College years, Inspiration, Refection

Tragedy and treasure

When I went to college in the fall of 1998, I was not looking for love. In fact, I was engaged to my high school sweetheart whom I had been dating for over three years. I was at college to work hard, study long and get my degree.

But then I met someone. My first impressions of him weren’t that great, but as I got to know him I liked him more and more. At one point I called my dad and he talked to this guy (who I wasn’t even dating yet) and my dad told me, “You’re gonna marry that guy.” I thought he was crazy.

I ended up breaking up with my fiancé, because my feelings were just so confusing. I started dating this other guy and really, the rest is history. We both lived in the dorms (that’s how we met) and when it came time to move out for summer, we moved in together. He was going to go visit his high school friends for the summer, but then I said “How about we move in together?” And he agreed.

Things were great. We both worked hard to pay the rent and all the bills. We spent all our non-working time together. He met my parents and my sisters, making the five hour drive over the Cascade mountains with me.

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For my New Year resolution in 2000 (new year, new millennium!) I wanted to start going to church. I had stopped attending church regularly about five years before then, but I had always felt guilty about it. He decided to go with me. I thought this was really strange, since guys didn’t like church, or so it seemed to me. He actually went first. I have always struggled with getting up early, so he went without me one week. He came home an hour later talking about how neat it was. After that, we went together and the missionaries started teaching him.

We were getting integrated into the church family when tragedy struck. We were actually on a road trip to see his family in California before school started back up again in the fall of 2000, when I received a call that my mother was in critical condition after a car accident. My sister and I would be the executors of the estate, so we needed to get there as soon as possible.

In the middle of the night, with the help of his aunt and uncle, we left our truck in California and flew to Spokane via Seattle. There are snippets of memory left about this time, but I remember so little. My world had been hit with the first real earthquake it would know. I do remember as we were driving into Spokane from the airport that it was all sunny except for one rain cloud over Spokane. I thought the heavens were weeping for my mom.

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Me, my Mom, my sister. Circa 1984

My mom did pass away after my sister and I, in conference with our family, decided to take her off life support. It was a lot for a barely- 20 year old to handle. Funeral decisions, going through her possessions, closing bank accounts and other personal things. All while my family was hurting and feuding amongst each other.

This guy, who would become my husband a year later, was there. He didn’t shy away. He didn’t hang back. He was my rock and my soft place. When my head was full of tears, his was thinking straight.

After three weeks away from Seattle, I needed to return to start my next quarter of school. And honestly it was a relief. Just school and work and regular life was a better alternative to the grief I was trying to process. I do remember not being myself and crying so easily.

This experience easily could have driven us apart. We weren’t even married. This ugly, vulnerable side of me could have scared him off. But it didn’t. What is it they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This was so true for us back then and it remains so to this day.

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Celebrating our 15th anniversary in 2016

Some of our family asked why get married so young? Why not wait? But we had already been together for 2.5 years and we knew it was right for us. We got home from our honeymoon to Oahu, Hawaii late on September 10th, 2001. We woke to a phone call asking if we were ok. “Why wouldn’t we be?” “Turn on the TV.”

While thousands of personal tragedies were underway as the world watched, we had just begun our marriage together. We had already dealt with personal tragedy, and we did it together, coming out stronger on the other side. We still choose to allow the disappointments and hurt in our lives to bind us closer instead of splitting us apart. That is the best part of my marriage: it is built on a sure foundation of trust and love.

 

So on this September 11th, I remember how tragedy can turn to treasure if you let it.

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Germany, Inspiration

Managing your mind

We go home on October 10th. We will have been in Germany for 368 days. For the most part things have been fairly smooth sailing. It has definitely been a learning curve to figure out how life works in a foreign language.

At home, we rented our house to some friends of a friend. That has been a rocky relationship the entire time. Long story made short: even thought we were renting to them below market rate, they really couldn’t afford our house. We were hoping renting to someone we had a relationship with in real life would mean that they wouldn’t leave us high and dry while we were 5,000 miles away in Europe.

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But it would not be. We told them as soon as we knew, over three months ahead of time, that we would be moving back. They decided to just leave that week and not pay us the last month’s rent. So now our house is empty but, because we move back in only three months, we won’t be able to find another renter.

Before I learned about managing my mind, this situation easily would have sent me into a spiral of worry and stress. Can we find temporary renters? Will the house be ok? Will the renters pay us the money they owe? Who will help us do a walk-through and get the keys back? Should have, could have, didn’t…

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I like to think that managing my thoughts has really brought me to a mental space where I am just not worrying or stressing about the whole thing. It just is what it is. I have little control over how this situation plays out, and worry won’t help. I’ve done what I can do. And I have decided NOT to worry or stress. I have faith that it will all turn out just fine in the end.

This is the power of managing your mind. Choose your thoughts carefully. Think about how you want to feel and what thought will get you there. It seems simple, but as has been a mantra for me lately, simple does not equal easy.

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Being aware of and choosing my thoughts gets me excited! It gives me a sense of control over my life that I have never had before. True, I may not be able to control the situation, but I can control my attitude and behavior toward it. And now I finally understand HOW to do that. I can write my own story and make it a good one!

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Can you share an experience in which you managed your thoughts or emotions? I would love to be inspired by you!

 

Inspiration

You are valuable

I feel like my God is telling me in multiple different ways lately that one of the big problems in the world today (my world and the world at large) is a lost sense of self-worth. Through a series of podcasts and books, I have had my own view of myself bolstered. I am slowly getting back to seeing myself as valuable no matter what. It has made a huge change in my life and now I just want to shout from the rooftops so everyone can feel this way!

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One of the most basic doctrines in the Church I am a member of, is the idea that we are all children of God. We teach our young children that they are Heavenly Father’s son or daughter and He loves them. If God is a king then we are royalty. Nothing we do or say, no mistake we make can take this status away.

But somehow people aren’t internalizing the memo. What does being a child of God mean? How does this knowledge affect your life?

For me, the bottom line is that we are valuable no matter what. Our value doesn’t change  on our accomplishments (that’s an ouch for me!), or on how much people love us. It doesn’t change because we have a job, or because we lost a job. It doesn’t change as we age. It doesn’t change according to the color of our skin. It doesn’t depend on how much money or possessions we have. Knowledge doesn’t make us more valuable. The circumstances in our lives can not increase or decrease our value.

We are worth so much simply because we are.

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It is a freeing thought. Once we see ourselves as inherently having value, we can stop searching for how to prove ourselves. We can stop needing other people to love us or see us or pat us on the back. And when you don’t need to prove yourself, you can start helping others. We can let go of any competition or jealousy or hatred, and we can just love. Once we get to know ourselves and love ourselves, we can more easily love others.

It such a simple idea, but also completely profound.

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Do you see yourself as valuable despite the circumstances you are in? What is holding you back?

Inspiration

Personal Happiness Hack #2

You can only control yourself.

You can’t control your kids, or your spouse, or your co-workers, or boss, or that annoying neighbor. Ultimately, they can do what they want. There may be consequences to their actions, but they get to choose the actions.

You get to control your actions. In one way, not being able to control anyone but yourself can seem limiting. But if you think about it, it’s actually quite freeing. You can’t control anyone except yourself, so why even spend energy trying? Do what you do. Focus on you. Be the best version of yourself. Always look for ways to be better.

This is not selfish. This is simply preservation of energy, a way to focus on what is important in your life. Doing what you do and focusing on yourself can mean figuring out your meaning and purpose in life and then doing it, actually following through. That could be a very unselfish thing. All I am saying is to not spend time worrying or stressing about what everyone else around you is doing or not doing when you have no control over them.

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If you want something– go make it happen. Don’t wait for someone else to give it to you. Don’t relinquish your control to someone else. Use what you can control to your advantage.

Your life can be much happier if you can truly understand and internalize this idea. And you know what else? The people around you will probably be happier too, which might make you even happier!

 

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What situation or person in your life have you decided to stop wasting energy trying to control?

Reading and Listening

Self-improvement

I am one of those self-improvement junkies. I’ve loved personality frameworks: Meyers-Briggs (I’m as ISFJ), Enneagram (I am a 1), Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies (I’m an obliger), etc, etc. I think it comes from this innate desire to know how I can be the best me possible. Often I equate being the best me  to productiveness. But I am learning now that being productive does not give me my value. I am valuable because I am me.

Now, that is not to say that I shouldn’t try to become a better person. In fact, I think this is the crux of life. We should all try to become better people every day. I personally feel that knowing yourself is a stepping stone to doing this.

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The past year has been a growing experience for me. I have finally set some new goals for myself after reading, pondering, and searching for many months. These goals will take my life in a new direction and I am so excited to start on them.

Just like I mentioned in my last post, I am learning the power of the perspective I take in my mind. My life story can be interpreted many different ways depending on one’s perspective. I really want to have a positive perspective, so I am doing work on my mind to get there.

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As part of this journey, I have assigned myself a long list of books to read. I recently started Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’ve already learned a ton and I am only barely to the part of the book that starts talking about the actual habits themselves.

I’ve been listening to Jody Moore with Bold New Mom and Brooke Castillo’s podcast The Life Coach School. Both podcasts have opened my mind to a whole new world of possibilities and how to by happy with my life.

I will be discussing the books I read and the podcasts I listen to and applying them to my own life. I’d love some discussion– there is only so much my family can handle of me talking about all my new insights! If I pique your curiosity, make a comment so we can discuss together. Have you read Stephen Covey’s popular book?

A journey is always better with a friend. And a story is always better with great characters who somehow grow or change. Come join me!

Background

A Tale of Two Women

Let me tell you a story. It’s a tale of two women.

The first woman was born to teenaged parents. She was extremely shy and usually only had one friend at a time. Her parents were alcoholic drug addicts and violent toward each other. There was always yelling in her house growing up and money was always tight. For four years, she lived way out in the boonies without running water or electricity. She was close to her paternal grandparents who provided some relief from a difficult home life. When she was twelve years old, her uncle sexually abused her. She tried to tell her mother, but she didn’t know how. Later, her maternal grandmother told her sexual abuse was just a fact of life and wasn’t something that should be spoken of. This woman thrived in high school where good grades boosted her self esteem. She lived for good grades. She started dating when she was fourteen, lost her virginity when she was sixteen and was engaged to be married to her high school sweetheart. Just before her sophomore year of college, a good friend died a tragic death. One month later her mother died after being in a car accident. Then a month after that, her grandfather passed away. During the aftermath of losing her mother, her father went to prison and her little sister was put into foster care after being sexually abused by the same uncle. After living with her for a year, her little sister chose to go back into the foster care system, and years later they still do not have a good relationship. She became estranged from her mother’s sister, who she was close to as a child. Transition to motherhood was difficult for this woman, and while she loves her three children, she often wonders if she is doing enough to be a good mother.  In more recent years, this woman has learned to enjoy life, relying on her faith, despite her unhappy history. She is now in her late 30s and feels like she has lost herself and searches for her purpose in life.

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Woman Number Two grew up in the same small town as the first. She had a loving mother who read to her constantly and worked hard to make life as good as possible. Her father was a hard worker who did his best to provide for their family. When he wasn’t at work he was whistling, singing and watching football. She was very close to her two sisters as well as her extended family who lived nearby. Her grandparents introduced her to the Church, which has become a defining factor in her life. Her family enjoyed much time in the outdoors swimming, fishing, camping, biking and hiking. Because she was a hard worker all throughout school, she was the first person in her family to go to college. She also enjoyed many different extra-curricular activities and learning opportunities outside of school. She graduated with a degree in four years and was married to the love of her life during that time. She realized her dream of becoming a stay-at-home mom to three smart, strong, fun children. For five years, she homeschooled her children, reinvigorating her love of learning. She has been able to travel throughout the United States, and recently moved to Germany, visiting many different cities Europe with her family. She is also now in her late thirties, planning and dreaming about her future.

Which one would you rather be?

I’d rather be Woman Number Two. But truthfully? I am both. These stories are both about me. The first one focuses on the negative things that have happened to me and the second, of course, focuses on the positive. Isn’t it incredible that just a difference of perspective can change a story so drastically? What story do you tell about yourself?

Background

Happy Birthday Mama

I thought I would be morose today. It’s my mom’s birthday. She would have been 54 years old. And she has been gone for almost seventeen years.

My mother-in-law is also gone as of nine years ago. And her birthday was three days ago. And yesterday was Mother’s Day.

Yeah, mid-May has been a tough time time of year for me.

But today I woke up and felt… good. For the first time in a long time. I am considering it a birthday gift from my Mama. Even though it’s her birthday, she is sending me a gift.

Background, Middle and High School, The Early Years

Football.

I am watching This is Us. We are on the episode when the Pittsburg Steelers win the Super Bowl. The conversation about their Dads watching football reminds me of my own Dad. He was a die-hard San Diego Chargers fan.

Professional football provided the background sound of my childhood. Sometimes it got annoying, having to make sure we weren’t blocking my Dad’s line of sight to the TV or being too loud. Actually, I don’t think he ever minded our noise. I don’t know that he even  paid attention to the commentators, because he sure was in his own world when watching football.

I remember one time he told us kids that his parents didn’t let him play sports when he was in school. He really wanted to, but they couldn’t afford it and didn’t think it was an appropriate use of time when there were chores to be done. My dad was the youngest of seven children.

When I was fifteen years old, I had had enough with football. This thing that dominated every weekend between August and February every year, I was done with it. So I asked my dad to explain the game. Naturally. Even though I had fifteen years of football watching experience behind me, I did not get it. (My conservative estimates put that at roughly 500 hours of football!) He explained the basics of the game, and it made my TV viewing experiences much more enjoyable. And then my senior year of high school I was a football cheerleader (don’t read into that too much). For a while there I really loved football.

These days I am the wife of a former player and mom of a future football player, and I completely understand why parents would not allow their son to play football. The fear of motherhood is not to be messed with.

I am at a point in my story that I am not sure how to explain football and my love-hate relationship with the sport. Do I embrace its influence in my life, or do I delve into creating some sort of symbolism with it? When we tell the stories of our lives, how much do we emphasize the positive and minimize the negative? Isn’t it funny that in the current moment, the opposite is true? We tend to emphasize the negative and ignore the positive. So I guess I will just leave it at that. Football: a neutral force in my life, both positive and negative, a balancing and evocative trigger of memories.

Baby-making years, Background, Germany, Homeschooling years

In Retrospect

My husband says I am never happy. Of course that’s not entirely true, but what he really means is that I am never content. I am always looking to the next thing. After we were married and still newlyweds, I really wanted a baby. Even though we were young and both finishing college, it seemed like the thing that would make my life perfect. Later, when our beautiful little girl came along, the transition to full-time motherhood was really hard. I had spent my entire life getting good grades and proving myself to others through academic performance and all of a sudden there was no one giving me that A+. That combined with my ingrained desire to be The Best was the perfect storm for a huge hit to my self-esteem. Looking back, I think that was the beginning of me feeling really lost in my life.

Of course raising a baby keeps you pretty busy, so I didn’t really think about it all that much. It’s only now in retrospect that I can see what was happening. And I do think I was a pretty good mom, but one with really low self-esteem. The things of life took over: we bought and sold a house, we moved states, bought another house, had another baby, and then a third right on the heels of the second. Those years are still a blur in my mind. My second and third children are only 21 months apart and there are days (or weeks?) that I just don’t remember at all. The status of BUSY kept me from figuring out why I didn’t ever feel content.

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When that third baby came along, my oldest was starting kindergarten and there is a huge learning curve in that whole rigamarole. When she went to first grade, it all just felt wrong. I loved the preschool years, but sending my kid off to school for 7 hours a day only for her to return home hungry, tired and grumpy left a bad taste in my mouth. So, for that reason and many others, I started down the path of homeschooling my kids.

This seemed to be an almost-thriving part of my life. I had always pretended to be a teacher as a kid, and it just came naturally to me. It was still really difficult, especially with a preschooler and a baby underfoot as well as a second grader. But I liked it! It gave me a sense of doing good and spending my time well the way nothing else since becoming a mom had.

Five years of that went by and suddenly our family was faced with an opportunity to move to Germany temporarily. What homeschooling family doesn’t take advantage of that? “It’ll be a grand adventure! We can learn another language! What a great bonding time!” we said. The pickle was that homeschooling is illegal in Germany. We are not a military family so if we took that plunge, it would shift our lifestyle tremendously. “But it is only temporary, two years max.”

And here we are, seven months into our stint in Germany. The kids, especially the oldest who was more than ready to dive back into public school already, are doing well and love their school. It keeps them busy.

But me? Well, not so much.  I get up with the kids and get them off to school, making them breakfast and lunches before they stampede out the door at 7:15 am. While my husband goes off to work all day supporting teams both here in Germany and in the U.S. eight time zones away, I am home.

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Because I am not accountable to anyone for how I spend my time, I have gotten really lazy. This makes me feel very guilty. I have a hard time not being productive with every minute of my time. And since the dust has settled on our international move, the silence of my days has been very loud. I am not busy. I don’t have friends or extended family vying for my time. We rent a house so we are not responsible for home improvement projects. I am involved in some church responsibilities, but it doesn’t take much of my time. I don’t work because I don’t speak the language. I actually thought I would spend this time getting some years-in-the-making projects done, but I don’t work on them.

Why not? I am living someone else’s dream life– seems like I should be able to write a novel or something. But instead I sleep a lot and pretty much just figure out what is for dinner and make sure all the dishes and laundry are getting done. I don’t even watch TV or movies; they make me feel like I am wasting my time- oh the irony! And I just feel…. lost. It’s like all the silence has made me realize that my soul hungers for something more. I am missing the passion and purpose in my life.

I have wondered if I am suffering from depression. It is a thought that has come up in my mind regularly over the years. I have lost my ability to feel happy for more than a fleeting moment. I am often angry. I remind myself of my mother and in many ways that scares me. I have no doubt that she was depressed.

I don’t want mental health issues to be a part of my story, but sometimes we don’t get a say in how the story of our lives unfold. And sometimes the protagonist in the story only has their own demons to overcome. I am certain there will be a time when this chapter is  behind me. Today I am trying to make it so.