Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Women I Want to Be Like

Today I've been thinking about the women I admire most - the women I want to be like. I have so many friends and acquaintances who are just amazing! They are ordinary women with extraordinary traits. If I could be a combination of all of these women, I'm pretty sure I'd be a greater super hero than Marvel has ever seen. I'm just sayin. Alas, I'm not quite there, but here are some of the traits of a handful of the women I admire (the list is far longer than I can post today).

Let's begin with my friend Christie. There's a lot to love about Christie, but one thing I have always admired about her is the way she treats everyone like a best friend. She remembers names and details about people, and she is genuinely happy to see everyone whether it's a life-long friend or the server from Red Robin that brought her extra fry sauce six months ago. Christie has taught me to value people regardless of the relationship.

Next is my daughters' dance teacher Miss Sara. This woman is amazing in so many ways, but one thing I particularly like about Sara is that she has a full, busy life, but she never plays the "too busy" card. She is so giving of her time, and she openly and lovingly supports other people in their successes and accomplishments. Sara has taught me that the best way to have a full life is to show others they are worth making time for.

One of my life-long friends, Cheyenne is what I consider "Celestial Kingdom material." She is fit for heaven, and she's the type of person I'd be okay rubbing shoulders with for eternity. Cheyenne has the ability to see the good in every day things. She is a person who looks at 18 loads of laundry and sees the blessing of clothes to wear. She looks at chocolate hand prints on the wall and sees children to love. She looks at the grocery bill for the month and rejoices in good health and mouths to feed. Cheyenne has taught me that some of life's biggest messes and largest inconveniences are actually reflections of our greatest blessings.

One of my best friends from church is Brianne, and she is a good listener. Brianne once called me and let me whine to her about how "hard" my life is. She was so compassionate. She didn't give advice, she just listened and completely validated my feelings. The kicker was, Brianne's husband had cancer and nearly died last year. I kept saying, "Bri, I feel so horrible whining to you about all of this when at any moment you would be completely justified in saying 'Suck it up!'" but she never did that. Brianne has taught me that we all have pains and sorrows, and we don't need to measure one another by them.

Shannon is my newest friend. We only met a few months ago, but we "hit it off" right away. Meeting Shannon was an answer to a prayer. She showed up right when I needed her. She is pretty incredible, but one thing I really love about Shannon is that I have never heard her say one negative or demeaning thing about her body. In a world where we are conditioned to hate our bodies, it's so refreshing to be around a woman who doesn't fall for it. Shannon has taught me, for lack of a better way to phrase it, to shut up about my imperfections.

I love that women can draw strength from one another, and even though we can be catty, envious, or competitive at times, we ultimately have an opportunity to learn from one another and to experience variety in talents and abilities. I learn from other women every day, and even though I don't always apply my knowledge well, I'm trying to draw continually from the good I see in others.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

We Put the 'Rek' in 'Trek'

At the beginning of the year, Scotty and I were asked if we would be a Ma & Pa for stake trek. A big part of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the 1,300 mile journey early Church members took from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley.

This journey brought the pioneers many afflictions as well as many joys. As modern-day saints, we still rely heavily on their stories and experiences to build our own faith in hard times. The pioneers were wonderful examples of sacrifice and faith, which is why many youth groups reenact the trek west.

As part of trek, the teenagers are divided into "families," each led by a Ma & Pa. This particular trek was in Fort Bridger, Wyoming. We were given 8 teenagers for our family, and each family had a handcart to pull on the trail. We walked approximately 18 miles - 16 of those with our handcart.

Trek 2016

I honestly don't know how to summarize trek in a blog post. I've never been before - I didn't have the chance to go as a teenager, so this was my first experience. It was, in short, amazing. Our family was a great mixture of personalities and cultures. Everyone got along wonderfully, and I didn't expect that. We didn't have an ounce of contention among us. That's not to say there weren't struggles - our kids had problems with blisters and muscle fatigue, and we had an incident with a bloody nose, and one kid had constant tummy troubles due to IBS, but there was nothing major.

One of my concerns was the heat, and it ended up being very tolerable. Yes, it was hot, but there was a nice breeze that kept us from getting overheated. Another concern was the attitudes and behavior of the teenagers. In recent years, I haven't had the best perception of teenagers, but I now realize that that is because I've been working with some of the more difficult ones in my calling as a Sunday school teacher (for the record, my Sunday school class is currently in a place I would consider "good." Not ideal, but good. I'm fine with that considering some of the issues we've had).

The teenagers that were assigned to our trek family turned out to be pretty awesome. Scotty and I went to bed each night talking about how great they were, and while there were a few that would have done well in any family, there were a few in our family that we knew were "our" children. Not to boast, but there were some for whom we were the best parents, and that affirmed to us that the organization of the families was inspired.

Trek 2016 

As a family, we shared many laughs and many spiritual moments. At first, things were a little awkward as we got to know one another, and it took some time for some of the kids to open up, but after two hours on a bus together, we were bonding really well. About an hour into pushing the handcart, I said, "Can you guys believe we just met this morning?" It felt like we'd been a family for a long time.

The farther we got into our trek, the closer we grew as a family. At the beginning, the kids would often run off with friends and come check in with us from times to time, but by the end, they wanted to stay together as a family. We spend a lot of time sitting in a circle on buckets, talking about trek, life, and the gospel.

Trek 2016

I won't go over every detail of trek, but there are two experiences I want to write about. 

First, I started having problems with my foot about a month ago. I started a new exercise regimen, and I thought my foot was just sore because I'd been exercising barefoot, which I don't normally do. But the pain didn't go away, and last week, it suddenly got a lot worse. I began to think that it might be plantar fasciitis (I still think that might be what it is). It got bad enough that I was limping pretty regularly, and I started to worry that I wouldn't be able to complete the trek or that, if I did complete the trek, I would do more damage to my foot. 

On the morning we left, I got out of bed and stepped onto my foot anticipating pain, but it wasn't there. It wasn't completely gone, but it was reduced to the point where I didn't notice it. My foot didn't bother me at all on trek. There were just a couple of times when I stepped on a rock and it hit the right spot and reminded me that I had a foot problem. Then, as soon as I stepped through the door at home, I took off my shoe and took a step, and the pain and limping immediately returned. 

Think what you may of that, but I believe Heavenly Father wanted me to go on this trek, so I was blessed with temporary relief from the pain so I could do so. 

The other story I want to share is pretty neat. On Friday night, all of the bishops (leaders of our individual congregations) came up to camp, and we met together as wards (congregations). While we were sitting with the youth from our ward, listening to our bishop speak, Scotty and I were both admiring the amazing sky. I was looking at this:

Trek 2016 

And Scotty was looking at this:

Trek 2016 

My sky looks prettier, until you notice this:

Trek 2016

We, of course, thought this was very, very cool. 

I am so grateful that we had this experience. It is something I will look back on fondly for the rest of my life. I am so amazed at how quickly I felt a genuine love for the kids in my family. When trek ended, there was a part of me that was devastated to send them back into the world. I wasn't ready for the journey to be over. 

It's been 24 hours. I miss them so much!

In addition to developing a great familial bond with my 8 teenagers, I also learned a lot about myself. I had many moments where I felt different from the other Mas & Pas. Scotty and I weren't doing all of the same things they were doing with their kids, and sometimes I felt like I should be doing things like them, but then I had the thought that I wasn't meant to be the same as the other Mas & Pas. Scotty and I were asked to do this because of our unique strengths and perspectives. We were never meant to be exactly like any other Ma & Pa. From then on, I tried to be myself and serve and love in my way, and that was what our family needed. 

The entire experience was so wonderful. I am antsy to do it again!

Trek 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Thoughts on Weight

I hope the title of this post doesn't turn you away. Weight is a topic I don't care to read or write about, and yet, here I am... writing about weight.

To get to my point in this post, I need to tell you a little about my history with my weight. Bear with me.

As a child and as a teenager, I was very thin. I ate anything I wanted - practically living off of junk food for the first 18 years of my life. Then, after getting married, I started putting on weight. I'm now classified as "overweight."

I'm telling you this as a matter of fact, not to put myself down or to whine. A few years ago, I had high cholesterol, and my doctor urged me to lose weight. The weight he recommended is 43 pounds less than what I weigh now (I'd settle for 20).

I never thought I would struggle with weight. I thought being thin for life was a sure thing for me. Even when I started putting on a little weight, I just brushed it off and thought, "I can afford to gain a few pounds. No big deal." But then I got to the point where it was too much weight, and I started feeling bad about myself.

The truth is, I feel bad about myself... a lot.

But I'm not going to dwell on that. I've realized that, even if I were 20 (or even 43) pounds lighter, none of it would matter if I didn't already like myself. So I'm working on that. Liking myself. But there's another important lesson I have learned from my weight.

A few years ago, I realized that if I'd stayed skinny my whole life, I would have continued eating absolute junk until I either acquired a life-threatening disease or died. I would have never exercised. Sure, I'd be thin, but I would treat my body like utter crap. That's just how I am.

But because I have struggled with weight, I have taken the opportunity to make lifestyle changes. I exercise, and because I exercise, I am strong. Yes, I weigh more than I should, but I have developed strength that I wouldn't have otherwise. This morning I was at an exercise class, and I was dripping sweat as I did burpees and push-ups, and I thought about how I never would have been able to do those things in my skinny body because I never would have had to.

Additionally, I know that if I'd remained skinny, I would have given myself the credit for it. I wouldn't have acknowledged that it was in my genes. I would have truly believed that I'd worked for it and deserved it (I can say the same thing of my children. I think God gave me strong-willed, slightly challenging children so I wouldn't give myself the credit. If they'd been well-behaved and obedient, I would have thought it was because of my wonderful parenting, and I would have been judgmental of all of the mothers whose children weren't perfect like mine because, clearly, those mothers would be doing it all wrong).

So in some sick, twisted way, I'm grateful for what being overweight has done for me.