Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Forget Yourself and Go to Work

There's a story told frequently about the 15th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley. When he was a young man, he went to serve as a missionary in England. While he was there, he was discouraged and felt that he wasn't doing very well in the work and thought he should come home. He wrote of his concerns to his father. President Hinckley then received a letter back and his father replied, "Forget yourself and go to work." President Hinckley took his advice and was very successful in his work throughout his life.

I remembered this story recently as I've been trying to figure out how to do everything I want and need to do. I've been focusing on how to meet my needs, like a regular sleep schedule and exercise time, so I can feel more energetic and help my family with what they need. I haven't been very successful and that has been discouraging. After thinking about it, I've decided that I might be tackling this problem in the wrong way.

Another quote comes to mind from Dieter F. Uchtdorf, current second counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS Church. He said, "As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness...In today’s world of pop psychology, junk TV, and feel-good self-help manuals, this advice may seem counterintuitive. We are sometimes told that the answer to our ills is to look inward, to indulge ourselves, to spend first and pay later, and to satisfy our own desires even at the expense of those around us. While there are times when it is prudent to look first to our own needs, in the long run it doesn’t lead to lasting happiness."
(Happiness, Your Heritage, General Relief Society Meeting, September 2008)

I know from experience that when I help others, I forget about my own troubles and challenges and I feel better in general. So, I'm going to try to focusing more on my family's needs first and then see if by doing that, I'll meet my own needs, too. I may or may not let you know how it goes. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Minor Annoyances

It's technically still fall since it's before December 21st, but it's really winter. The weather is cold and dry with occasional snow, depending on the year. It seems that the colder it gets, the drier it gets and that really affects my skin, especially my hands. I remember my first winter here, eons ago, as a freshman in college. I'd moved from a slightly more humid, but not much more, place and by the middle of winter, my hands were very dry and cracked. I have a picture of myself sitting on my bed studying with socks on my hands to keep the lotion from coming off them.

Over the years, I thought I had gotten used to the weather because my hands were never quite so bad until the reaction of my hands changed. It used to be an overall dryness. Now the dryness centers on my fingers, especially my thumb and first two fingers on both hands. If I'm not careful, I get deep cracks near the tips by the nail or on the joints. It hurts, especially since I use them a lot. Once the cracks form, it takes a long time to heal and then I remember how to better prevent them from happening and it slowly gets better.

So what's my point? Well, I wanted to see if I could seek the positive in this situation because my fingers hurt and itch right now. :)

So, here we go. I'm grateful my condition is relatively controllable and that I have a way to make my apartment more humid and rubber gloves to wear when I work in water. I'm glad it's just my fingers and not anywhere else. I'm grateful that it's only harder to control in the winter instead of all year round.

Well, I think that made me feel a little better. I think we all have minor (or maybe not so minor) annoyances that we each have to deal with in one way or another. We can choose to gripe and complain and make excuses for it or we can just understand it, deal with it, and work around or through it as best we can. I think the first way can make these annoyances worse because we stay focused on it. However, the second way allows us to do what we really want and hopefully minimizes the effects of our annoyances because we aren't focused on the problem anymore. May all the effects of all our minor annoyances be minimized.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks In All Things

Since today is Thanksgiving in the United States when we take time to think about what we are grateful for and since it's also one great way to seek the positive, I'm going to make a list of some of the things I am grateful for. I thought I'd do it a little differently because it usually seems that the same things are mentioned, God, family, country, home, food, shelter, freedom, friends, etc., and I thought I would try and look beyond that and see what I could come up with.


Things I am thankful for:
  • my Pocket PC, because it's small, compact, and holds all the things I need to remember plus I can read books on it, check my e-mail and the Internet, let my children use the drawing program to help them be quiet at church, and play mp3s to listen to books and talks while I work.
  • hot, running water from the tap.
  • my education and the desire and ability to continue learning.
  • my gas stove. (I really will miss it when I have to go back to electric burners one day.)
  • cinder block walls because I can use those 3M hooks and not worry about them ripping the drywall.
  • 3M hooks, so I can decorate my apartment better.
  • my city library. It has such a good collection and it's nice to be able to read many of the books I want while living on a student budget.
  • electricity.
  • Jesus Christ. (Yes, I know I said that I was trying to think of less common things to be thankful for, but I saw His picture on the wall and my life wouldn't be what it is without Him, so there. ;) )
  • microwaves.
  • Google Reader because I can keep up on my sites and not use a lot of time.
  • my husband having his thesis defense scheduled in less than two weeks.
  • lower gas prices.
  • a living room without a TV in it.
  • washing machines and dryers because they save a lot of time.
  • refrigerators and freezers.
  • Google Maps because it helps me find places.
  • staplers and paper clips because they keep my papers together.
  • scissors.
You're welcome to post other things that you are grateful for in the comments, if you like.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life As It Happened In the Last Month

I thought I'd update this since it's been a month since I've posted anything. We've had minor sicknesses in the last month which weren't serious, but take time from lesser pursuits like blogging. It's not like I forgot about it, though. I started at least a couple of new posts but was too tired to finish them.

I was also caught up in the election or trying not to be. In my personal efforts to stay positive in the ten days before Election Day, I limited my news media reading to one daily news e-mail subscription. I'm learning (very slowly, it seems) that we all have things that can take away our peace, and one of those things for me is the news. All the arguing, fault-finding, and negativity are so interesting to read, but it makes me disagreeable, to say the least, and that bothers me. I have so many more important things to do, but I allow myself to get sucked in. I've had some ideas tonight on how to resolve this for myself, so maybe I'll write about it when I get it figured out. :)

Another distraction, I suppose, is that my husband has been spending many a late night recently to finish his master's thesis. The exciting thing is that he should be finished, excepting perhaps his defense, by the end of the month. Then he can focus solely on his dissertation topic. Happy day!

So, stay tuned, my friends. We'll see how this month goes, with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up...hmm, like I said, we'll see. :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's All About ME

I recently took Little E to the doctor for a checkup. My plan was simple. Go to the doctor, get her weighed, measured, and checked out, then drive to the county health department to get her immunizations caught up since we're a little behind on those right now. We got there on time and they were running behind. We had a good half-hour playing in the children's waiting area and she was in a good mood. Then we got back to the room and while she wasn't thrilled to be weighed, we did it and she checked out well.

I'd forgotten that the doctor had wanted to check her for anemia, so we went to the lab for a blood draw. That was traumatic. First they had to find a vein in her arm by checking both arms. Then the vein they tried kept rolling around and they couldn't get it. Finally, after trying to look for another good vein in her arms, I asked if we couldn't try getting it from her heel. Luckily, her heels were still soft enough, so after using a warm compress to draw the blood to her heel, they were able to prick it and squeeze out the blood they needed to do the necessary tests. Little E screamed and cried almost the entire time.

Now what would you do? My husband was watching our other children, so it would have been so easy to just take her to get her three/four more shots. Then we'd be all caught up. If I did it another day, I'd probably have to take all my children with me to the health department. It would be easier for me to do it now. She's still little, she'd be okay, right?

I decided to wait. She probably would have been fine, but why put her through more pain today, just to be convenient for me.

I think we face those kinds of decisions all of the time during our lives. Is what I want more important than what others want or need right now?

I've been thinking lately about how certain problems in our society stem from people deciding that what they want is more important than what others need or want. The first one that comes to mind is the current financial market crisis. The situation is complex, but it seems that at least part of the problems come from people choosing to get what they want instead of getting what they could actually afford. It also comes from people choosing to get what they want by encouraging others to buy what they can't afford.

Another problem is no-fault divorces. I'm not talking about people who have legitimate reasons to divorce, like, for example, abusive marriages. I'm talking about people who choose to divorce amicably because they've grown apart, fell out of love, or some other excuse to break up. It's more difficult when there are children involved because the parents don't know or choose to ignore the decades of research that show that divorce has many negative, long-term effects on everyone involved, especially the children.

Abortion, road rage, child abuse and neglect, intolerance, greed, impatience, rudeness. In fact, I think that almost all problems come from someone or some group thinking that their needs and wants are more important than someone else's. I suppose it can seem only natural. It's built into us from birth. Babies and little children are selfish, in part, to make sure they are taken care of. But, part of the process of growing up and becoming an adult is learning that you are not the most important thing on this planet. That is why we teach children things like how to share, that hurting others is wrong, and how to work together and help others.

I'm reminded of the end of the movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (If I'm spoiling anything, I apologize, but the movie is over 25 years old. :) ) One of the main characters, Spock, gives his life to save the rest of the ship. As he is dying, he explains to his friend, Admiral Kirk, why he did it. He says, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."

I think that to change most of the problems in our lives and to find happiness, we need to stop spending so much time focusing on our personal needs and look outside of ourselves to those around us. I believe that this starts with our families since these should be the people that are the closest to us and as such we can have the most impact. After we take care of our families, we can then more easily help others around us at work, church, or in our communities because we have a place where we can rest from our other worries.

Focusing first on our families' needs can be difficult since we see them in all moods and with all their faults. However, it has been my experience that when I focus on the needs of those in my family first, they are happier, I am happier, and many of my needs are actually met. I've also noticed that for myself, I have a harder time thinking of others' needs when I'm really involved in my own interests like reading, checking my e-mail groups, or talking on the phone. I find that when I'm deeply involved in my stuff, whatever it is, and someone comes to me with a need, I'm more impatient, more easily frustrated, and ultimately dissatisfied. I'm recognizing that in order to want to think of others' needs first, I need to be more selective when I choose to do my stuff, so I'm not so distracted by my concerns.

So where is the positive in all of this? The positive is that we can change, that I can change. I don't think I'm being too selfish most of the time, but I would like to be better. I can choose to find ways to think more about others than myself. I can choose to work on my interests at times when I won't be needed to help others. I can choose to focus my energies on helping my family members rather than satisfying my desires more often. I can be happier when I do these things because I've seen it work.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Seeking the Positive As A Wife

I am posting a link to an article by Orson Scott Card titled, "Bad wife or just a busy one?" from mormontimes.com. I had to smile as I read it because it just sounds so familiar. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Things I Love About My Faith: The Plan of Salvation

Today I taught the women at my church. I haven't had the opportunity to teach adults for a while, so I enjoyed it. The lesson was on the plan of salvation as revealed through Joseph Smith. As I prepared to teach, I realized that this was one of the things I love about my faith. God has a plan for us. Not only that, but He has told us why we are here in the first place. God revealed to Moses that His work and His glory was "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)

We are taught that we lived before we were born and that Jesus Christ was chosen as the Savior of the world as part of the plan to return us to the presence of God. We are here on this earth because we chose to accept that plan. We were given bodies to allow us to gain knowledge and experience and to have moral agency, the opportunity to choose good over evil. As we choose to follow God's plan by having faith in Jesus Christ and keeping His commandments, we will, one day, return to live in the presence of God.

If you want to understand what I'm talking about in more detail, please click here.

Why Gender Matters

I recently read a book that documents studies that show the biological and neurological differences between boys and girls and men and women. It's called, "Why Gender Matters," by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. He is a major advocate of same-sex schooling and there were many things I found very interesting, especially since I'm teaching both girls and boys in my family.

Did you know that girls' eyes have more cells that are best adapted to detect color and texture, whereas boys' eyes have more cells that are best adapted to detect location, direction, and speed? So when little girls draw pictures, they draw nouns like flowers, trees, and people using lots of colors and little boys draw pictures with action using fewer colors like black, blue, gray, and silver.

That's just one of the biological differences. Men and women have different brain structures. Boys and girls develop different parts of their brains at different times, so if girls are developmentally ready for reading, for example, boys may not yet be ready. I found it fascinating.

I also read Dr. Sax's subsequent book called "Boys Adrift," detailing the reasons he's found that boys and men in our generation are generally not succeeding as well as girls. These factors include our current gender-neutral educational system, video games, and endocrine disruptors.

I encourage anyone who has children, especially those who have boys, to read these books. They definitely gave me food for thought. If you want to learn more, I'll put the links to these two books below.



Friday, September 12, 2008

Nighttime Parenting

The other night, as I was rocking Little E back to sleep, I was thinking about parenting and babies and how grateful I was to have that time with my baby. Yes, it was late. Yes, I was tired, but I know from experience that it won't last much longer, so I chose to enjoy it.

I believe that parents are the first teachers of a child and that their example as parents has a major influence on how a child views God as a parent since He is our Heavenly Father. I also believe that if we want to develop the attributes of God and become like Him, part of that development includes how we parent our own children since He is the ultimate parenting example.

When a baby cries out and a parent stops whatever he or she is doing to care for and hold that child, I wonder if, in a small way, the child learns more how a loving Father could take care of his needs whenever he cries out in prayer. I also wonder if the parent learns in some small way how better to be more like our Father by sacrificing his or her current needs for that child.

What does this have to do with seeking the positive? Being a parent is hard work, especially at night. I get less sleep. I get to sleep, at times, in less comfortable places. I have less time to pursue my own interests. But what do I gain? I get to hold a baby in my arms and help her feel loved and secure. I get to watch my baby sleep while we rock together and relax. I get to feel her snuggle in and feel gratified that she wants to be closer to me. Of course there are times when I long for the day when my baby will sleep through the night, but I also recognize that it won't last forever. In the meantime, I hope that I'm making memories and impressions that will last a lifetime for me and my baby.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Things I Love About My Faith: Respecting Other Faiths

"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." (11th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

One of the things I appreciate about my faith is that we are taught to respect the beliefs of others. We are taught to appreciate the eternal truths that are found in other faiths and work to build on our commonalities, not our differences with others. That's how Jesus Christ taught. He didn't rip apart the belief systems of those who were trying to do what was right and tell them they were eternally damned, but He started with what they believed that was actually true and then added more knowledge and information to help them understand His teachings.

Understanding and respecting the beliefs of others helps me see that most of us in the world are good people trying to do what we believe is right. I think it can help us see each other as brothers and sisters, children of God, and work together to make life better for everyone.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Traveling Without My Husband

A couple of weeks ago, I had the thought to ask my husband if it would help him finish his master's thesis if I were to take the children and myself to visit my parents in another state. He thought about it and said it would, so within four days of that suggestion, I was on the road with our four children.

I am extremely grateful that we have family along the way who have been willing to let us stay with them and that the cousins are glad to play with each other. It also helps since I'm the only driver and having a place to stop means I only have to drive 4-6 hours a day instead of the whole 11-13 hours, not including stops. I'm also grateful for my parents who let us stay with them at the last minute.

We head back home in a couple of days and my main motivation will be to see my husband. We all miss him. I've learned how much I depend on his help with our children, especially at bedtime and when A has a hard time. I'm glad that God designed the family to have a mother and a father so that they could work together to raise their children and I've just grown to appreciate it more these last few days. Hooray for families!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Things I Love About My Faith: I Am A Child of God

Ever since I was little, I've known that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father that knows me and loves me. We believe in our church that all people are spiritual children of God, created in God's own image. We believe that God is our spiritual Father and we, as His children, are all brothers and sisters. Because we are His children, He wants us to become like Him and so He has given us a plan while we are here on the earth where we can learn to become like Him and return to live with Him one day.

This last week, I had a friend share a thought that made me think about this concept in a different way. She said that each of us, at our most basic level, is a child of God and as such, that is how we should define ourselves. Many times, we define ourselves by our talents or achievements, our professions, or our feelings. Because we define ourselves this way, the definition of ourselves can change for good or for bad many times, even in one day.

When we, instead, define ourselves as a child of God, as a person who is related to the Creator and Designer of the universe, how else can we see ourselves except as a person who is somebody, who has great and even divine worth. If we could know that all the time, wouldn't we treat ourselves and others differently? Would we act more kindly, more generously, more charitably with those around us, but especially with ourselves?

I know that I have a Father in Heaven who knows me better than I know myself and loves me still. I love that I am a child of a real, tangible God, not some unknowable, formless spirit that pervades the universe. I love that I am made in His image and that He has provided us a way to return to live with Him again. I love that I can talk with Him through prayer and that He can answer me and help me when I need it. Isn't it great?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Three Cheers for Antibiotics

Okay, so this week has basically been used to recover from a case of strep throat. However, at least it wasn't as bad as when I had it last October and thankfully, I don't have mono. I am extremely grateful for all those people that took the time to play/work with mold so that my really bad sore throat would go away much quicker than in olden days. I am also grateful for my sweet husband who worked hard to let me rest, as much as one can rest with four children, while he's trying to write and finish his master's thesis.

I'm feeling much better, so we'll see if I ever get around to actually starting my series. To quote Tigger, "TTFN, ta ta for now."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Things I Love About My Faith: An Introduction

A major part of how I choose to seek the positive is related to my faith as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wanted to make a post about why I choose to be a member of my church giving a list of reasons why and explaining them. However, I realized it would take too long and I'd never post again if I waited to write it all.

Instead, I've decided to make it a series of posts taking one reason at a time and elaborating a little on each one. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Seeking the Positive in Food

I've been reading a fascinating book lately called, "The Taste of Sweet," by Joanne Chen. In the book, she looks at how we, as a society, view sweet things. I knew that all of us don't taste things the same, but I didn't know that there were scientists that study how we taste. I learned that there are people that are non-tasters, tasters, and super-tasters and part of what determines how strongly one tastes something can depend on how many taste buds you have in your mouth and whether you have a genetic tendency to taste a certain bitter chemical. I also learned how scientists create flavors and how the taste of strawberry in the 50's is much different than the strawberry tastes now, even the actual fruit. There's lots more, so I recommend this book to anyone that would like to read more about the science, history, and psychology of sweet foods and sugar.

One part that made me want to post about it talks about how most Americans have this love-hate relationship with sweets and food in general. We are surrounded by talk of how this food is fattening or how we need to eat more foods with anti-oxidants or omega-3's. Most of us love to eat cake and ice cream, but after we eat it, we feel guilty because we just ate junk food and swear to just eat salad for the next week to make up for it. (That might be a minor exaggeration or it may not. :) )

The author tells of a survey on health concerns and diet given in four countries, including the U.S and France and the stark difference in the answers given by the French and the Americans. The French women used words like delicious and celebration to describe ice cream and chocolate cake whereas American women used words like fattening and guilt. The author mentions the French paradox, where although the French eat rich foods, their rate of cardiovascular disease is lower than those in the U.S. She states that the lead psychologist behind the survey thinks that this guilt and fear of gaining weight may be the reason behind why many Americans eat so much and have unhealthy relationships with food. The author later wonders if part of the reason might be because the French have a more positive attitude about food.

Personally, I've never been too worried about food, though I do try to eat healthy foods most of the time. I do get worried sometimes if I eat too much or have too many sweets, but most of the time, I just try to do better next time. However, after reading this book, I have decided to keep trying to eat good foods, but not feel guilty when I don't. I have decided to try to enjoy my food more instead of just eating out of habit.

So far, I've done pretty well to taste and savor what I'm eating. I haven't remembered to do it for every meal, but I know I ate some really nice peanut butter cookies this week and enjoyed letting them melt in my mouth. My hope is as I taste my food, I will slow down and eat only what I need while still enjoying the experience. Do you want to try it with me?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy Thought

Today I pulled out my little sewing machine that my mother-in-law gave to me a long while ago, learned how to use it, and hemmed three pairs of jean cutoffs for summer. It was so easy and now D and I have more shorts. This is a big deal for me since sewing is not one of my regular activities, so I thought I'd share.

Go back to your regularly scheduled activities... :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

You're Gonna Miss This...

A few days ago, I was in my van listening to the radio and the song, "You're Gonna Miss This," sung by Trace Adkins came on. (Yes, I am an occasional country music listener. :) ) As I pulled into my parking spot and sat listening to the end of the song, I started to think about what I would miss when we leave school one day. I looked out at the well-maintained lawns and the mountains in our backyard and thought, "I will miss this." I will also miss having a playground out my front door, though I do have days where I yearn for my own backyard. I'll miss having my husband home as often as he is. I'll miss my gas stove, especially if we can't get one wherever we go. In a way, thinking about what I'll miss helps me appreciate what I do have while we are here.

After a few days of thinking about what I'll miss after we leave graduate school, I started thinking about my baby, e, who is learning how to walk. She likes to pull herself up on anything that is available, including me. She'll grab onto my pant legs and sometimes keep holding on while I walk slowly around so she can walk with me. Sometimes it's a little frustrating when I'm trying to get stuff done and then I think, "You're gonna miss this," and I become more patient with her.

I try, as a mother, to enjoy the stages that my children are in, especially the younger ones, because I know it won't last long. I think it keeps me from wishing they were older and could do more at times because I know they will be older one day and I'll miss the things they used to do, like learning to walk or say their first words or laugh a cute baby laugh.

So my advice to myself and you is to take advantage of where you are right now. Instead of just wishing and planning for what might happen in the future, enjoy where you are right now.

(e is starting to let go more often and walking by herself. I'm gonna miss her pulling herself up holding onto my pants soon. :) )

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

As I watched fireworks through my front room window, I realized how wonderful a country I live in. As much as I dislike the fighting and negativity of American politics, I am grateful that the fighting is mostly with words and ideas and not with guns and bombs. I'm grateful that the explosions I see and hear tonight are not because of differing ideologies, but for celebration of the birth of our great nation. So as this election season continues to drag along its dreary way, I hope to remember that at least we can disagree in our country without people dying.

God Bless America!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kindness Begins With Me

I already talked about seeking the positive in our children as parents, but what about everyone else? Your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your neighbors? The people that work at the store, the person driving next to you, your senator or congressmen, the crazy liberals, the evil conservatives, Big Oil, the list could go on and on.

We see in our society so much of name-calling, fighting, and just seeking for the worst in someone else. I know it gets tiring for me and I have to keep myself from getting sucked into the negativity, especially when it comes to politics.

So what can we do to make a difference? I've been teaching my children a song for when they start picking at each other. The key phrase of the song is "Kindness begins with me." I think we need to start with ourselves to be more kind to those around us, to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to look for the good and positive in others.

It doesn't mean that we have to sacrifice our principles. We can choose to disagree without being disagreeable or mean. We can also choose not to get offended when someone does something we disagree with. We can try to understand where others are coming from and try to find areas where we agree. We can choose to think of others as people instead of objects by considering their feelings about something instead of summarily dismissing them just because we don't agree or understand.

Will you try it with me?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Positive Parenting

While reading a book about teaching children with sensory issues, one section talked about looking for (seeking) the good (positive) things that children do and praising them for it more frequently than focusing on the negative behaviors and disciplining them for it. I've read about this principle several times in many parenting books and agree with it so much that I try to do it with my children.

It has been my experience that children like and need attention from their parents. I believe it helps them know that someone cares about them enough to honor them as a person and that they are valuable to their parents. However, in our busy lifestyles, it is easy to get so caught up in our own personal things that we can forget that our children want our time and attention. So, if they don't get our attention by behaving well, then they get our attention by behaving badly. I wonder if it's because things like screaming, jumping on the furniture, or hitting someone requires our intervention more than playing nicely with others or picking up a toy without being asked.

As I understand it, when you want to help someone continue a certain behavior, you can reward that person each time he performs that behavior and he will continue to do so. If you want to discourage a particular behavior, you can attach a negative consequence, preferably related to the behavior. (I think the technical terms are positive and negative reinforcement. :) )

For example, you want your child to put her toys away when she is finished playing with them. So when you've asked her to put the toys away and she does it, you can praise her and say something like, "Thank you for putting your toys away. You did a great job." However, if you want to discourage toy throwing, when your child throws a toy, you get her attention (to make sure she hears you) and tell her that we don't throw toys and if she does it again, the toy will be put away. Then ask her to repeat what you've said to make sure that she understands what will happen if she throws a toy again. Then when she throws the toy again, you calmly take the toy and put it away and say that we don't throw toys.

I've found that when I choose to pay more attention to the positive things my children do and praise them appropriately, it seems to make my attitude towards my children better and they also tend to behave better as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Coping with Major Challenges

After publishing one of my last posts, I got an e-mail from a friend letting me know that her newborn son had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. It got me to thinking about what I've written so far and hoping that those who read this blog don't perceive my thoughts as flippant or trite, especially when applying the ideas to difficult challenges. I believe we all have difficult things in our lives, in one form or another. Some are more visible than others, but we all have struggles and challenges that we face. Just because we have them doesn't mean we can't seek the positive in our situation and not find something. In fact, in order to cope and live with our particular challenges, I think we have to seek the positive or we might become absolutely miserable. Even when faced with things like the death of a loved one, disabilities, or chronic illness, I still believe there are ways to continue living positively.

Now, I don't mean that by looking for the positive that we should ignore or discount our challenges in a way that is neglectful of our responsibilities or that reject the reality of our situation. In fact, I think we need to accept certain realities of our situation so we can work to find solutions rather than wallowing in what might have been. We can waste a lot of time and energy wishing for something different. Instead, I think we should allow ourselves to grieve for what might have been lost and then face what comes as positively as we can.

Let me see if I can show what I mean with a personal example. My son, D, is a bright, intelligent, caring boy. He started reading when he was three and has a fantastic memory for things he sees and hears. He is very kind and wants to be good and do good. He is also easily distracted. He will go to do one thing and forget along the way and do something else. He has a hard time sitting still and is easily bored. He likes to repeat the same phrase several times if you don't acknowledge him right away. He sometimes invades others' personal space. If he is interested in something, it is difficult to get his attention. He seems hypersensitive at times to touch and sound. In fact, he is a lot like his father at that age.

In my efforts to better understand my son and my husband, I've learned that these traits are highly heritable, almost the same as height. I've also learned that there are biological causes for these behaviors. His actions are not due to a lack of willpower, laziness, or disobedience, but his brain's difficulty in regulating the activity of certain systems. There are many strategies to work around this (and even correct it somewhat) and we are implementing some and researching for more. This is one of the main reasons why we have chosen to teach our children at home. We want to tailor their education to their specific learning styles and interests so they will continue to enjoy learning as they get older.

"So what?" you might say. (That's what I've been saying to myself for a week now, so let's see if I can finish this and say what I want to say. :) )

Well, I've come to recognize that I'll have to spend more time teaching him certain things like planning, following routines, and staying on task. I'll have to be more patient with his development in those areas because the latest research suggests that children with these traits may have a developmental lag of, on average, three years in the part of the brain that controls things like planning, attention, and judgment. I may have to spend more time explaining his behaviors to family, friends, and teachers so they can understand and help him.

I could spend time wishing that my son didn't have these traits. I could just ignore his challenges and hope they might change on their own. However, what would be the point? God has blessed me with my son the way he is for His reasons, all of which I don't know. Some I think I have figured out, like that planning and organization are things that I enjoy and excel at doing, to a fault sometimes. :) Besides, if I were to ignore my son's challenges and not do my best to understand him, I would not be fulfilling the responsibility that God gave me to help my son become the man he needs to be.

I have also learned things that will make learning interesting for all my children. I've had to evaluate what is most important in learning and life, so I can spend my limited resources and energy teaching what is most important instead of being distracted by little things. I've learned (and continue to learn) that God gave me my children and that He doesn't expect me to do it by myself, that He is there to help me and give me what I need to teach all my children. I'm learning to have more compassion and understanding of others' challenges and am less quick to judge.

I guess my point is that although I have challenges and circumstances that aren't easily solved or changed, there are positive things that have happened to me as a result. As I choose to seek the positive in this situation, it doesn't mean that I always remember the positive things and that I don't get tired, frustrated, or discouraged. I do have down times, but when I remember and look for the positive things, especially that I have a Father in Heaven on whom I can rely to help me, things look better and I can keep going.

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's All About Your Attitude

I know I haven't posted in a while. I've been stuck on a post for over a week and it should be posted soon. (Hooray! I can move on. :) )

I was traversing blogs today. I'm trying to figure out the best way to post videos for family and ended up finding blogs of people I know. Anyway...

I found a blog where someone shared a story that I recognized because I was sitting right next to her when it happened. What was fascinating to me was that her perception of the event was much different than mine. Her perspective was mostly negative, which exaggerated what actually happened. She also chose not to mention anything that might have qualified the point she was trying to make. This really bothered me because this event was significant to me, too, and my actions, if she'd have mentioned them, would have changed the entire point of the story. (Of course, then she couldn't have used it to make her point...)

It got me thinking about how our attitude can affect our perception of what goes on around us. If we choose to focus on negative things, we might not be as receptive or able to see the positive in our lives or in those around us. As we continue to have negative thoughts, we become more irritable, more willing to complain, and more willing to find faults in ourselves and others, which then makes us and those around us feel worse and the cycle starts over in a continuing downward spiral to "the depths of despair" as Anne Shirley might say.

However, as we choose to focus on positive things, we become more optimistic about life, about ourselves, and about those around us. We are more willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, more willing to make allowances for ourselves and others, and, in general, we become much nicer people to be around. I think I like the positive way better. :)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours?

Do you ever have those times where everything seems to happen all at once? There are times when it seems that way to me and my husband would then point out that the number of events is Poisson distributed because the events are independent of each other and not linked in any way. That means, as I understand it, that fate has not turned on you, it just means that is how it happens sometimes. :)

Well, events in my life the last few days are experiencing this phenomenon. :) I've had a specific problem with my back in the past and did physical therapy to help it. I admit that I haven't been as consistent at the exercises as I should be, though I've been working on trying to fit it into my routine again. Well, now I'll have to fit the exercises into my routine because on Sunday, my back started hurting again in a different spot. I couldn't figure how I'd hurt it, but when it started to keep me from sleeping on Tuesday morning, I decided to go to urgent care. After an exam and five x-rays, the doctor determined that it correlates with some other problems I've been having (intermittent numbness in my 4th and 5th fingers and the previous back pain) and brought it all into a diagnosis of a certain syndrome. (If you want to know the details, click here.) It's a very mild form of it, and I've been referred to physical therapy again. The doctor said I shouldn't have to go too many times.

To add to my doctor visits, yesterday I was trying to adjust the frames on my glasses. One earpiece (Does anyone know what they are really called?) got bent backwards a while ago, but it was okay. However, as I tried to adjust it yesterday morning, it snapped off and I can't fix it. Since my prescription is over a year old, I will have to have an eye appointment in order to get new glasses.

Money, money, money, by the pound. :)

Now, since we're seeking the positive here, let me tell what is positive about all of this.

Good things about my back problems:
  1. I have a single diagnosis that explains this and all of my previous medical problems.
  2. It is very treatable and it involves things I already enjoy doing, which are exercising, trying to have good posture, and getting enough sleep. (Side note: Did you know that researchers have found that getting adequate sleep is important to recovering from back pain? That's what the doctor told me.)
  3. Because I have to go to the physical therapist, I have extra incentive to find the time to exercise since external motivation works well for me.
  4. My whole doctor visit with x-rays will cost $15. (Hooray for our student health plan.)
  5. I got two hours by myself to do physical therapy this morning.
Good things about my broken glasses:
  1. I can still wear them taped together and it's not uncomfortable.
  2. Clear packing tape is working well to hold the ear piece to the rest of the frame and it doesn't look too tacky. :)
  3. I get new glasses. (Hmm, maybe I'll go rimless...)
  4. We have the funds to pay for it.
Moral: When inconvenient things happen all at once, it is still possible to find the positive aspects of it. It all depends on your point of view.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Signing Time and Gospel Art Kit

I want to share two things that have been helpful to me lately. The first one is Signing Time. I think we were first introduced to these videos when my son, D, had a language delay when he was two years old. In order to help him understand language, the speech therapist taught us common American Sign Language signs so D could learn to talk with us. These videos were suggested to us to help us learn more signs in a fun way.

Since then, we have worked to teach our younger children basic ASL signs as babies and toddlers to help eliminate some frustration in communication. It worked for A, who is now three years old, though she didn't use the signs for long since she started talking soon after. Now we are showing them to e, who is almost a year old now. She loves to watch the videos and it has lately been my lifesaver when she has been fussy and I need to do something else for a little while. A and D are coming up to me, too, and showing me the signs they have learned, so they are just fun ways to learn ASL signs.

The other cool thing I have to share is the Gospel Art Kit on the LDS Church website. When we are at church, I try to have the children think about Jesus during the passing of the sacrament since that is when we, in part, remember Jesus' sacrifice for us as part of the service. D was having a hard time during the sacrament today and I had the thought that maybe I could put pictures of Jesus on my Pocket PC so he could look at them during that time. I went to the church website and found that I could put the pictures on my Pocket PC and I can show them in a slide show. I hope it will help.

You can use the images for incidental, noncommercial church or home purposes with the exception of Web site use, so that will work for my purposes. Here is the usage rights, so if you want to use them, you can follow their copyright guidelines. So very cool, at least I think so.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Be Content With Such Things As Ye Have

It's been one of those times and I've just recognized that this feeling I've had tonight is discontentment. So, since one of the stated purposes of this blog is to help me seek the positive, let me share what I just found and hopefully it will help. :)

Tonight, for family scripture study, we read 2 Nephi 7 where Jacob is quoting the prophet Isaiah, and he says, "Yea, for thus saith the Lord: Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever?" I think, "No," and decided to search for the word "content" in the scriptures because I was reminded of a scripture that talked about being content and I wanted to read it again. I think Alma 29:3 was the one I was thinking of, but I think Hebrews 13:5 fits better for my situation today.

"Let your conversation be without acovetousness; and be bcontent with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor cforsake thee."

The word "conversation" in the King James Version of the Bible usually means "conduct" or how we live. So we should not live for what we don't have and instead be content with what we do have because the Lord will not leave us or forsake us. If you go to the footnote in "forsake," it refers to Joshua 1:5, where the Lord is talking with Joshua and telling him that He will be with Joshua as he was with Moses. What a great thing to have God be with us. It's a good reminder.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How Good Do We Really Have It?

Now I'm speaking specifically of people who live in places where such things as chlorinated tap water, carpeted floors, and a telephone in their home are a given and most people don't usually think about it. When I talk about seeking for the positive things in life, I think this is part of the process sometimes. I think that most of us forget or aren't even aware of all the good things we have and instead get stuck thinking about what we don't have.

Some background on my perspective:

Before I was married, I served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lived for 16 months in Guatemala. Before I left the Missionary Training Center, I was well warned to be careful what I ate and drank and to never go barefoot to avoid getting unnecessarily sick. As a result, for the next 16 months I drank bottled or boiled water, closed my mouth while taking a shower, and wore flip-flops around the house, including while I took a shower. (Now perhaps I was overly cautious, but I only remember being sick once after I'd eaten pupusas that didn't agree with me and I haven't had any problems since.) When I returned home that first night, I remember being excited to do two things: drink water from the tap and walk barefoot on the carpet. (The homes I lived in and/or visited in Guatemala had cement or sometimes dirt floors. No wall-to-wall carpeting there. :) )

Since my time in Guatemala, I've had a new perspective on what is really important for happiness in life. I've known many people with little of worldly wealth or possessions who are truly happy. Because of that, I've better understood that "stuff" doesn't make one happy. So when I "seek the positive," I try to recognize what I do have.

Let me share an example of what I mean. I don't have a dishwasher. It doesn't come with our apartment and we don't have the space for one. I have had to learn, again, how to wash dishes by hand on a regular basis. However, I do have a window to look out of when I do the dishes. In my old apartment, I just had a wall to look at. I also have hot running water, dish soap, and rubber gloves to use as I wash dishes instead of a ball of soap and a scrubbing pad, a deep basin full of cold water, and a bowl to dip the water from the basin to rinse the dishes. By focusing on what I do have, it makes it easier not to wish for a dishwasher, when I can't have one anyway.

By seeing what I do have, does that mean that I somehow think I'm better than those who have less or should feel guilty about having more? No. In fact, I think we all have an obligation, as we recognize what we do have, to help those around us that are less fortunate than ourselves. Where much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48; D&C 82:3)

To clarify when I talk about what we have, that doesn't mean just physical things. We each have our own strengths and assets, whether physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual. I believe we've been given those strengths by God to help those around us. So as we learn to seek the positive, I think we should evaluate our strengths, recognize the Source of those strengths, and use them to benefit our families and others around us.

(Side note: So if I post something totally random, like I'm grateful for washing machines, even if it's a laundromat, instead of washing all my clothes by hand with a ball of soap, a washboard, and a basin of water, think of this post and you might better understand why. :) )

Friday, May 23, 2008

Feeling Sick

I've not been feeling well for the last couple of days. I think I caught e's cold and I haven't gone to bed before midnight for a long time. I've noticed a tendency to be more negative about everything when I don't feel well and my pebbles look more like boulders. :) So to remedy this, I've tried to remind myself first that I am sick and it's okay to rest and let some things go. Next, I've tried to think of what I could do. It's worked pretty well, and I'm extremely grateful that it's an annoying head cold instead of a can't-swallow-anything-for-three-days strep throat like I had last fall. I think I'm feeling better because I was able to do more today, though I still had some down times. Onward and forward I go!

Moral: When you are sick, do what you can and don't worry about what you can't. There'll be time enough to do more when you're better.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Good, Busy Day

I like being productive and using my time wisely. For me, that makes me happier, though as a mother, I still struggle occasionally with those days where my accomplishments are keeping everyone safe and fed and that's it. Over the years, my husband has helped me with those kind of days by reminding me that routine things are productive, too, especially since the care of my family is very important and productive. :)

However, today was not one of those days. :) It was a more productive day and I like those, though it still didn't go as I desired. We didn't get ready and take things to our storage unit like B suggested and I wanted to do. I did take e to her well-baby doctor visit and she is growing well except for an ear infection that she is hopefully getting over. (We'll see how it goes tonight.) I tried out my new Swiffer and got my kitchen floor cleaner than it's been in a while. I washed my dishes, let my kids play with their bubble blowers and the big blocks, made dinner, and watched my friends' twin boys for a couple of hours. On top of that, I was in a generally good mood. So I didn't get to do what I wanted to do today, but I did do other good things and had a good day.

Moral for today: Just because you don't get to do what you want doesn't mean your day has to be ruined.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Finding Joy in Our Trials

In church today, three speakers talked about finding joy in our trials. A part that stuck out to me was when one of the speakers mentioned that sometimes the perspective of our trials can be like looking at a pebble so closely that it appears to be a boulder. We get so focused on our troubles that the problems appear larger than what they really are. For me, finding joy or seeking the positive in my trials means that I take the faith and hope that I have in Jesus Christ and allow myself to cast my burdens on Him, which helps my pebbles really look like pebbles instead of boulders.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Rethinking Things

As I try to start this blog, I realize that with four small children, once a day might be a little too ambitious at first, so maybe I'll try for once a week and go from there. I also give myself permission to have short posts or posts that aren't perfected, so if I make a mistake or two, please keep that in mind. I generally like to be very precise in my writing and it takes me a while to put my thoughts together, but if I'm going to be consistent at this, I'm going to have to let some precision go, too. So please also keep that in mind and thanks for reading. :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I'll start with this weekend because it probably helped give me the idea for this blog in the first place. We visited friends last Saturday and in an effort to save gas and money, we decided to stay with B's parents overnight since they live in the same town and we were getting together for Mother's Day the next day. Saturday is our shopping day and S had a dress rehearsal that morning for her choir concert so B took S to her rehearsal and went shopping while I stayed at home to pack and get the other children ready. We did well in getting everything done and left when we wanted to, which doesn't seem to happen as often as we'd like. :)

It wasn't until 10:30 p.m. Saturday night that I realized that I had forgotten to get our Sunday clothes out of the closet at home for B to put in the van. We don't shop on Sundays as it's part of our belief in keeping the Sabbath Day holy and we were an hour from home. We figured B and I could borrow clothes from his parents and B's mom had dresses that would fit A and e, but we needed a dress for S and a nice shirt for D. (Luckily, D was wearing one of his nicer pair of jeans and we decided that it would work for one Sunday.)

After we determined that Wal-Mart was open 24 hours, B's mom, e, and I went to Wal-Mart and found a dress and a polo shirt for under $12 before midnight and it all worked out.

Now, at first, I started to get a little frustrated with myself because I'd forgotten to get the clothes out of the closet. Instead I decided to think about how grateful I was that we'd discovered the mistake before Sunday and that Wal-Mart was open late at night and that B's mom was willing to go shopping with me and help me find cute kid clothes on clearance at 11 p.m.

It's all in how you look at it.

Greetings and Motivations

There should be a purpose for a blog or at least a reason for someone to share their thoughts with the world. I've contemplated a blog for a while, but couldn't find a way to do it that would help me keep it up. Then yesterday, I determined that I could write about the good things that happened to me each day. Why? Two reasons, I think:
  1. To help me stay focused on the positive side of the things in my life by giving myself an opportunity to write about them. I have a natural tendency to be a little pessimistic and I want to change that.
  2. To help anyone that might read this to find the positive things in life, whatever the situation.
That's why I've called this blog "Seeking the Positive." In any situation, I think there is an opportunity to find the bright side, though sometimes you have to look a little harder.

Hope you enjoy it.