The Treachery of Politics

Many years ago, my parents lived in a little town called Wallsburg. At the time, they had nine children. Dad was a busy man. He taught school, drove school bus, had a small farm, was the Bishop of our ward and served on the town council.

Mom was a busy woman. With nine children, there was always laundry to be done, bread to be made, dinner to cook and dishes to wash in addition to being Primary President. Because Dad was the bishop and on the town council, there were many nights when Mom had to put all nine children to bed--helping brush teeth, read stories and tuck us in. We didn't necessarily want to go to bed, so getting us to stay in bed until we actually fell asleep was a daunting task.

At a town council meeting, Dad learned about an upcoming state delegate election. He was enjoying his service in our small city government and thought it might be exciting to move on to bigger and better things. State delegate from our little town could be a good step forward. He told Mom of the opportunity and in spite of her concerns that he was already too busy, he decided to run.

Cows far outnumbered people in Wallsburg and of the 300 citizens, there weren't very many who were interested in who was their state delegate. I'm not sure there was much campaigning by Dad or his opponent, because the night of the election, there were eleven registered voters who entered the booth.

Dad was a shoo-in. Of the eleven voters, six were from Dad's family. There were Dad and Mom, Dad's parents, and two of his brothers. There were only five other voters. Gleefully, Dad's contingency, watched and waited as the eleven votes were counted. When the winner was announced, it was Dad's opponent with six votes.

Dad and his family left the town hall with shock registering on their faces. How was this possible? They walked silently a half block to Grandpa and Grandma's house, where they stood in the front yard, mystified.

"What happened?" Dad asked.

"Who didn't vote for you?" Grandpa wondered.

"I didn't," Mom courageously confessed.

"Why not?" Dad was incredulous.

"I need you at home once in awhile. The kids need to see more of you."

I'm not sure what the rest of Dad's family thought. My guess is that they had some pretty lively conversations about the election and Mom's treacherous betrayal.

I guess Mom never had dreams of being the first lady. Dad never ran for office again.

The Importance of Kindness - Even When It's Hard

Friday one of my daughters screamed at me and told me to shut up, before retreating angrily to the solitude of her bedroom. The outburst was completely unexpected and out of character. I sat stunned and hurt, wondering how my simple questions about how school was going warranted such a reaction.

My first impulse was to follow her to the bedroom and berate her for her disrespectful behavior. After all, I didn't deserve this kind of treatment. I'd done nothing wrong. Almost as quickly as I was filled with indignation, I thought of Molly, and immediately I knew anger wasn't what my daughter needed.

Molly was our purebred collie. When I was seventeen, my Dad was a realtor in Missouri. He sold a farm to a family who bred collies. It was a lengthy and complicated real estate transaction and the family appreciated Dad's hard work helping the deal go through. As a token of their appreciation, they gave Dad two purebred collies--Molly and Gabe.

They were beautiful dogs that looked just like Lassie. We all loved them. They were gentle and patient, never getting testy with the little kids no matter how much hugging, petting, brushing, and playing they were forced to endure. We created a comfortable home for them at the back of our carport and they became part of the family.

A year or two later, I was backing out of the yard to go to work. I was always very careful to watch out for little children, but I didn't see Molly. I just felt a sickening thunk when the back tire ran over her. I got out of the car to see Molly yelping and slowly dragging herself away from the back tires as I screamed for help and sobbed at what I'd done.

She was badly hurt. She could hardly move. Thirteen year-old Bruce came running to her aid and gently picked her up. Molly lashed out in pain and bit Bruce as he carefully carried her to her bed. He didn't drop her. He didn't get angry with her. He didn't yell at her. He tenderly laid her down, speaking softly and soothingly, then without even acknowledging his own injury, he stroked her head and calmed her.

Molly died a few minutes later. Then, while everyone cried, Mom took care of Bruce's injuries. Molly had never demonstrated any inclination to hurt anyone in the family and was only driven to behave like that by extreme pain.

Our feelings are crazy things and sometimes our reactions to those feelings don't seem to make sense. We cry when we're sad, but we also cry when we're happy and even sometimes when we're angry. Sometimes we lash out in anger and sometimes we lash in the same way because of pain. Sometimes our hearts ache with love and longing and sometimes they ache with sadness or hurt.

Friday my daughter lashed out at me and once we sat down and talked it over, with love and patience and tears, I learned about the hurtful and hard things she was enduring. She wasn't mad at me. She was just in pain.

I wish I always handled situations like this right. Think how much better things would be if we always reacted calmly and kindly and with love, getting to the bottom of the hurt or the stress or difficulty that is causing someone to act badly toward us. Too many times we quickly jump into the fray, making a bad situation worse, and heaping more pain on someone already suffering. Imagine how sad it would have been if Bruce had dropped Molly in anger or yelled at her as she lay there dying.

I know that sometimes people just behave badly. But I also think that more often than not, when someone lashes out at us unfairly, they are hurting and need our love and kindness more than ever.

"Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution." ~Kahlil Gibran

Care to Join Me for some Cereal? (Milk is optional)

After reading this funny post I started thinking about my relationship with cold cereal.

Cold cereal was a very rare thing when I was growing up. With thirteen people to feed every morning, cold cereal was just too expensive. Most mornings consisted of Malt-O-Meal with brown sugar and butter or an egg with toast and hot cocoa. They were delicious breakfasts and more work for mom, but television marketing had worked it's magic and I wanted something else--that sweet and tasty morning meal advertised by Tony the Tiger, the big scary Fruit Loops bird, the silly Rabbit and Mikey, the lucky guinea pig brother who inadvertantly got what I always wanted.

Cold cereal.

My childhood memories of actually having cold cereal consisted of family vacations, when we'd splurge on the variety pack because if you opened them just right, the bag inside could be used as a bowl, Mom's home-made grapenuts (they really were homemade and toasted in the oven, not found in the woods by Euell Gibbons) and Sunday evenings for about a year when our family had church from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (my dad was the ward clerk and had to take care of tithing after church, so we usually pulled into home around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m.) Those Sunday evenings were thrilling because we got all varieties of Chex and shredded wheat (not the frosted kind, but the big bale-of-hay-looking biscuits) with bananas sliced on top.

When I grew up and went away to college, my love affair with cereal really began. I tried them all but my favorites were Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. Now there are some grown up choices! Now that I'm really grown up, I favor the more "adult" kinds of cold cereal--you know, the Honey Bunches of Oats and Frosted Mini Wheats kind, although I do still enjoy a good bowl of Lucky Charms when they're on sale.

Because all good parents want more for their children (or because I don't want to cook breakfast in the morning) my kids usually have cold cereal in the morning. On rare occasions, it's broken up with scrambled eggs, Malt-O-Meal, or oatmeal. We still have waffles, pancakes or a good omelette. We just do that for an easy dinner a few times a month.

My kids will probably be more like my Mom and will feed their kids a hot breakfast--because all parents want more for their kids!

My Evening with Five For Fighting

(Top left: I begin my 3 1/2 hour wait in line. Three of those hours were spent alone. Top right: My reserved table. Bottom left: John Ondrasik singing to me (all right, he was singing to everyone) Bottom right: John Ondrasik telling me I'm the most awesome fan he has and someday he'll write a song especially for me. Just kidding, but we did have a nice little visit.)

Every once in awhile, luck tosses a good day your way. She tossed me one today.

In 2004, my sister and I were working on some sewing projects together. Because we both had little children, most of our sewing was done between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. We often had music videos playing in the background. One video that we often saw was "100 Years" by Five for Fighting. We fell in love with the song. I've been a fan ever since.

So Tuesday, as I was listening to my Five for Fighting playlist, I decided to check and see if tickets were on sale for the accoustic concert we'd heard about. Much to my surprise, the concert was going to be Wednesday evening and it was free. I called the venue and learned that there was limited seating remaining and it would be first come first served, with the doors opening at 6 p.m.

I wanted to see the concert. Worried that we wouldn't get in, I arrived at the venue at 2:40 p.m. expecting a line to have already started forming. None had. I pulled up a little cafe chair and sat down by the front door, my book and cell phone in hand and started waiting.

This is where luck began to smile on me.

The van for the radio station sponsoring the concert arrived an hour after me. (I was still alone in line.) After the van had hit a flower pot and a tree trying to park just right on the sidewalk, I stepped up to help guide the driver into the right spot. He thanked me and went inside the venue. I returned to my chair and my book.

A few minutes later, the door opened and the grateful radio man said, "Since you're the first one in line, here's a wristband to get you into the Meet and Greet after the show." I thanked him and excitedly returned to my book.

Across the street, an enormous line was forming--four or five deep and stretching all the way down the block and around the corner. They were there for Snoop Dog and Ice Cube, who were performing at the Gallivan Center. I continued to sit alone in my line.

A young couple walked down the sidewalk, several feet apart and the boy yelled to his girlfriend, "If you're not going to hold my hand, you're not going to be my girl." She scooted over and held the charming boys hand.

Twenty feet away, a group of five loud men were sitting at cafe tables drinking and cursing. A police officer stopped and began talking to them. They got louder and more obnonxious. Before the police officer left, two of the five had been cited for disorderly conduct.

I heard some faint music and turned around in my chair to look through the window. For several minutes I watched John Ondrasik (who is Five for Fighting) doing a sound check at the piano and then on the guitar. He went through two songs. I took a blurry picture through the window. At one point, he looked my way and I could tell he'd noticed me. I turned around feeling rather stalkerish and returned to my book.

About three minutes later, my luck when through the roof, when the door opened again and the owner stepped out. "John said he wants you on the front row, so I need your name and the number that will be with you."

JOHN WANTED ME IN THE FRONT ROW!!! To be honest with you, I couldn't decide if I was more excited or more embarrassed to have been caught watching him from my chair outside the venue at the front of the line that hadn't even started yet. I decided to be more excited.

Finally, a line began forming, my brother and sister-in-law arrived, then finally my husband stepped off Trax. The doors opened, we showed our ID and we were led by the owner to a table on the front row that said "Reserved for Karey White." The place did fill up. I guess 250 seats go quickly.

We enjoyed a good dinner and then a wonderful show filled with amazing music and great stories. We were so close we could almost touch him. A highlight was an acapella version of his song "Hope," which was inspired. He was patriotic, charming, funny, entertaining and real. He was also pretty cute.

After the show, I was one of about 15 people who got to go have a picture taken with him and get a signed photo. When it was my turn, he said, "Thanks for waiting out there." I felt a little silly but told him I'd wanted to be sure we got into the show. I told him I appreciated how outspoken he is about his love of America and he said, "It's the greatest country on earth." His enthusiasm made him even cuter.

It was a lovely, lucky evening and I'm an even bigger fan now!

Some Book Recommendations

There is nothing quite like losing yourself in a good book. The shelves of the bookstores and libraries are full of options. I love recommendations so I know my money and time is being well-spent. Here are four books that were recommended to me. I enjoyed them and feel comfortable forwarding the recommendations.

By the way, September 7 is National Buy A Book Day. We're being asked to help the booksellers, authors, and publishers keep the business alive and well by buying one regular-priced book from any book-seller on that day. So if you feel inspired, you might want to buy one of these to read. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini has managed again to transport me to a part of the world I know very little about. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" was recommended to me by my sister. I had it sitting in my stack of books to read for about six months and even though I thought "The Kite Runner" was amazing, I had trouble starting this book. It might be because "The Kite Runner" was so heartbreaking that I wasn't sure I was ready for that again.

Be warned, this book will also break your heart. I cried. But I was also inspired by the incredible strength of the women in this book. Khaled Hosseini's beautiful writing and respect for these women really moved me. I know there are some (Mom) who have had trouble getting past the cruelty and brutality of this story, but for those of you that can, the courage and unselfishness of these women's lives just might change your life. I loved it."Dismissed with Prejudice" by Christopher Meyerhoeffer

This book was recommended by my friends Melanie and Tracey. I worked at a criminal law office for a few years and find well-written legal thrillers to be fascinating. This book was. Nick comes home from trying a case to find his wife murdered and his daughter missing. From the first page to the last, it moved quickly and seamlessly. It was unpredictable and entertaining, with action, suspense and intelligence all there. I don't like to read a book whose author thinks I'm stupid and this book allows you to think and keeps you on your toes.

I hope this ends up being part of a series because I really want to know what happens to Nick and his daughter.

"Moonraker's Bride" by Madeleine Brent

This book was recommended by my Mom and my sister. It transports you back to 19th century China and England and was delightful to read. It was part history, part romance and part thriller and it was all woven together with great writing.

The heroine, Lucy, is as likeable as they come. She's innocent, charming, funny and smart. The story was involved but unmuddled and I had trouble putting the book down. I liked it so much I ordered two other books by Madeleine Brent. I hope I enjoy them as much.

"The Diary of Mattie Spenser" by Sandra Dallas

This was a wonderful book, also recommended by my Mom and sister. It was a startling depiction of life on the homesteading prairie told from the thoughts and experiences shared in the diary of Mattie Spenser, a sympathetic, strong and likeable woman.

I found Mattie to be so relatable and interesting. Her struggles to build a family and a home no matter the hardships were inspiring.

I have to admit that this book challenged my sense of right and wrong a little bit. Mattie faced a moral dilemma that would have been daunting for just about anyone and I struggled with her choice. It made me think and examine the rationalizations I found myself willing for her to make. This is such a well-written and thought-provoking book. I am anxious to read more by Sandra Dallas.

The Price of Beauty

Some years ago, our local community theater announced auditions for Annie. My daughters both wanted to try out and prepared an adorable rendition of "Swing on a Star."

When we arrived at the theater, I was told that I wouldn't get to watch their auditions unless I was also auditioning. I explained I had nothing prepared, but was assured that a simple rendition of "Happy Birthday" would be enough. I went into the audition and with no small amount of pride, watched my girls perform their hearts out. They were amazing. Then I stepped up and stupidly sang "Happy Birthday." It was extremely embarrassing, but totally worth it to be able to watch my girls.

Two days later, call-backs were posted. Just as I'd expected, the girls were called back, but much to my surprise--dismay even--so was I. We all ended up being in the play together, the girls as orphans (with speaking and solo singing parts!) and me as one of the Boylen sisters. In the part of a Boylen sister, I was supposed to be one of four glamorous but ditzy sisters who perform on the radio. The director expanded the part of the Boylen sisters and had us sing a half-hour set of Christmas songs before the play and during the intermission. I was much more on display than I'd ever dreamed of being.

Performing was new and somewhat awkward to me. This feeling was heightened by the fact that--how to put this delicately--I was the plumpest of the sisters, and felt oh, so self-counscious about it.

Desperately wanting to do something about it, I asked myself "What did women in the 1930s do to look trimmer? They wore a girdle--a steel-belted, suck you in in all the right places girdle. I began shopping for one and you know what, they just don't make them like they used to. Either because she felt sorry for me, or because she hated me, the sales clerk at a store devoted to women's unmentionables, suggested that I get Ace bandages and cinch myself in that way.

The night of the dress rehearsal came and I created a pretty convincing waist with my ace bandages. I was happy with the results as I looked in the mirror, even thinking to myself that this might be a little trick I'd want to try for other occasions.

About half-way through the performance, I could feel the bandages shifting. They were getting pretty uncomfortable. In fact, they stinkin' hurt. About three-fourths of the way through the performance, I began to feel sick--light-headed, dizzy, clammy and a little nauseated.

My sister, who was also playing a Boylen sister, suggested that I might feel better if I took off the ace bandages. We went into the deserted theater bathroom to remove them. I was miserable. My face was pale and chalky and the room was literally spinning. While leaning against the sink for support, I removed the suit jacket. We were stunned at what we saw. The Ace bandages had all slipped and were in one super-tight band around my waist. I looked like link sausages. No wonder I felt sick. I was cutting myself in half!

I abandoned the whole girdle/Ace bandage idea and for the three weeks of the show I tried to ignore that fact that I wasn't as thin as the other Boylen sisters. The price of an instantly thin waist was just too high.

The Way

I love words. I love it when eloquent people put words together in a way that touches my heart and my spirit. This talk did that for me two years ago.

Elder Lawrence Corbridge spoke in the October, 2008 conference and while there were many great talks, this one enthralled me--from his beautiful language to his inspiring message to his passionate delivery.

This is the last part of the talk. It's worth it to listen to the first part as well, but I loved the words of encouragement to ALL of us. No one is incapable. No one is doomed to fail. No one is so far off track that they can't be saved by the Savior, Jesus Christ. What a wonderful reminder told in the most beautiful language.

I hope you love the message as much as I did and still do. Have a beautiful Sunday.

Don't Hold Your Baby

(Me with my oldest two children. My boy left for college yesterday.)

Years ago I worked at a large legal office. I was newly married and looking forward to being a mother. As I ate lunch in the breakroom one day, I visited with one of the secretaries who was due to have a baby in just a couple of weeks. She was telling me of her excitement that the woman who babysat her four year-old had agreed to babysit her new baby after her six weeks of maternity leave were over. But the babysitter had one condition that my co-worker had to agree to. "Promise you won't hold the baby very much during your maternity leave. I can't take on a baby that's used to being held all the time."

I was horrified. "You're okay with that?" I asked.

"Of course. I can totally understand how she wouldn't want to be tied down to holding a baby all day. I'll just make sure she's used to sitting in her car seat."

My heart ached for her baby. And for her. I'm the oldest of eleven children and all my life I'd loved holding babies. I couldn't understand how this mother would be satisifed not holding her baby very much or having a babysitter who didn't want to hold her baby. The babysitters' requirement would have immediately sent me looking for other childcare options.

Mothering is so full of hard things--labor and delivery, losing your girlish figure, puke and poop, fevers and teething, sleepless nights, tears, owies, worries about school and friends, waiting up for teenagers, helping with homework, teaching about life, integrity, the birds and the bees, struggling to have family night and scripture reading and family prayer with crazy, mixed-up schedules, load after load after load of laundry, the ache of missing children when they go to school or on their mission, worrying that they'll date and marry the right kind of person--the list literally goes on and on.

Because mothering is so hard, we need to relish the beautiful things so we'll remember them when our children grow up and leave home. I'm glad I enjoyed the sweet feeling of my sleeping babies snuggled into that perfect spot between my shoulder and my neck. I'm thankful I remember the precious outline of a little ear imprinted on my arm after I'd taken a nap with one of my babies sleeping on my arm. I love remembering the way my little girl would sit beside me, holding onto my upper arm with both of her hands because she liked how cool it felt.

I smile when I think about the twiddling of thumbs that is our special signal that we loved each other when we were too far apart to say the words--across a room, in a spelling bee or a ball game or a piano recital. I loved the smirk on my teenage boy's face as he sat on the stand, waiting to give a talk and I twiddled our message. We both knew he was too old for such silly things, but he did it back anyway. I love being the hand that my children squeeze when they're getting a shot. I love being there when they need to snuggle after a bad dream, a disappointing day, or just because we're watching "Jeopardy" together.

All these beautiful things and many others more than make up for the hard things.And let me just say that I loved holding my babies and no one could have convinced me that I shouldn't.

Now I'm shedding tears about my children growing up. As my oldest moved away yesterday, I felt profoundly grateful that he's going away knowing how much I love him and how much I like him, how much I'll miss him and how thankful I am that I was the lucky woman chosen to be his mom. He knows how I feel about him and that knowledge can give him confidence as he faces the world.

A friend of mine who just sent her last child to college sent me a quote that I think is beautiful.

"Don't worry if you shed a tear. That is good. Means you love him and will miss him. Means the end of a beautiful season in your life... or a stepping stone to the next season. The really sad cases, are the women who don't miss their children. Who don't miss mothering."

Wedding Advice - Part 2 (The Worst Advice)

The worst piece of wedding advice we recieved is simple.

Never go to bed angry.

I'm convinced that this bit of advice was either given by people who are now divorced or by people who are really bad fighters. You know the kind. The couple who consider a discussion on who will do the dishes an actual argument, the people who never raise their voices and avoid confrontation at all costs. These people just aren't good fighters.

Great fighters know this is really bad advice. Those of us who are good at raising our voices, hurling out past misdeeds and dragging extended family into the mix, can attest to the misguided or malicious nature of this advice.

You see, I was raised by a champion debater who coached a champion debate team. I know how to argue. I can be stubborn and loud. I'm pretty quick with a sarcastic retort and sadly, I have a good memory about things I should probably forget. Mix that with my husband, who is just as skilled in all these areas, throw in the advice "don't go to bed angry" and you have a recipe for a long and miserable night.

Here's the deal. If we're not going to go to bed angry, well, we just won't go to bed at all. It didn't take too many knock-down, drag-out, all-night brawls for us to realize that this was just plain bad advice. Who wants to go to work the next day with tired, puffy eyes and a raging, sleep-deprived headache. And who can afford to call in sick anytime there's a marital disagreement? We discovered that for us, we were better off going to bed angry, getting a good night's sleep and then getting up a little calmer, a little more rational and a little less stupid.

So what advice do I give when the advice notebook is passed around or Aunt Susan's video camera is pointed in your face waiting for a piece of marital counsel?

If you're fighting at bedtime (or anywhere close to it), go to bed, get a good night's sleep and face the disagreement with a calm head in the bright light of day.

Wedding Advice -- Part 1 (The Best Advice)

My friend's daughter is getting married this week. With that in mind, my thoughts were turned to the advice I received when I was getting married. Today I'll share some of the best advice I got. My next post will be about the worst advice I received. You'll be surprised at how common the worst advice is. In fact, I'll bet most, if not all of you, received the same advice. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

At my bridal shower, a notebook was sent around the room and guests were asked to write down a piece of advice for the newlyweds. The notebook of marriage tips was solemnly handed to me at the end of the shower, as if adherence to the words of wisdom contained inside would assure me and my husband of many years of wedded bliss.

I took the notebook and with my future husband, read each piece of advice, determined that we were going to benefit from the life experiences of each contributor.

Now, twenty years later, I'm going to share with you two of the best pieces of advice we received. These two pieces of advice go hand in hand, although at first glance they might seem at odds.

1. Continue to date.
2. Allow each other to have time apart.

These have proven to be important parts of our marriage. I wish I could say we go on a weekly date. We don't. We try to date several times a year--birthdays, our anniversary and Valentine's Day, provide us with four sure dates a year. We manage to throw in a few others as well--dinner while Christmas shopping and lunch after a trip to the temple. We probably average about a date a month. It's good to be together, just the two of us, talking about our family, laughing together and enjoying each other's company.

I believe the second part is also very important. Allow each other time apart. I know this can be taken to the extreme, but I think it's good for a husband to go to a game with the guys or skiing with a buddy, just as it's good for the girls to go to lunch or get together to scrapbook or see a movie or whatever. It allows us to enjoy the things we enjoy without inflicting a miserable experience on our spouse.

These need to go hand in hand, however. If you're only doing the second part of the equation, and not dating, your relationship is unbalanced. When done together, we are well-rounded, balanced and appreciative of each other.

Now go plan a date and have fun.

A Lesson From Tevye

One of my favorite movies is "Fiddler on the Roof." I find Tevye to be fascinating and complex. One of my favorite things about him is the relationship he has with God. His easy conversations, speaking as good friends, show the way he feels about God. He talks over every part of his life with Him, no matter how small. He makes me think about my relationship with my Heavenly Father.

Just two months before my mission, my 16 year old brother, Bruce, was killed in a car accident. Leaving on my mission was very difficult. My family was still suffering so much. I even had a sister still in a full-body cast. I wanted to be with my family, but I didn't want to disappoint them, so I went.

It was very hard. I cried myself to sleep every night in the MTC, then continued to cry each night on my mission. I would quietly lie in bed with tears running down my cheeks, thinking of my brother and my family and literally aching with homesickness. I had lived a thousand miles away from my family for college, so the homesickness wasn't because I was a wimp, it was because of the horrible circumstances.

Some time after I arrived in Washington, we had a mission conference about an hour and a half from where we lived. It was early in the morning and I was driving with three other missionaries in the car. The rain was pouring down as it is prone to do in Washington. As missionaries, we had no music in the car. The other missionaries promptly fell asleep and I drove, enjoying the peace and quiet.
Up to this point in my life, my prayers had been in the predictable places--kneeling beside my bed, at the dinner table or quickly at my desk before a test. But this day was different.

As I drove, I began visiting with Heavenly Father much like Tevye would have. Of course, I didn't speak aloud, but I poured my heart out to Him as I drove. I told him of my sadness, my loneliness, my worries. I told him how much I wanted to endure and be a good missionary, but what a hard time I was having missing my family and feeling especially homesick for my brother. I talked with Heavenly Father for more than an hour, completely uninterrupted.

Shortly before we arrived at the conference, I realized I felt differently than I had since leaving my family. I was feeling peaceful, okay and even a little happy. I knew Heavenly Father loves me--I felt that love. I didn't feel lonely. I knew He was with me.

That was a turning point for me on my mission. I still experienced times when I'd think of my brother and would feel the wind knocked out of me like it had that first day on that lonely, gravel road. But then, I'd remember and feel Heavenly Father's love and I'd be okay.

Life has brought many other challenges over the years. Sometimes those challenges have felt overwhelming. But every time I've fervently prayed, talking things over with my Heavenly Father, I've felt His love and guidance in my life.
What a blessing to know He really is our father and that He knows about our worries, sadness, troubles and fears. I am so grateful for prayer and for knowing that no matter where I am in my relationship with Him, He is ready and waiting to hear from me.

What If...

I was recently talking to a friend about books and authors and as I thought about authors I love, Bess Streeter Aldrich immediately came to my mind. I'm sure that at some point in the future, I'll talk about other books by her (I think I've read them all), but today I want to talk about "Spring Came On Forever."

After recommending this book to my friend, I felt compelled to re-read it. I searched my bookshelves and found my well-worn copy. You see, I really love this book and this was probably my fourth or fifth time reading it. It's interesting how time and life experience can change your perspective on a book. I've loved it every time, but I see the experiences of Matthew and Amalia very differently now.

The first time I read it was in my teens and in my young, romantic mind, their lives were tragic--missed opportunities, lost love, disappointments--but I continued hoping as I read that things would end happily. And they do, but not in the way you might expect.

This time their romance is still tragic and sweet, but now I recognized the triumph of their lives in spite of the disappointments along the way. (Oh, it's hard to review a book completely and not spoil it for future readers!)

If there's one thing this book makes you think about, it is "what if..." We probably all have those "what if" thoughts. What if I'd gone a different way home and avoided a traffic ticket? What if I'd taken the other job offer and lived in a different city? What if I'd have married so-and-so instead? The "what ifs" we think about most often are probably the big ones.

Have you ever let your mind wander down one of those roads? Of course, we can't know exactly how things would have turned out down a different path. We can only imagine it and our fantasies probably idealize, romanticise or dramatize the end of those roads. Our imaginations probably create unrealistic happy endings or terrible catastrophes when in reality, those roads would probably be as normal and filled with ups and downs as the paths we did take that landed us exactly where we are.

But wouldn't it be interesting if we actually could look down those "what if" roads and see what they'd have held? When we choose a path, we choose a destination. I wonder if we could see those alternate destinations, would what we see cause us to feel longing and regret or would we be filled with gratitude and relief.

If you haven't read this book, I'd recommend it. I find Aldrich's writing beautiful and the story is sweet, tragic, and satisfying. My guess is, it will probably have you asking a few "what if" questions of your own.

No Substitutions Please!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a pregnant woman in possession of a good craving must be in want of that exact craving.

That is where I found myself during my first pregnancy. I experienced incredible morning sickness. And afternoon sickness. And evening sickness. Smells set off my gag reflex in a way I wouldn't have imagined possible. I threw up numerous times daily and had already had to be IV fluid-rehydrated in a claustrophbic hospital room with construction going on outside my window, causing me to nearly lose my mind.

I was miserable. Imagine my elation when finally, after months of gagging at the very thought of food, something sounded good. Something sounded delicious and I wanted it. Immediately. The problem the timing. It was close to midnight, my husband was tired, and I wanted rocky road ice cream. No, let me rephrase that. I NEEDED ROCKY ROAD ICE CREAM. And not just any rocky road would do. I needed real marshmallows and substantial chunks of almonds.

Lest you think me a selfish and lazy wife, let me explain. I'd have gladly gone to pick up the ice cream myself, but at that point in the pregnancy, smells overwhelmed me. I'd already thrown up in the parking lots of numerous grocery stores because upon entering the store, I would smell the dirt on the potatoes and I'd lose it. Literally. (I know some of you are questioning that I could smell the dirt on the potatoes and KNOW it was the dirt on the potatoes. I assure you, I could.)

Usually I made it to a garbage can or some distance from the store entrance, but once I didn't and had to deal with the humiliation of being a public puker, something I'd feared ever since elementary school when Gina threw up in Mrs. Smith's class and the custodian had to come clean it up with sawdust.
Being the kind husband that he is, and not wanting me to repeat the humiliating performance, Travis drove to Smith's to purchase ice cream. Upon his return, I opened the bag, anxious to partake of the carton of frozen goodness that was the first thing that had sounded appealing in months.

Much to my dismay, I found a carton of pineapple sherbet. "Where's mine?" I asked, sure this must be for him.

"Right there."

"But this is pineapple sherbet."

"I know. It was on sale." My husband loves a good sale, but pineapple sherbet? I wouldn't like that even when I wasn't pregnant.

I'd like to say that I calmly and sweetly accepted his offering of cheap pineapple sherbet or that I asked him kindly to please return to the store for rocky road ice cream. But in my pregnancy-crazed disappointment that I wasn't going to have the chocolately and nutty goodness of expensive rocky road ice cream, I lost it and in a voice that I'm sure was much too loud and far too shrill, I instructed him that when a pregnant wife SAYS rocky road ice cream, she MEANS rocky road ice cream.

I must have been frightening, because he went back to the store and purchased rocky road ice cream. The kind with lots of nuts and whole marshmallows.

I threw away the pineapple sherbet a few months later. See, he didn't want it either.

Even Smart People Can Do Stupid Things

Many years ago, a couple bought an old, Victorian boarding home in a small town in Missouri. They were an intelligent couple, priding themselves on their talents and intellect. She had been valedictorian of her class, he had been a teacher of mathematics for many years.

The old home was beautiful--three stories of clapboard siding with contrasting gingerbread details and an inviting, wrap-around porch. It was an old-fashioned operation with real boarders, much like one might find in a James Joyce novel.

The woman served delicious, home-cooked meals in the beautiful, wood-trimmed dining room while the man took care of the upkeep on the house and grounds.

One afternoon, the man discovered repairs were needed outside one of the third story windows. Finding he had no ladder that would reach the area needing work, he devised a plan. He would take a plank and put it through the window. He asked the woman to balance the plank by sitting on the other end, allowing him to stand outside the window and perform the repairs.

They placed the plank in the window and together they carefully adjusted the balance. Not wanting to waste precious time, the woman brought her knitting with her and as her husband perched precariously outside the window, three stories above the ground, the woman's knitting needles moved quickly, putting the time to good use.

As the woman knitted and the man repaired, they visited through the open window. Unexpectedly, the doorbell rang. Without a thought, the woman stood to go answer the door, but stopped almost immediately as she heard her name fade into the distance. "She-e-e-r-r-r-e-e-e-l-l-l," her husband called as he fell through the air, landing on his back, on the ground, three stories down.

Thankfully the man's guardian angels were on duty and the man was unharmed, though both were shaken by the terrifying event. The experience now provides their family with a good laugh. I know because the man and woman are my uncle and aunt.

The moral of this story? No matter how smart you are, if you aren't careful, you might still do something stupid. Do you have an example of smart people doing a stupid thing? Won't you share it with us?

Each Life that Touches Ours

A few months ago, a misunderstanding and then an over-reaction cost me a friend. That experience has caused me to think a great deal about the impact we have on each other's lives.

I was able to attend my Uncle Frank's funeral last month and it was wonderful to meet some of the people who made such a difference in his life. During his last year, as he struggled with cancer, he made some life-changing decisions that made it possible for him to go through the temple for the first time just six weeks before he died. He was sealed to his parents (my grandparents). What a wonderful day that was and it was a treat to meet some of the people who helped that happen.

I believe that every person we associate with is impacted by us in some way. Some of those associations will inspire, cheer, lift and benefit each other. Others will hurt, degrade, or belittle. What a responsibility it is to be sure that our associations are positive.

At my uncle's funeral, we sang, "Each Life that Touches Ours for Good." The words are powerful and should give us pause for reflection about our associations with others.

Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

When such a friend from us departs,
We hold forever in our hearts
A sweet and hallowed memory,
Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.

For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
Devotion to the Savior’s name,
Who bless our days with peace and love,
We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.

A few years ago my family went to the play "Wicked" in Chicago. It was a wonderful production and the music was emotional and beautiful, moving me to tears more than once. One of my favorite songs (sorry to be throwing so many lyrics at you) was "For Good."

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

I have so many friends and family who have made an impact on my life. So many who have offered encouraging words, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and an occasional reality check when I've needed it. I am very blessed. Thank you to all of you. My life is better because of so many of you. I hope that when all is said and done, your lives are better because of me, too.

Let's all do our best to make our interactions with others positive and inspiring.

How Important is a Teacher?

I was in the fourth grade before I had a teacher that liked me. Looking back, I'm not sure why. I was shy and awkward, but I wasn't a trouble maker, I didn't talk in class, and I tried hard. It's perplexing to me, even to this day, that I was yelled at and disliked.

I can almost excuse my first and second grade teachers. They were, after all, teaching their last year before retirement.

They were probably tired of children and anxious for the year to end and generally yelled at the entire class. It's third grade that still haunts me.

I remember walking into the class and seeing a young and pretty teacher. Finally, I would have a teacher that wasn't at the end of her career and would be pleasant and energetic. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was a target. Miss D. would call on me, even if I hadn't raised my hand, and then if I didn't know the answer, or didn't speak up loudly enough (which is hard for a timid, little girl), she would yell at me.

It may just be selective memory, but I don't remember her yelling at other kids. My first and second grade teachers I remember, but to me, it seemed Miss D. focused her wrath on me. I remember the throb in my head and the sting of tears springing to my eyes when she knuckled me on the top of my head as she made her rounds through the desks. I might have been looking out the window or daydreaming, I can't remember, but knuckling an eight year-old in the head?

I should insert a note here. My parents weren't happy about it, but times were different then. Parents generally made less of a fuss than they do now and my dad was a school teacher in the district. They were concerned about the ramifications of making waves. In hindsight, they wish they'd have insisted I be removed from the class instead of trying to diplomatically visit with her.

Toward the end of the school year, Miss D.'s dislike for me boiled over. I went to the bathroom and as I was washing my hands, she stormed into the bathroom, pulled my hair and threw me into wall. I started to cry, my hands dripping as I held them up to shield myself from her anger as she screamed in my face, demanding to know why I'd taken so long in the bathroom. I was terrified.

I see so many answers in those first three years of school. Why did the fairly bright daughter of a school teacher dislike school so much? Why was I willing to lie and feign illness to stay home from school? Why didn't I start getting straight A's until my senior year of high school and college? There is substantial evidence that I wasn't a stupid child, and yet, I struggled with school until I was nearly an adult. My poor mother, little kids in tow, made more trips to schools to pick up her "sick" daughter than she ever should have had to.

Fast forward to Mrs. Schvandevelt, Bruce and Veronica's kindergarten teacher. On the first day of school, she excused the children to go outside and play with an aid so that she could discuss some housekeeping matters with the parents. After going over a few things, she said, "I want your children to love school. I think kindergarten is the time to develop good feelings about school. I want your kids to know that there is NOTHING that happens that can't be fixed. If they forget their backpack, I have a plastic bag they can use. If they forget their library book, they can bring it tomorrow. If they're talking too much, we'll just wait for them with a smile on our face. They'll know there is nothing to be scared of at school."

I sat there blinking hard, swallowing hard, desperately trying to keep the tears at bay. A wave of relief washed over me as I realized my kids wouldn't have the same school experience that I had. And guess what? They loved school. They hated missing. They never pretended to be sick or asked to come home early. They learned and got good grades.

Does a teacher make a difference? Absolutely, YES!

Thank heavens for good teachers.

Can You Say Sexual Harassment?

I was a sheltered girl. I'd never seen an R-rated movie and the closest thing to a naked man I'd ever seen was when D.F. mooned us in high school.
After a year at Ricks College, I decided I wanted to go on a mission. Because I'd be out at the same time as my younger brother, I knew this would place a financial burden on my family, so I decided to stay at home for the next year and work. This proved to be a good thing in many ways. I saved a lot of money, made some good friends, and was at home for the last year of my brother Bruce's life.
To earn as much as possible, I worked two jobs. During the week, I drove ten miles from my home in Lawson to meet the carpool in Excelsior Springs. From there it was a forty minute drive to a construction equipment sales and rental company in the industrial area of Kansas City. On Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday after church, I worked at The Elms, a beautiful, historic hotel and restaurant. I was the hostess in the Meadowlark Dining Room. (This was definitely my favorite of the two jobs as most nights, one of the waiters would smuggle me a bowl of French onion soup and a piece of chocolate cheesecake.)
But I digress. This story is about the construction equipment company. This wasn't a fancy place. Repairs took place through the doors just behind my desk and the place smelled of machinery and oil. With the exception of the office staff, all of the employees were men, and not genteel and refined men either. The language was rough, shocking to my sheltered ears. Most of the women in the office smoked. The woman that sat closest to me sometimes forgot she had a cigarette lit at her computer station and would light another one at her desk, even as her first cigarette smoldered just a few feet away.
I was the billing clerk, but when the receptionist took lunch or breaks, I moved to the front desk and took over her duties. Each day, as the men would come in from lunch, they'd stop at the front desk to retrieve their messages and say something a little flirty. Sometimes it was fine. Sometimes it was embarrassing. I was always happy to go back to my billing desk.
One Friday afternoon, three of the men came back together. They were usually loud and boisterous after lunch on Friday, having tipped back a few too many drinks with lunch. That Friday was no exception. The only difference was that two of them stopped for their messages, while the third went directly to his office.

"KAREY! BRING MY MESSAGES IN HERE, WILL YA?" the man yelled from his office a few minutes later.
I picked up his stack of messages and walked to his office. There he stood, completely naked, save his boots with white socks peeking over the top. He was casually sitting on the front of his desk, just a few feet from where I stood.
OH. MY. CRAP!!! I thought as I turned and walked back to the front desk, my face on fire and my entire body shaking like a leaf.
"KAREY, COME ON BACK HERE, HONEY. I JUST WANT YOU TO BRING ME MY MESSAGES. COME ON, HONEY. BRING THOSE BACK HERE." (Now read that paragraph again, with a slow, slurred and creepy voice.)
I spent the rest of the day in a daze. Had I driven myself to work, I'm sure I'd have left immediately, but I had to wait for my carpool.
That was my last day at the construction equipment company. I never went back. Luckily, The Elms gave me more hours and I spent the rest of that year working only one job.
This happened long before Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill made 'sexual harassment' household words. I don't think he'd get away with that kind of behavior in today's world. It's a very unpleasant image that has probably scarred me for life.

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What I Learned from a King-sized Butterfinger

Just after we got married, Travis and I were called to teach a Sunday School class of twelve and thirteen year-olds. It was a large class with a diverse make-up. The kids were funny and entertaining and always a little wound up, but they cooperated in class and we enjoyed the calling.

One of the students in the class was Ricardo. He had moved to Salt Lake from Mexico and had been in the United States less than a year. Their circumstances were difficult. His parents spoke almost no English, they shared a home with his uncle's family and they were very poor. But Ricardo was humble and sweet and worked hard.

It didn't take long to discover that although Ricardo could speak English pretty well, he couldn't read it at all. He struggled and was embarrassed when it was his turn to read in class. I worried about him. I spoke to his uncle who told me he was struggling in school because he couldn't read English. I offered to work with him on his reading and they gratefully agreed.

That was the beginning of about four months of reading with Ricardo. We met two or three times a week and practiced phonics and reading. We used the M&M method my parents had used to teach me to read. He worked hard and he practiced on the days we didn't read together. He was improving and I was happy to see him participating in class with more confidence.

One day, as we started our reading, I told him if he could read a certain number of pages with no mistakes, we'd stop at the store before taking him home and let him pick a candy bar. He was pleased and carefully read the required number of pages, smiling with pride when he finished.

We stopped at a convenience store on the way home and I told him to choose a candybar. He looked them all over carefully, weighing his options, then picked up a king-sized Butterfinger. I purchased the candy bar for him, but I'm not proud of the murmuring thoughts I had. I have to admit that I was a little annoyed. Money was tight for us, too, and a king-sized candy bar at a convenience store cost more than I had intended to spend. Why was this usually humble boy being selfish and greedy?

We continued to Ricardo's house, but a couple of blocks before we got there, we passed an old-model station wagon. Ricardo's father was driving and the car was filled with children--his brothers and sisters as well as a few cousins. His father pulled over and I turned the car around and pulled in right behind him. Ricardo said goodbye and hurried to the station wagon as his father came back and in very broken English thanked me for helping his son.

As his father thanked me and walked back to his car, I watched Ricardo get into the station wagon. Through the back window, I watched as he opened the candy bar and gave a bite to each of the children before he took the last, small bite, then turned to me with a wide smile and waved.

I was overcome with shame. I had begrudged him the large candybar, when his only motivation for choosing the large one was that there would be enough to share. I wished I'd have bought him two king-sized Butterfingers.

It was a good reminder to me that I shouldn't judge another's heart. We should afford people the benefit of the doubt.

"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet." ~Marvin J. Ashton

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