Wednesday, October 31, 2012

To sum it up

Writing a post every day for 31 days has been a challenge and I will be happy to go back to writing nonsense that isn't trying to make a point.

Writing about authenticity has been good for me though.  It's caused me to think a lot about a subject that I wanted to learn more about.  In all my thinking and writing, I have come to the conclusion that the key to authenticity is confidence.

Confidence.

When you are confident, you are free to follow your own direction.  You are free to let other people follow theirs.  You are free to not worry about comparisons.

And where do we find this elusive virtue?  Not from anyone else.  No one can hand you confidence.  We try, oh how we try, to give it to our children.  We tell them they are good and beautiful and smart and funny and we love them and they may or may not believe us because we may or may not have believed our parents when they told us the same things.

Since no one can give you confidence or self-esteem, it has to come from inside.  Here's what I know about confidence:  the way you get it is by doing things.  Contributing.  Serving.  Using your talents to find your talents.  Showing up.  Working hard.  People that do things are happy people.  When I think of the most confident people I know, they are not the people that are given public accolades or get stopped on the street for an autograph.  They are the people that quietly go about their lives, serving and loving and creating.

That's what I want for myself.

Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adjust

Every once in a while, though not very often, I'll talk to one of my sisters and they'll tell me that they are struggling.  They confess they are discouraged, feeling inadequate.

All I can think is, "What?!?"

To me, my sisters are superstars.  They accomplish amazing feats.  They are good women.  They work really hard.  Their hearts are in the right place.  In my mind, they should be high-fiving the mirror every morning and feeling good about the lives they are living.

They should see themselves like I see them!

Then, sometimes I consider maybe I should see myself the way they see me.  They love me.  They know I'm trying.  They think I'm OK.

For the days when you feel like you do not measure up, adjust your vision and see yourself the way someone you love sees you.

If all else fails, channel your grandmother.  (My grandma always thinks I'm doing something right.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

I have to interrupt this authenticity...

...to link over to my sister's blog. This made my day and I think it will make yours too.

And really this isn't too far of a stretch from an authenticity post because Olivia is her own person and I pity the fool that tries to change her.

One of the delights of my life is my Olivia.  Five of the delights of my life are Olivia's little pumpkins.


Let them be

Key to living authentically is letting other people do the same.

Of course there are plenty of times when you have to encroach on someone's authenticity.  Especially when you're a mother and your children think they can best express their authenticity staying in their pajamas all day, playing video games.  As the grown up you insist on brushed teeth, vaccinations, seat belts, homework and their towel hung up whether they like it or not.

Other times, you can let them be authentic.  Even when it's painful.

My older son with the crop of curls on his head, despises his curls.  Every opportunity he gets, he talks someone (usually female) into applying a straightening iron to his head.  I think it looks bad.  I prefer the curls.

It's not up to me.

This should extend to people beyond our children too.  Everyone has the same amount of time every day.  Rather than lament that someone else does things you only wish you had time for, take a look at your life and understand that your time is being taken by choices you've made.  If those choices are right for you, don't begrudge someone else the time to pursue what they want.

There have been many instances over the years when my friends do things I wish I had time for.  For example, my friends Stephanie and Dianna go to the temple a morning each week.  I would dearly love to go with them--and they've invited me--but I am responsible for the education of a young sprite on weekday mornings.  Rather than feel wistful that I can't join Stephanie and Dianna, I try to remember that I have made a different choice.  (And one that, sadly enough, won't stay around forever.  Young sprites have a way of growing up.)

Adam said a lot of these posts are about time.  Maybe I'm obsessed with time...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Authentic parenting


 Oh boy.

Here's a hot button issue.  Parenting is The Thing, at least for me.  Just like you, I love my children and don't want to mess this up.  I look at other people for examples.  It's natural to see successful children and trace the line back to their parents and want to copy everything those parents did.  I want there to be a formula to follow.  Exact, precise measures to take to ensure happy, successful, responsible, moral and kind children.

Does such a formula exist?  Because even though I'm bad at following directions, I would put all my energy into following it.

Until I find that formula (which I am not very hopeful about), I will rely (I will try to) on a few basic things I know.

First I am grateful for scriptures and the Gospel and example of Jesus Christ that give me a lot of help in knowing which way to go.

I'm grateful for prayer.  It helps.

Finally, I'm grateful for an exchange I watched years ago. If I could just hold it in my head, I will remember there are lots of good ways to be a mother.

I was talking with two women who are older than I am and who have children older than mine.  The first woman was describing the routine at her house that seemed really inconvenient for her, the mother.  The second woman seemed a little taken back.  She, like me, seemed to think this first mother was taking ridiculous steps to cater to her children.

The first mother shrugged.

She said, "I don't mind.  I have good kids and it works for us."

I think I gasped on the inside.  Because she was right.  She does have good kids.  This mother is a serene and confident woman.  She doesn't parent based on other people.  In fact she did things other people (like me) would never do.  And she didn't care.  She felt like she was OK.

Wow.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nobody wins

Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right.
Ezra Taft Benson

Pride. Nobody wins.  Pride is comparing.  It is looking sideways.  If you come out on top in comparison, you may feel a fleeting sense of satisfaction.  It is a hollow victory though.  If you come out lacking in the comparison, you feel bad.

Comparing is a roadblock to authenticity.

If you are victim to pride, you are doing things that will be good--in comparison to everyone else.

If you are being authentic, you are doing things that will be good--because they are right for you.

Big difference.

When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment.
Ezra Taft Benson

I don't want to be in bondage of men's (or women's) judgments.

So how do we keep from comparing when it feels like it's almost hardwired into our thinking?  I think the antidote is love.  Love other people rather than try to compete with them.  Love yourself enough that you don't need to be better than someone else to be OK.  

Keep reminding me I wrote this next time I start comparing myself...

Because like other topics I've written about this month, I'm not so great at this.

 

Friday, October 26, 2012

If you're going to fail...

I haven't told you a story about Marianne lately.  Here's one:

The Wells Rural Electric Company sent a few kids each year to REC camp when we were in high school.  I think the purpose of it was to have fun and maybe learn some leadership skills?  I don't know, because I never went.

Marianne went and loved it.  She was even sent to a conference in Washington D.C. relating to it all.  Who knows what it was?  What it boiled down to for me was that Marianne had had this great experience and went on these great trips and I wanted to go too.

You had to be interviewed and then selected to go to the camp.  I prepared carefully for my interview and tried my very hardest to channel my successful older sister.  I anticipated questions and tried to decide how Marianne would answer them.

During the interview, I tried to be Marianne.  I answered questions like I thought she would.  I smiled a lot.  It seemed wonderful.  After the interview, I told Marianne all about it.  I felt 100% confident that I would get to go because I had acted like she would.

Then I didn't get selected.

Which felt terrible.  For one thing, I wondered if I'd have been more successful if I'd just acted like myself.

I learned that if you're going to fail, it's probably better to fail as yourself.

It turned out that while Marianne could do a brilliant Marianne, I could not.

The next year, I wanted to apply for a job working at the Wells Rural Electric Company for the summer.  It was a coveted office job with an interview in the exact same room with the exact same people that had interviewed me the year before.

I had the dates wrong and was ill prepared the day of the interview.  I didn't have time to try to act like Marianne.  (Plus hopefully I was a little smarter.)

I answered the questions like me.  The best I could.  I probably didn't smile as much as I had the year before.

I got the job.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Perfection

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. 
Anna Quindlan 

I wouldn't say that in general I am a perfectionist.  I am usually more than happy with good enough.  I am lousy at being precise.  For example, when I paint words or hang pictures on my walls I never measure because 1) I don't want to and 2) I can do a better job if I don't.  I trust my eye more than my math.

I also think it's better to dive into a project without any sort of notion that it will be perfect.  Losing (or never picking up) the idea of perfection gets things done.   

There are some insidious ways that I am more of a perfectionist than I should be though.  I recognize how absurd my perfectionist desires are sometimes.  I would love my house to be perfect but I would have to spend all my time on that pursuit and I think thwart my children in unhappy ways if my house were really going to be perfect.  I wouldn't be happy if I spent all my time making my house perfect.  I would love to be completely and perfectly physically fit but I don't want to spend the time that would take either.  There's too much I'd have to forgo.

It's a little easier for me to excuse myself from perfection when I know the trade off isn't worth it.

Other times, it's hard for me to release my aspirations. 

My children bring out my desire to be perfect more than anything else.  I want my children to be perfectly happy.  I want to meet their needs perfectly.  I want to always be who they need me to be when they need me.  (I want to have a perfect knowledge of when they need me to step in and when they need me to step back.)  I want to always say the perfect thing and find the perfect consequence to their behavior.  I want to keep them perfectly safe, allow them perfect opportunities and give them perfect Christmas presents.  Oh, and doesn't it seem to follow that if my children are perfect then I am a perfect mother?

(I think I should switch and insist on perfectly straight pictures on my walls.  That would be a lot easier.)

Being a perfectionist is sort of irrational.  It won't make us happy or help us to reach our authentic potential.  

I will never be a perfect mother.  Never.  For one thing, just when I am beginning to figure something out, the children get older and circumstances change.  It isn't exactly an even playing field.  For another thing, I'm imperfect.

Have no fear of perfection.  You'll never reach it.
Salvadore Dali

The best I can do, the best any of us can do, is keep trying.  And we will.  I don't know very many people that don't want to succeed.  We need to give ourselves a break though.  We need to realize that no one we love really expects us to be perfect anyway.

A few weeks ago, I burst into tears when Adam was in Europe and schedules were colliding and one of my children was sick and I couldn't meet everyone's needs.  Braeden gathered me up in his arms and patted me like I was an unreasonable toddler.  He assured me that everything was fine and then he said, "What do you need me to do?"

He didn't expect me to be perfect, or even anything close to perfect.  It was sort of a revelation.

When they were babies, my relationship with our children was based on me doing everything for them and them rewarding me with smiles and cuteness.  Along the way though, as the challenges keep coming as I'm trying to keep up with parenting children that change every day, they have learned that I'm a person too.  Despite my best efforts to keep the secret from them, they know I'm not perfect.  And they are OK with that.  

Maybe more than a perfect mother, my kids could use a mother that doesn't freak out.

Hmm.  I'll work on that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Keep on keeping on


Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.
Pablo Picasso

Love that.

We have to keep showing up.  We have to plod along on our daily round, doing what we think are the most important things.  It may seem sometimes like we're spinning our wheels.  We're doing the same things over and over but there's nothing all that inspiring about any of it.

Occasionally though, we are able to catch a little glimpse.

At times I can look around my life that isn't all that noteworthy and see that it's a pretty good place.

This morning I was putting on my shoes before leaving to pick up the seminary carpool and drive them from the church to the school.  The downstairs was dark but the heat had kicked on and felt wonderful.  There were flowers on the table and cookies on the counter and the living room was scattered with dessert plates and water glasses leftover from my writing group last night.  I sighed happily.  I could see the dim outlines of our furniture and belongings that I love.  I felt a deep fondness and gratitude for my home and my life (and let's face it, the cookies).    

As long as we're working, as long as we're striving, we can gradually make our world what we want it to be.  With our perspective aligned and our head down we keeping doing the work.

And when we lift up our eyes and see the beauty around us, it will be worth it.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Two real world examples

First example:

On the best day, Party City is not my favorite destination.  Near Halloween, it is one of Dante's circles of hell.

I purely hate that place.

I don't like the discordant music, the promiscuous costumes for women (because naturally every woman wants to dress as some incarnation of a prostitute for Halloween), the wicked and evil and dark and ugly.

I don't like it.

I don't like the aloof and ineffective employees that know that you are there because you have to be there so they don't need to keep you with anything approximating customer service.

Why do I go?


Because of him.

He wanted a costume.  We went to Party City.  He found one he liked, a transformer something or other.  I assured him the biggest size they had wouldn't fit.  He assured me it would.  In order to escape the horrible place that is Party City, I finally gave up and gave in and bought the too small costume.

Guess what?  He tried it on when we got home and it was too small.

This is a sad tale but it gets better.

As I contemplated going back to Party City or any of the other stores that sell costumes this time of year, I rebelled and my authentic self finally made herself heard.

I told Mark that I would cut him a deal.  I said, "I'll return this costume and buy you a Lego set if you can come up with a costume from things we already own."

He said he'd get back to me.

After a few minutes he said, "You've got yourself a deal," and held out his hand to shake mine.

He told Gavin on the phone that he's going to be Steve for Halloween.  I have no idea who Steve is but as long as I don't have to darken the door of a costume store again, I'm all for Steve.

Example 2:

Adam called me on his way home and invited me to go to our nephew's football game.  I would have loved to go but I had so very much to do.  Just thinking about it made me feel like hyperventilating and made my earlier trip to the costume store doubly frustrating.

Adam, that wise and beloved man, told me to do the things that only I could do.  Then, because he knows me, he added, "I don't mean the things that you think only you can do, I mean the things that really truly only you can do."

I said OK.

He said he and our children would help me do the rest of the things in the evening.

I felt like I could breathe again.  There are some things that only I can do.  He reminded me what was important.  He reminded me to ask for help. (And he brought me home flowers.)

I love that guy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Balance

I must admit these posts are making me feel uncomfortable.

I don't know what I'm talking about.

I can write out what needs to be done, but I struggle with it myself.  So I'm a fraud, but let's talk about balance.  Because life is one big balancing act.

Even after you recognize that you only have so much room in your life for pursuits, and even after you catch a vision of why you do what you do, you have to make it all work.

There are demands on our time that have nothing to do with how we want to spend our time.  Because we have to do things like laundry and fill the gas tank.  Of course, maybe they are all part of the big picture of caring for our families and ourselves but sometimes they just feel like endless endless tasks. (Do two endlesses make it feel more endless? Because that's what I was going for.)

Here's how I try (try) to make it all work.

I am a big fan of big to do lists and have been known to make lists for myself that have columns. (I don't recommend this.)  I keep making hopeful lists and optimistically, I enumerate and rank everything.  I try to remember the wise words I heard from Julie Beck.  She said that the things we do fall into three categories:  essential, important and nice to do.  Everyone's lists of essentials will look different but I think it's useful to look at your life and think about what is essential.  Do those things first.  Do the important things next.  The other things will fall into place.  Don't panic.
 
I try to tell myself not to panic.

(I don't always listen.) 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The big why

First say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do. 
Epictus  

Yesterday's post was about the limited bookshelf space all of us have.  In order to decide how to fill your time, you have to always keep your eyes on the prize.

Once you've figured out what the prize is, of course.  Again, different for everyone.

This is at once easy and difficult for me.  Occasionally I have these clarifying perspective boosting moments where I can see clearly The Point of everything.  I can see why I'm on earth and what my Big Purpose is.  I can see that there are distractions that are not worth any of my time.  I can see that I need to devote more of my time to what is real and what is important.

And then I forget.

I get caught up in trivialities.  I worry about all the wrong things.  No wonder I sometimes feel dissatisfied or at loose ends.  

My challenge to all of us today is to Remember.  Remember those times when your goals in life were clear.  Think about ways to recapture and retain those feelings.

And hold that thought!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What's on your bookshelf?


I love books.  I've always loved books.  I love owning books.  I think it's in my DNA, inherited from my mother.

My dad built the house I grew up in and as per my mother's request, every room had two large built in bookshelves the length of the walls.  Our bedrooms were 1/4 bookshelves.  (Full bookshelves.)

When I had a home of my own, a solemn truth revealed itself to me.

There is only so much bookshelf space.  There are only so many walls to fill with bookshelves.

I have made best friends with the library.

Life is like a bookshelf.  There's is a finite amount of space.  You can't keep buying books and buying books and think you'll have room for them, because you won't.

You also can't keep adding commitments, hobbies, activities and tasks and think you'll have room for them.

Because I have finite book space, I evaluate my books fairly often.  Do I still want this book?  Does anyone read it?  Would we mind if it were passed on?  (It's a little easier with books because they're inanimate and don't look at you with pleading in their eyes.)

I need to do the same with my time.  Do I still want this activity?  Does it help any of us?  Would we mind if it were no longer part of our lives?

Because I have finite book space, I think carefully before buying a book.  Is it bookshelf worthy?  What book would I have to get rid of to make room? (It's a little easier with books because they're inanimate and don't look at you with pleading in their eyes.)

I need to do the same with my time.  Is this new request worthy of my time?  What will I have to stop doing to make time for it?

I'm really kind of terrible at this.  I keep saying yes, yes, yes!  I need to have enough space though.  The hard work of analyzing which things to make time for, which things make the most authentic sense, requires all the analysis my little brain can muster.

Wish me luck.

Friday, October 19, 2012

What's the worst thing that can happen?

Today's blog post is about fear.

Sometimes, you have to face your fears to be authentic. There are plenty of things that we really want to do, but they are terrifying.

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.
Eleanor Roosevelt 

A while ago, when Braeden was auditioning for the school play, he was afraid he hadn't done well on his tryout and he was nervous he wouldn't get a part.

"What would happen if you aren't cast?" I asked him.

"That would be terrible," he said.  "I would be really sad."

"What would happen?" I asked.

"I guess I'd see if I could be on the tech crew," he said.  "Then, I would still get to go to practice and see my friends."

I think it made him feel better (although he felt better still when he learned that he did get a part.)

When you think about the worst thing that can happen--humiliation, rejection, etc.--and you determine that the possibility of those outcomes is survivable, I say go for it.  Once you realize you would be able to live with the worst case scenario, it is empowering.

I'm not going to lie to you though.  There are plenty of times I disagree with Eleanor Roosevelt because I am a chicken.  Sometimes I refuse to look fear in the face and I go right on not doing the thing I think I cannot do.

You won't find me skydiving, going on scary roller coasters or bungee jumping to name a few.  Sometimes deciding to live your life by the guiding principles of staying safe and comfortable is being authentic too.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Committee

This month I have been a student of authenticity.  I've been seeking information and knowledge because 1) I wanted to write 31 posts and 2) I wanted to figure out a bit more about authenticity.

Truth can be found in a variety of surprising places.  I read an article by Martha Beck who is not a person I would likely ever align my life with, but...she had some good things to say.

(This is from the November O Magazine):
Maybe you're one of those self-assured people who've never given a hoot what anyone thinks of them. If so, you also probably set fires and hurt small animals, because you are a psychopath.
So, she's right.  We care what people think about us.  It would be a little scary if we didn't.  It helps keep us being kind and decent to each other.

She also explained in the article that we all have an Everybody Committee.   We think "everybody thinks I'm _______, everybody wants me to __________,"  etc.  Really, when we think that, we are thinking of a few people we know--a committee--that are sort of judgmental. 

Your vague, unconscious guesstimate of your Everybody Committee's opinions affects your every move. When you hate on your hair or dread speaking in public, you're anticipating your committee's judgment. If you wouldn't be caught dead without your Rolex and false eyelashes, it's because that's what your committee approves. If you consider yourself a rebellious nonconformist, you continually refer to your committee so you can be sure to shock them. (Can you say "irony"?)
So what do you do?  Get rid of your Everybody Committee.  Send them on their merry way and install a new committee.

Here's where your authenticity comes in.  Because your Everybody Committee, the real and good one, will probably look different than anyone else's. 

When I summon my Everybody Committee, it includes people that I know really and truly love me.  They are people that know me, the Real me, and love me anyway.  On my committee are people I don't want to disappoint.  A while ago, when I wrote about imagining a person next to you, I hadn't read this article yet but that's the same idea.  My wonderful SIL Jennifer (who is on my new and improved Everybody Committee by the way) commented on that post:
...I liked what you wrote about picturing the person you admire being with you all day. That thought intrigues me. It also made me hum the Primary song "If the Savior Stood Beside Me." :) 

Imagine a world if we all had Jesus Christ on our Everybody Committee.  Front and center.  What if we lived our lives with Him in mind?

Here are the words to the song Jennifer was referencing, written by Sally DeFord:

If the Savior stood beside me,
would I do the things I do?
Would I think of His commandments,
and try harder to be true?
Would I follow His example?
Would I live more righteously
if I could see the Savior standing nigh,
watching over me?
 If the Savior stood beside me,
would I say the things I say?
Would my words be true and kind
if He was never far away?
Would I try to share the gospel?
Would I speak more reverently
if I could see the Savior standing nigh,
watching over me?
 He is always near me,
though I do not see Him there,
And because He loves me dearly,
I am in His watchful care.
So I’ll be the kind of person
that I know I’d like to be
if I could see the Savior standing nigh,
watching over me. 

See?  Now you love Jennifer just as much as I do.  How can you not adore a person who has that song is in her mind?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Close the curtains


I was at a Relief Society meeting at our church last week and heard a story attributed to George Durrant.  I can't find the actual story to verify it but it resonated with me.

Here's my wildly paraphrased version--adapted for my purposes to authenticity.

Don't live your life with your curtains and windows open so anyone walking by would look at you and say, "Wow, that's a successful person/life."

That would be exhausting for one thing.  For another thing, if you're constantly trying to live so that other people are impressed with you, you aren't living in an authentic way.

Does this seem at odds with what I wrote about imagining a person who you admire near you, watching you?

Because I don't think it is.  Imagining a loving and supportive person watching you is encouraging.  It makes you want to be better and more like the real you.  Feeling like the world is judging you and you have to perform for your biggest (real or imagined) critics, is a different thing altogether.

In the story I heard attributed to George Durrant, he said to close the curtains.  Be yourself.  Be comfortable.  Enjoy your family.  Stop feeling like you have to perform for other people.

More on this tomorrow but for today, shut the curtains.  Contrary to what William Shakespeare wrote, the world is not a stage. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Clothes

If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.
Eckhart Tolle

I will go with the above quotation because I'm not that great at "the outside."  The inside seems like more in the realm of my control.

You've got to wear clothes though.

I don't want to spend the time or money it would require to be a fashionista.  (Plus, I lack the interest/patience for extensive shopping and let's face it, the skill.)

You've got to wear clothes though.

I have been thinking about this, thinking about being authentic with clothes and here's what I have determined:  it all has to do with comfort.

I want to be comfortable in my clothes.

That doesn't mean wearing my pajamas all day--although they're comfortable.

For me, it means wearing a dress or skirt to church because I wouldn't feel comfortable if I didn't.

For me, it means having a high enough neckline and low enough hemline to be comfortable.  And sleeves.

For me, it means finding clothes to wear that I feel OK in.

For me, it means no itchy wool sweaters.  (Sorry itchy wool sweaters.  It's not you, it's me.)

For me, it means mostly jeans but some skirts in the summer.  I decided I'm a skirt wearer in hot weather.  People ask, "What are you all dressed up for?"

I say Costco.  Or the library.  I just like a skirt on a hot day.  It makes me comfortable.

In the absence of being a fashion icon, that's worth a lot.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Fads

When Adam sees spectacular pictures like this one (taken of me in 6th grade), he always has the same question for me?


I had some big glasses.  They were kind of the thing back then.  They did look a little silly and oversize, but they were the thing.

And now they are making a comeback.  Fads do that.

When you're old enough to see fads come and go and then come back again, it gives a little perspective.  Fads are a little crazy and manipulative.  Perfectly good things become unacceptable and shunned in favor of new different things that were previously unacceptable and shunned.

I think the best thing to do is embrace the fads you like and work for you. Forget the rest. (A very small segment of the population actually looks good in skinny jeans.) 

No matter what you wear, it will go in and out of style at the whim of designers that need to make things go out of style so they can get you to buy more.

Just wear what you want to wear.

Now if I really were to take my own advice, I wouldn't wait for big hair like they wore on Designing Women to be popular again:



This is the way my hair naturally wants to be and I have to coax it into submission every day.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Undisputed Origin

My thoughts on a Sunday morning:

The first definition in my dictionary for the word authentic is:

of undisputed origin; genuine

I don't think it's by chance that one of the first things I ever learned about God was that He is my Father.  He is the Father of my spirit and as my Father, I know that He loves me.  (It helps that I have a stellar dad that also loves me.  That taught me what a father's love means.)

I am a daughter of Mark Dahl.  I am his child.  As such, I know that I have potential to use the skills and talents I inherited from him to do good in the world.  I know he wants me to be kind to his other children and help them when I can.  I know he loves me and will help me when I need it.  (He has proven that.)

It's the same way with my Heavenly Father.   I am His child.  As such, I know that I have potential to use the skills and talents I've been given to do good in the world.  I know that He wants me to be kind to His other children and help them when I can.  I know He loves me and will help me when I need it.  (He has proven that.)

I am a child of God; I am of undisputed origin.

I am authentic.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Be creative = be happy



Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. 
Franklin D. Roosevelt

I am a big believer that creativity is linked to happiness.  Also, I think it's reassuring and exciting that there are so very many ways to be creative that everyone can find a way to be creative.  It takes creativity to paint, sew, draw, write, bake, design, problem solve, do algebra, take photographs, coordinate a schedule, repair something, teach, get a toddler to do what you want, or get a teenager to do what you want.

Even better?  I never feel more alive, more like me, than when I'm being creative.  There are plenty of tasks in my day that don't take much inventiveness.  It's up to me to look for ways to flex my creative muscles in my own sphere.

Sometimes my attempts to create are big fat failures.  For example, Janet, bless her patient heart, taught me to "knit."  (I think I can call it knitting.)  I'm not very good at it. I finally finished my "scarf."

I have to point out this is not Janet's fault.  She is a good teacher who had no control over her student's skill level.

It is homely and asymmetrical and really short and fat for a scarf.  The only person it would work for would have to have a long and skinny neck.  Like, longer and skinnier than a giraffe.

As sorry as it turned out, I enjoyed the process and will try again.  It made me happy to try something new.  (And I can only get better, right?)

When you are creative, you tell the world, I was here!

(Thelma made one ugly scarf, but she was here!)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Authentic house

Years ago, I went to a woman's house and it felt wonderful.  The carpet was deep and lush, there was a tall clock ticking importantly in the living room, the furniture was substantial and polished and expensive looking.  It was a nice house.

Our house doesn't resemble it in the least and it probably never will.

There are as many ways to have a wonderful house as there are wonderful people.  I like our house although I'm positive it will never be featured in any sort of magazine. It works for me.  It's comfortable and a little bit quirky and a lot a reflection of my sometimes crazy ideas.

I have three identical clocks with three random times sitting on our piano:


My friend Stephanie was over once and asked me the significance of them.  There isn't any.  I just liked them.

I painted a quote on the wall in my kitchen, just because I like the quote.


I have silverware that I picked up in an antique shop stuck to my fridge with magnets, because I wanted to stick them there.


I like changing things up in my house.  It is fun and makes me happy and arranging and rearranging quiets the restlessness in my soul that surfaces from time to time (especially in rainy weather--like today).  On a side note, I didn't miss you rainy weather, although my children did (nutty kids).  On another side note, the flagstone in my backyard looks pretty in the rain so there's that.  And before Olivia reaches through this computer and wrings my neck, I will have no more tangents.  (She once threatened my well-being on account of my tangents.)

Back to my house:

Not all of my experiments are successful and popular.  The jury is still out on organizing our books by color.


When someone is looking for a book we try to remember the color then take our best guess as to which rainbow it is a part of.


Until the mutiny when they finally make me go back to a more sane way of arranging books, I'm sitting here in my odd little house, happy in the knowledge that none of those clocks has the actual time and if you can't remember the color of the book in question, you are out of luck.

I gotta be me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Who lives here?



Yesterday I was opinionated about the fact that there should be no decorating rules.  Here's just one suggestion (very different than a rule, OK?).

Ask yourself, who lives here?

The houses I most love to be in share one common trait:  they are comfortable.

There are comfortable places to sit, a feeling of ease and belonging by those who live there.  The people who live there are reflected in rooms and possessions.  I love seeing personality and rooms that are lived in.  To me, they are authentic.

For several days last week, our living room looked like this:



It was added to over time and all courtesy of the creative inner workings of my favorite nine-year-old.  He had rummaged around and sifted deep in his Bionicle stores and one freakish creature after another emerged.  He gave me a running commentary on their strengths and construction.

I've never been one of those you-can't-get-out-a-new-toy-until-you've-cleaned-up-what-you're-done-playing-with sort of mothers.  I don't mind being surrounded by a certain degree of chaos because it doesn't look like colorful plastic mess to me, it looks like Mark has been here.

And I love that.

Here's what I don't love:


Mark's friends insist on pressing their hands and faces up to the little window by our front door after they ring our doorbell.

Some messes I don't mind.

Some I do.  (Pardon me while I go get some Windex.)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rules



There is a time and place for rules.   Of all my parents more or less rule keeping children, I think I was the rule keeping-est.  Unlike certain unnamed sisters (both of them), I never got suspended from school.  I like rules.

What bugs me are decorating rules.

They should bug you too.

And be ignored.

Once I heard that it is a "rule" that you not have family photos in your living room.  That's ridiculous!  There is not a lot I have control over in my world but my house is one of the places where I do.  I want our house to reflect me and our family and our tastes because we are the ones that are here most of the time.

If I were to decorate my home based on some arbitrary rules made up by some arbitrary person I don't know, that seems very very silly.  

I googled "decorating rules" just to see what I came up with.  Among many (many) rules I read that there are really two types of sofas you should consider and that's all.  (Ha!)  I read that you should never pick paint colors just based on the paint chip.

(Or what will happen?)

I feel like I need a soap box to proclaim this truth to the world:

It is your house!  Do what you want!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Be the best version of yourself



In her book Simple Abundance, Sarah ban Breathnach writes about listening to your authentic self:

She is the highest reflection of your soul, the embodiment of the perfect woman who resides within and she sends you Love to light your path.

Sarah ban Breathnach maintains that we really know the right way to be, the way that is our best self, we just don't always listen.

Another way to think about it is to imagine a person you completely admire and look up to.  Now imagine this person is next to you.  They are watching you, listening to you, knowing you.

Wouldn't it change the way you act?  Wouldn't you act like the best version of yourself?  And that best version of yourself, the one that is confident and fabulous and says the right thing, that's the real and authentic you.  That person I most want to be is the real and authentic me.

That authentic self is different for each of us, because we are all different. Our authentic selves may tell us yes to baking bread, no to getting a PhD.  Yes to writing a book, no to painting our house.  Yes to getting a job, no to planting a garden.  Yes to learning to play an instrument, no to learning to speak Italian. Who knows?

(Our authentic selves know.)

Emma a few years ago:  being authentic.
She can do that with her eyes...they are on different paths.  Freaky.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Know yourself: part three



Since my work revolves around caring for my home and family and being chauffeur-in-chief, my time is mostly my own.  The appointments and grocery shopping and errands and laundry and home school and dishes and dusting and Everything Else, happen when I want them to.  (Or they don't happen even when I want them to because I choose to do something else instead.)

Since I am in charge of myself, I like nothing more than a (long) to do list.

My parents are doers.  They are task oriented and I am their daughter.  Once Adam and I had a conversation that I think was enlightening to how we plan our discretionary time.  We talked about what the measure of a good day was, a day we felt good about.  His was a day spent in some sort of recreation with our family.  Mine was a day in which I accomplished a lot.  (You can tell which of us is more fun to be around.)

This doesn't, of course, mean that Adam never accomplishes things or that I don't have fun (although I'm not that good at it, really).  It does mean that since I know I need to be a little enterprising to be happy, I can plan for meaning, even in our recreation.

Recently we were planning a weekend getaway.  We batted several ideas back and forth.  Finally I remembered this key element of my personality.  I explained it to Adam.  I wanted to do something with meaning.  I wanted to see something new or interesting.  I wanted to learn something.  I wanted to look at beauty.  He wanted to do something fun.  We found the perfect compromise.  We went to the Oregon Coast.  It felt like the perfect itinerary.  I saw interesting and new things.  I drank in beauty.  Adam and the kids splashed their crazy selves in frigid water.

We were all happy.  Our needs were met, authentically.



 



Sunday, October 7, 2012

Know yourself: part two



Love languages are important.  If you haven't read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you should.  It not only helps you get other people better, but it helps you understand yourself better (which is kind of the point of these blog posts this month).

Once upon a time there was a lovely young married couple who had a fight every holiday.  (Every fight was my fault.) I didn't know why I was dissatisfied and neither did poor Adam.  I knew, vaguely, about the 5 love languages but hadn't ever given them much thought.

Then, when I was at Women's Conference at BYU, sitting next to my sisters in a class about marriage, I made a startling discovery.  The presenter was describing the love languages.  I listened and when I heard about "receiving gifts" as one of the languages, I thought that sounded awfully materialistic and shallow for a love language.  Then, with slow dawning, I realized that receiving gifts was my love language.  How terrible!  I felt loved when people gave me gifts?!  I felt like a jerk.

The more I thought about it though, the less jerk-like I felt.  I do love getting gifts.  I feel loved when someone gives me a gift.  But, the monetary value of the gift is not The Thing.

Once, when we were really (really!) poor, Adam and our young children gave me a carefully wrapped present for Mother's Day.  Inside were a drawing by Emma of a dress and a homemade rain check that said when we had more money, I could buy a new dress for Mother's Day.  I loved it!  I couldn't not have been happier with my Mother's Day gift.  I felt loved.  They had thought of me.

When you understand your own love language, you can explain it to other people (and have them explain theirs to you).  It makes everyone happier.

(And maybe makes you have fewer fights on every holiday.) 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Know yourself: part one



Once my friend Janet explained to me that introverts get energy from being alone.  I already knew I was an introvert but that definition absolutely rang true to me.  I love being around people.  I love parties and social gatherings.  I love my friends and family.

I also love alone time.  I need alone time.

Learning about different types of personalities is fascinating to me.  I think it's helpful with my loved ones to recognize who are introverts and who are extroverts.  My boys are extroverts.  If they don't spend enough time with people they get a little crazy.  They are moody and dissatisfied and stick to me like glue.  Emma on the other hand, is an introvert after my own heart.  Being home alone with her is like being home alone.  We work side by side or in opposite corners of the house, orbiting around each other but leaving each other to our own thoughts.

And it is marvelous.  

Knowing that I am an introvert makes a world of difference.  When I feel anxious or tired or cranky, I remove myself a little bit and it always helps.  I know that social settings are tiring.  I know that after being on a road trip all day with my family, loving every minute of it, I need to send them all to the pool in the evening so I can be alone in the hotel room for awhile.  (I know that's the only way to continue to love every minute.)  I know that it's not because of any moral failing on my part that I have zero interest in small talk with strangers.

I am an introvert.

I am me.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Research

Back well before we owned a home, when owning a home was just a far off dream, I started compiling notebooks.  I got the idea from Sarah Ban Breathnach's book Simple Abundance, which I love.

I cut pictures out of magazines that struck my fancy and then glued them into the notebook.  I didn't care so much about organizing them and I didn't analyze what it was I liked about them, I just glued them in.

Over several years, I amassed quite a collection of glued on images.  And guess what filled those pages?  Stuff I liked.  If you had asked me before I started what my favorite color was, I would have said blue.  If you had asked me what kind of furniture I liked, I would have shrugged.  After looking at the pages I absentmindedly clipped out of magazines, there was red.  Red!  Everywhere red.

(I guess I like red.)

There was yellow.  Yellow?  I don't like yellow.  (Well I do it turns out.)

After I had curated this kind of a collection in my notebook:


I knew that these things would make my heart sing:


And they do.

When it was time to paint my laundry room, I looked at these collected pictures:


And painted my room a shade of sunshine:


Now, of course, there is Pinterest and it couldn't be easier to collect what you like.  You may not know immediately what kind of things you want in your house and what kind of colors you love.  Just pick--without analysis--pictures you like.  Everything else will take care of itself.  Eventually.

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