Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 27, January 31

Have you noticed that there are two types of people in the world? Those who show up and those who show off.

I'm reserved by nature and don't always join in groups, so I have plenty of time to people watch. In my observing, I see those who quietly serve in whatever way they can. They go about their days doing good, never drawing attention to themselves. They are the ones who make life easier for the rest of us. They clean the church early on Saturday mornings. They serve in the church nursery. They stay after a party or church supper to clean up.

Then there are the others. They, too, may do good, but it is with the intention of gaining notoriety and currying favor. This holds true over all venues, in the workplace, in church, in the PTA, in writers' groups, and others. They are the attention-grabbers. You probably won't find them cleaning the church ... or anything else.

This I know for sure: showing up will always trump showing off.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 26, January 30

Ninety percent of life is showing up. Doubtless you've heard that before. I would change that to 99% of life is showing up.

We all know people who don't show up. Unfortunately, I've been one of them. I haven't shown up for my writing. I haven't shown up for friends. Sometimes I haven't even shown up for church.

Showing up is hard work. It means spending time. It means making an effort. It means caring enough to commit, to something, to someone.

When we don't show up, we disappoint others. We disappoint ourselves. More, we disappoint the Lord.

This I know for sure: showing up reaps rewards, both in this life and in the one to come.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 25, January 29

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender,
religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we
all believe that we are above-average drivers.

- Dave Barry

Dave Barry's humorous quote set me to thinking about average, above, below, and anywhere in between. First, I am the exception to the above rule. I don't believe myself to be an above-average driver. Even my most loving friends would not describe me that way, either.

However, I believe that I do have some above-average qualities. I try to remember my friends' birthdays with a card or small gift. I try to offer sincere compliments. I try to be loyal.

I believe that all of us have some above-average traits or skills. Sometimes we need to look at ourselves and others with new eyes. The person who sees the good in every situation is above average. The person who finds something good to say about everyone is above average. The person who serves in the community with a loving heart is above average.

This I know for sure: everyone is above average in something. It is up to us to find it, in ourselves and in others.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 24, January 28

A friend remarked upon a mutual acquaintance, "He's a good example of how not to age." It was a sad commentary, made even sadder when I found myself nodding in agreement.

The individual in question is totally wrapped up in himself, extending little to others while expecting much from them. (Unfortunately, this too frequently describes me, a wake up call to change.)

In contrast, I could not help but think of my Aunt Mae. I have written of her before, a valiant 87 years young. Though she doesn't drive, Aunt Mae makes a point of doing something nice for someone else every day--a card, a call, a prayer. A pot of beans simmering on the stove, a cake baking in the oven will often be found in her kitchen as she prepares to share her modest means with others. A prayer jar is always close by so that she can pick a name from it to offer a special prayer for that person.

Anti-aging products abound in the stores and the online virtual stores. There are creams for our eyes, creams for our faces, creams for our necks and chest. There is even a butt-lifting cream. (How much cream does it take to lift one's butt, anyway?)

This I know for sure: aging is inevitable. How we handle it has less to do with the wrinkles we wear than the lives we have touched.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 23, January 27

Have you been watching the political debates? My husband watches them faithfully. I have to admit that I don't watch them with the same interest as he does. Nor do I pay a great deal of attention to the insults that candidates hurl at each other.

To tell the truth, I tend to tune out when candidates get down and dirty with mud-slinging and finger-pointing. If they have nothing to say for themselves other than to criticize their opponents, I can't believe they have much to offer.

I recognize this attitude as unrealistic, even naive. This is not to say that I don't try to stay informed. I believe that each of us has a responsibility, a duty even, to vote for the best man or woman for political office. That doesn't mean, however, that I have to listen to the middle-school age level insults issued by candidates.

This I know for sure: if an individual truly has something to offer, he or she has no need to stoop to name-calling.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 22, January 26

Are you like me and have the occasional "down" day? If so, I'm sorry. Down days make everything seem gray. Even when the sun is shining, life can sometimes seem gray. It's hard to shake that feeling, isn't it?

(If you don't have down days, skip this post. You don't need it.)

There are certain things we can do to lift the gray. What works for me may not work for you, but I'll name a few that help me: physical exercise, listening to uplifting music, being with friends, doing something for someone else, laughing at life's absurdities, reading a good book. You can probably name more.

Notice I didn't say wallowing in bed. That is my default position when the gray is grayer than usual. Wallowing rarely helps, but still I turn to it. When I get up and do something, anything, I inevitably feel better.

This I know for sure: the gray won't last. Strong people do.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 21, January 25

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."--A.A. Milne, author of WINNIE THE POOH

Don't you love this quote? It made me think about my feelings about weeds, in my yard, and in my life. Perhaps some of those weeds could be turned into flowers if I regarded them with a different perspective.

What mother has not had her heart melt when her child brings her a bouquet of dandelions? Dandelions are weeds, yet they have a sweetness to them when clutched in the plump, grubby hands of a child. What about people who appear to be weeds? Could they, too, find their way to stardom if looked at with new eyes?

My eyes frequently squeeze shut when I'm confronted with someone who doesn't meet my standards. That is not something I'm proud of, but there it is. Sometimes, I am perceptive enough to open my eyes and look at the person with fresh compassion and understanding. And sometimes not.

This I know for sure: dandelions can be beautiful. And so can people when looked at with love.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 20, January 24

Do you have a passion? Is it writing, as it is for me? Is it music? Is it art? Whatever it is, I hope you give it your time and best efforts, for we all need passions. We need those things that stir our senses, that make our fingers itch to get to them.

When I was a young mother, I had little spare time and even less spare energy. Still, my husband encouraged me to try new things, to develop my talents. I demurred, saying that the children needed my attention, that the house needed cleaning, that we had no extra money for me to do frivolous things. (True, true, and really, really true.)

I tried some things: ceramics, watercolors, sewing, etc. I showed absolutely no talent for any of them. I wasn't surprised. I've always been a klutz.

And then I wrote a short story and sent it to a magazine before I could talk myself out of it. To my surprise and delight, it was accepted. Imagine. Someone wanted to pay me for my words. What a heady sensation. That sensation was diluted somewhat when my next twenty efforts were rejected, but I was hooked and kept writing. Thirty years later, I'm still writing (and still getting rejections). But my passion for the act of painting with words persists.

That's how you know if something is a real passion--if it won't go away.

Go. Find that passion, that thing that makes you excited about life, that thing that enriches you and those around you.

This I know for sure: the passion to create exists in all of us. It is our job to find it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 19, January 23

Listening seems a lost art these days. I sometimes wonder if the counseling profession might take a hit if people spent more time listening to others.

In a world where we demand that things be done with speed and efficiency, listening takes a back seat. Listening is not time-efficient. It requires that we sit and pay attention to others. It requires that we put aside our own cares and concerns and concentrate on those of another.

A friend once paid me the supreme compliment of saying that I was a good listener. I cherish those words even while knowing that I don't deserve them. I am ashamed to admit that sometimes when I am supposedly listening to someone, my mind is wandering, usually to my own problems and needs.

A favorite Primary song is entitled "If I Listen with My Heart." The words continue, "I'll hear the Savior's voice." What simple and profound truth they proclaim.

This I know for sure: If I listen with my heart, I'll hear the Savior's voice. And if I hear the Savior's voice, I will give others a listening ear ... and a listening heart

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 18, January 22

Today is my father's birthday. He died over four years ago, and I still miss him every day. My father did much to shape the person I am today. He imparted his love of reading to me. He tried to impart other things, but I was a stubborn child who resisted much of teachings. Some seeped through, though, despite myself.

Lately, I've been thinking about legacy and heritage. The legacy from my father did not include much in the way of material things. He died without enough money to pay for a funeral. But his legacy is so much more.

Being a friend to the friendless was one of his mottos. When I once asked him why he "bothered" helping people in our church who were frequently unkind and spent their time complaining, he replied, "Everyone needs a friend."

Legacies come in all shapes and sizes.

This I know for sure: my father's legacy was a rich one.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 17, January 21

We live in a society that prizes instant gratification. We have instant messaging, instant rice, instant coffee, and a myriad of other "instants." Regular mail, as opposed to email, is now referred to as "snail mail."

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the ease and convenience of many of the instant products. I love email as a way to send a quick question to a friend, an editor, etc. And who can resist rice that cooks in minutes rather than a half hour or so? I don't drink coffee, but if I did, I imagine I would like the speed of instant coffee.

Still. There are many things that take time, that require effort, that demand we expend a bit of ourselves. As much as I appreciate email, I refuse to give up sending cards to a friend or a family member. Sending a card is not expedient, nor is it cost-efficient. But it has other benefits.

What else takes time? Saying a prayer, a meaningful prayer, requires some thought and effort. I doubt that Heavenly Father is accepting emails as a replacement. Visiting a friend takes time, too. As does listening to someone who needs a sympathetic ear.

This I know for sure: an instant life misses out on many joys.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 16, January 20

I recently wrote a story about appreciating life's simple pleasures. As I wrote, I reflected on the small joys in my life. A hug from my granddaughter. A grandson's dimples that refuse to stay hidden. Petting my cat. A card from a friend.

The big moments in life are usually few and far between. For me, a big moment is selling a book. Or a long-awaited trip. These are wonderful. But they are not the stuff that make up my daily life. They come months ... or years ... apart. If I rely on the big moments for my happiness and satisfaction, I am setting myself up for disappointment.

What are the simple pleasures in your life? They may revolve around other people. They may include time spent in a favorite spot--a mountain glen, the bank of a babbling stream, or even your own backyard. They may center on an activity. Many of my friends find pleasure in skiing and other winter sports. I hope you take time for whatever gives you pleasure and joy.

This I know for sure: simple pleasures and small joys are the stuff of life and should be savored.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 15, January 19

I have a small housecat, Harley. She loves unconditionally and asks little in return. My heart is always drawn to the small,helpless creatures of the world. That is why I cannot bear to watch a particular commercial on television about animal cruelty. When I see the pictures of neglected and abused animals, my heart breaks.

Our world can be a cruel place for those who can't speak for themselves. This includes children, the mentally challenged, and the elderly, as well as animals. Organizations exist to protect such groups, but too often, they fail. And these innocent individuals and animals are left to fend for themselves.

It is up to the rest of us to speak for them, to raise our voices and say that such abuse will not be tolerated. It is easy to turn a blind eye to such cruelties. If we do so, though, we risk our humanity.

This I know for sure: how we treat those weaker than ourselves is a measure of our civilization.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 14, January 18

It's no secret that I love words. I love everything about them. I love the sound and the sight of them. Mostly, I love the power they have. They can entertain. They can educate. They can enlighten. They can also hurt.

I know. Because I have used words to hurt others. I'm not proud of that. How can anyone be proud of using words to hurt? Still, I have done it. What's more, I continue to do it (sometimes).

So why am I sharing this with you? To tell the truth, I'm not sure. Maybe because I hope by sharing my problem with words that you can learn from it. I take uneasy solace in the knowledge that I'm not alone in using words to hurt. Certainly that does not excuse me. However, it does show that this is not an isolated problem.

Have you been hurt by another's words? How did you feel? Angry? Devastated? Belittled? I've felt all the above by the careless use of words. My first reaction is to retaliate. Too often, I give in to that temptation. Sometimes I simply seethe in silence. Other times, I go off by myself and indulge in a good cry.

When I think of my reaction to unkind words, I wonder why I want to put others through the same experience. I have no excuse except to say that I am imperfect, in this as in so many other things.

This I know for sure: words have power. How we use them largely determines what kind of people we are.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 13, January 17

A friend recently sent me a "thought for the day" about Wonder Woman. I thought perhaps she was complimenting me. No such case. This Wonder Woman was not a re-incarnation of the Wonder Woman of the 70s television series.

See if you can relate to this particular Wonder Woman (or Wonder Man). Do you wonder where you put your keys? Do you wonder where you left your purse? Do you wonder why you went into a room? Do you wonder why you are wondering?

I found myself relating to this Wonder Woman all too well. I wonder where my cat is (until I remember she wanted to go to the garage and I let her out). I wonder if I took my morning vitamin. I wonder if I should take another. I wonder if I brushed my teeth. And so on.

This is not a happy state of affairs, but I have learned to live with my wondering. Still, I wonder (there I go again) if I should be wondering about something more important.

Should I wonder if I were kind today?
Should I wonder if I said something nice to someone today?
Should I wonder if I knelt in prayer today?
Should I wonder if I made a call or sent a card to someone who is lonely today?

These seem far more important things to wonder about, and I'm going to try to improve my wondering.

This I know for sure: the Lord doesn't care if I took my morning vitamin. He cares if I cared about others.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 12, January 16

Have you wondered why some people's lives seem charmed? They appear to go about their lives on a cloud of happiness, health, and wealth. Their children are obedient and well-behaved. Their homes are immaculate. Their jobs are secure and their health solid.

Do you know what? Those people don't exist. At least outside of our minds. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has problems. They may suffer in silence. They may suck it up and go about their business in a quiet manner. But they are not problem-free. They are probably kneeling in prayer to ask the Lord for His help even as I write this.

What we see on the outside is often vastly different from what is happening on the inside of a person. The friend who worries over her elderly mother rarely talks about it unless I ask her. Another friend who is concerned over a daughter's pregnancy keeps it to herself. And so on.

Everyone has worries. Everyone has heartaches. Everyone has painful memories over what they might have done differently in a difficult situation.

This I know for sure: No one leads a charmed life. And all of us need a helping hand.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 11, January 15

In anticipation of receiving some new items, I did some de-cluttering before Christmas. After Christmas, I did more de-cluttering, taking bag after bag of clothes and books and household items to a thrift store.

De-cluttering freed up some much needed space in closets and drawers and bookshelves. I felt freer, lighter, and more in control of my environment.

The process started me thinking about another, more important kind of de-cluttering I can do. Can I let go of old grudges, put the pain of them behind me and free up space in my mind and heart?

The truth is, I struggle with this every day. I struggle in finding the strength and discipline to give up these hurts. I struggle in finding the desire to do so. Sometimes I want to hold on to them, to prove to myself and to others that I am right, to justify my righteous indignation. (Or is that self-righteous indignation?)

This I know for sure: if I want to live in the now, I need to let go of the past.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 10, January 14

Are you like me and need the sunlight? Like many others, I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and can literally feel my spirits plummet when the sun fails to shine. For several weeks, those of us in Colorado enjoyed beautiful sunny days. My spirits, my energy, and optimism all get a boost from the brilliance of the sun. It shines like a benediction.

I knew these days couldn't last forever, but I held on to them, savoring the warmth, the brightness that the sun brings. If only I could store it up, to take it out in times of sun-famine. We can't bottle sunshine like we might fruit and vegetables. Instead, we must enjoy it for the moment and then recall its blessings when it disappears for a while.

We have another kind of light in our lives. That of the Son. Fortunately, we don't have to store up His blessings for they are always available. The Son does not ration His light, and we are free to soak it up at will. That is our privilege and our choice. To bask in His light requires that we seek Him and listen to Him.

This I know for sure: when the sun is out, I feel closer to the Son. And when I am closer to the Son, I am a better person.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 9, January 13

In our church's Primary (the organization for children), the children are studying agency this year. Agency, that ability to choose for one's self, is a blessing. It is also a responsibility. Too often, I watch as people claim their agency but forget that with it come consequences.
Take the occupiers. They are in Denver, in Boulder, in Salt Lake City, in New York, and dozens of other cities. They use their agency to squat on public lands but take no responsibility for the mess and confusion and inconvenience for others that they create.
Yes, they have agency. And, yes, they have responsibility.
I have agency to write this blog. I also have a responsibility to write truth.
Agency is one of those sticky subjects. Does my four year old grandson have agency to play in the street? Yes. Does my son, his father, have a responsibility to make certain that he doesn't do this. Again, yes. Where does one man's agency stop and another's start? I put forth the theory that it starts with emulating the Savior. Do what He would do and you're probably on the right path.
This I know for sure: with agency comes responsibility.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 8, January 12

Are you like me and want to do better in the new year? Do you want to lose weight? Exercise more? Read your scriptures more? Serve in the community more? Write more? Pray with real intent?
Whew! I made myself tired just listing those things.
My husband is (sometimes) a wise man. He's pointed out to me on many occasions that ultimately we do what we really want to do. If I really wanted to do any of the above things (or anything else), I would do them. What is the key word in the last sentence? If you guess "wanted," you'd be right.
What do I really want to do? Sometimes it appears that what I really want to do is to sit on my rump, watch television, and eat cookies. Isn't that pitiful? At least I could want to eat apples instead of cookies! But, no, it's cookies.
What do you really want to do? I hope you're much more disciplined and goal-oriented than I am. I hope you have lots of meaningful and fun things you want to do. Take a moment and reflect on them. Then decide on how you can make them come to pass. (I should take my own advice.)
This I know for sure: I do what I really want to do, for good or for not-so-good. And if I want to change those things, I need to turn to the One with the power to change me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 7, January 11

Do you have people in your life whom you love but don't always like? It might be a family member. It might be a friend. Somehow you find yourself loving them but not liking them.
If you don't, that's great. If you're like me and have mixed feelings toward someone, welcome to the club. You're not alone.
This dichotomy of feelings is an unsettling one. At least for me. How can I love someone but at the same time not like him? And then I start wondering if my love is not real love. If I truly love that individual, how can I NOT like him?
Maybe that love is not as genuine as I profess. Maybe it's just a sham. Maybe that love is only a tepid warmth of feeling that comes and goes depending upon that person's behavior.
This I know for sure: love is hard work.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 6, January 10

It's no secret that my politics are conservative. It's also no secret that my patience is strained when it comes to people who expect others to take care of them when they have no desire to take care of themselves, who believe the world owes them a living.
Part of this is a product of my upbringing. (I was raised by parents who were children of the Depression. They expected to work and to save and taught me to do the same.) Part of this is my lack of compassion. And that is my failing.
Compassion for others whose viewpoint doesn't match my own doesn't come easily to me. I tend to think I'm right and dismiss the feelings and attitudes of others.
Can I do both? Can I hold on to my beliefs and still have understanding for those whose beliefs differ from my own? I don't know. I'm still working on it. As in so many areas of my life, I'm still trying to get it right.
I don't have any great take-aways with this post. I struggle every day to find that balance that allows me to be true to myself and to allow others to do the same. And then I think of the Savior, the Exemplar in all things. His love is infinite, extended to everyone, even to me, imperfect and flawed as I am.
In writing, we use the acronym WIP for work-in-progress. This is an apt description for me, a work-in-progress.
This I know for sure: if I am to find compassion for others, I must look to the Savior.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 5, January 9

When I was a young wife and mother, I went through what I call my "crafty phase." The truth is, I've never been any good at crafts. My fingers fumbled and stumbled over the least little task.
However, I did find that I could handle an embroidery needle and spent many hours embroidering pictures and sayings. One quote that I did many times over for family members and friends went, "If life tends to come unraveled, hem with prayer."
Don't you love the juxtaposition of those words, the unlikely pairing of hemming and praying? Perhaps they are no so unlikely as well. When we hem a garment, we take up unwanted material. When we pray, we take up the unwanted things in our lives and give them over to the Lord. Each makes the garment and the life fit better.
I can not imagine my life without prayer. I start my day on my knees, pouring out my gratitude and my needs to the Father. I pray throughout the day, in less formal settings, in the car, in the store, as I sit at my computer, and everywhere else. I end my day with prayer as well, finding new things for which to thank the Father and new things for which to ask for His blessings.
We all pray in different ways. Our language varies. Our needs vary. Our words of praise vary. But one thing remains constant: for those moments, we are in communication with the Lord.
This thing I know for sure: my day would quickly unravel without prayer.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 4, January 8

Yesterday I quoted a scripture, "Wickedness never was happiness."
Today I'd liked to expand on that with my own spin on it: Selfishness never was happiness.
I can hear you thinking now, "Well, duh." Well, duh, indeed. We all know that. Don't we? I should know it. I've been taught it from the time I was a small child. At home. In church. Yet selfishness continues to plague me.
I try not to be selfish with my means, though I occasionally am. What am I selfish with then? A better question would be, What am I not selfish with?
Time. Energy. Forgiveness. I have been selfish with all of these and more. Time is a finite commodity, and I don't like to give it up. Energy is becoming a more and more finite commodity for me. What about forgiveness?
I don't give forgiveness easily. Isn't that ironic? The word itself contains the word "give." But I struggle and will probably always struggle in giving forgiveness, in letting go of old hurts and grudges. (If you don't believe me, ask my husband.)
So I muddle through the morass of my selfishness, trying to do better, trying to be better. As always, if I truly want to change, I must turn to the Savior.
This I know for sure: selfishness never was happiness.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 3, January 7

Scripture states, Wickedness never was happiness.

I have a confession to make: sometimes I have a hard time accepting this, when, in my more shallow moments, I watch clips of media stars who seem to be living the good life. They parade their less-than-moral lifestyles with pride, even arrogance.

If wickedness never were happiness, I ponder, why are these individuals so blessed with beauty, riches,, and talent? They appear to have everything, at least everything the world tells us is important. I'm not proud of the envy that besets me, as I wish for some of those things for myself. Surely my life would be better if I were beautiful, rich, and talented. Surely all my wishes would be granted if I had at least one of those things.

Then, my more mature self kicks in and I remember that those outward trappings don't guarantee happiness, and I reflect upon true blessings: a husband who loves me, children and grandchildren, devoted friends, and a belief in the Lord.

This I know for sure: wickedness never was happiness.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 2, January 6

My two little grandsons, Brigham (7) and Isaac (4) are here visiting. In between the noise and confusion and mess and dirty dishes, we find a few minutes to read.
In reading a book about CARS, we learned that Lightning McQueen was entered in a race. Doc of Radiator Springs served as his pit crew. Unfortunately, McQueen didn't win. However, according to the book, he had "a winner in his pit crew."
Don't you love that? McQueen didn't win the race but he was a winner in friends. There is such wisdom in those simple words. They were intended for children, but I think they apply to all of us.
Are you a winner in friends? I hope so. I know I'm a winner there. My friends are there for me, no matter what. When I feel like a failure in everything else, I remember that I am a winner in one of the most important things.
This I know for sure: if you have friends as your pit crew, you will always be a winner.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 1, January 5

I know--I'm late in starting a blog this year. I guess that's because it's taken me five days in to the New Year to know what I want to write. To tell the truth, I wanted to ignore this prompting. Blogging every day is hard. No doubt about it.
The older I get (and any more that's pretty old), the less I realize I know. Is that a mark of maturity? Is it a sign of wisdom? I don't know. But there are a few things I do know for sure.
What do you know for sure? What do you know with absolute faith and total certainty?
That is the title of my blog this year: This I know for sure.
Let's start with the biggest of those certainties:
The Savior loves me. He is at my side even when I don't feel Him, even when I don't recognize His presence, even when I don't deserve Him. Especially when I don't deserve Him. He is there. Always.
Do you remember the poem that was popular a few years back of "Footsteps in the Sand?" When the two sets of footprints become one, the individual walking asks why the Lord deserted him. The Lord responds that He was carrying His child. (A paraphrase of the poem.)
This I know for sure: The Lord loves me, loves all of us.