Monday, April 29, 2013

A Busy Husband

I am one of many women who's husband is strapped for time, with a demanding school and work load. It was particularly hard adjustment for me for two reasons: 1) I had a dad who was pretty available, or at least I remember it that way. At one point his office was in our home, and then later since he taught, he was always home by 4pm it seemed like. Although I was aware this was not the norm, I assumed I could deal with the alternative. 2) We had not been married that long before he was gone all day long, and I was home all day long. Most people I knew who first became moms had husbands who were undergrads, meaning they could come home at random times during the day. When we started our family, Ben already had a full time 8-5 job and master's work.

I'm not looking for pity, but my situation forced me to learn quickly how to cope with a husband who was not around a lot.

For the 20 months before I had Delaney, I did pity myself. Thinking my life was so hard, wishing he would come home, blaming him, etc. But now looking back, I am in so much of a better place than I used to be.

I wanted to reflect on what I have learned that pushed me past that negative place, so if my girls are ever in a similar situation I can come at it from my own perspective.

-I stopped seeing my children as work (see this post). I don't need to be "relieved of my duties" so it's not going to make a difference if he comes home 15 minutes later. This doesn't mean that we don't have equal responsibility when we are together. But basically it translates to there are 4 people living in this house, and when you are around  you do what you can.

-The same goes for housework. It is silly to leave a chore for someone who is home a total of 15 minutes. I am home all day, so it's okay if you do 99% of the work. Someday he'll be home more, and we will adjust when that happens. I shouldn't have tried to force my ideal rules on a less-than-ideal situation. It just made me unhappy that my life is not ideal!

-I reworked my idea of "fun" and "happiness." This one took me a long time to come to grips with. When I first got married, I was under the impression that the only way you can have quality time is with your spouse present, and that even the most mundane things are better when your spouse is there. I still feel this way, minus the first part. I am so glad I gave myself this gift. Although everything is better with Ben there, I was stabbing myself in the back by saying with each walk to the park, "Yeah but he's not with me. This would be so much more fun if he were here." I remember one time I had a great afternoon with my neighbor as our kids played together. But when Ben got home I was actually mad at him because I had had such a great, memorable day and he was not there to be a part of it! It sounds ridiculous, but if you build your happiness around one person you have probably had a similar experience. Although you are eternally connected with your spouse, and one eternal unit, you can enjoy things just for yourself! You can go to the zoo with your kid, and count your blessings that you are home with them during the day. I have found that when I stop the "it would be so much more fulfilling if her dad were here. He would love to see her reaction to the tigers" it helps both me and him.

-Ben is home for such a small amount of time during the day, I joke that he's a celebrity. Jokingly I say that I don't know how to act around him because I'm starstruck. The girls light up whenever he's around, because he's such a rarity. It's actually been great for our marriage and I appreciate him so much more. In our case, absence has made the heart grow fonder. I cherish our moments together, and try my hardest to be in a good mood when he comes home from work. I may have been fuming the 20 minutes it took him to get home, or I may have blow ups during the day, but I try to resolve it before he comes home. It's really not his fault. Me getting mad was not changing the situation.  He wants to be home as much as you want him to be home. I can tell you from experience that the best way you can support your husband in this stressful experience is to greet him cheerfully when he comes home. He appreciates it more than he can say.

-Lastly I learned to answer truthfully when close friends or family say, "How are you doing?" It was okay to admit I was having a hard time. It is a hard situation, and when I talked to people about it I found out that many people had been through a similar time and could sympathize with me. However the #1 I learned in this regard was when I wasn't honest about how I felt, I left this huge emotional burden solely on Ben's shoulders. Yes, he is my spouse and he has the responsibility to help me through everything and he is willing to do that. But the nature of this problem was my own attitude. In his mind all he could hear was "She's not happy and there's nothing I can do about it." Which is about the meanest thing I could have done to my hardworking husband. The way I was dealing with my problems was making him feel like less, when really I was the one with the problem. Finding ways to solve my own problems freed up our sparse time together for happy, relationship-building communication.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brother Justin

I was excited to write Justin's post because there is an attribute of his that I have admired for years and am glad to have a forum to write it down.

It's fun to think about Justin because he was always this larger-than-life character in my mind. Of my older siblings, he is the oldest one I have recollection of living at home and having a relationship with. As a little kid, Justin was the perfect older brother. He loved to gather up all of us younger kids and think of creative things for us to do. I can distinctly see this picture in my mind of all of us shirtless with handkerchiefs tied around our heads, a great big "S" on each of our chests. Justin has been and always will be, full of fun.

But that's not even the thing I would like to talk about! What I love about Justin is that he is so good at sharing joy. I remember about a month or two after I got married, Justin called me just to chat. He asked me all about married life and how I liked it. And after each thing I would say about what made me love marriage, he would agree and add his own anecdote of how he had experienced that joy as well. There was no advice-giving, no "just you wait a few more years"-type negative stuff, just experiencing your joy with you and expressing his own joy. I remember after I had Cheyenne, I got a similar phone call. Justin is not your typical male in that he LOVES babies. We sat there on the phone for a good 45 minutes, with him telling me all the things that were so great about babies, and how lucky I was to be part of that happiness right then in my life.

One time Justin and I were driving to Texas together before I was married. I still remember vividly something he told me about his wife Kelsey. "When I'm not with her, I ache to be with her. I am constantly thinking about her. I want her sitting right here next to me. And this feeling never goes away. She is a part of me." From that expression of love, I grew hungry to experience this same joy. That is what is so AWESOME about Justin. He doesn't have to preach to you or tell you how to live your life. He just shows you what he has already found, and you yearn to find it as well.

Happy Birthday Justin!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cheyenne's favorite storybook

I wanted to post Cheyenne's favorite book mostly because I love the illustrations. It reminds me of my favorite dollhouse with its rich, colorful pictures.

Let me apologize in advance for the appearance of the book. Although I bought this particular one new, Cheyenne is HARD on books. She tears things apart whenever I'm distracted. This includes furniture, clocks, dishes, and most recently my scriptures.
But without further ado...

Ben loves this materialistic line "He has a new car. Isn't it pretty?" Ha ha.

Look at that checker board floor! And I love the blue and yellow combo.

Her headscarf! Where's mine?
And how about that adorable chalkboard?

I'd love a play oven if I could find one as tiny and cute as that! And the doll high chair is too cute. And I love the mosaic tiles for the kitchen backsplash.

The doll furniture! So cute!

Ben and I have read this book to Cheyenne (or should I say "with her," see below) more times than I can count. We love the "little mommy" in our lives. She brings joy and happiness to our hearts.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Latest

Uncle Derek helped Cheyenne find some Easter eggs

These Easter lilies did not disappoint! Such a beautiful reminder of Christ's atoning sacrifice for us: "though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as WHITE as snow."

A video of our Easter feast-- I like to remember that the feast is a symbol of our gratitude that our Lord has risen. Just as you would have a feast for a returning family member, we feast to show the Lord how grateful we are that "He is Risen!"
Sorry about Cheyenne's nap hair in the video!!

Typical spring in Utah. Ben trimming on a beautiful 60 degree day...

...yet we pulled out the coats to play today, since we couldn't stand being inside any longer.
What about those teeth?!
You might remember that Cheyenne once had these same teeth.

Ben helped somebody move and they gave him this ATV which Cheyenne adores and calls her "bicycle." It didn't come with a charger, but luckily I'm married to an electrical engineer who can get around such things!
Also, notice that Cheyenne dressed herself in a backward-inside out style. And somebody smeared strawberries all over my new rug! That's real life for you.

Let's see a few more shots of those teeth

Love these kids!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Human Life

Life is precious. This news makes one's heart feel heavy. Many people have been left maimed and dismembered. However these words offer a comforting truth: "Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not much better than they? But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." Luke 12: 24 & 7

After growing and nurturing two human lives of my own for 9 months, I am fully aware that life is precious. God does not just start life or end life as He pleases: each is with a purpose and a plan in mind.

This knowledge is so comforting in the face of tragedy. I can imagine in my mind this blast going off, and people seemingly "randomly" getting hit or critically injured. Yet to God these are not random patients to be admitted. To God these are his sons and daughters, with great worth in his eyes. Even the loss of a limb by a freak bombing is known to Him, and he cares for each one and the impact this will have on their lives. Will they take this tragic opportunity to find Him? Will we see the opportunities for good amidst the bad?

We are taught that Jesus Christ will return to the earth. Before he comes again, there will be an increase in the wickedness of man and earthly calamities. But ultimately, when this earth comes to an end, these terrorists and evil doers will not rule the earth. Instead the goodness and peace of the gospel of Jesus Christ will reign supreme.

Oh how grateful I am for the knowledge of Jesus Christ's plan! How grateful I am to be able to choose Jesus Christ now and forever. I pray that we all will choose to do so.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Our Prophet

God has not left us alone on this earth.

He has told us: Come, follow me. Pattern your life after mine. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example, and as we strive to be more like Him, the happier and more fulfilled we can become in this life.

God does not leave us alone today. Although Jesus Christ no longer walks among men, He has given us a prophet to help us back to Him.

This prophet is God's mouthpiece to his children, the one who will guide us in troubled times and tell us how Jesus Christ would have us live, what He would do if He were here.

I was so struck by our prophet's latest talk at our General Conference. He spoke on Truth and Obedience, and how strictly following the laws God has given us leads us to greater understanding of Truth.

I know this to be true. Especially in these past few years, I have realized what a huge impact 25 years of obedience has made on me. I have felt like my education in His word, doing the things he has asked, and leaning not to my own understanding has left me with a knowledge that is unshakable. A knowledge of His plan for us, a knowledge of what I need to do.

We cannot rely on our own understanding of what is "right." Are we not all infants in comparison to God's infinite understanding? And our loving Heavenly Father does not expect us to! He has given us apostles and prophets to lead the way.

I am so grateful for my knowledge of God and the person He has made me into.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Meaningful Life: Living Below Your Means

When Ben and I were first married, I had a coworker, Lauren, who was a huge Dave Ramsey fan. She had two tickets to a big seminar he was giving in Salt Lake, and unfortunately she couldn't go. So she gave them to me. I actually had never even heard of Dave Ramsey, but we were interested and Ben and I decided to go. We walked away from that seminar with our wheels turning about savings and finance.

For Ben's birthday that year I bought him the Dave Ramsey book on CD, which we often listened to to remind ourselves what we wanted to accomplish in our finances. Then that Thanksgiving on our long drive up to Montana we listened to the book The Millionaire Next Door. These things made a deep impression on our minds about finance for our marriage.

In our church we are counseled to live within our means. Or in other words, spend less than you make. In our world of credit cards and self indulgence, this is very good counsel. Anyone can live an extravagant lifestyle regardless of whether they actually have the money or not.

But the lesson we have learned so far in our marriage and hope to carry on for many more years to come is about saving. Live below your means. Don't buy things you can "afford," but instead choose the least costly option always. And then you can make your money "work" for you.

This is something we discuss constantly. Working and reworking our plans. Before a purchase, financial move, or life phase. Tinkering with every idea, even the crazy ones. What are our financial goals? What are our dreams? In what ways can we save in order to get there?

We are not perfect at this, but I hope it's something we can remember for a long, long time and thereby accomplish our dreams and aspirations in life.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Garland for Girls, Louisa May Alcott

For Christmas Ben got me some old Louisa May Alcott books (that I requested. I may have even put them in the ebay shopping cart). Among them was a little-known-gem A Garland for Girls. It's a collection of short stories all about different girls and how they become something even better than they were at the start of the story.

The stories are quaint by today's standards, but that's one thing I love about them. Good, clean fun. Each girl learns a lesson that in turn makes her a better person. I've collected my favorite quotes from a few of the stories.

In this particular story a group of girls are spending the summer at an older lady's home. While they are chatting in the library, she gives them sage advice for picking novels (or in our day and age, any form of entertainment):

"I'd rather read about people as they were
for that is history, or as they might and should be, 
for that helps us in our own efforts. 
Not as they are, for that we already know, 
[and instead] to be the better for a nobler and wider view 
of life than we are apt to get."
-A Garland for Girls, p. 94, Louis May Alcott

I love to read books. But more than I want something to transport me to another world, I want something to inspire me. To show me how life could be, with a little effort on my part. That's why I love Louisa May Alcott, and any other books I can find of her caliber. 

In another short she tells a beautiful love story of a fisherman and a hardworking maid. Her female protagonists are always ones who are, or learn to be, one make her own way. Modern-day feminism but with a beautiful twist.

"It was the loveliest hour of the day. The sun had not yet risen, but sky was rosy with the flush of dawn... A still, soft happy time before the work and worry of the world began, the peaceful moment which is so precious to those who have learned to love its balm and consecrate its beauty with their prayers."
 -A Garland for Girls, p. 140

I am not a morning person. But reading passages like this makes me realize I'm missing out. Wouldn't it be wonderful to start your day out with peace and calm, and THEN get into the chaos of the children? Even if I don't get up before the sun, I have learned that the correct way to start out the day is with at least a moment of quiet--through prayer.

Mountain-Laurel and Maidenhair
My very favorite short story is the final one, which takes place on a mountain farm. Since I identify so much with a country lifestyle this is no surprise, but in addition this one has beautiful life lessons. It showcases the friendship of a country girl, Becky, and city girl boarder at their home, Emily.

"Becky bustled off to the oven with her pies, and Emily roamed away to the big barn to lie on the hay, enjoying the view down the valley, as she thought over what she had seen and heard, and very naturally contrasted her own luxurious and tenderly guarded life with this other girl's, so hard and dull and narrow. Working all summer and teaching all winter in that dismal little school-house, with no change but home cares and carpet-weaving! It looked horrible to pleasure-loving Emily, who led the happy, care-free life of girls of her class, with pleasures of all sorts, and a future of still greater luxury, variety, and happiness, opening brightly before her. 
It worried her to think of any one being contented with such a meager share of the good things of life, when she was unsatisfied in spite of the rich store showered upon her. She could not understand it, and fell asleep wishing every one could be comfortable, -- it was so annoying to see them grubbing in kitchens, teaching in bleak school-houses among snow-drifts, and wearing ugly calico gowns."

-A Garland for Girls, p. 259

It wasn't until I married that I began to more fully understand the joy in work (see this post).

"[Her] soul began to see that life was not 
perfect without labor as well as love, duty as 
well as happiness, and that true contentment
 came from within, not from without."
-A Garland for Girls, p. 262, Louisa May Alcott

"[Working for others is] the real poetry in life,
 and brings to those who give themselves to it,
 no matter in what humble ways, something sweeter."
-A Garland for Girls, p. 282, Louisa May Alcott

"She [Becky] put her poetry into her life, and
 made of it "a grand sweet song" in which 
beauty and duty rhymed so well that the 
country girl became a more useful, beloved,
 and honored woman."
-A Garland for Girls, p. 285, Louisa May Alcott

That is what I am striving for. To become a useful, beloved, and honored woman. I want to be useful in my house, beloved as a byproduct of service to others, and honored by my children for my influence, as my own mother is. Thank you, Louisa May Alcott, for writing 100 years ago what I want to become today.