Family Ties

Leaning on my tribe


I could not raise my kids alone. Neither could Nathan and I do it on our own. We lean on our tribe. We have our family, and our neighbors, our church, and our school, and we have their friends from these places plus soccer, dance, and gymnastics. We need people. The isolation and lockdown measures from the coronavirus stressed this need. Then the windstorm, when we huddle insice, waiting for it to be safe to venture out again, stressed this more.

The windstorm hit us last week, waking me early on Tuesday morning when a large branch thudded onto the back deck. It was 5:00 a.m. I knew the storm was coming. We prepared the night before by putting furniture, bikes, and toys inside of the patio and taking in plants from the porches. But then I wondered if I should have brought the deck chairs on the front porch in. All I had done was flip the footstools over and set them on top of the chairs, then push them against the house. So I decided to grab my robe and walk upstairs. The back porch motion light was on and I saw the mass of branches and leaves just outside the door, knowing that was likely what shook and thundered the house a bit when it crashed down. I went to the living room and sat on the couch, watching in awe and terror as the wind dangerously swayed the giant conifers across the street. The patio chairs, right in front of me on the other side of the window, didn’t move. They were fine. I went back to bed.

Two more loud thuds shook the house again and I grabbed the monitor to check on the kids. Gabbi was still asleep. Dom was sitting up in bed. I went in to talk to him.

“Was that an earthquake?” he asked. It was a valid question this year. Just the wind. At this point, I had woken up Nathan to investigate the source of the thud while I went to talk with Dom. He found outside that one massive branch had landed on the roof than blown over to drop down, partially on his car. The other massive branch was still sitting on the roof, directly over Gabbi’s bedroom. She continued sleeping.

“You can go sit in my bed,” I told Dom. He wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep now.

After the windstorm, neighbors checked on us and we on them. Some lost power down the street. At first, we were fine and I continued working through the day. That evening, our Xfinity service quit. It would be out for the next two days. We never lost power, but I had to scramble to find a way to connect and work without, what is now a necessity, internet. No neighbors had any serious damage done, which was no small miracle in itself. The closest was Trish’s home, up on the circle, where massive conifers landed across her front yard, landed right outside her front door. Her neighbor, Mike Sorenson, said the crash was incredibly loud when they fell and he looked over immediately after to see smoky dust rising up through and around the tree.

That Wednesday, the youth canceled their planned activity to play Fugitive, and met at Trish’s house at 3:00 p.m. Neighbors with chainsaws, pickups and trailers met up with them. They cleared the trees from her yard, then moved on, working through the neighborhood, clearing out the fallen trees, loading them onto the pickups and trailers, and dumping them in the church parking lot, which Bountiful designated as a spot for green waste. Dominic and I helped out for a time while Gabbi was at her dance class.

Those large branches that fell from our tree? Neighbors wielding chainsaws helped cut them up and drag them out to the curb where another neighbor took them down to the dump.

Today:

  • Maeli and Sadie came over to help Dom and Gabbi with their online school assignments. When they finished, they played outside and cooked some sugar cookies with pumpkin shapes inside. Yesterday, they did an art project together: water colors on canvas with glow-in-the-dark glue details added.
  • I flipped through some old pictures while I listened to the billing meeting for work (OpenVPN). The discussion was mostly between Yurii (Ukraine), Johan (Netherlands), Elfedy (Northern Cali), and Nineveh (Arizona).
  • I finished reviewing comments from Johan about documentation on how to migrate OpenVPN Access Server on an AWS tiered image over to a BYOL image and use the new subscriptions. I had a number of corrections about clarifying which database architect mattered for updating and the difference between tiered pricing and fixed licenses. That all made total sense, right?
  • I sent some emails to an editor with Flagstaff Publishing for an article for an upcoming issue of Utah Life Magazine. The article is on The Charleston Draper, which is a restaurant run out of the farm home that Grandma DeeDee lived in as a young woman. The timing of the article is comforting. Also, I learned that the Pioneer who built it, Joshua Terry, had two wives, the first a Shoshone Native American who disappeared on him with their two kids when he went on a hunting trip. After two years, he stopped waiting for her to come back and married a widow, Mary. They then moved to Draper and built them home. That’s when first wife found out and went to find him. She tried to get Mary killed by sending some men to do the job, one with a butcher knife, and a couple others to burn down the home. Mary fought off her knife attacker with boiling water and a poker. Joshua chased the arsonists away with his gun. He kept his first wife living in a nearby cabin because he wanted to have their children, George and Jane, around. He bought them Western clothes, but his first wife refused those and dressed them in Native American attire and added war paint. According to the stories…

And now, I am overdue to feed my children lunch! Enjoy this pic of friends in my tribe: me, Jamie, Beth, Anna.

An online tribute to Grandma


Edith Reed works in her pristine yard and garden at her home in Salt Lake City, May 29, 2018. At 100 years young, Edith continues to exercise daily, tend to her large yard and garden and teach piano lessons.

The caption on the picture above was written by the photographer. He visited Grandma in 2018 to take pictures for Utah Life Magazine. I wrote the story and it was one of the best writing assignments I’ve ever been paid for.

I wrote Grandma’s obituary this week. It was a costly writing assignment for the family. Obituaries are expensive. And family said I could make it long. With COVID-19 restrictions, we will only have a graveside service. So that was a little like the funeral replacement.

That, and publishing a website.

Mick will be streaming Grandma’s funeral. We posted information about it in her obituary, but I wanted a place to share the recorded stream as well. I was sitting out in the patio last week. I had my phone in my hand, texting family about obituary things, sitting on the blue couch that was once Natalie’s, and I thought… “I wonder if edith.com is available.” It wasn’t. Nobody’s doing anything with the site. Just some dumb domain flipper bought it, is sitting on it, and hoping somebody really wants it and will pay some absurd price to buy it from them.

Anyway, I checked edithreed next and there it was, unclaimed. I claimed it. I texted my mom. What about a website, I asked her?

We now have a website and I’m pretty happy about it. It’s not perfect, but it’s filled with pictures and memories and information about Grandma for family and friends.

Edith Carlquist Reed | 1917-2020

A few comments on the process, for my own record:

  • Tried searching through Digital Ocean first to host a webpage
  • Didn’t feel like using WordPress that I use for two other sites
  • Asked web guy/friend/coworker Matt if he had a suggestion
  • He tossed out several ideas then said, “wait I know, try webflow”
  • Signed up for free account and started working with webflow designer
  • Works so well and creates really good layout / design using containers and elements inside containers, etc
  • Started designing and needed lots of pictures, too, so scraped through my Google photos and a few other spots
  • Pulled out her old Christmas cards to include some thoughts
  • Had problems setting up a comment page so had to drop that (maybe could add later, but requires a Zapier integration which might also require $$)
  • Grabbed a signature from one of her Christmas cards, pulled it out in Photoshop, then sent to Matt who cleaned it up in Illustrator and sent me an svg file
  • Matt also made my little icons for grit, gratitude, and grin
  • Shared with people on Facebook so I hope it gets out to family and friends so they can read about her!

Blessed like Edith


I wrote her obituary today. I had help. I had her help first. I listened to her talk to me, through recordings on my phone, sharing her story of the memories and details she wanted to include. Then, I had a coworker (a writer, and a friend) Lydia help polish it. I then sent it along for reviewing and editing by Aunt Annabel and both of my parents. It’s almost ready. It needs the last bit of COVID-specific detail: how to watch the livestream of the memorial service.

This evening, I started trying to put together a webpage for what will be edithreed.com. My eyes are stinging. Thus, I’m stopping in a moment to go to bed (it’s 11:08 PM).

As I was searching through my filing cabinet, I pulled out past Christmas letters from Grandma. I wanted to take her signature and make it into an image file for the website. It’s rough (below), but it’s a start. At the back of the folder was a yellowed paper with the words of my baby blessing. I pulled it out. My father gave it to me on December 8th, 1980. I wasn’t quite two months old yet. Here is part of a paragraph that talks specifically about Grandma DeeDee:

We bless her that she might observe and take note from her grandmother, Edith Reed, the ability to be an unremitting perfectionist, the capability to develop the taste for fine and beautiful things; the capability and the talent to become educated. We bless her to recall that becoming well trained and educated is something for which Thou art pleased and something which we would encourage. Bless her that she might observe the way that Grandmother Reed has continued to raise her family and that she might so set examples in her life.

Hybrid school year, here we go


A post about today. And Thursday. And a little bit of Friday.

From Monday, Gabbi’s first day of Kindergarten

Today is Tuesday. That means it’s online school day. We don’t have online assignments yet. Teachers sent home some papers. Dom and Gabbi did them with Maeli and Sadie. They’re the neighbor girls I hired as tutors. It was quiet for a bit. Now they’re running around, yelling, playing, and bouncing off the walls. I suppose they finished their work.

I told Dom he should start piano at 11:15. He said he would check the microwave clock to know when to start. It’s 11:29.

I’m in a meeting with Lydia (in Virginia), Dasha (in South Jordan), Julie (in Texas), Matt (in California), and Doug (in Washington). So I ignore the noise and don’t worry about the piano practicing.

Grandma DeeDee died last Friday. So piano practicing feels a bit different, obviously.

She called last Monday. She told me it hurt to talk and breathing was difficult so she would no longer teach piano. She told me to keep having Dom practice Anitra’s Dance with me. She told me to have Gabbi “spell” words with the keys on the piano: CAB, GAB, DAD, BEG, etc.

Mom sent a text on Thursday: “Come visit Granma DD today if you can”.

I was out on the patio at the time. Dom and Gabbi were inside watching GoNoodle. I was kicking and punching the air with my iPad playing a Les Mills Body Combat workout. I was 30 minutes in so I stopped it.

“I’m going to shower,” I told my kids. “Go do piano, k?”

I cut up a peach from my neighbor, Stacey’s tree, peeled it, put it into a cleaned out sour cream container and called for Dom and Gabbi to come with me.

When we arrived at Grandma’s, she was sitting in the chair in her piano room. Laura, Annabel, and Phil were there, along with Candace, someone who I think they hired to help clean and garden. My mom showed up not long after.

I sat next to Laura who sat next to Grandma and we watched her go through a pile of clothes. We took turns graciously taking them from her as she donated things. Mom brought in her wedding dress from the upstairs closet. Candace helped Laura find her bag with her temple clothes in the front closet. Mom also pulled out a bag of plastic masks that Grandma liked to wear to her Halloween ward parties. I took a video of Mom holding them up to her face. Grandma put the hat on and laughed. I took some pictures. I had no idea that would be my last picture of Grandma, wearing her sister’s hat, laughing, with her oxygen tubes in her nose and wearing her Columbia sweatshirt.

When I left, I grabbed Grandma’s hand. Thane had arrived and was now sitting next to her. I leaned down and told her I loved her. I figured I would be back again. I wanted to bring the music for Anitra’s Dance so Dom and I could play together for her. I had forgotten to bring it with us like I wanted.

We passed Laina and her kids as they pulled up to the house.

We went to Ikea. Wearing our masks, we stood in line outside, standing under a giant tent set up with a winding line and social distancing markers on the ground.

Eventually, we got in and walked around, looking at furniture, hunting for desk chair pads (which I never found), and getting items to finish organizing Dom’s desk. I wanted a standing laptop desk for my office. It was sold out. I wanted a patio storage unit. It was sold out. We found the things for Dom’s desk and got in line. The line went all the way back through the self-pickup area, then split into two and wound through piles of items for sale. I picked up a duvet cover. We shuffled forward, keeping socially distanced from those in front and behind us. Eventually, we made it through the checkout, loaded up our car, and drove off to home. It didn’t look like I would get much work done before Dom’s soccer practice.

Our day changed in an instance when Mom sent her text. I was glad for it. And glad for a job that gave me that flexibility.

Friday afternoon, Gideon (15-year old neighbor) babysat Dom and Gabbi. I drove up to Layton to pick up Karen with some river tubes and life jackets. We met Sabrina up along the Weber River to put our tubes in the water in Henefer.

Grandma taught piano students in Henefer, Coalville, and Hoytsville for years.

When she first married, she and Grandaddy lived in Hoytsville. He had a job as a seminary teacher. She taught lessons.

I was floating the river from Henefer to Taggart when Grandma DeeDee, resting in her bed, passed away. She had done her NYTimes crossword the night before. She got up and dressed that morning to meet the hospice chaplain. Around lunch, she went back to bed to rest. One last time.

Blessed to be like three women who raised me


Today is International Women’s Day. I was searching in a box for something from high school and didn’t find it. I did, however, find a piece of paper that is nearly 40 years old. This paper is the transcript of the blessing my father gave me when I was not quite two months old. A traditional baby blessing as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is given by the father to an infant son or daughter for two reasons: to give the baby a name, and to give a blessing both spiritual and physical in nature. During the blessing he gave me, my father focused on three women from whom I could learn from their wisdom, counsel and example.

First, he talked about my maternal grandmother, Grandma DeeDee. Today, she is 101 years old, teaches my son piano lessons (plus 19 other students), and gardens when the weather agrees (which today it is snowing so it does not). Grandma was also my piano teacher for nearly 15 years. Throwing out a rough estimate, that’s over 300 hours spent together in lessons. Typically, these were early morning before school when Grandma would drive up to our house because there was no earthly way for me to drag my tired head down to her house at such an hour. So what did my dad say to his tiny baby girl about his mother-in-law during the blessing? Here are a two highlights:

  • learn from her “the ability to be an unremitting perfectionist, the capability to develop the taste for fine and beautiful things, the capability and the talent to become educated”
  • “…becoming well trained and educated is something for which [God is] pleased and something which we would encourage”

Second, he talked about my Grandma Campbell, we call her Grumma. I have many memories of time spent at her house and then condo, as she hosted so many family gatherings. We learned family history, dressed up from the costume drawer in a little bedroom, had Easter egg hunts in the backyard, swam in the pool at her condo, and gathered for Christmas lunches. From Grumma, my dad blessed me to learn how to:

  • “recognize the spiritual strength to raise a family by herself”
  • “recognize the complete and total dedication to children in setting aside all worldly things for the benefit of her family”
  • “know, somehow, spiritually, the kind of sacrifices associated with that kind of life”

Finally, he talked about my mother, who raised me and my six siblings to be hard-working, kind, and successful adults, parents, and spouses. She also did this while working and sharing her talent as a professional violinist. One of my favorite things is to sit at the piano and accompany her on the violin. From my mom, my dad blessed me, as a teeny tiny baby to:

  • “observe very carefully the intricate life of her mother for she blends together so many wonderful things”
  • “the ability to concentrate and specialize and perfect areas of her choosing”
  • “select other areas to become partly specialized, even good and well-rounded”
  • “find the ability to receive inspiration and even revelation from heaven and that her life might be so directed”

Those are some big dreams for an infant. Growing up with these three women, I was constantly around their examples of hard work, education, sacrifice, and humor. Grumma’s laugh is infectious. Grandma DeeDee is witty and wise. And Granmere (my mom) fills a room with hilarity when she has one of her giggle fits. You can still be silly even when you’re talented, professional and smart. That’s what I learned from all three. Lucky me to grow up with strong women.

The garden of Edith


Pick up a copy of the July/August edition of Utah Life Magazine and you’ll find me, my Grandma DeeDee, and my son, Dominic.

I’ve pitched and submitted plenty of stories and pieces over the last several years. I’ve received oodles of “no thank yous” and non-responses. One evening, I sent in a pitch to this Utah Life and afterward, I thought: I should have polished that idea before submitting it. If you search the web, you’ll find lots of articles giving advice about what it takes to create a successful pitch. I know. You have to stand out in some way.

A few days later, the editor emailed me about it. He wanted it! What was my pitch? A story about the legacy of one of my grandmothers, specifically my grandmother, Edith, who is 100 years old, teaches my son piano (plus 19 other students each week), continues to work hard in her beautiful garden, and has left an impact in the lives of thousands of piano students.

Many of the work I do now as a writer is to meet somebody else’s needs. I write social media posts about finding a software development company. I write blog posts about using a VPN on the free wi-fi at the gym. I write website content for some of the projects with the LDS Church. I don’t write about things that I love, necessarily. Writing this article was daunting because I wanted to create a personal masterpiece. Talk about pressure, huh?

It took several drafts until I sent in the story. I was rejected.

But, this rejection was different. I was rejected with an offer to review things over the phone with the editor. “You bet,” I replied back. With the feedback from that phone call, I started over, working a new story. It felt a little bit like how it must be to piece together a quilt, taking sections at a time, then bringing them together, stepping back and appreciating the whole. I sent my new story in.

“You got it on this revision!”

It was a few months after submitting it until the print magazine arrived in the mail. Since then, I purchased several more copies from Barnes & Noble and found that they also carry it at grocery stories, drugstores, Costco, and Sam’s Club (in Utah). You can also order a copy from their website.

Will you read my story? Will you send a letter to the editor about it (editor@utahlifemag.com)? If you know of past student’s of my grandmother, will you tell them about it? If they send in letters to the editor and they print those up in the fall issue, I will take a copy over to her and we’ll read them together. That would be an awesome afternoon, in my opinion!

Will somebody drive to Kamas and buy me some donuts?


I wrote this as an attempt to get a job with a magazine as their humor columnist. I didn’t get the job. It was good times trying, though. Now, you can hear my story. It’s from last summer, up in Park City, so I get to include the video Google made for me from my cell phone media. Enjoy.

The fritter mission: unaccomplished

I couldn’t be interrupted. Not for a poopy diaper. Not for fighting kids. Not for spilled milk. Not for a few minutes. I was on Instagram. You can’t be interrupted when doing that. If you look away for a few seconds, it races you back to the top of your feed. Who designed that user experience?

While my two kiddos bickered and argued about who got to help Daniel Tiger go potty on the Kindle game, I double-tapped on all of my friends’ pictures of their kids. Like. Like. Like.

And then.

And then this delectable picture slid up into my view. Oh. My. Donuts!

I was hungry. Dinner waited for me to put down my phone and begin assembling a Pinterest-inspired Instant Pot Martha Stewart or Paula Deen or Anthony Bourdain or Lion House rolls copycat recipe.

Donuts looked so much better. Especially these donuts. The social media post was spot on: it highlighted the sticky sugar coating on the top of the fritter, with frosted and maple donuts tucked into the corners, and the caption was short and sweet: “The best donuts and hot fritters from the Chevron in small town, USA.”

The fritter filled more than half of the donut box.

Yeah. I could eat that for dinner. I had to go. I clicked on the location tagged in the picture.

These are REALLY from a Chevron?

I could get some donuts with my Techron?

I scanned over the comments on the post and made note of several important details: one person said they went and the donuts were sold out; the fritters are as big as a dinner plate; the locals want to keep it a secret.

The secret was out.

Do you ever fall victim to the mistake of browsing social media when hungry? I am an accomplished dessert-pinner between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon. The location of the donuts was problematic for me. It wasn’t because it was at a Chevron. I’m what you might call a Chevron fan girl. I know. You didn’t think that was a thing. It is. I’m one. My mom is one. It’s that Techron, you see. According to my wise mother: a reputable consumer product ratings magazine declared that Techron was a legit additive that truly did clean your engine when you used it. I often passed gas station after gas station to arrive at a particular Chevron, whip out my blue gas card, and fill ‘er up.

The problem for me was that the Chevron was located in Kamas. Trusty ol’ Google maps informed me that it was a 59 minute drive to purchase the sugary goodness of those small-meteor-sized fritters.

For some people, an hour in the car is their typical one-way commute.

I was once one of those people.

Now, an hour in the car means trouble because my world revolves around the sacred nap.

I’m THAT parent.

Don’t interrupt my toddler’s nap. Do you want to know the last people to knock on my front door during nap time? Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I decided to make the donut trek late in the afternoon after a day at the lake. Donuts post swimming and boating sounds like the best way to refuel. And I could do it while simultaneously fueling my SUV with Techron. Everyone wins.

I was with family at Rockport Reservoir, which, by the way, is a hidden gem on the Weber River, named after the town of Rockport: a town it completely submerged when it was created by the Wanship Dam. (Insert bad joke about being underwater on your mortgage here.) Shortly after lunch on the beach, I loaded up my four-year old and one-year old in my soon-to-need-gas SUV. We took a scenic drive to get there, traveling along Highway 32, through Peoa and Oakley before rolling into Kamas. My toddler fell asleep at the beginning of the drive.

“Let her keep sleeping,” I whisper-commanded my four-year old. He nodded and grabbed the sleep sheep to turn on some white noise. (I buy ALL the sleep products. Because nap time is sacred.)

“There it is, mom,” son announced, pointing not at the distant Chevron we were approaching, but at the red dot on the Google Maps app on my phone.

It was 3:00 in the afternoon. Could there be any donuts left?

We filled the car with Techron, then went inside for donuts.

I looked around for the donut case.

They didn’t have a case.

They had a wall.

A donut-display wall: four doors of five shelves with trays filled with donuts, bars, fritters, bagels, and brownies.

They HAD BEEN filled.

At 3:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, only a few brownies remained.

Not a single fritter.

Not one maple bar.

Not even a plain ol’ glazed donut.

“Where are the donuts, mom?” my son asked.

“They’re all gone, buddy.”

I told him I was sorry. I was sorry for myself.

I felt tricked. I’d been caught by a social media phishing scam! I’d seen pictures of donuts. Delicious donuts. Giant donuts. Calories-for-days donuts. Maybe they HAD been a trick! A gimmick! A carefully crafted hook to convince me to drive to the small town, nestled in a nook of the Uinta Mountains. Once there, I’d bought their Techron gas. And I’d used precious nap time to drive there!

It was a long, quiet drive back, without anything frosted in maple. Without anything that rhymes with twitter. Maybe I should stick to thumbing through Twitter before dinner time anyway. I have yet to get swept up in a futile mission to buy donuts while reading through Tweets.

Unless the Kamas Chevron has an account…

Grit and authenticity #yearofbeautiful


The culture of the Carlquists is grit.

Carl Arvid Carlquist was born in Sweden in 1857. He moved to Utah, raised his family here, had a son, Carl, who had a daughter, Edith, and she is my Grandma DeeDee.

I am a Carlquist.

From Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she says the following. “If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it.”

Or be born into it. I was born into the gritty, Carlquist culture.

It’s about the team you are on. Duckworth explained further in her book that excelling athletes need talent, hours, and correct practicing to become the best. But they also needed one more thing: they needed to be on a great team.

I tried out for my first competition soccer team when I was in elementary school. I think most of the girls there made the team. It wasn’t very hard to be a girl playing soccer in the late ’80s. I remember my freshman basketball tryouts and how we were running drills and it was packed, getting all of those girls, hoping for maybe 20 spots on the team, to line up together and start sprinting up and down the court. The coach had a lot of people to cut.

Great teams have tryouts. They cut people that won’t excel in their culture.

And the great players that make it, are what make the team great.

The sociologist, Dan Chambliss said it this way: “There’s a hard way to get grit and an easy way. The hard way is to do it by yourself. The easy way is to use conformity–the basic human drive to fit in–because if you’re around a lot of people who are gritty, you’re going to act grittier.”

Now, let me bring this back around to the Carlquists. As I said, Grandma DeeDee is a Carlquist. A few weeks ago, after finishing up a piano lesson with Dom, she started telling me about the recent projects she had finished in her garden and what was next on her list. Then she told me that she has a very specific goal lately: “to have more grit.”

MORE grit.

She’s 99. She has about 20 piano students each week. She puts in hour after hour of hard work in her garden each week. She plays the piano for the children in church. She does the crossword. She hosted a dinner with friends at her home recently and made several wreaths and decorations from flowers she’d picked from her garden and carefully dried. She’s doing all this while she’s going blind and has lost much of her hearing. And she feels crippled by arthritis.

She wants to have more grit.

She exudes grit. I have grown up around her and the Carlquist culture. It’s the grittiest. I have heard family stories of grit and witnessed it myself.

With that said, and with that history of a PART of my family history that is gritty (I have so many examples), here are three ways that I could work to be more gritty, myself:

  1. Have a growth mindset. This one is included in Duckworth’s TED talk and it “is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed… can change with your effort.” Failure doesn’t stop you. Grandma DeeDee calls her backyard the garden of her mistakes. I told her, once, that I’ve had a lot of failures figuring out how to garden. She laughed. She has failures every year. “That plant just doesn’t like that spot,” she said. “So you move it or you pull it out and throw the dead thing away.” You do something different next time.
  2. Pursue your passion. Lots of things I’ve read online have impressed on me that having grit doesn’t just mean that you’re tough. It means that you push through and hold true to your end goal. So you have to have an end goal to begin with. And then, you need to have the passion to get there if you’re going to overcome the potholes on the way. Grandma didn’t marry young. She finished her degree at the University of Utah and went on to Columbia Teacher’s College for her master’s. She lived in New York then went to San Francisco to serve an LDS mission. When she did marry, she was passionate about raising a family, fighting through eight pregnancies where she was sick the entire time. I have had two pregnancies, sick the entire time through both, and it felt eternal to me. With both pregnancies, I reached a point where I hit a wall of depression and unfounded realization that I would feel like this for the rest of my life. I couldn’t convince myself that it was temporary even though I knew it would be gone once the baby was born. I could never imagine doing that eight times. Grandma was passionate about having children. She pursued it and raised bright, talented, loving, and gritty kids.
  3. Authenticity matters. This is the part that brings me to my #yearofbeautiful initiative. How can I live more authentically? How does this tie to grit? Well, let’s imagine that you’re pursuing a goal and you’re determined to stick with it, no matter what. Because grit. But, as you get further along, you realize that your goal does not align with your inner values. Do you then keep your rigid determination to follow through? Do you ignore at what cost you must do that? That doesn’t sound fulfilling for me and I’ve found an article that lists many studies that found that it matters MORE if you can be both persistent, and authentic when creating your goals. From that article, they defined a three-part measure for authenticity: living in accordance with your values and beliefs; staying in touch with the ‘real you’; and not feeling the need to always do what others expect of you. My Grandaddy was in a hospital when my Grandma was younger and taking care of her little kids. He was in a hospital for mental instabilities. And he wasn’t getting out. So Grandma went down there and brought him home, determined to help him and take care of him, in addition to caring for her own small kids and her two step kids. She didn’t care what others thought about her going and doing this. She wanted her husband around. And she believed that she could help and take care of him. And she did. He got better. They worked hard. They raised their family. This story is authentic.

Understanding both grit and authenticity feels like understanding the entirety of an iceberg to me. I have a glimpse of the surface. I haven’t even walked on it yet, let alone, been beneath the icy waters to see the full size of it.

Tell me, please: have you found podcasts, blogs, books, or TED talks that have given you more insight into both grit and authenticity? What are they?

 

Developing a family narrative (#yearofbeautiful idea)


Part of my #yearofbeautiful is to strengthen my connection with others. I’ve been thinking today about my connections within my own family and came across this article from The New York Times: “The Stories that Bind Us”.

Here’s the bathroom break version of the article: If you want to create strong, lasting family relationships, develop a strong, lasting family narrative.

That was a short bathroom break.

You are faster than my husband and my four-year old son in the bathroom. *Grin*

Teasing aside…

What IS a family narrative and how do you create it?

Family strain could create dark narratives: money, arguments, name calling, loss, etc. Maybe your family strain is because you made jokes about how long it takes somebody to poop and you posted it for all of the internet to read. Seriously. That’s rude. Don’t do that. Keep poop time-frames personal, people.

I read something in a Reader’s Digest years ago. I was sitting in the bathroom but I won’t tell you WHAT I was doing or for HOW long. Let’s just say that what I read was a simple, short paragraph about how kids are more resilient when they know the story of their family. My memory instantly took me to the basement of my Grumma Campbell’s house where the walls were brown and wood, the carpet was dark, the couches lining the walls also dark, and we were crowded down there with cousins, aunts, and uncles, listening to Grumma tell the history of one of our ancestors. I hope it was either Aquila Nebeker or Christopher Columbus Kearl. They have such great names.

Is that part of my family narrative? Where I come from? Men like Aquila and Christopher? And does it matter that I don’t know the stories of my husband’s ancestors? Or even their names, really?

From the NYTimes article, here are some of the questions that might make up part of your family narrative (none of them are about pooping so take note):

  1. Do you know where your grandparents grew up?
  2. Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?
  3. Do you know where your parents met?
  4. Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?
  5. Do you know the story of your birth?

I wonder: can my four-year old answer any of these questions? I asked him.

Do you know where Grandma Alicia grew up? “No. Where’d she grow up? In Texas, mom?”

Do you know where Grandmere grew up? “In Salt Lake?”

Do you know where Dad and I went to high school? “In Salt Lake? And then did Dad go in Texas? So did I guess it?”

Do you know where Dad and I met? “Um, at the temple? At Dad’s house?”

Do you know about an illness that happened in our family? “What’s an illness? No. I don’t. Did Grumma Campbell get sick? Her heart stopped pumping.”

Do you know what happened when you were born? “I came out of your tummy.”

According to the article, if kids know these types of things about their families, it’s the “best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”

How do you teach your kid to have a strong “intergenerational self”?

Have you done any of the following (which are suggestions from the article):

  1. Create a family mission statement identifying core values
  2. Build up identity through communal activities
  3. Create hokey family traditions
  4. Tell positive stories about your family
  5. Create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones

And if you’ve done #3, I want to know what it is!

Two minutes that mattered for me today.


I’ve restarted this post today more than once. For some reason, though, I’ve kept at it. And this time, it’s going in an entirely different direction. I finally figured out what I want to say so brace yourselves:

Sometimes, people just want to help out.

I know. It’s not poetic. It’s not quotable. You might not even remember it tomorrow, but hear me out.

Today, I was going to try and take my kids to Wheeler Farm with friends and cousins, but one sick little cousin canceled plans. At about the same time as the text about that, a neighbor texted me, offering to watch my kids. She offered so I could go and visit my Grumma in the hospital. I took her up on it.

It’s hard to ask for help.

It’s hard to accept help.

At least for me.

I relate it to the story of Naomi and Ruth.

After Naomi was widowed and her sons had also died, she pushed her daughters-in-law away. She tried to send them back to be with their own mothers. She pushed them away, in a time of loneliness and a time of great need as it was during a drought and famine. But Ruth pushed back and told her she wouldn’t leave her.

I am Naomi. I push away people willing to help.

I am not entirely sure why I do this. Any suggestions? Perhaps I don’t want to feel obligated. Perhaps I feel like I owe them money or something. Perhaps I want to do everything on my own.

This morning, I accepted the help.

This same friend made a comment, months and months ago, about how sometimes, the only thing a person helping out needs is a thank you. Her point was that when we try to “make things even”, we cheapen the service.

Do you agree?

Sometimes, people just want to help out.

Do you often help or serve because you want to provide the support? Maybe you don’t even want the recognition because that puts a spotlight on you.

You just want to help. Without repayment. Without recognition. Without fanfare. A simple “thank you” would suffice.

Today, I accepted the help. It was a lot of help. She watched both kids all morning. I spent time visiting briefly (two minutes) with Grumma before she had a second surgery on her heart after suffering a massive attack this week. I was there minutes before she was taken out of her room and into surgery. I couldn’t have visited with my kids as they don’t allow them in the cardiac ICU. My neighbor also kept Dom for much of the afternoon so I could spend Gabbi’s nap getting writing done for an upcoming content deadline. And then do you know what else she did? She tossed a few pantry items my way so I didn’t have to go to the store today to come up with a complete dinner.

I said thank you. I said it a few times. And then we walked home in the spring sunshine.