Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's Only Wednesday!

I returned to work on Monday this week after being off Thursday and Friday last week for the holiday. It is a common idea that government workers get so many holidays, but what you may not know is that we usually pay dearly for the time off. Most of the time we do double the work when we return. Monday was unbelievably crazy (I'll spare you the details), Tuesday was just crazy and today was back to unbelievably crazy.

At one point while I was running down the stairs between the ninth floor (where my office is) to the eighth floor (where our lobby is) to get my next client, the thought ocurred to me that I was deluding myself. I worked in retail stores part time for 12 years and I always dreaded the holiday season because the customers were so demanding and it was just a mad house at work. When I started working for the county, I thought "Finally, no more retail during the holidays!" And that was true until I took a promotion to caseworker six years ago.

It is funny that I hadn't really put the two together until today, but I am back doing "retail" during the holidays. The only difference is that our season is longer. It usually starts mid October and doesn't end until February. There is so much emphasis on material things during this time of year. Since I deal with many who are in poverty or close to it, I know they see what others have and want the same for themselves. Some are willing to go to extreme measures to get it (again I will spare you the details). I will admit that there are many who really just want the basics and are thankful for what we give them.

My speciality is working with individuals who claim to have disabilities. Many have nothing. Some have family and friends who will help them, but most are homeless or alone. Some have mental illness. Some have serious physical ailments brought on by substance abuse or just a rough life. Some are not familiar with how the system works and then there are others who could navigate it with their eyes closed.

Tuesday morning I awoke at 3am. As I laid there in the dark, pondering the coming events of the day and wondering how many "customers" I would have, I was particularly stressed. I got out of bed and went into the other room. I knelt down and poured my heart out to the Lord. As I prayed I was overcome with a feeling of peace and then the inspiration began to flow. I was comforted by such an immediate response to my petition. I enjoyed that feeling and wept tears of relief as again my testimony that the Lord knew me personally was strengthened. Even more than that I understood how much the Lord loves the people whom I am serving.

Yesterday and today have continued to be hectic, however the Spirit of the Lord has renewed my strength. My mind has been enlightened and I have been able to carry the burden easier. I am so thankful for this gospel that not only teaches me how to have peace admidst the chaos, but also how to receive inspiration to bless the lives of others. I don't know what the rest of this week will bring, but I do know that the Lord will be there to help me as I work to help those around me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Me and Richard Paul Evans

This past Monday night, I went to Joseph Beth books in Rookwood with my friend, Jean, to hear Richard Paul Evans speak. I have read almost all of his books and love them. I have heard him speak several times and each time I am touched with his genuine gratitude for his readers. There were about 100 people in attendance which is a pretty small group. He spoke for about half an hour and then he allowed us to ask him questions. He spoke about his work and also gave us insights into his personal life which were quite interesting. Then he signed a whole bunch of books. Not only did he sign our books, but he greeted each one of us, shook our hands and spent a few minutes visiting with us individually. This always has impressed me because no matter the crowd, he has done this at every book signing I have attended.

Since being married to Eric--NASCAR fan that he is--I have had several opportunities to wait in line to meet famous people. I am not one that likes crowds and waiting in line for hours is one of my least favorite activities. What struck me about this particular evening was that as many times as I have heard brother Evans speak, this was the first time that he really talked about his personal challenges. The main character in his most recent book suffers from Tourette's syndrome. I was surprised to find out that he does also. I had never noticed this during his previous book signings that I had attended. He candidly shared his challenges with this illness.

In a lot of ways, I understood how it must have hurt to be the "freak" at summer camp. I have struggled with my weight since I was a child. In addition to that the psoriasis on my skin didn't make things any easier. I have been brought to tears after hearing the cruel words spoken by classmates at school. My mother took me to the doctor and he yelled at me and told me not to eat so much--like that was the real problem--then he prescribed some diet pills for me which were horrible. Obviously they worked really well. After that, my mother didn't take me back to that doctor. I am thankful that she understood how important it was that I had good self esteem. She took every opportunity to build me up. When I was a junior in high school I weighed about 200 pounds. With some hard work I was able to lose 40 pounds and managed to keep it off for several years.

This was a difficult time for me, but it was also a happy time because I had the support of my family and friends who loved and accepted me. As I look at the world today, it is still hard for those who are different. I can see that in some ways society is more tolerant of those with weight issues, because so many of us have them. I also see that we have a long way to go to be completely accepting of everyone. The last line of his book says it all... "Don't cry so much. In the end, love wins."

I know this to be true. In the end, love is all that matters. The love that we share with each other has a powerful effect on us. It heals the wounds and scars of this world. It gives us the strength to make changes in our lives. It helps us feel safe and secure. And most of all it brings true joy to our souls regardless of whether we are giving it or receiving it.

As we enter this holiday season, I am thankful to be celebrating the ultimate gift of love. The gift of a Savior who loves me unconditionally. He, who willingly sacrificed himself to pay for my grief, pain and sins. He, who is there to celebrate my triumphs and is continually reaching out to lift me higher. Because of His blessings, today I shed joyful tears instead of the sorrowful tears of my past. To you, my friends, may this truly be a season of love and joy as we celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lincoln on Leadership

I have been reading this great book about Abraham Lincoln and his leadership style (Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips). He was the president during one of the most difficult times in this nation's history. It has been a learning experience to study his methods of leading. He had unbelievable faith...not only in himself, but in others. He understood that people were important, regardless of their station. He used persuasion rather than coercion to motivate others to action. He understood the importance of having strong alliances. As I was reading this evening, I came across a great quote that I would like to share because it fits so many situations...the topic of this chapter was on dealing with unjust criticism:

"In the later part of 1864, at a time close to an election in which he could be voted out of office, the president kept his faith in the people. Lincoln believed that, in the end, his course would be vindicated. 'I cannot run the political machine,' he once said, 'I have enough on my hands without that. It is the people's business---the election is in their hands. If they turn their backs to the fire, and get scorched in the rear, they'll find they have to sit on the blister.' "

My favorite part of that is: If they turn their backs to the fire, and get scorched in the rear, they'll find they have to sit on the blister! Now this gave me pause to stop and consider what things I have turned my back on and just how many blisters I am nursing! My next thought was, how wonderful a way to express that there are things going on around us that we cannot control and worrying over them won't change anything. I would not say that I am a big worrier, but there are things that I allow to overwhelm me. Usually they are things that are out of my control. For example, in my work, I have no control over who is going to walk through the door. I have no control over how many of my co-workers will be available to assist in meeting the needs of these individuals. I have no control over the fact that I only have 8 hours each day to devote to getting as much done as I can at a job that will never be completely done.

I also liked the end of the quote that puts the consequences squarely where they belong...on the rear of those who are turning their backs. While this may not be entirely accurate because I do believe that many innocent suffer as a result of bad judgement on the part of a few, it does give me solace to know that since I cannot change these things, someone other than myself should feel the pain. Therefore, I am resolved from this point, as we enter the season of the year when everyone wants their cash, food stamps and medicaid that I will not feel guilty if I can't get it all done. I will work as hard and as efficiently as possible without sacrificing accuracy and do what I can. I will seek for the Lord's blessings as I work. The amazing thing about what I do, is that I really do like it. Most of the time, it is a thankless job that I am thankful to have. I am thankful that I work with really great people who share the frustration. I am mostly thankful to wonderful friends who offer love and support. I know I could not do what I do without these blessings from the Lord.
So the next time you see me, if I look frazzled or stressed, just ask me how it feels to have my back to the fire...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thankful...not Ranting

So if you read Eric's blog, you know about our recent car crisis. I thought I would take this opportunity to give you the other side of the story. So the car was fixed today, thanks to my great Dad who helped us out. Now, here is my response to The Man of Steel Leg...

The top ten reasons why our Kia is better than your die casts:

10-It gets you to church without getting your clothes dirty or your feet tired from walking.

9- In the winter, there is a heater.

8-In the summer, it has air conditioning.

7-It has only been in the shop for a serious repair 3 times (including this one) in the six years we have owned it.

6-It has 4 wheel drive so I can drive it in the snow...and the rain for that matter.

5-It can carry all the groceries I buy from Costco.

4-It doesn't care about global warming or fuel economy because it is an SUV.

3-It doesn't require a pit crew to fill it up with gasoline and clean the windsheild--(This is implied since your die casts are all race cars).

2-I fit perfectly in the driver's seat.

1-It takes me to work and home every day so that I can earn the money to keep the roof over your head and food on the table, not to mention, buy your die casts!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In the Spirit of the Season

Because the Christmas decorations have been out in the stores since September, I didn't think it was too early to do a Christmas post. We are almost to Thanksgiving and after that it is just a matter of weeks until the Holidays are over and we are left to cold, snowy January. I had considered buying a snow blower this year, but have yet to do it, so I am hoping that the drought will continue through the winter and we won't have too much snow.

Anyway, back to Christmas...a few years ago, I heard this quoted in a talk. I liked it so much that I printed it out and put it on the inside of my handmade Christmas cards that I passed out at work. To my delight, it was well received, so here goes:


"Christmas is a time for giving. Someone once said he couldn't think of what to give for Christmas. The next day in the mail he received an anonymous list which read:

Give to your enemy forgiveness,

To your opponent tolerance,

To your friend your heart,

To all men charity, for the hands that help are holier than lips that pray,

To every child a good example.

This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again. "

(President Howard W. Hunter, Christmas Devotional, Dec. 12, 1994)

This counsel from a prophet of God is applicable to every day, not just the holiday season. We all need each other so much and for myself, I know that I fall short in some of these areas. Today, my efforts are renewed to reach out to others in love and compassion. As we enter the hectic pace of the holidays, may each of you be blessed with an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the reasons we are thankful as well as the blessings that are ours because Heavenly Father sent His son to redeem us. May you enjoy your families and friends and all your wonderful celebrations.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fall Fell Again

Ok, so I am guessing that most of you got the idea from my last post that I was not really liking McDonald's...Untrue. I like McDonald's fine. It was just that this particular meal was bad and I thought it interesting given the fact that I had good memories of McDonalds and when I went there to reminisce, it was a bad trip....
On to something new:
Today I spent the day in a training class on Customer Service. I was not thrilled about spending a day out of the office, when I have so much that I could be doing there. However, when the employer says, "You will go" I go. It wasn't such a bad idea after all. I mean, it was a day out of the office. I did get to see some old friends that I don't usually see every day and it actually refreshed my perspective on this important aspect of human relationships.
During the workshop we talked about how in one way or another, each of us is a customer because we require a product or service from someone else. We talked about how there needs to be respect, integrity and courtesy in our verbal and non-verbal language and that this is vital to providing good customer service. At one point, the presenter even talked about how most of the time, these behaviors do not extend themselves into the home.
As I pondered that, I was thankful for the forgiving attitude of my husband. He often bears the brunt of my work frustrations. This he does with an understanding heart and when I am finished ranting and raving, he is always there to offer love and support... And a shoulder rub...Which now that I think about it, may be the reason I behave that way...Oh, we won't tell him that.
As I drove home from work, I decided that I needed to let him know how thankful I am for his patience with my weakness. I truly am blessed to have someone who loves me unconditionally. I resolved to take more opportunities to be thankful to all who render service to me because it does make my life better.
And by the way, when I got home, he had dinner ready, the house cleaned and was even talking about getting started on the weekend laundry...what a man!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fall Fell

So last night I was channel surfing and found this great show on the travel channel about unique McDonald's restaurants throughout the world. I knew about the beginnings of the fast food chain and how Ray Crock transformed the way we think about food. The show told of a man who has eaten at almost 12000 different McDonald's restaurants. He even plans trips based on which ones he has not visited---now that is a real Big Mac Attack!

I was amazed at how varied these restaurants were. I mean, naive as I am, I thought the point of a franchised restaurant chain was so that everything was the same, no matter where you were...Sylli me! The program highlighted a McDonalds in Sweden (which was on the Arctic Circle) that the drive thru window was specially designed for snowmobiles. The customers actually preferred eating on their vehicle in subzero temperatures---can't imagine that. Another McDonalds is shaped like a Happy Meal box--I think that one was in Orlando. There was one that is set up like a diner and you are seated at a booth or table, you place your order via a phone at the table and the waiter brings it out to you. They have the regular menu and also diner style dinners. There is a McDonalds out there shaped like a big barn and in the silo is a huge tube slide as part of the kids playland. The McDonald's on Broadway is four levels and is decorated like the backstage area of a playhouse. I could go on, but I won't...

So after watching this, I told Eric it made me want to go down the street to our not so fancy McDonalds and have dinner. You must understand that a couple of years ago we watched that movie--Supersize Me--and since then, we have not really eaten much in the way of fast food. So I was waxing nostalgic for the junk food of my youth.

Tonight we ate at McDonalds and I was quickly reminded why we don't eat there. I confess, I have been spoiled by my own (and Eric's) cooking. Which isn't really saying much about the quality of the food we ate. I ordered the Quarter Pounder with cheese meal and Eric had the Crispy Chicken Club meal. In the past we would have ordered one meal and another sandwich, split the fries, and I would have had water to drink, but I wanted the whole experience so we didn't skimp. I also bought one of the Happy Meal toys because I had to have a momento from the occaision besides the extra fat that would be going to my hips.

My quarter pounder was really done. Usually I like some juice in my beef, and this coupled with the crunchy bun made me glad Eric had brought over extra ketchup packets. After a couple bites of hamburger, I decided to open the Happy Meal toy. Now that was fun. It was from the new Bee Movie and was probably the best part of the dinner except for the company. Eric said his sandwich was also dry until he got to the mayo on the other end of the bun. As for the fries, whoever decided that they didn't need salt, decided to remove the flavor...again, thank goodness for ketchup.

I was just finishing my burger when I turned over the cardboard box in which it was served and found the lovely nutritional chart. My first thought was, "Who comes to McDonald's for a nutritious meal?" After reading that I had just ingested 510 calories which had 230 calories from fat, I picked up the fry holder and found the nutition chart for those as well. I won't even go into that one!!! Alas, poor Eric had a message on his that he would have to go to the McDonalds website to find out how nutritious his food was.

As we were leaving I placed my bee toy in my pocket and told Eric that I might want to get some more of them because they were cute. He said that we could just order the Happy Meal and give the food to the dog. I told him I didn't think I wanted the dog to have it. I am sure there are some of you out there that love McDonalds and I truly hope that I haven't offended you with my story...but the next time I wax nostalgic for junk food, I think I'll go to Wendy's.

And for those of you who know the Peanut Butter and Jelly song from Inside Out-Sharing Time Eric made up this new verse:

I am cholesterol and you are trans fat

And we go together on this crunchy little bun.

I remember the first time that I saw you

Lying in the grease before the cooking job was done....

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Why I Love my Mom

Monday is my mother's birthday. In September it was 8 years since she passed away. In many ways the time has passed so quickly and then there are days when it feels like it just happened. When I think of the blessings in my life, my mother is right there at the top of the list. Some of you knew her, but the majority of you reading this did not. I want to tell you about my mother because she was an incredible woman.
My mother grew up in a home where her family was LDS but they were not always active in the church. She was blessed with immense musical talent. She would tell the story that when she was 5 years old, her mother took her to the doctor because she was not feeling good. The doctor told her mother that she was bored. She said she didn't understand why the doctor called her a board. Soon after this, she started taking piano lessons.
By the time she was in high school, she was very active in school and church activities where she accompanied choirs and other performers. She went to Ricks College where she studied music. Because her own family struggled with activity in the church, she wanted to make sure that her children did not have that experience. She married my father in the Idaho Falls Temple in 1955. Together they raised 9 children.
Our home was filled with music. Mother played the piano every day. She knew which songs to play that would draw us into the living room to dance. She taught us how to play the piano--some of us learned that better than others--(I didn't learn it so great and regret that now) She taught us how to lead music. She taught us how to sing--not just the melody--but in harmony. When a family vacation was planned, she would have us practice several songs that we could sing for our friends and family that we would be visiting. During the holidays we would prepare treats and go caroling to the homes of our friends. (I miss doing this)
Her motto was: "Practice, Practice, Practice". We practiced EVERYTHING! When the family would be going out for dinner, we practiced at home how to behave in the restaurant. We practiced how to politely answer the phone. We practiced how to sit reverently in church. We practiced how to obey.
When my youngest sister, Julie, was born, we got to learn about sacrifice. Julie had a chromosome abnormality called Tri-somy 18. She had very special needs. My father came home from the hospital and said, "We have an opportunity to care for one of Heavenly Father's special spirits." I was ten years old and will never forget how that statement set the tone for the family.
While care for Julie was then top priority for my mother, she continued to teach and train us. She helped us learn to care for Julie and we soon understood that we had to work together as a family if we were going to meet her needs. I believe this blessing is why we still have close relationships today.
My mother loved children. She served as a leader in Primary as well as RS and YW. She had a way of seeing the positive in everyone and magnifying that. She had the gift of being able to get people to do what she wanted them to do, but in such a way that THEY wanted to do it. She always used this gift for good. I am thankful for that.
I love my mother because she loved me enough to use her talents to bless our family. There is no doubt in my mind that she could have been famous and had many worldy honors. (Those of you who knew her, I am sure would agree.) She understood Heavenly Father's plan of happiness and passed up the fame and fortune to raise a righteous family. I am forever thankful for her example and I miss her soooo much.
I think of my mother every time I sit down to play the piano. I am thankful for my present calling as RS pianist because it forces me to play regularly. I know my mother has visited me while I have been practicing. There have been times that I have been playing for RS and felt her helping me because I get so nervous. She told me once that she was thankful that her daughters were her very best friends. I am thankful for this, too.
Julie lived almost 20 years, much to the amazement of the doctors. I know it was because of the love and care she received in our family. My mother served and cared for her each of those days. In her last years, my mother suffered from Parkinson's disease. Though her hands and her legs shook with tremors, she still played the piano every day. She typed letters to send to family members and friends that needed encouragement. She would review the RS newsletter each month and send birthday cards to the sisters. I will be forever greatful for the example of service and sacrifice that she was. It is my sincerest hope that I always live up to this example. I want to make her proud of me...and even if I fall short, I know she still loves me.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Thoughts for November

Last night I had the best time at RS enrichment meeting. The theme was "Christ Through the Holidays". It was so great to be together and laugh and share. As I was practicing the opening hymn this week (For The Beauty of Earth #92) I was really touched by the words in the third verse:

"For the joy of human love,

Brother, sister, parent, child,

Friends on earth, and friends above,

For all gentle thoughts and mild,

Lord of all, to the we raise

This our hymn of grateful praise."

I was particulary moved by the phrase: "Friends on earth and friends above."

I first thought "I am so thankful for you, my friends! You are all so wonderful!!!"

Then I thought about the second part of the phrase--"friends above". I wondered to myself how many friends do I have cheering me on from the other side of the veil? I wondered if the choices I make each day give them the hope that their efforts are helpful to me. I secretly hoped that I hadn't disappointed some of them with my actions. I thought about how we never know how many people are on the other side helping us to fight our battles.

November is a month where we focus on our blessings because of the Thanksgiving holiday. I want each of you to know that as I count my blessings this month, you are included. You inspire and strengthen me in ways that are hard to express. To all my friends on earth and my friends above thank you for your love, support and friendship.