Kecks in Paradise

Kecks in Paradise

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's That Time of Year: 5 Things to Know About General Conference

Every six months, you might notice a particular giddiness among your Mormon friends as our bi-annual General Conference rolls around. It's not a holiday, but man-o-man, I cannot get that 'N Sync Christmas song out of my head.

Because, you guys, it is a wonderful feeling. And there is love in the room from the floor to the ceiling.

It's that time of year: conference time is here.

My sister-in-law, Tiffany, will likely make her yummiest oatmeal, all my Mormon parent buddies are starting to assemble quiet activities for their littles, and J and I are getting our questions ready that we are hoping our leaders will address.

We believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be the church that Christ established in his day, which was lost through apostasy, and then restored in our day through the prophet, Joseph Smith. The church follows the same organization that Christ established: we have twelve apostles, just like he did, as well as a prophet with counselors.

Twice a year, the prophet, his counselors, the apostles, and other general leaders in our church prepare inspired instruction for all the members of the church. It is six two-hour sessions of talks, interspersed now and again with songs and prayers.

So, you may wonder, what is all the hub-bub about. Surely the oatmeal isn't that good.

Well, truth be told, it is--but of course conference is about more than that. Here are some things to know about conference time to explain your enthusiastic Mormon friends:

1. We believe the prophet acts as the mouthpiece for the Lord.

Our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, is a nice guy, there is no question about it. Any other weekend I would love to go visit him and listen to the myriad of stories he has collected through his lifelong pursuit to serve God and His children. But we don't watch conference just to hang out with our beloved Tommy Monson. We believe that President Monson receives revelation for the whole 15 million member church, and we believe that this instruction comes from the Lord. In fact, the Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the inspired instruction we receive at conference is scripture. There are MORE words from the Lord, that will be spoken clearly and directly in my own language TO ME! That alone just makes me want to skip.



2. Conference is edifying.

If you are thinking, "Hey-o, this General Conference thing sounds suuuper entertaining! It's like Comic-con for Mormons" you're wrong, my friend. General Conference is not entertaining. There will be a few jokes, the world renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir will sing in front of a massive organ, and probably 80% of your Mormon friends will post a Dieter F. Uchtdorf quote to every social media platform immediately after he speaks (I may be one of them). But conference is "entertaining" like going to university classes is entertaining. It is awesome. It is filled with amazing things you want to learn. But the school itself is not for fun times, you know? It's for learning times!

Every single conference, there is so much to learn, and so many good and hopeful truths to make note of. It doesn't entertain, no, but it nourishes the soul. It is like this great, big, invisible feast of truth. The things I need help in have never NOT been addressed. Even when I am chasing babies around during the meetings, I love to keep a piece of paper and pen close by and jot down little truths as they come, and sometimes they come pretty fast and furiously. The word of God does wonders for the soul.

These mud masks were supposed to do wonders for our skin.
I don't know, man.

3. Conference is unifying.

There is something so stirring about that fact that beside being united by little green hymn books across the world, our church preaches the same doctrine in every meeting house. Conference is a reminder of our unity as a church: that in 197 countries and 94 languages, we are learning together and growing together. I feel it...I'm going to break dance.

Breakdance photo tumblr_m5w5nw8QnB1r0byljo1_500_zps66f0e8cd.gif

4. Conference strengthens faith and testimony.

Says Elder Hales. It is so true! I always feel a lift after General Conference. The world hasn't changed, but my outlook inevitably brightens as my faith is enlarged.



5. Conference is for every single person in the WORLD!

Let me blow your mind right now: this is the most general meeting where you can get the most specific instruction for your own life. It is KA-razy that the old men and women that will speak know so well how to uplift and edify the world--but the thing is, going back to number 1 here, they rely heavily on the Holy Ghost to prepare their messages. So while not every single message may resonate in your soul, there is something for you there, and probably a lot for you there if you go with a sincere heart with real intent to learn learn learn.

So you are invited to join us and see for yourself why Conference is the most wonderful time of the year.




But also Christmas.

Watch a little or a lot at gc.lds.org

All women ages eight and older are invited to participate in the March 2014 general women's meeting. The meeting will be held on Saturday, March 29, at 6:00 p.m. mountain daylight time (MDT).
The 184th Annual General Conference will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6, 2014, with general sessions each day at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. mountain daylight time (MDT), and the general priesthood meeting on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at 6:00 p.m. MDT.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Invisible Things/ Gleeble Geep Globb Dobb

I have tried twice now to share this thought with other people and every time I do it comes out as nonsense.


I thought I'd give it a go in writing, though, because one thing that is true about me is that I may freeze up speaking sometimes, but I can always writing good thoughts from my brain fingers. You know?

So here we go!

We started night weaning our babe a few weeks ago. My body was telling me we had to. I wasn't getting any sleep, and I didn't feel like nursing through the night was really serving anyone, so we adjusted, and it was okay.

But then, not but a few days after stopping our night feedings, I got hit by a crazy wave of depression and hot flashes, and terrible nausea. I would Google my symptoms and the Internet would be like, "Well, you are 26 now, so it's probably menopause."

That didn't seem right, so I would type the symptoms in again, but differently, and they'd be like, "Oh no, not menopause, you are pregnant!"

Then I try again, and they'd be like, "Oh, man! I'm sorry. Looks like you died already. Bummer!"

It was pretty unsatisfying, but fortunately I had the good sense to wonder if the things I was experiencing were related to weaning, and it turns out that they are not only related, but fairly common, and weirdly not heavily publicized.

It was such a relief to see that people had experienced this same kind of garbage before, and they knew it would not last forever. But even more than that, it was hugely reassuring to know that all my invisible symptoms were real. I knew they were real because I felt them, but somehow seeing that other people had felt them, too, gave the experience real validation.

The thing is--when you break your arm or leg, everyone can see that you got hurt and that you are making steps to repair it. When your hurt is caused by a hormonal imbalance or some kind of life event, that is just as real an injury, even though it is mostly invisible. If we could wrap big, pink casts around your brain or your feelings, I am sure all your friends would sign it in Sharpie.

I feel like our culture is more aware of invisible hurts than we have been in the past (thank goodness). I have seen all kinds of articles, and short films, and long films, and talks, and commercials that aim to support people and help them heal from our non-tangible maladies. I think we are less prone to wonder if depression or anxiety is real now, because we know they are real. And there is all kinds of evidence and forums and medication to back us up in that.

Similarly, we don't question whether our emotions are real or not because we know that they are. We have felt happiness, sadness, anger, envy; we see them in people's faces. There is no question when you are laughing and happy of, "Is this happiness real." because of course it is! That is the word for the invisible thing you feel!

But there are some invisible things that are too often vacillated on.

Here's a big one: God.

It seems fairly common for people to have good experience after good experience and still wonder, "Is this real? Is what I am feeling the Spirit of God, or is it just me? How can I know?"

And I totally get where those questions come from. I have HAD those questions. It can be incredibly frustrating when you feel like you are exercising faith, and praying, and listening so hard for a response, and the only thing you hear is the toilet flushing in the next room from your Dad's midnight bathroom trip.

The way that God communicates with us is through the Holy Ghost (nickname: the Spirit). While we typically use our voices to speak and our ears to receive speech, the language of the Spirit connects straight to your brain and heart, typically without using any physical sound waves. What's more, the voice of the Spirit is still and small.

And when you ask God something like, "Are you real?" and you feel peace inside, or warmth, or something else good, that is the Spirit telling you, "Yes, I am."

And the more we exercise our faith, the more experiences we have listening to the Spirit and recognizing it.

When you pray: that exercises faith

When you read scriptures: faith calisthenics.

When you listen to words from the prophets and apostles: faith cardio workout.

Go to church, receive the missionaries in your home, serve your neighbors, do some charity work-- there are a lot of ways to help to grow your faith.

And every good feeling you feel associated with those things is invisible.

But they are all real

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 30: The Future

We did it! We completed our 30 days of good things!

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I have loved writing this blog. It has come with its share of cons, but mostly it has been pros on pros on pros. More than anything, in searching for the answer to the question, "What has helped to strengthen my faith today?" I have seen how a billion small, tiny miracles are everywhere, and they can go totally unnoticed if we are not paying attention. So I feel grateful that writing helped me to look a little harder and longer at many good, small, simple things in my life.

The thing is--small and simple things are small and simple and they don't come with much rap music or flash dancing. So sometimes I would hyperventilate a little wondering if what I had to say was interesting or important enough to immortalize on this blog. And then I would think this question, "If today were my last day on earth, what would I want to be doing?" and it would help me to write about the things that mattered most to me that day.

Really, even if you are not trying to write something everyday, those are good questions to chew on. The first unlocks a whole file of spiritual things that can get absolutely shouted over with the noise of the world, and the second reminds you of what your priorities are.

The most unanticipated blessing in the deluge of postings was the connection I felt with you. Thank you for being here and reading these posts. It was scary for me to start this all and you have so encouraged me.

Here's what you faithful few readers can anticipate for the future: I am going to keep writing on here, but only about once a week. So see you soon. I will continue to post to Facebook, even though it still makes me queasy, since that is how most of you get here.

And most of all I will try my darndest to keep a weather eye on those good things out there.

Thanks again.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 29: Penultimate

We are getting to the end of my blogging blitz, so before I simmer down on the quantity of material I have been slogging through the web, I wanted to make sure I hit on one very important good thing: my testimony of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have brought it up repeatedly over the course of the last thirty days, but I just wanted to say as clear as can be, with no frills attached, that I know that my Savior loves me, and that He loves you, too. I know He died to save us, because He wants us all to be able to return to His presence and we can't do that without being fully clean and worthy. I know that when we repent we can become fully clean and worthy. I know that repentance isn't something to be ashamed of; it is a joy-filled, hope-filled action of turning from our sins towards the Father. I know Heavenly Father listens to us when we pray, and He cares about what we want.

I know that the scriptures help my faith to grow, and that they contain everything you need to come to have a testimony of the Savior. I love our modern revelation and know that it is true, too, and that there is a prophet on the earth today to lead and guide Christ's restored church. I am so grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have found the fullness of truth here, and it is delicious to the taste.


And you can have that, too.

Feel free to click here to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or here to read the testimony of the apostles.

Also, if you are interested, but don't really know where to start, the missionaries are great question-answerers. You can also contact me if you prefer to talk to someone that already loves you.

I am grateful beyond words to have this good thing in my life, and would love to share it with you.

Love to you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 28: If you want it, you can have it

When I was little, I had an exhaustive list of things I wanted to be when I grew up: a singer, a dancer, an author, a veterinarian, a teacher, a doctor, a movie star, and--let's not forget one of my favorites--a taxi cab driver--a desire born from a young love of hats and the Muppet Babies, who drove their taxis to the moon.

What can I say, I look good in a hat.

Excluding my dream of cab driving (one I ALWAYS had to explain), I didn't think much about why I wanted to be those things, just that I wanted them. And a lot of the time our desires operate on such a subconscious level that I think it is common to make a choice without realizing that that choice was motivated by a desire. We reach inside the greasy bag of potato chips, not because we enjoy the slick feeling it leaves on our knuckles as we remove our hands from the bag, nor because we are particularly hungry, but because we enjoy the sting of salt on our lips and the crunch of the treasure extricated from the bag. The desire for crunchy salty motivated the action for greasy crinkly.

For the past few months, I have been thinking about what my desires are at their very roots, knowing that those desires shape my priorities, and therefore my choices. If I was asked by the Lord directly, what do you want most of all, how would my heart respond? Deeper than a house or chickens or even more babies. What does my soul long for? And what am I doing to support that desire?

We had a teacher in our last stake who had said, "The Lord grants according to your desires, so you better make sure that your desires are in line with His will."

That was a thing that stuck for me. I have mulled it over for months, and the more you think about something, the more you seem to see it everywhere. I see it dotted all over the scriptures:

"What desireth thou?" asks Jesus.

And the people respond: restore my sight, or heal my daughter, or please let us stay with you.

And then he usually gives them what they want--like 9 times out of 10 whatever good thing they want, he helps them to get it. And the with the 1 rejection, he redirects them to something more appropriate. That gives me a good indication that it matters what we want.

One important thing in all this, though, is everything that was asked was a good thing. Though their request had varying degrees of depth, they were asking the Lord to satisfy righteous desires rather than what Dallin H. Oaks calls, "the worldly quartet of property, prominence, pride, or power." We all fall victim to those things from time to time, but at their roots, their desires were good.

And what I have learned as I have made a study of this is that our desire can become good. The prodigal son "came to himself" and desired no more to live riotously, but to make his way home to the father and serve him. There are all kind of personal, sacred experiences that we get a glimpse into through the scriptures that show how people were given new hearts.

I think Enos gives us a good example of this. He went into the woods to go hunt, and was thinking about things that his father had taught him. He says that his "soul hungered," and he knelt down and prayed for his soul, that he might know the joy of the saints and be forgiven of his sins. At this point, he didn't know that the things he had been taught were all true; he had a desire to believe, and he let that desire work within him. He prayed all day long, exhibiting a great degree of effort, and exercising faith. 

Then he said a voice "came to him," and it said, "Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed."

And he had this wonderful feeling of his guilt being swept away, after which he was instructed that all of this was a result of his faith.

Then immediately after that, his desire changed. He wasn't worried about his own soul anymore, he began to desire for the welfare of his brethren. So he followed the pattern he had just learned and exerted more effort, exercised more faith, and then again was answered.

It is a cool thing to realize--that you can want what is best, even if right at this moment your desires don't extend beyond potato chips. If you let your deeper desires work within you, work for them, and exercise faith, you can have it all, baby.

May God help us to yearn for that which is best and eternal, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 27: Melby Toast

Here's a small shout out to Melby, Mother-in-law extraordinaire! Maker of lists and cleaner of pots! 

I cannot tell you how many times this lady has saved the day for me. Today was no exception. I got donated a whole day of her time to help me repair my damaged belly. 

Food allergies are the pits. Melissa Keck is the anti-pits. 

Anti-pits-perant?

I feel super grateful to this amazing lady for all she does for our family. All us Kecks kind of orbit around her. She is perpetually helpful and unfailingly generous. She is a source of wisdom and friendship in my life, and I feel confident that generations to come will join with us in raising a glass of lactose-free milk to her noble example.

I will be forever grateful to Melissa for raising her wonderful children. Jason is a scripture mastery superstar because of his Mom, and I love that about him. He listens to every session of General Conference because he saw her do it (which was especially notable in Korea when she would get up in the middle of the night to do it). I love that he has made service his mantra because of his parents' example.

I am so glad to be a Harrison, but I love being a Keck, too.

To Melby!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 26: Bully for you

One of my brave and compassionate brothers is taking on a heavy project right now while he works toward his Eagle Scout Award. He is in the process of putting together a public service announcement for suicide prevention. I feel really proud of him for taking on such a meaningful project and for trying to spread hope to his high school. I have had so many experiences that have testified to me that every single person matters, regardless of how well liked they are or how wide their influence is spread. They matter because they matter, and their existence is important. And I am so happy that my bro is trying to help others recognize their self worth.

Apparently, the Church had the same kind of idea in mind this month, because their featured Mormon message for March is on bullying.

I was feeling a little fragile about watching this video; I wasn't sure I wanted to. This subject hits a little too close to home for my fam, and I wasn't sure if I had the emotional strength to take it on tonight. But Jason had seen it earlier today, so he described it gently for my tender ears. Then I watched cautiously while the message of hope and encouragement bubbled on through me.

I get scared of things like this--bullying and meanness. It makes me want to emotionally bubble wrap my siblings and children through high school. I just want people to be nice to each other.

I was reading some comments on this video, and a few folks mentioned the fact that bullying is just a "part of life" and encouraged us all to "deal with it."

But that's the thing, isn't it? This is how they are dealing with it. They are trying to show how one person can make a positive influence by being nice. I can think of a friend I had growing up who made it her life's mission to talk about how wonderful every person is. She was totally sincere, too. Even before you met a person, she'd vet you on all their virtues until you, too, were convinced of their awesomeness.

She is the most positive rumor spreader I know. 

And good on her, too. She changed the way I looked at people. I trusted her judgment on people, and she stamped a big thumbs up on everyone.

And lastly, I really don't think this has to be a part of life. There are all kinds of bad things that we have to deal with in life: sickness, death, traffic, bug bites, moldy bread. We don't have to add to that list by also being jerks to each other. We were not born to bully. We were made to have joy. And I truly believe that we have the choice and power to be kind, to say we are sorry, to include each other, and to celebrate our virtues.

So here is that video:



And have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 25: Things that Matter

Not long ago, I watched a video about a girl who got married a couple days after her brother died in a car accident. She didn't have a normal wedding celebration; the party was cancelled, they just went to the temple with their family. But what I loved was that she said, "It was an amazing way to start a relationship, because nothing little mattered."

I remember feeling that way this Christmas as we hung around the hospital and prayed and prayed and prayed.

Nothing little mattered--not finishing sending cards or getting presents or a tree.

All that mattered was the things that really do matter.


Sorry to be so brief tonight, but I got to go sit on the couch with my man, because that is the kind of thing that really matters to me right now.

Love to you.




Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 24: Wordsmith Wednesday

Don't fear a poem, y'all!

I used to shy away from poetry because it seemed like the point of it was to be inscrutable, but no longer. First off, I learned how to read a poem--I learned I didn't have to make a full stop because a line ends. I learned I could read a line or a whole poem over and over when I couldn't grasp it on the first go. And most importantly, I learned you don't have to fully understand something to know that it is beautiful and you love it.

Secondly, I read so MUCH poetry after learning those simple keys and it strengthened my love.

I watched this little message not long ago that tells a story from Hugh B. Brown about a little currant bush. Bro. Brown had purchased this run-down farm in Canada and went about fixing it up, when he came upon an overgrown currant bush that was producing no fruit. He cut it back drastically until it was basically just stumps, and he saw little water droplets form at the end of each stump that looked like tears. Bro. Brown imagined the currant bush crying, saying, "How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful progress?" And he imagined himself responding, "Listen, here little currant bush, I am the gardener here and I know what I want you to be. I don't want you to be fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush. And one day, when you are laden with fruit, you will say, 'Thank you, Mr. Gardener.'"

Years later Bro. Brown was up for a military promotion and was denied it because of his religion. He was bitter and angry and shook his fist at the heavens, calling out, "How could you do this to me? After I have tried to do everything I was supposed to do?"

Then he heard a voice, his own voice, saying, "I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do."

I had that in the back of my head when I wrote this little poem.

        The Gardener and the Stone

        He took two stones and wrote on one
        and let them bake in the morning sun.

        Then He called, "I have need of Thee."
        And the stones replied, "Here am I, send me."

        And He replied, "I'll send the first.
        I have loved this stone the best since birth."

        He picked me up with gentle hand,
        then crushed me till I turned to sand.

        He mixed my body with the dirt
        and stabbed my surface with a hook.

        He punctured holes down deep through me
        Then filled them up with tiny seeds.

        Wrapped inside my warm embrace,
        the seeds grew roots, then stems, then leaves.

        I nourished them and helped them grow.
        I saw the gardener loved them so.

        With love and kindness in His eyes,
        he trimmed them, cut them down to size.

        Holding close my little leafs,
        I'd feel them shudder and I'd weep.

        They tried to grow, and then would lack,
        So the gardener covered them in chicken crap.

        And though they wouldn't understand,
        the leaves would flower by His hands.

        Their roots would grow down deep in me
        And soon they'd tower into trees. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day 23: Time is my Frenemy

I love 18-month-old Natalie.

I won't say it's my favorite stage because that makes me feel weirdly unfaithful to every other stage of Natalie that I have loved, but I will say that I love hearing her talk and sing and tell me stories. It is awesome to know more about what she is thinking.

Lately she's been calling me "honey."

I will say something like, "Okay, let's go outside, honey."

And she'll say, "Okay, honey."

And she'll grab my hand and say, "Le's go ow-side," like it was her idea first.

She is very tricky to get a picture of, because when she sees the camera pointed her way she runs over and asks to "'Old it? 'Old it? 'Old it. Peeese. Peeese 'old it, Mommy. 'Old it."

"Mommy. 'Old it."

have been able to sneak a couple videos, though, which is a great relief to me, because I often lament not having had recorded enough of our time together.

This one is Natalie read/ singing one of her favorite books:

video

And this one is us cleaning the basement:

video

It is bonkers how time moves these days. I have heard people say that a million times, I have probably said it too much myself, but it is so crazy true that an unpleasant 20-minutes can feel like a lifetime, and a month can feel like a blink. It makes me want to shout, "Unfair!" and shake my fist at the heavens, but at the same time, I like moving forward. I wouldn't want to stay the same forever. Gah. I am caught between the life-drive and death-drive, digging my heels in to slow things down every chance I get, and yet wanting to fast forward to nap times and bed times and reunions and vacations.

When Natalie was a tiny baby, I would get these sweeping waves of sadness every so often at how brief everything is. Jason would come home from work to find me cuddling our sleeping child with bright red circles around my eyes, whisper singing, "Slipping Through My Fingers."

Yikes.

But then later that same night, while I counted to a billion in my head and tried not to focus on my sore everything as I bounced our baby, I would hiss through the darkness of our bedroom, "This is the longest night of my life!"

I wish I could keep it all. I wish I could remember it all. Even the bad stuff. It seems like this exquisitely sad and beautiful thing to have suffered a little because you love someone. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 22: Schlaf It Up

Here's what happens when you are too tired:

1. You eat breakfast, then forget that you already ate breakfast, so you eat it again. Then you wonder why you feel too full and too sleepy, and you suddenly remember: that'll be the two breakfasts. Then you eat lunch.

2. You pour yourself a glass of water, which overflows. You don't notice this fact until you slosh your overfilled glass all over yourself.

3. You think you are in mourning because you feel so lousy, so you spend at least ten minutes of serious sorrow and misery until you realize that you are not sad, just extremely tired.

If all of those things resonate with you, then it is likely you are me. And you are too tired.

I had such a cool thing happen to me today. I have mentioned before and I am mentioning again right this second that I have not been getting enough sleep lately, which as you can imagine (and probably even relate to), is rough. It takes a toll on your bod, not to mention your short term memory. Did I tell you I poured water on myself today? I am too tired.

Such was not always the case. I have volumes of pictures in my Californian home of me sleeping in every possible sleep venue. It was something I took pride in. It was something my siblings took full advantage of. What's that you say? This is the most interesting movie of all time? Wel-hel-hel, we'll just see if it keeps me awa-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. And she's gone. With her eyes open. Sitting up. Let's take a picture.

Which is how I ended up with about a thousand of these:


Believe it or not, that's me sleeping.

I obviously need to make some changes so I can function during the day, but I have been having trouble making a concrete plan of what to do with myself and my babe at night to maximize sleeping happiness. Maybe it's because we are all so tired, too, but the Internet can get a little touchy on this subject. There are some opinionated sleepers out there, and they will not pull any punches.

The thing is, I do not enjoy being punched. Sleeping with babies is not a fun subject to talk about with strangers, especially since parenting and nursing and napping all come into the mix, too. People want to feel confident about the choices they make as parents, so sometimes they can come off pushy or mean or judgey even when they don't mean to. And sometimes they even do mean to! In the words of my friends daughter, "Why, that's not kind!"

I really do believe that God cares about us and that the things that are important to us matter to Him, because He loves us (there is a great talk on this subject that you can read here). In the long run, I probably won't even remember missing a few days of sleep, but it would really help me in the day to day grind. So, I pray for guidance on this subject and hope to be aware of resources that can help me.

Then, just today in my hazy funk, I found these great videos with tips from mothers who have similar parenting styles as me. It was a simple thing, but I felt like it was an answer to my prayers. It confirmed to me not only that God is aware of me and my sleep probs, but that there are whole networks of people looking for ways to help and strengthen each other. Suddenly I felt a sense of connection and unity to these otherwise strangers. I felt grateful to them and grateful to God for linking me to things that would help me.

Guys, in a couple weeks, you are going to see me and I am going to look like this:

 
I can't wait. Hallelujah!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 21: Give Away, oh Give Away

Give
                                  —the Little Stream

I hope that title is not misleading anyone. The only thing I am giving away today is the gift of knowledge.

But, what a gift, eh? I try.

I want to tell you a true story that I read in an Anne Lamott book (Bird by Bird) about an eight-year-old boy whose little sister was dying of leukemia. His parents told him that his sister needed a blood transfusion to save her life, and his blood would probably be compatible with hers. They asked if they could test to see if it was; he said they could. When they found out that his blood was a match, they asked if he would give his sister a pint of his blood. He said he would think about it overnight.

In the morning, he told his parents he would be willing to donate the blood. They took him to the hospital and he was placed on a gurney right next to his sister. They hooked him up to an IV, then withdrew his blood and brought it over to the girl. A few minutes later, the doctor came over to check on them, and the boy looked up at him and asked, "How soon until I start to die?"

I love that story. I love to think of that little boy who probably struggled through the night thinking about what he had to do to save his sister. I can imagine him side by side with his poor little sis, closing his eyes and thinking that he is breathing his last breaths. I love to imagine the relief he must have felt when he learned that not only would he be saving his sister, but he was going to live! Imagine how his parents would have felt hearing the story! It is one of my favorite examples of giving.

There is a quote from George Q. Cannon that I had saved on my phone and read to myself over and over again when I wanted to feel looked after:
Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing, we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are children of God and that He has actually given His angels charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.
I think that, like that 8-year-old boy, we can be angels to one another. We can take care of one another and do what we can to make each other's lives better. And like this 8-year-old boy, any amount of sacrifice on our part is rewarded even more than we can imagine.

President Spencer W. Kimball said, "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other."

And then M. Russel Ballard very helpfully told us how to do that. He said, "In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children. Then go throughout the day with your heart full of faith and love, looking for someone to help...If you do this, your spiritual sensitivities will be enlarged and you will discover opportunities to serve that you never before realized were possible."

Take care, guys. Remember the Little Stream, "There is something all can give." 


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 20: Noblesse Oblige

When my sister Heather and I were in elementary school, we had a mutual teacher with a cra-zowski laugh. It was the sound of a donkey bleating backwards: "haw haw haw," but sucked in instead of expelling the air out. Try it out now, da funk soul brother! Weird, right? 

We thought so, too, which is why we did it ALL the time, resulting in way too much giggling UNTIL we BECAME that moon-walkin' donkey.

DA-da-DUNNNN!

It's true! We laughed like that as a joke so much that it eventually came our own weird laugh. And to this day sometimes one or both of us will gasp for air recovering from some hilarious tale, and I'll think, "Aw. We learned this in school together."

You think we would have learned our lesson and refrained from experimenting with unique laughter but it didn't stop there. We tested out the hard stuff from time to time (you know who you are, Crazy Laugh McChowsend), which has caused us to both develop irregular rhythms in our organic laughter that change based on how funny something is. 

This is how Heather mostly laughs, though: "tee hee HEE HEE HEE HEE!"

So basically, you know, one of the top sounds in my UNIVERSE! It brings me so much joy to hear that wild tinkling. 

Just about every day, we have this conversation:

Me: What should I write about today, Heath?
Heath: You should write about me, of course.
Me: I think I'll write about Sting.
Heath: tee hee HEE HEE HEE HEE.

I am not going to even go into how much I adore my big sissy, because we ha'nt the time, but I will say this, she is the beard to my unibrow. She brings an inexpressible amount of joy to my life and I hope and pray that Natalie can have a sister one day.

Love you, sis. 
Thanks for the example to follow. 
And the hand-me-downs.
I love the hand-me-downs.

Heather used to have a whopper of a crush on a boy from school, for the sake of the story, we'll call him Alan Bow-Nell. We were probably around 8 and 10 respectively, and while my dreams of marriage centered around one, Bill Pullman,

(Bill, you feathered-hair demi-god)

Heather had set her sights on someone a little closer to her own age. Alan lived just houses away from Heather's best bud, Shayna.

The pain of secret longing became too much to bear for my sis, so one day while we played over at Shayna's house, she decided to leave a secret love note at his house.

We scoured clip-art for an appropriate romantic image and typed a heart-felt, fairly strait-forward message:


We printed it out on Shayna's computer, which was running out of ink, so the colors were all off, but you know what they say, a rose by any other printer still looks like love. Then, we sneaked over to Alan's house, dropped the note, and ran like the dickens.

Alan's brother was buds with Shayna's, so it wasn't unusual for him to call a few minutes after while our hearts were still pounding from the thrill of the race for romance, but he cut to the chase pretty quick--

"Hey, did Shayna just stop by our house?"

And then, like a hero, Sean responded, "I don't know, but Heather's here." 

"Well, cause I know your printer's been being weird..."


 photo Shocked_zps4c1c52b8.gif


Heather's and my eyes locked. He knows!

Things didn't end up working out between Heather and Alan Bow-Nell, but it was all for the best. She later met the love of her life, and she is probably leaning over her laptop right now remembering our escapades fondly while whispering "tee hee hee."

I love you, sister-girl and see your "tee hee," with my own my own "ha h h h h h." Thanks for brightening my life and inspiring this post. You are every good thing.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 19: True Love Brings Out the Best

Before our last move, we heard this really great talk from a girl in our old ward. I couldn't remember the subject of her talk (Maybe charity? Or forgiveness? Something along the lines of being nice), but I remember listening to it from the mother's lounge and crying like a little baby.

Sometimes a girl has to cry like a baby.

She had moved to Utah just after a huge family tragedy and had spent the few months she had been in Orem trying to heal. Her talk was chock-full of poignant quotes from all kinds of notably nice people: Mother Teresa; the Dalai Lama; prophets through the ages. I was thinking about it this morning and this one quote kept coming back to me,

"Don't judge me. You could be me in another life, in another set of circumstances."

That is so compelling to me. I think as a culture, we sometimes get hung up on judgement. We don't like to feel looked down upon or criticized. We hope when we publicly blunder that people will take a walk in our shoes and be kind. At the same time, we believe actions have consequences. We try to discern between right and wrong. We try to exercise good judgement.

And sometimes we fail. Sometimes people seem weird or smelly, and we roll our eyes away from them and make hurtful gaggy noises--an action which neither displays kindness nor good judgement. I like this little quote, because it is a plea to give the benefit of the doubt and to treat others how you would want to be treated. It is simple, and maybe clichĂ©, but good form. I like to hope that if I was being weird and/or smelly, people would try to be nice to me anyway. Maybe they would even be able to see my goodness despite those other things.

And what Sage dispensed this pearl of wisdom for our consideration tonight, Internet? Oh yes, that's right:

Sting.

Looks like I misjudged you, Desert Rain. (ah lay-ee- ah lay!) Thanks for your wisdom.


P.S. Friends. When did we stop taking pictures of giant head babies? Let's bring that good thing back.

P.P.S. Where did I lose my I [heart] Mom shirt to? Let's bring that back, too.



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 18: Life Reflects Mercy

Hello again!

I hope you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day, Saturday, Sunday, and President’s Day.

I sure did, but I am happy to write again. I was getting itchy fingers yesterday after a visit to one of my favorite places: the farm.

Tractors speak peace to my soul.

It is a funny thing writing a blog because I am telling the stories, and I have control over what I want to publish or not--and yet, I can’t tell my story without a whole host of other folks that shape my very fingerprints. I need each one of them to make my story, even if they only play a minor role in mine.

But the thing is--THEY all have THEIR own stories with their own publication rights! I don’t want to presume to tell other people’s stories for them, but sometimes we overlap in ways where it is impossible to explain the ME without the THEM.


I mention this because I didn’t ask this particular fingerprint shaper if I could write about her, but I would like to, and she is so precious to me and so delicate; I worry even this small amount of publicity would throw her stomach in knots. 

I am going to be vague to preserve her anonymity.

I am going to use pseudonyms for the same reason.

I will assume the name, “Daniel.”

No! 

But I will call her "Veronica."

I met Veronica because of her cancer.

I ran into her husband and son at a community festival. I knew of them because of church, but I think our longest conversation involved exchanging names and handshakes. I knew she was sick, and that was all, so I asked how she was doing.

“Oh she is not well,” he said, shaking his head for emphasis. “Do you know what is going on with her?” he asked.

I said I didn’t, and with the objectivity of a medical examiner he listed off a host of unfavorable symptoms that funneled down to one formidable prognosis, “Cancer,” he said. And then with finality, “This is going to be the thing that kills her.”

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked. I knew it was a long shot; I was practically a stranger, but we were linked by faith, so I thought maybe among my limited resources and experiences there was something I could bring to lift up their hands. Maybe cookies?

“Well, she could use a visitor during the day,” he offered. “She would really like that.”

So I went to their house one day, out of the blue, without calling before. Veronica opened the door and I told her I had come to visit, and she started talking with me as if we were resuming a conversation that had been cut off too soon. She had no trepidation about sharing what she was feeling about her diagnosis. She was afraid and distraught, but she was hoping for the best. She showed me craft projects she was working on, noting she couldn’t do anything that might take too long. “Just in case,” she said.

When I left, her boy ran to the screen door and called out after me, “Please come back and see us!”

And I did.

I came back often. Veronica and her boy were always excited to see me. We’d go into their living room and sit together and the boy would tell me all about cars and other things that interested him. Then we’d review the latest happenings in Veronica’s treatments before I headed out the door, where the boy would call after me, “Please come back!”

I never stayed long; Veronica didn’t like to be sick in front of people, so short visits were good visits. And I definitely didn’t do much, but I loved being there. Veronica made me feel as though my empty hands were just what she needed, like I was doing a great thing by eating her home-grown apricots and slobbering the juice on her couch. I would leave feeling bright and special. And then her boy would assure me I was needed by calling out for me to come back.

There was evidence of other friends all around their house; a loaf of fresh baked bread, a box of peaches, scads of flowers, but Veronica made me feel like my offering was just as valuable to her.

As I was thinking about her today, I kept thinking of this lyric:

"Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy Lord"

and I could see my young, scared self knocking on the door with my small, empty hands. And I could imagine Veronica filling them up with apricots. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 17: Mawaige

Hello, Lovers!

I hope that word doesn't bum you out. How do you feel if I squeeze it between "meat" and "pizza?" Better? Good, because in the interest of celebrating Valentine's Day (and because I take all weekends and holidays off--see you in four days, y'all!), let's talk about L-O-V-E.


Shortly after marrying this handsome hunk of manliness back in '09, I became increasingly aware of couples. I'd walk around BYU campus and suddenly be blinded by brilliant wedding bands and the Colgate white smiles of dreamy-eyed lovers. Oooh--there's that word again. Try sandwiching it between "chocolate" and "chocolate."

What I found distressing in the dawn of my marital life was how often movies and television shows portrayed marriage twenty years down the road. The wife was too often over-boiling spaghetti. She was unhappy but plugging through her miserable life out of a sense of duty. She felt unfulfilled and like she missed out on dreams. The husband was too often blind to his wife's needs. Frequently he was either dopey, bored, overly interested in less than favorable pursuits, or inebriated.

Then one of two things would happen in these conventional story lines: 1) One partner would suddenly have an eye opening experience, dump their less than satisfying spouse, and start a new life with a more attractive, younger looking babe, or 2) Something would shake the spouses from their malaise, and suddenly they realized they had the hots for each other once again and they would slow motion kiss to celebrate.

I started to wonder if that is what happened to married couples: you start with a blissful beginning, have some years of heartbreak and havoc somewhere around the middle, and then begin to be "cute" again by getting wrinkly enough and holding hands.

But, looking at real life, I don't think that is so.

I am not saying that life is not hard. It is. That's a given whether you are married or single.

And I am not saying, "Guys, I have been married for almost FIVE years now, so I know, like, EVERYTHING."

What I am saying is I like seeing you guys in love.

I like seeing you in love at the beginning, middle, and wrinkly hand in wrinkly hand.

I like seeing you laugh at each others jokes.

I like seeing you hang out together and enjoy each other.

I like seeing you defend each other in kind and courageous ways.

I like seeing you help each other.

I like seeing your engagement and wedding pictures.

I like that I have watched couples I have admired argue and not wondered if they were going to stay married after it. Even TV couples (way to go, Eric and Tami).

I believe that you butt heads sometimes. Maybe you ARE even butt heads sometimes. But I think even true lovers make mistakes, and get mad, and forgive each other.

I love that you feel your love is special, because I think everyone should feel that way.

You have even probably grossed me out once in a while (you have for sure, parents ;-)).

So, thank you, champions of married love. Happy Valentine's day to you all.




But mostly happy Valentine's day to you, J, because our marriage is my favorite marriage of all. I love you.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 16: Reflection and Gratitude

I used to get kind of bugged by the advice: "choose happiness." It's not that I don't agree with it, but something about it rubbed me wrong. I think it is because sometimes, in the thick of things, it can make me feel worse, like I am doing something wrong. There I am-- fighting through a pit of sludge, trying my best to make it through the day, when some well meaning acquaintance notices me down there in my misery and decides to help by calling down from the dry ground above, "Remember! You can CHOOSE to be happy!"

This is my face.

I prefer to angle the advice through the lens of gratitude. It is more empowering to me to think, "There is something here to be grateful for; I just have to find it!" than to feel, "You are supposed to be feeling happy right now, you just aren't good at it."

Today, Jason and I were out together doing errands, and he asked me in his jaunty way, "So! What did you do today?"

To which I responded in my I wish I had a sleeping bag suit to wear way, "Blergckh. Ask me another question."



And without taking one iota of offense he said, "Can you think of anything you were grateful for today?"

I thought for a moment, and I remembered pulling open the blinds this morning and looking out at the gray sky and our gray road in the gray light of the morning and turning to our driveway to see how bright and illuminated the chalk flowers Natalie and I drew yesterday looked. It was such a perfect and peaceful way to start the day. And I could have missed it! I could have let that little pearl of memory slip away if J hadn't wisely invited me to choose gratitude.

But I still want a sleeping bag suit.
     

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 15: Books on Books on Books on Books

It is really common these days to see lists on social media--10 Things to Eat Before You Die; 40 Animals That Look Like Poodles, But Aren't Poodles; The 15 Most Epic Pictures of Feet. You know 'em. You've read some of  'em.

At the beginning of the list posting trend, I just wanted to browse through every one. They are so fun and concise! It would only be about midway through a list of "33 Things only Burmese Undergrads Studying in Canada Would Understand" that I would think, "Oh, wait. This really doesn't apply to me."

I am no longer helpless to most lists. I can click or not based on my flavor of the day. Oh but there is one I simply cannot resist.

Always this one.

Almost invariably.

Book Suggestions.

Have you ever posted something akin to "I need book suggestions!" on Facebook? Well, then I have probably read your list. And reread it. And checked it days later to see if anyone else might have a straggler suggestion.

Those are my favorite lists of all.

I love books. I love that they become more than entertainment or education for people, especially good books. Good books can give you new eyes. Good books become part of you.

Here's the thing about those book lists, though--I never comment! It's not that I don't want to, or that I am not enjoying reading all of those suggestions. It makes me feel too vulnerable. What if I hand over this tiny part of myself to someone, and they hate it? What if they make me feel bad for having only read those books, without reading these other ones that are so much better?

Plus, different books go with different people. You may have a life changing experience through a 700 page memoir that I think is a snoozer, you know?

But I am brave, so I am making a tailored list for you, my friends, of some precious books that I have loved that have stayed with me.

Here it goes:

For you who are just learning to love fiction and don't know where to start:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee




There is a reason this gets put on school reading lists every year. It is a great story, great writing, and great characters. It is funny and smart and sad and forever changes the way you look at your reclusive, pale-faced neighbors.

For you who only read non-fiction:

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom



I had this one recommended to me approximately eight billion times. I think I shied away because it is non-fiction and I wasn't looking for a research project (it can take a long time to get through those books, yo!). But it is really compelling. It is heartbreaking, but miraculous, and makes me want to get on my knees and thank God for every single thing. Even fleas.

For you who want a glimpse at my soul:

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech


I read this book, then asked Jason to read it, then read it again. You know with some books you just have to get through them, even if they are driving you crazy, you have to know what happens? This isn't that at all. This is a I am enjoying every page and I want to know what happens but I would be happy to read this forever kind of book.

For you who want to be swept up in a world of magic:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling



I hope I am not the first person telling you to read Harry Potter. Read Harry Potter! And don't give me this, "I have watched the movies," nonsense. Read Harry Potter. 

For you who love intrigue and romance:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier



I wish I could forget this book so I could read it again with the same fervor as the first time. It is so creepy. But good. But I couldn't read it alone at night. But it is not scary, you know? Ah--romantic suspense, that is what it is. Thanks, book cover.

For you who love sweet and strange and mysteriously educational:

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry



Once while all my friends were out of town, I walked around our apartment and read this book out loud to myself and cried like a banshee. Then I told them about that (like a dummy) and they all laughed at me. Worth it.

For you who want to savor every page:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson



I was going to do a "if you like this, you'll probably like this" on each one of these suggestions because I have a hard time leaving out some beloved books, but I decided against it to try to be somewhat brief. I will say for this one, though, that its companion novel, Home, is wonderful. I was on a good book streak when I finished that one and couldn't read anything for a while after that, worrying it would ruin me.

Back to Gilead, though. My friend said, "Dude, reading Gilead is like laying down on the grass on a spring day." I loved that. It is true.

For you who like to wonder if they will survive:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy


Oh gosh. This book is rough. It is a cold, cruel world in there, folks. But it is a page-turner if ever there was one.

For you who want to laugh and cry on every page:

The Absolutely True Story of A Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie



I had this book recommended to me by one of my teacher friends while I was on that good book streak. I kept making Jason listen to parts that were funny, until I read him most of the book.

I should stop there because it is almost bed-time, and I want to go read my library books. They are so good. To be totally honest, I feel bad leaving books off this list. Like I betrayed them. I didn't even hit poetry or picture books. Gaaahhhh. I have to go watch that Ikea commercial about lamps. Inanimate objects don't have feelings!

I hope I hit your genre, and if I didn't let me know! Let me know all the books that you love! You know that is a list I can't resist.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Day 14: Exercise

Today, I tried to do a yoga DVD off Amazon Prime, because I try to keep myself somewhat healthy. I have been really tired lately. Sluggish zombie tired interspersed with jolts of joy or terror depending on what my daughter's up to. I think it is from lack of REM sleep for the last two years. REM sleep dies as soon as your unborn child finds the comfy bounciness of your bladder. I hear it resumes at some point in your life, but for me, it is still a dream away. A daydream I fantasize about it whilst in zombie mode.

For any health ailment, the Internet usually advises two essential cure-alls before diagnosing you with any number of maladies:

  1. Get some sleep  
  2. Exercise regularly
So while I am not quite up to speed on item one, I figure I have more control over item two, and do my best to pump irons and pound pavements. 

Natalie is my partner in crime in this arena. If I am down for push-ups, she is too. If I want to dance around to music my kitchen, she is right there with me, encouraging me to pump up the volume. She is an enthusiastic exercise buddy, typically.

Not with this yoga DVD.

I didn't notice it was for "relaxation" yoga. I saw the word beginners, and said, "Sweet. I am exhausted."

I couldn't get Natalie to climb on board.

Here is how today went:











So basically, I thought I was getting a simple yoga class, but instead I got a nap, a shower, some light reading, and a hug. 

And that's why we can count exercise as a good thing.