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.

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3 new things I’ve learned to live authentically


live-authentically

The second item on my #yearofbeautiful list is to live authentically.

Something that I did for that was for a life coach session with the fabulous Julie de Azevedo Hanks. I have an entire page of thoughts and notes from Skyping with her. If you want your own page of notes, I think you should chat with her, too. We had an excellent hour. From all of it, there is a gem that I would like to share with you.

Also, my session sparked conversations with both a good neighbor of mine and also my husband. I have something to share with you from each of those, as well. Ready? Here my three things I have to help me live authentically. As a mom and as a woman.

Do something every day where you feel alive

This came from Julie.

Kids need to see you alive.

I spend a lot of energy caring for my kids. It feels exhausting day in and day out. I lose myself in their demands. I often forget to do something so that ME, MOM, THE MOTHER, feels alive, in FRONT OF THEM. My kids notice when I’m frustrated, exhausted, running low, or short-tempered. So, of course, it makes sense that they will notice when I am feeling happy, accomplished, and ALIVE.

What do you love to do? What are you good at?

By answering those questions, you can make a good list of things to do where you kids can see you alive. My list includes writing, doodling, and playing the piano.

You create their world

This came from Nathan.

So many days it feels mundane to make meals and snacks, clean up after meals and snacks, go through the routine of trying to keep naptimes consistent, struggle through the bedtime routines, and do all of the in-between things like potty training, cleaning up ALL THE TOYS, and consistently discovering new walls, furniture, or lamp shades with Sharpie on them.

This matters, though. My kids feel safe. They feel secure.

Kids that don’t have stability in their lives are forced to live in survival mode. Nathan has seen this a lot working at many of the schools he’s been in. When kids live that way their brain is on hyper alert, their world is a scary place, and they cannot thrive.

At the end of MY  day, I may not feel like I’ve realized any quantifiable accomplishments, but if I’m able to step back and see the day-to-day stability and predictability through the eyes of my toddler and preschooler, then I can see the environment I am creating for them wherein they can be well-nourished.

Your service models the life of our Savior

This came from my neighbor, Nora.

On the morning of my life coaching session, I told her about how I was really looking forward to my appointment and what kinds of things I might talk about it. She told me that she really wanted to hear how it went and I said, deal. Later that day, she emailed me with some of her thoughts. One of these was on how similar the role of a mom is to the life of Jesus Christ. I had not thought of this before. Or at least, not in a concrete way, so reading her thoughts was a big a-ha moment for me.

The Savior cares of each one of us.

I care for each one of my children.

He fed the 5000.

I feed my family.

He washed the feet of His disciples.

I wash hands, faces, snotty noses, and bathe my children.

He healed the sick.

Just last week, I was up in the night with sick kids, holding them, giving them medicine, and praying for their health.

He taught constantly.

I teach my kids constantly.

He gave His life for each one of us.

In a small way, I give my life as I sacrifice my sleep, time, and energy.

So this month, I feel I am doing better at living authentically because I better understand my divine role as a mom, how I’m creating a safe and nurturing world for my kids, and that it is important for them to see me doing things that make me feel alive.

So what things would you put on your “I’m Alive!” list?

The meaningful work of being a mom


meaningful-mom-job

Now hiring: no pay, no quarterly bonus, no promotion, work long hours, no vacations, and difficult working conditions (cleaning the poop out of cloth diapers, yes!). Who would apply for such a job? And yet.

And yet, in spite of the conditions, I chose to be a mom.

And yet, I chose to have a second kid.

And yet, I chose to quit my career and stay home.

And yet, I still choose to be home after doing this for over a year.

And yet, I choose to put my babe in cloth diapers. Because poop.

What makes The Mom a meaningful job?

In my search for ways to be more authentic, I read an article from MIT, “What makes work meaningful — or meaningless” (sorry for the paywall). They came up with five unexpected features of meaningful work after interviewing 135 people in 10 different occupations. When you think of your job (or jobs), do they hit all the right feels for you in these five areas: self-transcendent, poignant, episodic, reflective, personal. Let’s discuss these in list style. Because lists.

  1. Self-Transcendent: Do you feel that your work matters to others more just to yourself?

Being The Mom requires massive amounts of unselfishness. Amounts I didn’t have before and it took time for me to learn to make enough. My kids need The Mom. I try to show them they are loved. I tried to teach them values so they will make a positive impact on our community. If I do good work, I make a big impact on my kids and on how they treat others.

  1. Poignant: Does your work affect you both painfully and deeply?

As The Mom, I am overwhelmed by the array of emotions I experience every single day. When I’m in a moment of negative emotions, I obviously don’t feel appreciative. But turns out, if all I ever experienced was positive experiences, that would steal the rich and challenging times from me. I need those. The experience of fighting through these times creates a sense of meaningfulness.

  1. Episodic: Does your work sometimes feel meaningful, but many times not?

Being The Mom is the most episodic job I’ve ever had. There is nothing emotionally steady about it. It’s not even keel. Not monotonous. Many times, I can only describe it as The Struggle. Meaningful feelings don’t exist for me in those moments. Instead, I feel exasperated and in need of a break. But the ups, man, those are pretty incredible, right? They just come and go. And sometimes, it doesn’t feel like there’s been anything meaningful for days or weeks or maybe months (like the months and months where Gabbi cried from 6pm-midnight, with brief spouts of quiet when we lulled her into scanty sleep). I may work for years and years to try and teach my kids kindness before I finally see one of them take the initiative to reach out to the injured kid in a group. I can’t force them to want to be kind. I can’t force meaningful moments to happen.

  1. Reflective: Do you realize that you’ve experienced meaningful moments after the fact?

It’s often not until we look back on experiences that we realize they were meaningful, so states MIT. So in this area, as The Mom, I am missing out on something that would help me in my job (because I clearly need to add another area of responsibility to my job description!); I am forgetting to reflect on my day. Sometimes I do it, a little bit, when I tell Nathan about some of the things that happened while he was at work. I accompany this with flipping through my phone to show him any pictures or videos I took at the time. But this is only brief reflection. I should improve in this area. Suggestions? When we did chores as kids, my parents would often have us look back at the difference we made when we were done and it was rewarding to see the weeded garden, the clean bedroom, or the folded clothes. Reflecting on The Mom work is more abstract. How do you find time to retrospect on your Mom work?

  1. Personal: Does your work matter to more than just you, but also to the important people in your life?

Yes. It matters to me that what I do matters to the people closest to me. So I think, in this area, I’d like to improve on how I recognize the other parents in my life and the work that they do because I know how much it affects me when somebody tells me, with specificity, about the times that I done good. It’s more than stating: “you’re a good mom.” That’s nice. Now add a phrase full of something meaningful. I’m going to work on this. And I can probably tell myself these things because I want to FEEL more competent.

I’m The Mom. I do things. I do transcendent things. I rock.

Motherhood might smother your authentic self


authentic-momMotherhood can be the overpowering job title that defines you. It’s constantly demanding: breakfast, naptime, middle of the night, when you need to take a poop. Children don’t let you clock out. You have to force yourself to step outside of the role, to take a break, to ask for help and focus on yourself. That’s hard to do.

So at times, I’ve lost myself in motherhood, but not in a good way. Not because I’m enveloped in the smell of a newborn and the rest of the world melts away. Not because I cherish the little hugs from my polite little preschooler. I’ve lost myself in motherhood from exhaustion and sleep deprivation, lack of patience after answering “why?” after “why?” after “why?”, or anxiety from a baby who won’t nap and won’t stop crying. I’ve lost myself in motherhood because I lose track of my personal hopes and dreams.

Motherhood is beautiful, but there’s more to me than raising two small kids.

One of my goals this year is to make it a point to live authentically. I’m on a mission, right now, to figure out HOW.

Any suggestions?

I’ve been asking the internet and I’m on a search for some good books. One book in particular, I’m going to revisit, and that’s Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly: “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Okay. Authenticity ties into self-acceptance.

Which is another goal this year: FEELING more competent at what I do. My goal isn’t to BE more competent. It’s to FEEL more competent. And that comes back to how I talk to myself.

I’m curious: what do you call yourself when you talk to yourself?

I call myself Larrie.

I don’t know why. I can’t remember when it started. Obviously, not prior to high school, since that’s when my nickname was born (thanks, Jarv). For some reason, when I talk to myself (usually in my head), it’s in the third-person and I talk to Larrie.

I’m typically upset with Larrie. I’m telling her that she’s not competent. I’m reminding her of her mistakes. I’m verbally berating her. Poor Larrie.

Be nice to Larrie.

Larrie is beautiful.

This month:

  1. I will be nice to Larrie.
  2. I will also reread Daring Greatly.
  3. I will research how to live authentically.

Living authentically and feeling competent = beautiful. #yearofbeautiful yo.

If you happen to have any good articles on this, please, send them my way!

#yearofbeautiful


I want to be more positive. I want to be less critical. I want to be more content. I want to be less envious. I want to be more giving, less self-centered, more present, less distracted, happier, and someone I would want to be around. So I’m dubbing this my year of beautiful.
I thought about this while washing dishes the other night. I do have a concern and it’s that I’ll come off like the “perfect little Pinterest mom” who seriously is seriously so blessed. If I’m constantly posting the beautiful things I find, I’m constantly bombarding you with So. Much. OMGawsh. Amazing!

I hope I don’t.

My life is not perfect. I know. And I mean, I KNOW. I’m my worst critic. If being critical was a talent, I’d be in the running for America’s Best. I mean, I can still tell you about my last basketball game, senior year of high school, state playoffs, and I can describe the specific turnover I had just before the half court line and the time I didn’t box out and my player had an offensive rebound and scored. I remember my mistakes.

And I know I’m overly critical of others. This, obviously, is not conducive to flowing relationships. Bad Larrie.

So this year, I will focus on what is beautiful. For me, I expect the learning curve to be steep. I’m really going to try, though. So watch out for my excessive use of my hashtag. Or join in, if you feel so inclined. It is more fun to do things in groups, anyway.

To start my Year of Beautiful, these are my three goals (coming from the self-determination theory if you’ve heard of it):

  1. I will FEEL more competent at what I do
  2. I will live authentically
  3. I will strengthen my connection with others

What a beautiful list. Why thanks!

The front porch in York


memoirThis is one of my stories: a story about the scriptures and a story about me, surviving. My Facebook feed has been littered today with people posting scriptures (because #LIGHTtheWORLD). I’ll be honest: I skip over them. They’re all such long scriptures. I dunno. I guess I’m not spiritual today. But guess what? I have my OWN scripture to share. Only mine comes in the form of a story. So, it’s actually WAY WAY longer than my friends’ scripture-social-media posts. If you know me, that’s how I do. I have a story for everything. And I’m not good at telling short stories. I go on random roads down many a tangent and throw excessive amounts of detail at you. Turns out, that’s my modus operandi. This story comes from my memoir I’ve been writing for some time. I spent a summer, when I was 19, selling books door-to-door. This is right in the middle of my story so you’ve missed out on introductions and background, but I think you’ll still get the gist of it. If not, post a comment about how silly I am to throw these random stories at you! By all means: NOBODY WANTS TO READ A SILLY BLOG. I mean. Come on. Go and read something amazing from a blogger who has incredibly pinnable content. Then, PIN ALL THE THINGS! Have fun. Now, on to my story.

“We might move you to a new sales area,” Kit had told me Saturday night. I replayed that statement over and over since then. It kept me up much of last night. It rattled through my brain as I sat in church. And now, sitting on a couch at a home in York, Pennsylvania, my mind repeats her voice over and over.

Deb sits next to me, talking with Eric. Byr is in the kitchen with others. Somebody is sleeping on another couch in the room. They’re laughing and cuddling and telling stories about selling. They’re acting like college kids. But it’s all muffled by my own mind.

“We might move you to a new sales area.”

Did Kit somehow know? Did she find out about that time that I hid in Byr’s trunk? Deb didn’t find out about that. Did she? Deb wouldn’t tell. Would Byr? She might for the sake of telling a good story. She wouldn’t tell Kit. But if she told Brice, would he tell Kit? Is that why Kit wants to move me? Because I hid in a trunk? That wasn’t in the rules.

The rules.

“We might move you to a new sales area.”

That was mentioned in the rules.

You may have to move some time during the summer. (New sales area, a more competitive roommate, better living environment, or a roommate that left the field early.)

Byr and Deb need a more competitive roommate. That’s probably it. “We might move you to a new sales area.”

Deb was laughing at Eric who was looking over at me. Is he waiting for a response? I have no clue. I nod slightly. “We might move you to a new sales area.”

Ugh.

I thought about the rules again. There was another rule about working with another first year. Deb, Byr and I were all first years. We were the only headquarters without a student manager or experienced book seller roommate. We were the only all-first-years HQ.

So I hid in a trunk, so what.

Never work with another First year dealer, unless recommended by a student manager. Never meet another First Year dealer for lunch. When you need to you can work with another Student Manager.

I thought back to when Kit read this rule to me, sitting in Sales School in Tennessee. She had modified the rule and crossed off a section that was an absolute no-no. She crossed off: “unless recommended by a student manager.”

“We won’t do that,” she said. “We’ll only have you work with another manager. It’ll be great!”

And then just last night, she’d told me, “We might move you to a new sales area.” She must have found out that I was with Byr during the day. We didn’t meet for lunch, though. And really, we didn’t really work. There was that one time where we went to the birthday party at the Shoemaker’s. Mama Shoemaker turned to Byr, when she came in and didn’t shut the door behind her, and stated, hands on her hips: “Do you live in a barn?”

So if I had to move, I’d have to start over in a new area. I’d have new roommates. I thought about the other girls HQ. The group in Middlesex used to have Kate. I liked Kate. But she went home. A student manager that went home. Even the managers quit this job. “We might have to move you to a new sales area.”

Byr was laughing in the kitchen. Something was funny. Capital F Funny. Her laugh snapped me out of my thoughts for a moment. Eric and Deb were talking about a friend of hers back home that wrote to her about her job as a life guard at the pool.

“She probably doesn’t have a book girl tan line,” Deb said, as she laughed and pulled up her sleeve to show her white shoulder, stark in contrast to her tanning arms.

“I know, right?” Eric pulled up his shorts to show a sock tan line.

I got up from the couch and stood there. I was going to go somewhere. Where? The kitchen? Outside? Home?

Oh, the kitchen. My laundry was probably done and the washing machine was just off of the kitchen. As I wandered through, Byr was standing around laughing with several of the guys. I snuck past, ducked into the closet used for laundry, left the lights off, and switched my clothes from the washer to the dryer in the dark.

After shutting the dryer and turning it on, I put my hands on top and drooped my head.

“We might have to move you to a new sales area.”

Why was I so anxious about this? I didn’t eat breakfast this morning. I hadn’t had any lunch yet. I wasn’t hungry. I was anxious.

Because I can depend on Byr to let me find her when I can’t stand this job.

I couldn’t do this alone.

Maybe I need help from someplace else, I thought. Kit had talked to me at church this morning. She mentioned the possible move again and seemed to pick up on my dread. “You should read Mosiah 24,” she said. “We talked about it in Sunday School. I think it would really help.”

“Mosiah 24?” I asked.

“Yeah. Mosiah 24.” She smiled. “Good chapter.”

I left the dark laundry room, walked through the kitchen without stopping for lunch, into the living room and grabbed my scriptures off of the coffee table. I kept walking out the front door.

We were at a two-story, white, wooden house, on a busy road in York. It had a long, wooden front porch that was sagging with age. It hadn’t been painted or stained in perhaps a decade. It might give you splinters if you looked at it for too long. I walked along the planks in my sandals so that I could sit down to the left of the door.

I stared at the traffic. Cars driving back and forth. Back and forth. Left. Right. I turned my head with them. Left. Right. Back and forth.

“Okay, Mosiah 24,” I mumbled.

I leaned my back against the house and slid down into a seated crouch, my scriptures perched on my knees. I thumbed through the pages, flipping past the Bible until I was in the Book of Mormon, following the tabs on the side until I got to the book of Mosiah where I opened and flicked the pages to the 24th chapter.

I rested the book down on my lap and looked down to begin reading:

“And it came to pass that Amulon…” I couldn’t read the words past that. I was crying. Ugly crying. Tears pouring down my face, blurring my sight. My shoulders shuddering with muffled sobs. A headache rapidly starting. I’d been holding it in, all of the anxiety, and I needed to sit down. I needed to stop.

The tears kept spilling down my cheeks, but they started to change from tears of anxiety, to tears of relief. I looked around, through my tears, at the cars speeding past. I wondered if they could tell something was happening on this sagging porch as they drove by. I looked back down at my scriptures. Why hadn’t I read these for so long?

I did need to read Mosiah 24. Kit knew. My shoulders stopped shaking, although the tears kept coming. I gulped big breaths of humid air and it felt good. I lifted my eyebrows in surprise. I was even smiling.

As the tears slowed, I smudged them off of my cheeks and eyelashes and continued reading. It was a story of a group of people in bondage. Their captors demanded that they not pray. So they prayed in their hearts instead. And there was the verse that I needed most:

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as a witness for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

RBG’s 7 tips for raising a trail-blazing daughter


rbgI read a lot of things about raising children: books, blogs, articles, forums, scriptures, and on and on. Like I’ve previously mentioned, being a parent is daunting and pretty much impossible. We are all doing our very best and all imperfect.

Recently, I’ve been reading the book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. Have you read it? What did you think? I’m still in the process.

Today, I read this article: Want to Raise a Trail-Blazing Daughter? ‘The Notorious RBG’ Says Do These 7 Things. I thought I’d check it out and see what the list was like, whether it applied to my daughter (and my son, too), and whether I wanted it to apply.

Here’s here list, followed by my thoughts:

  1. Foster a love of reading. Absolutely. We know this. We know about the huge impact of early childhood development and how much that sets your kids (sons or daughters) up for success. I loved reading. I know not all of my siblings did and I remember hiding in my closet to read because I thought my brothers might tease me about it. I want my kids to love reading, too. So far, they do. But having a love for your favorite book about trains is different than sneaking away to read The Screwtape Letters.
  2. Teach them to be independent. My four-year old can dress himself, make his own snack of melted-cheese Ritz crackers, and manage himself in the bathroom. (Is that the most polite way to put that? I’m always so polite. Especially on the internet.) My one-year old can walk. So she’s got that going for her. This took me years and years to learn. I wanted so bad to be in the popular group of friends in high school. I look back now and wonder, who really was the popular group? The football players? The cheerleaders? The school president? The choir president? Why did I care? Eventually, I learned that it matters more how you treat others than it does how many party invitations you get. And I think this is something that parents have to kind of get out of the way and let kids figure out, eventually.
  3. Encourage them to seek out great teachers. When I would tell people I was getting an English degree, 92.6% then asked me if I was doing that to be a teacher. No. Certainly not. Why? Because I knew I couldn’t be the kind of teacher that my great teachers had been for me. I had great teachers, both in school, in sports, in church, at work, and in friends. I wrote previously about how I hope that my children find great teachers as well.
  4. Encourage them to turn a deaf ear when needed. To quote Ginsburg here, “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” One of my great teachers, my Grandma DeeDee, is the first example I can think of that lived her life like this. Here’s one I can definitely work on myself! And maybe if I tell my kiddos about how I am working on it and when I succeed or fail, they will learn from my example.
  5. Encourage them to set aside their worriesand simply achieve. I remember sitting down in the office of an English professor when I was on academic probation. She found out that the both of us were taking the same meds to treat depression. I was STUNNED. Why? Because successful moms with loving husbands, four grown boys, a successful career as a professor, and award-winning books, didn’t have depression. You can’t be depressed and succeed. She helped teach me not to listen to THAT voice in my head. What a lesson to learn. Now, if only I can think of a way to pass this lesson on!
  6. Teach them that they can make their own luck. My dad has told me before that I have more confidence than competence. I take it as a compliment. And in my previous career working in software, I needed that to track down the bug, database issue, what have you. As a parent, I am constantly incompetent so I’m glad that my confidence is not based on my success but precedes my successes (and my failures, from which I try so hard to learn). So hey, kids of mine: be confident in yourselves. You can figure it out. I say that to Dom often: “Wow, good figuring!” Seriously. I do. That phrase. Well, to be more exact, I say it like this: “Dom, good figgerrin’!”
  7. Pray that they marry the right person. This was the most surprising item on her list. Did it surprise you? Did you know that Ginsburg’s husband did all of the cooking? Excellent! I hope that my kids learn this simply by watching me and Nathan. We are two very different people and, yes, that causes conflict. But I hope that it complements more often and I hope that they see that. I hope that they think of their mom and dad as a team loving and supporting each other. Nathan supports me in a ton of ways, most importantly in helping me to continue to take care of me so I can be a whole person and the mom that my kids need and deserve.

What’s your favorite item on the list?