Courage -- It Isn't Always What You Might Think

I recently heard a conversation about courage that got me thinking. We often think the one with courage is the one who stands up and fights. But sometimes it's the one who walks away that shows the most courage. Bluster does not necessarily equal courage.

Sometimes the courageous one is the one who takes a big risk to get ahead. But sometimes the one with courage is the one who puts in the miserable, boring, or backbreaking days just to keep his head above water.

Sometimes the courage is demonstrated by having the guts to get out when it's not what you want. But sometimes the courage is to stay and gut it out.

Sometimes the courage is speaking up and being heard. Sometimes the courage is keeping your mouth shut when what you have to say would make you feel better but would hurt someone else.

Sometimes the courage is shown by making a great sacrifice. Sometimes the courage is shown by demanding what you need.

Sometimes the courage is saying yes, when the task seems too large. Sometimes the courage is saying no when the task is unwise.

Sometimes the one who looks courageous is just foolhardy. Sometimes the one who looks cowardly is only careful.

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Some Things Are Better Left Unknown

I think it's better not to know when you've missed out on the deal of the day. Joe wants K-nex for Christmas. Wootkids had a bundle of four K-nex sets--the Razor, Chomp, Turbo and Spider Moto-bots--for 1/3 the regular price. I excitedly clicked the button to order them and they were sold out. I've been sick about it all day.

I think it's better not to know when an old boyfriend or girlfriend wishes they'd have married you instead. It just raises a bunch of what-ifs that are better left unexplored. And if you didn't know you wouldn't have to feel sorry for them that you don't feel the same.

I think it's better not to know if the milk is on it's last day of "Best by." If I don't know, I can put it my cereal with confidence and not give it another thought. If I do know, I wonder if it's tasting a little off. And in my mind, I can actually make it taste wrong.

I think it's better not to know what you're getting for Christmas. When I was a teenager, I was babysitting my younger brothers and sisters and when most of them were in bed, my brother and I carefully unwrapped and then rewrapped all our presents. It kinda spoiled it for us. We deserved that.

I think it's better not to see the ad on for the perfect guitar with a case that is just the color of wood a certain daughter wants for Christmas two minutes after someone else has committed to buy it. I wish I hadn't even seen it.

I really wish I hadn't discovered how yucky it was under my dishwasher. When I didn't know about the filth, I felt like a much cleaner person.

I wish I'd never discovered that a certain someone who I thought was my friend, really didn't like me much. I was blissfully happy being friends and now that I know it wasn't real, it's a bit of a bummer. 

I wish I didn't know about Typing Maniac. The compulsive side of my personality (and it's a pretty big side) wants to hit the 2,000,000 mark and I've wasted way too long trying. I wish I'd never been introduced to that time-suck of a game.

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

I'm Thankful...

For parents who put their money where their mouth is. They don't just tell us we should love the Lord enough to serve him. They go serve him. Next year at this time, they'll be somewhere else, serving another mission. Is it bad to hope they get called to Taiwan?

For sisters who aren't just sisters, but friends. They are women I laugh with, cry with, confide in and love. And since they're all younger than me, it just felt very strange to call them women. To me they'll always be girls.

For seven brothers who are smart, opinionated, entertaining and loud. And not necessarily in that order. 

For my brother-in-laws, sister-in-laws and nieces and nephews. I can't imagine what life would be like without those dozens of additions to our family. (I know the correct way to say it is brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, but I'm rebelling. Because I think that sounds stupid, even if it is right.)

For children who have grown into interesting people I like to be around. When I hear people talk about typical teenagers, I bite my tongue and think dissenting thoughts and then knock on wood. I don't want to jinx myself by saying my teenagers aren't typical, so I just keep my mouth shut. And I won't say it here, either. But I just knocked on wood.

For a husband who is funny, hard-working and likes to decorate more than I do. He's smart and reliable and often amazes me.

For friends, near and far, who stick up for me, celebrate with me, commiserate with me and offer to take me to lunch or get me treats. I'm very blessed.

For another book deal. I'm not a one-hit-wonder (not that I was ever really a wonder) and it feels good. 

For food. Especially during the holidays, but really all the time. Food is good. I like food. I'm supposed to learn to separate food from my emotions, but I can't. Good food makes me happy. It means I have to exercise a lot more than some people, but if that's the price I pay for loving food, I'll pay it.

And because of that...

For my treadmill. So that I don't have to risk life and limb running in the pitch darkness with wild dogs howling in the hills OR risk running in the daylight and subjecting anyone to actually having to see me running. 

For DVR because I hate watching commercials and I love watching an hour's worth of television in 44 minutes. And I love being able to instantly rewind Psych to hear the funny line again. And again. And sometimes again.

For good products for curly hair (really, you should be thankful for that, since it spares any of you the terrifying experience of having to look at me without hair product) and Bare Escentuals makeup, which replaced my goopy foundation more than a decade ago. I love it and if I had to go back to using liquid foundation, I'd probably become a recluse.

For my Kindle because it turns the pages automatically so I can read while I run on the treadmill and lets me have an array of books, including scriptures, with me whereever I go. AND if you have one, Gifted is available for only $4.99 now. Woo hoo!

For Sunday evenings. Because on Sunday evenings here, it's Monday in Taiwan, and that means a letter from Bruce. Funny, spiritual, happy--it just doesn't get any better than that.

For this blog that lets me share, celebrate, rant, and contemplate. Because of this blog, I've met new people, made new friends, and shared my life. It's been one of the best things to come out of getting published. AND I LOVE COMMENTS!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, whether you live here where we celebrate Thanksgiving or somewhere else. I hope you have a happy, thankful day!

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You Don't Have to Agree With Me But Please Be Nice

The Savior told us not to judge each other. I think that means that we don't assume we know each other's motivations or thoughts. We need to realize that we only see what's put out there for us to see. We never truly know the inner workings of a mind or a heart.  We don't know what hurts someone has survived. We don't know where they've been or what trials they've overcome. We can't see their loneliness or their pain. We don't know what life experiences have caused them to make the choices they've made.

Unlike each of us, the Savior is able to see what really is. We can put on our happiest face, but the Savior can see our sorrows. We can hide many of our sins from the world. But the Savior sees them. We can look confident and fashionable and attractive to the world, but the Savior sees our insecurities and our weaknesses. We can surround ourselves with other people, but the Savior knows when we're lonely and desperate.

This week someone decided it was their job to set me straight. They thought they understood my situation enough to call me out and "fix" me. They thought if they talked tough and backed me into a corner, I'd see things their way. They thought it was okay to make hurtful accusations and say belittling things because they were convinced that their way of thinking was right and mine was wrong. They tried to push and prod and squeeze me into the mold they thought was best without knowing what experiences created the shape of my life. My life won't fit into their mold, no matter how much they berate, criticize or judge me.

It hurt. A lot. And it was pointless. It didn't change my mind or convince me I'm wrong. It just made me sad and uncomfortable and it made me want to gather my loved ones close and protect them from the onslaught of criticism and judgment. And it made me thankful that the One I will answer to is the only one who truly knows my heart and why I've made the choices I have.

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Cheaper By the Dozen (Almost)

I often have people ask me what it was like to grow up in such a large family. When I did my blog giveaway asking for blog ideas, that was one of the suggestions--to give some of the details. To tell you everything about growing up in a family the size of ours would take pages and pages, maybe even volumes. But there are a few things that stand out in my mind.

Dad and Mom had wanted a dozen children, but a miscarriage before me and a miscarriage after my youngest brother made that plan impossible. They settled for eleven.

I am the oldest, and therefore, the luckiest. We often joke about how different things were for the younger children. For most of my growing up we lived in the country. At various times we milked cows, gardened, raised pigs, and butchered our own animals. We had to drive into town to go shopping and rode the bus to school. For most of the younger children's lives, they lived in town, walked or drove to school, and bought milk and meat from the grocery store. My own kids have been raised more like my younger brothers and sisters and I'm often struck by how different their lives are from mine.

The younger kids were raised with the luxuries of living in town (I sound like Laura Ingalls Wilder, or something), and there was more money as they grew up. My youngest brother would go grocery shopping with Mom and he'd put whatever he wanted into the cart. AND SHE'D BUY IT! That didn't happen with the rest of us. Things like that might lead you to believe that the younger ones in the family were the lucky ones.

But you'd be wrong.

I got to live at home for eighteen years with younger brothers and sisters. I was rarely alone. I got to stay up late and watch Marcus Welby, M.D. with my Mom. Dad would be at meetings and the rest of the kids would be in bed. But not me because I was the oldest. Sure, I had a good share of responsibilities associated with being the oldest, but I also got to stay home from school and watch younger siblings when Mom would go have a new baby. I loved that. I took pride in making sure that the family was well-cared for and Mom came home to a spotless house. That was a small price to pay for the privilege of missing two or three days of school without having to be sick.

I loved taking my younger brothers and sisters places--to movies, shopping, or other outings.

I loved being able to go to their games, track meets, and concerts. I have all those memories. I was always so proud of my younger brothers and sisters.

Having a family that large had to be hard. My parents worked hard to provide for all of us. Dad taught school and picked up bus-driving jobs, as well as taking care of our little farms. Mom sewed and cooked and made bread. She used cloth diapers that she made herself until the last baby. We didn't eat out much. McDonalds or Wendy's was a rare treat and even then we'd usually split the meals.

We drove large vans and when we'd travel (which we did every summer), people would pass our car and you'd often see them counting as they drove by. We were a curiosity. We always said we should have a sign that said "11 Children" to hold up when someone would drive by counting, but we never did.

Looking back, I realize there were many things that were different because of our large family. I often thought about how tragic it would be if Mom and Dad had stopped at a smaller number. If they'd have stopped at five, I wouldn't have had any sisters. If they'd have stopped at nine, we wouldn't have had the little boys. What a loss it would have been in my life without each of those seven brothers and three sisters.

A smaller family might have meant more material things for us, but we'd have missed out on so much fighting, laundry, work, fun, friends, loyalty and love. I'll never, ever be sorry I was the oldest of eleven children.

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Miscellaneous Musings

It's election day. In a little while I'll go down to the elementary school and exercise my right to vote. I'll also exercise my right to tell some of the candidates I hated the way they campaigned. One candidate stood on my front porch and seemed to want to pick a fight. He told us we were wrong about our views and made assurances he couldn't possibly make and then when I asked him a question that pointed out that his assurances couldn't be guaranteed, he said he'd check on that and get back to me before the election. The election is today and I haven't heard from him. I won't be voting for him.

Speaking of elections, I often wonder why this blessing (the right to vote) becomes such a curse. It so often brings out the worst in people. It's so contentious and often so mean-spirited. I wish we could force the candidates (and those that speak for them) to sit down and talk it out using kind words and inside voices.

I recently read an article that shared Dr. Marc Weissbluth's method of teaching your child proper sleep habits. The article was vehemently against letting your child sleep with you and suggested something called "silent return system." It didn't take me long to know I wanted to have a word with the abuser author. He suggests that you reason with your toddler, telling them that they must stay in bed and that if they get up, you will return them to their bed. You won't look at them and you won't speak to them. You'll speak to them again in the morning. What the &$%@(??? I'm sorry. I think it's wrong. Whether it's bad dreams, fear of the dark, a need be loved and reassured by parents, or whatever--I will gladly err on the side of cuddling, reassuring and loving my kids. My four kids are well beyond the years of stalling, crying, and wanting to sleep with dad and mom. They're normal, well-adjusted children and all I lost was a little sleep. I'll take that any day over losing those nights of giving my children the love and attention they needed. (And may I just point out that some of the parents that are inflicting this horrible system on their kids are then going to their own bed where they're sleeping beside someone. If they get scared or lonely or cold they can snuggle right up. They aren't alone in another room. It's ridiculous.)

I have now finished the Old Testament. I feel very proud of myself. It wasn't easy and there were times I really wanted to forget it and read the New Testament or The Book of Mormon a dozen times instead. But I did it! And maybe I'll do it again when I have another missionary leave to serve. Maybe.

Don't you just love soup when it gets cold outside? I think soup is the best cold-weather meal there is. I love the lentils, beans, noodles, chicken, beef, and vegetables. I love good rolls or biscuits with butter and jam. I still mix it up with regular meals, but if it were up to me, I could eat soup every day from November until March (except Thanksgiving and Christmas, of course).

Am I crazy? My dishwasher broke the first week of August. We've been setting aside a little money every paycheck to replace it. We were getting close. I'd have probably had a new dishwasher in the next couple of weeks. But then it got so cold and we had a snowstorm and running outside became dangerous and scary. We heard what sounded like wild dogs howling not very far away as we ran in the early-morning dark. So we took the money we'd set aside for a dishwasher and we bought a treadmill off I love going downstairs and running in the light. And I can handle a few more months without a dishwasher. I just remind myself that my mom didn't have one until I had moved out of the house--and she had eleven children. I've got it easy!

I have found the house I want to buy. It's interesting. It's beautiful. It's closer to grandparents and cousins. It's completely original. And it doesn't cost a million dollars. Okay, so it costs $995,000. And it's not going to happen in this lifetime. But it's beautiful and I can dream.

And finally, something that has been running through my mind quite often lately. I love my family. I love my hard-working husband who puts up with so much to take care of us. I love my boy who is half-way around the world doing the Lord's work with a happy heart. I love my girl who works hard but can't resist a good book or a good BBC period piece. I love my girl who loves to have fun and always sees the good in people. I love my boy who loves to tell me every detail of everything on his mind and always wants to sit by me when we watch television. I'm very blessed.

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Let This be Your Warning!

I love English Toffee. When I was growing up, my mom made English Toffee. She had an excellent recipe that included butter, almonds chocolate and mouthwatering deliciousness. The flavor combination was exquisite, the tender crunch was so fantastic.

It wasn't an easy recipe. It had to be watched and stirred. It required a candy thermometer and a cold, buttered surface. Once in awhile, the timing would be off and it would be chewy and would stick to your teeth. Or it might be too crumbly and sugary. But when it was timed just right, it was perfection.

When we lived in Colorado we found a place in Grand Junction called Enstrom's. They made toffee that tasted like mom's perfect batches. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth the occasional splurge and they gave away samples.

I was at Costco on Monday and saw that they had English Toffee made with real butter. I wanted to try it. I don't know why I wanted to try it. If it was good, I've given myself one more temptation I have to control. If it wasn't good, I'm out ten bucks. I should have left it on the shelf.

I really should have.


Because it was delicious. It was tender, buttery, chocolaty, almondy and irresistible.

It's gone now and every time I go to Costco I'll have to avoid looking that direction.

You've been warned. Don't try it. It's delicious and you'll have trouble leaving it alone. You might find yourself eating most of a jar and having to buy another one to replace it to prevent your family from knowing that while they were at school and work, you ate WAAAAY too many of them.

I'm not saying that happened to me. I'm just saying it might happen to you.

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