Saturday, December 3, 2016


I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I am a Mormon.  The Mormon church has started a service campaign during the month of December called Light The World.  This campaign encourages people of all faiths and ideologies to find good in the world and in the people around them.  

Today is Day Three.  One of the challenges for today was to think about the people around you and point out the specific virtues they have; the ones that perhaps they do not see.
This got me thinking about the people in my life.  Some of them I have more contact with than others, but so many of these people have affected the way I live my life for the better.  Many of them I have not seen in years.  Thanks to social media, however, they are still able to have an affect on me, perhaps without even knowing it.

First, and perhaps most obviously, are my parents. Vince and Joyce, they are good eggs.

They raised three children in a very specific way.  They were incredibly strict as we were small children.  As we got older, they loosened the reigns and allowed us to make our own decisions.  Most importantly they did not try and shield us from the consequences of those decisions, whether positive or negative. They did not hover, they trusted us to be adults when perhaps, we shouldn't have been trusted with such a great responsibility. They have supported every endeavor, adventure and opportunity I have pursued, even when it was not necessarily what they would have wanted me to do.  They not only allowed me, but encouraged me to discover who I am, apart from them.  They have demanded that I think for myself, I decide for myself, and I not allow myself to place blame or burden on another person for my own actions.  Likewise, they have had the same expectations for my brother and sister. 

Aside from the parents that they inherently are, they as individuals are extraordinary.

My father is incredibly generous. He is generous with his time, with his resources, with his talents.  He will help anybody, at any time. More times that I can count I have been witness to him giving money, a meal, a ride, or a tank of gas to someone in need.  

My mother is very head-strong, she is goal oriented.  She sees the good in everyone around her, and almost refuses to acknowledge the bad.  She believes that people are inherently good and her relationships with others are built upon that belief.

These are good people.

The next person I thought about is my best friend, Sara.  

Sara and I met 12 1/2 years ago in her freshman dorm room. It took us about 5 minutes of talking and that was it.  We were best friends and have been ever since.  We are so entirely different. She loves small children with every fiber of her being.  All of them.  She is cautious. She wants to settle down and build roots somewhere. She has always been the cute one.   I am not quite sure how to hold a small child that doesn't belong to me. I am impulsive.  Staying in one place to long makes me nervous.  I have always been the tall one.

And yet we are so alike.  We need each other.  We love our families.  We are patient and forgiving with each other. 

I love her and I want her to know that I admire all these things about her. I especially admire the things about her that I am not.  

The next person that I thought of was my sister in-law, Brianne.

Brianne is incredible.  She used to be an elementary school educator, and is a natural and very talented and also very patient teacher.  I watch how she talks to, encourages, corrects and disciplines her children and it is an art.  It is a talent. 

Brianne is organized and composed, even when she thinks she isn't.  This lady totally has her S*&% together, and if she were to ever read this, I'm certain she will gasp and laugh nervously at that.  

The last (though really not last because I thought of so many different people that it was difficult to pick just a few) is my friend Randy.  

I met Randy nearly 9 years ago as we were both preparing to live in Korea and be missionaries for our church. When I first met him I thought he was a questionable human being. I soon learned that I had a friend for life. He is someone that I do not see often, but I consider him a very close friend.  He is loyal, and I know if I were ever in a bind, he would help me out, no questions asked.  He loves people and he knows how to create relationships that are solid, no matter how far the distance.  I have a deep love and respect for this guy.

These are just a few of the people in my life.  There are so very many more that have beautiful qualities.  I love being encouraged to think about these people and their qualities, to focus my thoughts on someone other than myself and on something other than what I am currently experiencing.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Duty to God and his country

This is my older brother.

His name is Anthony.  He is a lot of things. He is a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a runner, and also really tall.  In addition to all of these things, he is in the United States Air Force.  This last statement means different things to different people.  To some it brings a feeling of pride, to others, a feeling of anger, to some a deep concern and to others still, resentment.  Perhaps if you knew Anthony as a person you would think differently about his choice of life paths (and perhaps you wouldn't).  

Anthony is incredibly loyal.  He is duty driven.  He is very self-motivated.  

Anthony has always wanted to be in the military.  Since the time he was about 11 he knew that was the road he wanted to take.  His motivation was not fueled by the desire to become wealthy, it was not driven by the need to be recognized.  It wasn't even the benefits, stability or good pension offered by the United States military.  Anthony's determination to be in the military came from a deep and unyielding desire to serve and to protect.  He loves his country, but recognizes its flaws.  He has always wanted to be part of the force that strives to maintain the freedoms this country was founded upon, despite those flaws. He has worked tirelessly at this goal, and has nearly been knocked down completely in the process.  He has not let that discourage him, however, and is continuing to achieve that initial goal.

Anthony is, as of recently, on his first deployment overseas, away from his wife and three children.  He will be staying in the Middle East for 6 months, missing major holidays, birthdays and various other milestones.  I cannot speak for others, but his motives are completely selfless.  He left his family and flew off into the seemingly unknown.

I have attempted to put myself in the shoes of his wife, my sister-in-law.  I have wondered countless times what my reaction would be if my husband was being sent away to a war zone, or if I myself was being sent to a war zone to be apart from my family for that long, or in many cases, longer.  The only thing that has settled my heart in this is knowing that he is doing exactly what he has always wanted to do.

I have realized it is easy to be selfish given the situation, but I know this is what my brother has always wanted, and I know he is doing it for me, and for you, and for that guy over there, and for the lady next to you. Regardless of whether or not we (or they) want to accept his "gift", he is giving it.  Because of this, instead of lamenting and "wo-is-me"ing, I have decided to be proud of him, to show him my love, confidence and support.  I am eternally grateful for the kind souls along his way even thus far that have shown small tokens of respect.  To the man who gave up his first class seat for the young guy in uniform, your kindness has been read about across the country. To the ticket agent who stifled tears while checking him onto the flight, we see you.  To the line full of passengers watching this soldier hug his family with their own tears streaming down faces, thank you for recognizing that this is not easy.

My mind has also wandered to those who are vehemently against the military and its operations.  I respect and I understand that position.  I know that I do not always agree with the undertakings of the military. So how can this position  be maintained while still having respect for the people who are sacrificing for you?  I believe it is possible.  I suggest that it is a similar to having differing religious, political, social or educational beliefs as someone.  I respect and am grateful for opposing ideals and relish in learning about them, though I may not adopt them as my own.   Perhaps if you are reading this and disagree entirely with what is happening, you can read between the lines a bit and understand that this is about a human being who has dedicated his entire professional life to something he deeply believes in, whether the rest of us do or not.  Aaron Tippin said it perfectly when he said "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything."

This is Anthony's something, and he is damn good at it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How to Count Blessings

I was recently sitting in a class where the teacher asked the students, "How many of you have had days where you just feel like everything is going wrong?"  And I thought, "Me. Today. Yesterday. Probably tomorrow."  I'm good at making everything about me.

Knowing full well I was feeling sorry for myself and wallowing, I tried to do as the teacher directed and "count my blessings". Man, it was hard. There are plenty of them out there, I just wasn't particularly interested in focusing on them. I'm trying to do better.

My grandmother passed away last night.  I tried to get to her. I hurried as fast as one can when having to rely on flights, time change, children and a husband. I prayed that I would be able to catch her last breaths and kiss her on the forehead and thank her for loving me. Loving everyone. Even when we didn't necessarily deserve it.  I didn't make it. Three hours too late.

"I should have taken the earlier flight."  "I should have come yesterday."  "I should have scanned that letter and emailed it instead of sending it in the mail."  "I should have called more often."  "I should have had the kids send pictures more often."  "I should have been better." But I didn't and I wasn't. But Grandma is OK with that.  I know she is because I know my grandmother.

From the time I was in the 6th grade I called her granny...because she hated it.  When you close your eyes and think about a typical grandmother, Granny was not really that.  She was sassy. She was realistic. She was accepting. She had opinions. She told people her opinions. She never once baked me cookies. She more than once bought me good Mexican food. She more than once let me drink Coke when my parents weren't around. She let me borrow her car whenever, for whatever. Just bring it back. She stopped wearing a bra when she was 64 because "I'm and old lady. I can do whatever I want. And I do NOT want to wear a bra!" She bossed my grandfather around like a BOSS. She had season tickets to Major League Baseball games and WNBA basketball games.  And took me. Often! Granny forgave everyone, even when they didn't deserve it. Granny served. She has done more humanitarian projects from the comfort of her own home than anyone I know of.  She has knit hats, made blankets, put together hygiene kits, made toy packets. Hundreds and hundreds of these things.

Granny hated flying.  Granny especially hated flying over the ocean. My family lived across the ocean for a long time and she made it perfectly clear that it was our responsibility to visit her because if she came to visit us, her plane would certainly crash and she would die.

Paranoid.  Granny was paranoid. She was claustrophobic. She was happy to let people help her. She also always needed to be helping and taking care of other people. Even after grandpa died she always had people living in her house. She didn't want to be alone. But she also wanted people to take care of. And she did.

Granny was old.  Old people die.  I know how this works.  But this one isn't sitting well for me.  When grandpa died I felt a lot of relief.  Relief for grandpa, relief for grandma. Relief for my dad who worked tirelessly to take care of my grandfather as he got sick. But grandma. Grandma was always there. She was able. She was capable.  She was supposed to be that cockroach that was still here after everyone else died.

I loved her.  I love her. I miss her. I have regrets. I believe regrets can be good if they motivate us to change. I am motivated. She is one of my many blessings.