move slowly. I can't run. Neither can I write in sprints. I accept this about myself and try to work with what I have. Deliberate, measured steps are my style. When writers get together and talk about plotting, I have to confess that I am not a plotter but a plodder. I plod along, finishing my books on my own schedule.
Those of you who are gardeners understand the necessary steps to reaping a good harvest. Preparing the soil. Planting. Watering. Weeding. Tending. These cannot be rushed; neither can they be done in a marathon of activity. Twelve hours in one day will not make up for twelve days of neglect.
So, for today, I am grateful for lessons from a tortoise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 180, June 29

As a child, I had many expectations. Of myself. Of others. Unmet expectations filled me with all sorts of untidy feelings, feelings that I couldn't identify or understand.
As I grew, so did my expectations. At times, they riddled me with guilt when I didn't meet them for myself. At times, they spurred me to do good things, creative things. And sometimes, they were a plain nuisance.
As I've mentioned before, I am an avid garage saler. Upon occasion, I would set off with the determination to find a specific item. This resolve frequently met with failure. But you know what? That was all right. For I usually found something far better.
This is called serendipity. Isn't that a great word? It conjures up pictures of all sorts of treasures and delights. Like the time I found not one but two genuine Chanel purses. Who can resist Chanel?
Life can be like a garage sale, denying you the thing you thought you were looking for while putting something much more precious in your path.
So, for today, I am grateful for unmet expectations.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 179, June 28

My accumulated years should impart some wisdom to me. Unfortunately, any wisdom I might have gleaned from life's experiences seems to have made little impression upon me for I continue to make the same mistakes over and over.

Unlike the toddler who is learning to walk and soon learns what works and what doesn't, I can't seem to get it through my head of what works and what doesn't in life. I have always had a sharp memory (until recently) that stood me in good stead for remembering dates, facts, and other bits of trivia. My memory, though, fails me in cognizing the important things.

Scripture and the prophets tell me that forgiving those who have wronged me (or my family) is essential, but I hold onto grudges as though they were a life vest. Grudges provide important functions. They comfort me when I am lonely. They bolster my self-righteousness. They give credence to my bias toward certain people.

Grudges also keep me from progressing, both in this life and in the hereafter. They keep me from giving time and energy to those I love. They keep me from loving more fully.

So, for today, I am grateful not for grudges, but for reminders to let them go.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 178, June 27

God, through His infinite wisdom and His children, provides just what we need when we need it. Just as I pondered on what I should write for today's blog, a friend sent me the following quote by Mother Theresa:

"God is a friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grow in silence. See the stars, the moon, the sun, how they move in silence. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within. Words which do not give the Light of Christ increase the darkness."

What beautiful words. They rival the finest in poetry. Notice how the author compares nature's growth with our own and that both flourish in silence. I find in my own relationships that I learn more when I am quiet than when I am chattering away. Nowhere is that more true than in my conversations with God. After I have finished my pleading with Him for mercies and thanking Him for blessings, I try to listen. Too frequently, though, I am anxious to move on to the next part of my day to spend the time necessary to hear His words.

So, for today, I am grateful for the reminder of the need for silence.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 177, June 26

Who knew that our world would spin so crazily? Do you ever want to call a halt to the busy-ness of life and say, "Stop, world. I need to catch up?"

I spend a lot of time playing catch up. I catch up on my writing. I catch up on my laundry. I catch up on my housework. I catch up on any number of things. The only problem is that I never do completely catch up. There is always one more story to write, one more load of laundry to do, one more room to vacuum and dust.

One day, when all our children were still at home, I threatened anyone with grievous harm if they put an article of clothing in the newly-emptied laundry basket. A full day of doing the wash had left me feeling militant toward anyone who dared to sully that empty basket with dirty clothes.

"Take your clothes outside and bury them in the dirt. Burn them. I don't care. But don't bring them in here."

I issued that directive in all seriousness. No one was going to take away my giddy feeling of knowing that all the sheets, towels, and clothes were clean. Of course, I couldn't keep it up. Dirty clothes found their way into the basket and that glorious moment of having caught up vanished.

When did I become so obsessed about having everything done? Did it start when I was in school and worked to get all my homework done? Did I start when I had a baby, then two, then three, and more and struggled to get anything at all accomplished?

My musings led me to consider my Father in Heaven. Does He ever have to play catch up? Does He ever struggle to get everything done? I'm certain He handles life much better than I do, that He keeps things in perspective and concentrates on the important ones, letting the others go.

Letting things go is hard for me. How do I decide what is important and what is not? I fail dismally at this too many times, but I keep trying, hoping that someday I'll get it right.

So, for today, I am grateful when I catch up on important things ... and for knowing when to let others go.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 176, June 25

I am not a fancy person. My house isn't fancy. My car isn't fancy. My clothes aren't fancy. That's all right. Fancy usually means upkeep. Frankly, just doing my personal upkeep is time-consuming enough. For those of us of a certain age, upkeep is hard work. It takes more cream, more hair coloring, just MORE.

I'm not a fan of upkeep. I like things that take care of themselves. That's the primary reason why I currently wear my hair short. However, I believe in upkeep for some things. Recently, I've noticed that I've been lazy in the upkeep od my relationships. How did I allow myself to become so lazy, even sloppy, in tending to the most imporfant thing in life?

When I fail to thank someone for a favor or a gift, I am lazy. When I fail to offer a sincere compliment to someone on a job well done, I am lazy. When I fail to acknowledge God's hand in all blessings, I am lazy. I failed to tend to my upkeep.

You may scoff at such things, claiming that they don't matter. I disagree. Manners are how we treat others and smooth out the rough bumps in life. Have you ever attended a much-awaited concert or lecture, only to have cell phones buzzing during the performance? Worse, have you been forced to listen to someone's private conversation in close quarters? Have you sat in church and witnessed members texting during the worship service? I don't believe such individuals set out to be rude; I believe they have forgotten where they are. They failed to tend to their upkeep.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who tend to their upkeep.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 175, June 24

I have a confession to make: I color my hair. I can hear your collective gasp. "What? That glorious, radiant color isn't natural?" Sadly, no.

I was a blonde as a child and for many years thereafter. A husband and children, stress and age, have caught up with me, turning my once golden locks into a mish-mash of gray and white. I have a theory that God wants me to have the blonde hair I had as a child. (I also have a theory that God does not want me to use port-a-potties or go camping, but that's a story for another time.)

What else would God like me to retain from my childhood? Would He like me to be more trusting? Would He like me to find pleasure in small things? Would He like me to be unafraid to give voice to my feelings? Would He like me to give love more freely? Would He like me to sing joyfully, despite my off-key voice?

So, for today, I am grateful for hair color ... and for childlike qualities.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 174, June 23

"When life hands you lemons, stuff them in your bra." This is one of my favorite Maxine quotes. Maxine has a way of hitting upon the perfect advice, always mixed with a healthy dose of humor.
Humor keeps things in perspective. I relied on it to get me through those dreary days in May when the sun refused to come out and my soul desperately needed the light. When I laugh, I remember that life is good, despite temporary bleak spells and dismal skies

Do you know someone who is devoid of humor? Is that person pleasant to be around? I'm guessing not. Finding even a speck of humor in a bleak situation requires that you look at life in a slightly skewed way. Just as Maxine turned a familiar saying upon its head, so must we view life. Do what works for you: stand on your head or turn the circumstances upside down. The important thing is that you find a different way of looking at things.

Studies of children reveal that they laugh many more times a day than do adults. What happened to us along the way in growing up? Did life suck the ability to laugh, the ability to see the funny side of things right out of us?

When my sister calls (we talk nearly every day), I frequently answer the phone as though I'm the voice mail of some peculiar business. A few times I have fooled her. On one occasion, my son Hyrum called up pretending to be a fund-raiser for a political party (not mine). He caught me by surprise, and I hung up on him. A moment later, he called back and explained. We enjoyed a good laugh together--at my expense.

Being able to laugh at yourself is a great pick-me-up. and stress-buster. I do so many goofy things (like backing into the garage door) that I have to laugh at myself or cry. I choose laughter.
So, for today, I am grateful for laughter.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 173, June 22

You are probably tired of hearing of my experiences in playing the piano for our church's primary. I can only apologize and warn you that that's probably not going to change. I love playing the piano for primary. I love hearing the children's sweet, pure voices. I love knowing that I am helping them, in some small measure, to better worship their Father in Heaven.

What I haven't given sufficient acknowledgement to is how they help me. The children bring happiness into my life in ways that only children can. They teach me about enthusiasm. They teach me about uninhibited joy. They teach me about not being afraid to make a mistake.
They teach me that it's all right to be different.

One song gives special emphasis to this, "We Are Different."

"I know you, and you know me.
We are as different as the sun and the sea.
I know you, and you know me,
And that's the way it is supposed to be."

So, for today, I am grateful for what children teach me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 172, June 21

Today is the first day of summer, the mark of a new season (although with Colorado's weather as fickle as a teenage girl's moods, we never know what season it is here). The first day of summer reminds me that the year is nearly half over.

What have I done during these last six months? The sad answer is, "Not much." Have I accomplished anything? Have I lost the weight I wanted to lose? No. Have I written a New York Times bestseller? No. Have I kept up an exercise routine? Sort of.

In reviewing my list of non-accomplishments, I realized I should have been asking myself different questions. Have I made a (positive) difference in someone's life? Have I helped someone in need? Have I given of myself, not in money, but in terms of time and energy?

Those questions are less easily answered. And I find myself shamed that I can't give a definitive response to them. The best I can say is that I try. The good news is that I can keep trying, that I can have a do-over for at least some of the times when I didn't give my best.

So, for today, I am grateful for the first day of sumer ... and for do-overs.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 171, June 20

Yesterday I wrote about sacrifice. I'd like to continue that theme today with another story from Mormon history.

Faithful members of the church in the mid 19th century followed the direction of Prophet Brigham Young to leave their homes and migrate to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. Many families could not afford to travel in the relative luxury of a covered wagon and pulled handcarts instead.

The Martin and Willie Companies left late in the season. When they reached Wyoming, they encountered bitter cold and snow. Men, women, and children suffered from the freezing temperatures, lack of food, and exhaustion. Upon hearing of their plight, President Young sent a rescue team.

They found the people starving, too weak to cross the Sweetwater River. Grown men and women sat down on the banks of the half-frozen river and cried. Three young men carried dozens of people through chunks of ice to the opposite bank. These valiant men made countless trips, enduring the freezing water again and again.

Most of us will not be called upon to make the kind of sacrifice these men made. Our sacrifices may be more subtle. Are we asked to forgive a spouse who hurt us? Are we asked to stay at home with children who need us? Are we asked to give of our means to help someone else who isn't as fortunate?

Sacrifices come in all shapes and sizes. What may be a sacrifice for one person may not be for the next. Only one thing is certain: we will all be required to sacrifice for the Lord, to give Him a broken heart and contrite spirit. For me, that means letting go of pride.

So, for today, I am grateful for the example of the young men who sacrificed everything to save others.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 170, June 19

In previous posts, I've written about my Mormon ancestors. My grandfather served two missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Samoa, at his own expense, each lasting three years. He left behind a wife and young family. Following direction from the Prophet, my great-grandfather moved his family from their comfortable brick home in Santaquin, Utah to settle in the Gila Valley of Arizona, an unforgiving land populated by gila monsters and little else.
In each of these cases, the wives and children supported their husbands and fathers in their decision to obey the Lord's commands. These individuals knew the meaning of sacrifice. The word sacrifice, from the Latin sancire, means to make sacred.

Chances are you have similar stories in your own background, ancestors who sacrificed for their faith, for their families. But we need not look generations back to find examples of sacrifice.

I have only to look around me to witness examples of sacrifice. I have several friends who are raising their grandchildren, providing not only a home but time and energy as well to help these newest of God's children to have a good start in life. I watch members of our church give countless hours every week to serve the Lord. I look at my son rearing his two small boys on his own, giving up much to make sure his children are provided for.

So, for today, I am grateful for the sacrifice of others and the inspiration it offers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 169, June 18

Chances are many of you have seen the movie WHAT ABOUT BOB. In it, Bill Murray plays a needy psychiatric patient who presumes upon his long-suffering psychiatrist, Richard Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss has written a book BABY STEPS in which he details the road to good mental health.

The movie is hilarious. It is also extremely insightful. As parents, we witness our children's attempts to walk. They take baby steps, tentative, slow, wobbly, in their quest to explore their world. How many of us recognize that we, as adults, also take baby steps?

We take baby steps when we learn a new skill. We take baby steps when we work on a relationship. We take baby steps when we build upon a talent. We take baby steps when we take a risk. Baby steps are necessary. We shouldn't be ashamed of them but should embrace them as the requisite to navigating our way through this life.

I am taking baby steps in doing this blog. I wasn't at all certain at the beginning of this project if I could do it--technically, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Who was I to think I could figure out blogging? Who was I to think that I could write something of worth every day of the year? Who was I to think that anyone might be interested in what I wrote? Each post represents a baby step.

So, for today, I am grateful for baby steps.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 168, June 17

Privacy. What mother hasn't longed for a little privacy in the midst of taking care of her family? Have you ever been in the bathroom and heard the words from outside the locked door, "Watcha doing?"

I spent many years with little to no privacy. Every part of me, from my time to my energy to my physical self, was fair game for five pairs of little hands. And you know what? I loved it. (Okay, I didn't always love it, but I found intense satisfaction in doing what I was doing. A lack of privacy was a small price to pay for the joy of caring for my children.)

My children are all grown, moved out, some dealing with their own lack of privacy as they raise families of their own. I discovered something: I miss that lack of privacy. I miss being needed in the way I once was. Thankfully, I still have the opportunity to lavish love upon those I love. I can still find ways to be needed.

So, for today, I am grateful for privacy ... and for the lack of it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 167, June 16

Boundaries. Boundaries can be good things. They can keep ourselves and others in check. Some people interpret boundaries to mean personal space. Ranchers use boundaries to position fences in order keep their stock within a certain area. Surveyors have yet a different perspective on boundaries.

Recently I've begun to think of boundaries in a new way: boundaries are what I put up to keep others at a distance. Why would I do that? I long to achieve closeness with others, to share experiences with friends and family. So why am I insistent upon setting boundaries in place?

The answer that came was that boundaries help me feel safe. If others don't see my weaknesses, if they don't witness my struggling, then I can keep up the pretense that all is well in my life. The truth is, sometimes all is not well. Like everyone, I have problems. I hurt inside. I occasionally wonder why I should even get up in the morning.

In writing this blog, I realize I have torn down many of my boundaries. I have chosen to share with you, my readers, some of the hard things that are going on in my life. And, because of that, I feel closer to you. What I can't say in person, I can give voice to through my writing.

So, for today, I am grateful for those of you who encourage me to tear down my boundaries.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 166, June 15

In previous posts, I've mentioned that Larry and I are building an addition to our home. This has resulted in several "additions" to the addition, including a port-a-potty sitting smack dab in the middle of the front yard and mountains of dirt in the backyard.

Keeping up with the Choates is no problem. Stick a toilet in your front yard and mounds of dirt in your backyard and you're all set.

The idea that anyone might want what anything we have never occurred to me until a friend called and asked if she could have some of our dirt. "Sure," I answered. "And I won't even charge you full price for the Choate dirt."

We laughed over that and pondered over how to get our dirt to her house. It set me to thinking (have you noticed that the oddest things set me to thinking?) that we all have something that someone else needs. We might not all have a mountain of dirt to give away, but we all have qualities and traits that can benefit others.

Do you have a good sense of humor? Share it with someone who is feeling down. Are up blessed with a gift for listening? Give it to a friend who is working out a problem. Do you play the piano? Volunteer at your church. You get the idea.

So, for today, I am grateful for something that I can share, even if it is just a pile of dirt.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 165, June 14

Yesterday I wrote about dreams and their power. Today I'd like to continue that theme.

How many times have you put off working to fulfill a dream? How many times have you said, "It's too much? I can't do that. I don't have time. I can't TAKE time from my family. My job takes all my time. " Does any of this sound familiar?

I've uttered these words--too many times. Even as I give voice to them, I recognize them for what they are. Excuses. Do I want to excuse my life away?


Dreams take hard work. Dreams take time. Dreams take dogged persistence and downright stubbornness to make them come true. Most of all, dreams take courage. On the road to achieving a dream, it helps to have cheerleaders in your corner. Those people who encourage you when your own courage is waning. Those people who give you a kick in the seat when you would put your dream in cold storage. You know who they are: the friends and family who want to see you succeed. They are dream-makers.

On the other hand, there are the nay-sayers. Unfortunately, most of us know who they are as well. They are the individuals who stomp upon dreams, trying to destroy them and keep you from reaching for the stars. They are dream-stealers.

So, for today, I am grateful for dream-makers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 164, June 13

It's confession time again. I spend a lot of time dreaming. Day-dreaming, that is. I indulge myself by spinning dreams of things I want to do.

I bet you have dreams, too. Dreams that seem too impractical, too wild, too grandiose to ever come true. You know what? That's okay. Dreaming is good for us. Dreaming spurs us to try to do better, to take chances, to risk being thought a fool.

I'm certain many people thought Columbus a fool. And what about the colonists who refused to put up with King George and his unjust taxes any longer? Weren't they dreamers, wishing for a united America, a free America? Most great things happen because someone dared to dream.

One of my favorite songs is "To Dream the Impossible Dream." It speaks to my heart, to my soul. One of my impossible dreams was to write a book and to sell it. It took many years to make this dream come true, but it happened. To date, I've sold 32 books. Few people know my name; fewer still have read my books. But my dream happened, through hard work, persistence, prayer, and a lot of luck.

So, for today, I am grateful for dreams.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 163, June 12

I whine. I moan. I complain. It is an unattractive quality. Whining is annoying in children and downright obnoxious in adults. Still, I persist in doing it. As the saying goes, "Would you like a little cheese with that whine?"

The fact is, whining serves a purpose. Not necessarily a noble purpose, but a purpose all the same. Whining helps me sort out real friends from those merely passing through my life.

Over the years, I have made some really terrific friends. They accept me, warts and all, as I am. What's more, they listen to me, even when I resort to whining. When they need a waterproof shoulder, I am there (or try to be) for them.

You know who your "whining buddies" are. They are the ones who show up within five minutes when you call and say, "I need you." They are the ones who know chocolate is a comfort food and bring that comfort when they arrive. They are the ones who make you want to be a better person when you're around them.

So, for today, I am grateful for whining buddies.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 162, June 11

As I re-read yesterday's post, I couldn't help but smile. There I was, comparing plumbers to angels. The fact is, I have more reason than most to be grateful for plumbers. Over the years, we have called upon plumbers more and more often.

I think our pipes are elderly, which makes me think about my own pipes--also elderly. I have a sweet nephew who works with the elderly, helping them live with dignity. (Did you like that segue?) Even more, he treates them with dignity.

Nearly four years ago, my father lay dying in a center that was supposed to make his last days more comfortable. After he spent two days there, my sister and I removed him and brought him to her home, where we took care of him. We could not bear the way some of the attendants treated him. They did not take the time to learn his name but referred to him as "Buddy." His cries for help went unheeded, as did his need for pain medication.

With Hospice's help, we tenderly cared for him until his death five days later. Why do I tell you this story? I do so to thank the people who care for elderly people with love and compassion. I have seen the bad side of elder care and, fortunately, have seen the good side as well.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who treat our elderly as the precious individuals they are.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 161, June 10

Yesterday I wrote about angels. It put me in mind of one of my favorite television shows of the nineties: Touched by an Angel. In this series, an angel, Monica, appeared when an indivdual or family most needed her.

She worked her heavenly magic in the lives of her assignments to help them find a solution to a problem or, if a solution didn't exist, to better deal with whatever situation they faced. Monica discovered that sorrow and pain, hurt and disappointment, exist in nearly every life.

Even though she was an angel and had other angels to help her (remember Andrew and Tess?), Monica couldn't fix every problem. She had to rely on people as well. This was hampered by the fact that real people are flawed. Somehow, though, between Monica, her friends, and the mortals she brought in to help, the individuals in need managed to work out their problems.

Some termed this show fantasy. I thought it very true to life. I know, without a doubt, that God sends angels when we most need them. I also know that angels frequently appear in the guise of those people whom we take for granted.

I thought of the people who help me navigate the difficulties of this life. There is the veternarian who treats our cat. There is the plumber who arrives when we encounter clogged pipes. There are the church members and friends who help us clean up the mess when we fail to call the plumber in time.

Like Monica, the angels who make my life easier and more fulfilling do not have wings. Also like Monica, they appear quietly, without fanfare, without drawing attention to themselves.

So, for today, and again, I am grateful for angels.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 160, June 9

I believe in angels.

I believe in heavenly angels. I also believe in earthly angels. Angels, like miracles, appear all the time if we but take the time to look for them.

Caught up in the busy-ness of life, my own small concerns, and, unfortunately, myself, I frequently do not recognize the angels who fill my life.

Let me share a few of these angels with you. There is my sweet sister, who is always there for me. There are my children who make me laugh. There are my friends who make me feel good about myself even when there is precious little evidence to support that.

Angels sometimes appear when I least expect them. There is the email note from a friend when I am feeling blue. There is another friend who calls with an unexpected invitation to lunch. There are the children in Primary whose sweetness reminds me why I keep plunking my fingers on the piano when I make so many bloopers.

So, for today, I am grateful for angels.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 159, June 8

As I've mentioned previously, we are having an addition built on to our house. Early this morning, before many people even start their day, men were in our backyard, taking down the forms for the cement.

It was hard, hot, sweaty work, yet the men appeared cheerful as they hefted heavy slabs of wood. From the kitchen window, I heard them joking with each other. Could I do this work? Absolutely not. Would I want to do this work? Again, absolutely not. I lack the skills and the strength to do what these men appeared to do so effortlessly.

Our society frequently ranks individuals according to their profession. I should know. For years I was a fulltime mother and homemaker. I received no recognition, no glory, and, certainly, no paycheck for my time and efforts. But I believed and still believe that it was important work.

Work largely defines what kind of individuals we are. Whether we are salaried employees or bosses, whether we volunteer at an animal shelter or raise a family, we show that we value ourselves and others when we create and produce, contribute and build.

It is popular in our current culture for some people to live upon the labors of others, to claim that they are above working, that they have better things to do with their talents and energies than to support themselves. I feel sorry for them. More, I feel sorry for our society when we reward this kind of behavior.

So, for today, I am grateful for the reminder of these men that honorable work is both noble and empowering.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 158, June 7

One of the side effects of writing "The Gratitude Project" is learning to better know myself. This has not been a particularly easy process as so much of what I've learned is unpleasant. It's not that I am so un-selfaware that I don't recognize my faults and weaknesses. It's just that writing this blog has brought them out in sharp and unrelenting relief.

A while ago, someone hurt one of our children very deeply. My claws came out, ready to rake this individual up and down. I remarked to my husband that I was a mama grizzly defending her cub. He laughed and said that I was more like a wolverine, the most vicious mammal, pound for pound, in the animal kingdom.

I wasn't certain whether to take this as a compliment or an insult. Finally, I decided to regard it as evidence that when I love, I love deeply and woe unto anyone who attacks my babies, no matter how old those babies may be. Still, his words stuck in my mind. Am I so unforgiving? Am I so ready to lift my fists (both figuratively and literally) at my enemies? The answer was an unfortunate yes.

On Sunday, as I accompanied the Primary children on the piano, the words of one song reached in and squeezed my heart.

"Help me, dear father, to freely forgive
All who may seem unkind to me.
Help me each day, Father, I pray,
Help me live nearer, nearer to thee."

The children sang with utter conviction and faith. Their high, pure voices touched my soul in a way that no amount of sermonizing could.

So, for today, I am grateful for the sweet voices of children.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 157, June 6

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I currently serve in our church's Primary (children's organization) as the pianist. As I watched the other men and women teaching and helping the children, I noted only two who actually had Primary-aged children. The rest of us were "of a certain age" and were out of the hands-on child raising stage.

It occurred to me, not for the first time, that we don't need to have young children to serve in a Primary calling. Nor do we need to have school-aged children to volunteer at the local schools. All we need is a desire to make a difference in the life of a child.

I have a dear friend who spends one morning a week reading to the children of a preschool. Other friends also volunteer at schools, at the YMCA, working with teenage girls. Each of these individuals brings unique talents and strengths to share with children and teens.

So, for today, I am grateful for people with hearts big enough to share.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 156, June 5

The other night, Larry and I attended the backyard wedding reception for the daughter of friends. Simple but elegant decorations, lovingly-prepared food, and the company of friends made it an enjoyable and memorable occasion.

I couldn't help but compare it to the overdone, overly expensive weddings touted by the media. In such events, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on flowers, on the dress and jewelry, on the food and drink, etc. When I happen to see the reports on these affairs, I wonder if the brides and grooms are any happier, any more committed to each other, any more in love with each other than this young woman and her husband.

It appears that I continue to return to the theme of show versus substance. As I grow more mature in my thinking (code for older), I appreciate more and more those things--and people--which hold value as opposed to those that are merely meant to impress.

The fact is, I am rarely, if ever, impressed by events and people who are ostentatious in their displays of wealth and power, beauty and fame, or any other of the qualities that the world holds dear.

So, for today, I am grateful for being able to attend our friends' reception and for the reminder it offered that family and friends, faith and love, are priceless.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 155, June 4

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This taunt made the rounds more than 50 years ago, and, I suppose, even before that. Even as a child, I understood the foolishness of the saying because I knew that words did hurt. Sometimes they hurt far more than any sticks and stones.

Perhaps it is because I am a writer that I recognize and respect the power of words. Words hold the power to uplift and to inspire. They also hold the power to wound and to inflict pain. How we use them is what makes the difference.

Let me share an experience with you. It happened nearly 40 years ago, but the memory remains with me to this day. My husband and I were married in a Mormon temple. Following the wedding breakfast (a Mormon tradition), we returned to the house to rest before the picture-taking and reception that evening. Larry and I retreated to a room where I turned to him, flushed and happy and excited.

He stared at me and said, "My mother said you have a zit on your face and wants you to get rid of it." I looked at my relfection in the mirror. Sure enough, there was a tiny zit on my left cheek. Much of my pleasure and happiness in the day evaporated. I had believed I was beautiful for our wedding day, only to discover that I was not.

I took care of the offending pimple the best I could. I normally wore little makeup and spent the afternoon trying to cover up the resulting red spot. My amateurish efforts left me looking like a sad clown. I told myself that it was foolish to allow the words of another to ruin the day and pasted a smile on my face for the evening's activity.

I have long since let go of the hurt of those words, but the memory of the feelings they produced remains with me. That memory reminds me to be careful with my words. Do I always succeed? No. Too frequently I trample upon the feelings of others with thoughtless and unkind remarks, flippant humor, and even sarcasm.

The Savior, the ultimate example in all things, had a kind word for everyone, from children to a prostitute, from the people He taught to His disciples. Even the thief upon the cross flanking Him received solace and succor from the Lord when He anguished in pain.

So, for today (and again), I am grateful for the Savior's example.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 154, June 3

Recently I received sixteen rejections of stories via email. As inured as I am to rejection, this still came as a blow and set a new record for me. Today, I received eight more rejections from the same editor. (Is she trying to tell me something?)

It is an arrogant thing to be a writer, to think that I might touch someone else with my words. It is a humbling thing to be a writer, to know that I have not succeeded. Arrogant and humbling, the ultimate dichotomy.

I stewed, ranted and raved, and complained to anyone unfortunate enough to be within listening distance. Usually, when I receive rejections, I remind myself of other writers who were similarly rejected before achieving success. This time, however, my thoughts turned to Someone who was also rejected.

The Savior had a short ministry, scarcely three years. He spent that time teaching the people, showing them a different way of living. His message was both simple and profound. Still, He was rejected over and over, especially by His own people.

Please do not misconstrue my words: I am in no way trying to compare myself to the Lord. (That would be the height of arrogance.) My point is that in this, as in all things, He stands as the Exemplar. Despite being mocked and ridiculed by the leaders in the Jewish community, He continued teaching, continued ministering to the people., and always, always, loving them.

So, for today, I am grateful for lessons from rejections ... and for lessons from the Savior.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 153, June 2

A week ago I had my hair cut. The lady who trimmed it cut it a bit too short. Fortunately, my hair grows quickly, and the mistake will soon be rectified.

It set me to thinking about other mistakes, my own this tme. Some are set right with little effort; others require more time and energy. The really big ones usually involve some tears and a large dose of humility.

Fortunately Heavenly Father has provided a way for me, for all of us, to rectify the mistakes we make. It's called repentance. Like most things that are worthwhile, repentance is hard work. Humbling myself before the Lord, confessing my weaknesses and sins, is not easy. That must be why I put it off so frequently.

Why do I have such a difficult time in repenting? Is it because that admitting to anyone, much less the Lord, that I was wrong is frightening? Why can't I summon the courage to give voice to my mistakes?

So, for today, I am grateful that my hair grows quickly and that the Father has given me, has given everyone, a way to make things right with Him.

Day 176, June 26

I mentioned before that I'm not a fancy person. My house isn't fancy. My car isn't fancy. My clothes aren't fancy. That's all right with me. Fancy means a lot of upkeep. I have enough upkeep in just making myself halfway presentable. The older I get, the more upkeep I have to do. Those of you who are of a certain age know what I mean: more creams for the face, more frequent hair colorings, more of everything.

Upkeep isn't a bad thing. It keeps us from being lazy and sloppy in our appearance. Upkeep can make us better people when it is applied to the way we treat others. Sometimes I am lazy in the way I treat others. I am sloppy with dealing with tender feelings. I need to see to my upkeep.

I have noticed that, unfortunately, I'm not alone with lazy and sloppy treatment. Have you attended a concert or play only to have the entertainment interrupted by the ringing of someone's cell phone? Occasionally the person will even answer the call and carry on a conversation. Have you been in a worship service to find that the person next to you is texting? I don't believe the individuals involved mean to be rude; they have just forgotten where they are. They, too, need to tend to their upkeep.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who tend to their upkeep.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 152, June 1

At a garage sale, I found a book on living frugally, espousing the Yankee frugality of our ancestors. The tips offered in the book are simple, common sense, really. Yet our country remains in debt, from the federal government to states, from families to singles. The concept of living within one's means is outdated and ridiculed by many.

The book makes the point that living frugally does not mean being cheap. It does not mean never picking up a check when family or friends go out to dinner. (We all know at least someone who never offers to pick up the check, don't we? These individuals are not frugal; they are merely cheap.)

Frugality means saving money on things that are not important and using it for those that are. For my husband and myself, being frugal allowed us to have me remain at home when our children were small and to help them occasionally now that they are grown. Being frugal also allows us to tithe to our church and make other offerings. What we do or don't spend money on is not the critical thing; what matters is the freedom of choice it gives us.

As much as I admire those who are frugal, though, there is One who is never frugal with His blessings or His love, and I love Him dearly.

The Lord pours out His mercies, His miracles, His Spirit upon all of us. When I find myself complaining about whatever problem is currently plaguing me, I have to stop and remind myself of the unstinting generosity of the Father.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who are frugal and for the One who is not.