Friday, November 30, 2012

Look up!

One of the greatest assignments, so far in college, has been the challenge to write my own obituary.  It might seem crazy, but I would challenge each and everyone of you to do the same.  I found it not only remarkably eye-opening, but healing at the same time.  It is the final party that we will attend, only in spirit.  In preparing my own obituary, I realized that it did not really matter what I thought, felt or understood had taken place during the events of my life, but how others interpreted them.  It does not really matter if I think I am a good mother, but how my kids view my fullfillment of this calling.  It won't really matter if I told my family often that I loved them.  It matters only if they felt loved by my words, actions and committment to them.  Often times, the present seems to just slip by while we are busy feeling overwhelmed with guilt about the past or worrying about what the future might bring.  I once heard a quote that said, "The bad news is, time flies-----the good news is YOU are the pilot!"  So, I began to write my obituary.  Each sentence seemed to provoke ten more feelings.  There were some things that I wrote that surprised even myself.  For example, I would want my children to speak of me as one who supported them and encouraged them to live their dreams.  I would want them to describe me as loving, kind, always serving.  Trying to teach them skills and helping them by lightening their loads everyday.  I would want my children to mention that I taught them to love and value education.  That I taught them that they can do hard things.   One of the final statements of my obituary said, "Debbie was best-friend to many, including her ex-husband.  He admired her courage, her stregnth, her positive attitude, her willingness to do hard things and her ability to find love where others would only find hate."  As I wrote this part of the obituary, I realized, that though divorce was nearing completion, it was important to me how he felt about me.  And, I still wanted to make him proud.  So, this changed my heart.  None of us knows how many more tomorrows we will have, but we have today, and I had some work to do.  If I wanted to be described as loving, I needed to love.  If I wanted to be known for being positive, the glass needed to always be half-full rather than half-empty.   I needed to find faith when I felt afraid.  I needed to find courage when I felt weak.  And, most importantly, I needed to find love, when it seemed logical to hate.   I know that our eyes are in front by divine design-----because it is more important to look forward than back.  And, I would add, to look up along the journey, and recognize His guidance and continuous blessings.  How do you want to be remembered?  Be that person now!!!  Look forward!  Look up!  Enjoy the journey---and others will enjoy YOU too!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Christmas gift!!

As Christmas time approaches, I have found myself thinking a lot about Mary.  We know she was  amazing, as the scriptures say she was “highly favoured of the Lord”.  I am sure she wondered how she would explain her pregnancy to her peers.  I am sure she worried about what her family and friends would think.  She probably knew embarrassment would come with the calling to bear the Baby Jesus.   I am sure she knew that it would not be popular to raise the “Son of the Highest.”  Yet, she responded courageously, “be it unto me according to thy word.”   Do you think she knew that she would ride on the back of a donkey, and walk for miles and miles, in labor and then, give birth in a barn?  Her response to such a call inspires me------ “Behold the handmaid of the Lord…”  In other words, here I am—send me!!!  I am confident that we too, knew this life would come with its’ difficulties and challenges.  Though not in a barn, as families change, we find ourselves, much like Mary,  walking and laboring through challenge and trial, only to finally stop at a stable………for a moments rest, in between such terrifically refining experiences.  Death, disease, illness, accident, divorce, one after another families change, just like Mary’s.  Yet, during these times, do we see the potential lesson learned, testimony strengthened, and faith enlarged?  Or do we allow ourselves to be beaten up by our own self-doubt, lack of faith and insecurity?  For Christmas, I want to give my Heavenly Father the gift of “Mary”-----having the attitude of His will over mine, my willing heart even in the face of adversity----- Here I am—send me!!  This Christmas season, I will serve rather than sorrow!!!  And in her words, “ My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour!” 

 (Garrett said, "Mom, will you build a snow fort with me?-----Remembering my Christmas gift, I put the homework, dishes and lessons aside.....snow pants on...Here I am---send me!)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Living--not just surviving!!

What an memorable Thanksgiving!!!  I was able to spend the holiday with some of the most amazing women in my life (my mom is taking the picture---she is of course, the most amazing of all!!).  Families Change, and as the holidays approach, they change too.  This was a scary thought to me, when I found myself a single mother.  I was afraid of what the holidays would bring, or not bring.    If this journey of single parenthood has taught me one thing, it is that it's not about surviving----it's about living!  And, so with the dawning of each new day, and holiday, I ask myself, "What will I make of  TODAY, for myself, for my kids and for those around me?"  So, Thanksgiving 2012 was spent with the Gardner family.  They have not only taken Ashlyn into their family, but they have taken in us all!!  We have all found great friendships within this amazing family!!  Was it odd to not have my boys for Thanksgiving?  Of course it was!  But, rather than focus on the emptiness, I trusted that my Heavenly Father is in the details, and once again, the miracle occurred!  The emptiness was quickly filled with the love and kindness of others.  It's not about surviving---- it's about living!!  And I also know that He lives!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nephi's bow

I know that this blog is public, but I absolutely love the Book of Mormon and I believe you will too!!  There is amazing power in this book.   If you have read it, I recommend reading it again.  If you have never read it, don't let another day go by until you start!!  And, if you don't know where to get a Book of Mormon, comment on this blog, and I will get you one!!  The other night, I was reading with the kids.  We read in 1 Nephi 16.  It talks about Nephi and his brothers who are out hunting for food for their families.  Nephi's bow of STEEL breaks.  Nephi states, "I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel;"  Often times, we believe our families and ourselves are invinsible----immune from challenge and hardship.  I testify that families change and as they do, the Book of Mormon is an incredible resource for those tough times.  So what do we do when our "bows of fine steel" break?  The scripture reads, "And it came to pass, that I Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones.  And, I said unto my father:  Whither shall I go obtain food?"   Rather than complain, Nephi goes out and makes a bow out of wood, makes some arrows out of sticks.  Then he asks his father for  divine guidance-- where to go hunt, that he might obtain food and care for his family.  In other words, Nephi makes do, he makes it happen, and he believes that after he has done all he can do with a tough situation, Divine guidance with lead him to provide for his family.  I too, believe!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Get on climbing....!!

"Life doesn’t end just because you have a tragedy—there’s a new mountain to climb. Don’t spend a lot of time sulking over what you’ve lost. Get on with climbing the next mountain.”----- Great quote from Elder L. Tom Perry, who knew, first hand, that families change.  He lost his first wife, remarried, lost a daughter and  2 grand children.  So, great council for us all--- Let's get on climbing the next mountain!!!!!

Families Change----Welcome Jordan!!

2012 has definitely been a year of Family Change! Divorce was final in January. Our sweet friend Britt, who had spent countless hours in our home, left on a mission to Argentina in April, then, in June, Ashlyn annouced she was getting married! Then, on August 22nd, I received one of the greatest gifts I could ever imagine.......a son-in-law who was truly sent from heaven!! He is fun, courageous, determined, kind-yet-firm, oh so smart, charming, he adores my daughter and is is remarkable example, brother and friend to us all!! We absolutely adore Jordan's family, which is yet, another blessing!!! I always say, you can count how many blessings you DO have, or count how many you don't ------the only difference is ATTITUDE!! 2012 has been a remarkable year!!! Rather than pondering the end of one family, as we all knew it--- we celebrate the beginning of the Jordan and Ashlyn Gardner family!!! Love you Jordan!! Love 2012.

Keeping the Spirit

Earlier this year, our water heater went out.  Yeah for challenges!!!  I spent the next few days calling around and trying to find someone who could help, and for the best water heater for the best price.  For the upcoming week, there were always two large pots on the stove boiling; for dishes, baths and washing.  During the later evening hours, I would begin the walk from the kitchen to the bathroom, dumping large pots of boiling water into the bathtub.   I so wanted my kids to feel warm, safe and secure---- that everything would be ok, during this time of challenge and family change.   It was so cold outside.......... yet inside, I kept boiling water to care for my family.  One night, exhausted from the day, I found myself walking down the hall towards the bathroom, with a pot of boiling water.  As I waited for the next pot to boil, I would study my text books, which I layed open on the kitchen counter.  Trip after trip, until the bathtub was just full enough for a child to barely bathe, I walked and read, read and walked.   I paused for a moment and realized what meticulous care I was taking for the physical warmth and care of my children, but was I keeping the Spirit boiling in my home, in order to meet their spiritual needs?  That cold, winter night, I prayed for help.  I promised my Heavenly Father that if He would help me find a way to replace the water heater, I would do ALL I COULD do to make sure the Spirit was invited into my home.  That I would help my kids feel and recognize that warmth ---- and that keeping the spirit with them was worth any price!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

They sang

We tend to usually think of the pioneers in the summer time. However, lately, I have found my mind wander to their experiences, as I have shoveled snow and bundled up to stay warm. "Pioneer children SANG as they walked and walked and walked and walked......and walked." It's motivating------ their feet freezing for the lack of shoes and socks---but they SANG. Brothers, sisters, parents and grand-parents passing away on the trail, digging graves to bury them in the snow--- but they SANG. Hungry, cold and lonely--- and they SANG. I'm sure most of them did not aspire to walk across the United States, to be cold, parentless and hungry at such a young age. But, they walked and they SANG. So, I post a picture of my pioneer shoes------ the perfect hot pink boots, just my size, from the local thrift store for only .99cents. In them, I walk to and from classes, shovel heavy snow off my driveway and wait on the porch for teenagers to return home from their events---alone. Though being a single parent is not the handcart I ever thought or desired. Nor did I aspire to be a full-time college student at age 46. And, waiting for and supporting teenagers is a job that was divinely designed for two------ it is MY handcart and it must be pushed. If I try to walk with my head hanging down, feeling sorry for myself, those hot pink boots make me smile..........They were .99 cents and just my size, because someone bigger is in charge. HE knew I needed them so I wouldn't slip. HE knew my size. HE knew I loved pink! HE knew they would make me smile and give me faith to keep walking. HE knew----- because HE knows me! HE is in the details of my life. I know it. The pioneers knew it. And I WILL SING!!!

Quote of the Week

"Forget yourself and... go to work!"----------------Gordon B. Hinckley

Monday, November 12, 2012


I can count my blessings I DO have or the blessings I don't have----the only difference is ATTITUDE!!

Better, stronger, thicker

 I have learned that the world around me is basically “good”, and full of people with wisdom and resources to share, They are just waiting for opportunities to do so.  Life has a way of teaching us lessons, through on-the-job training, which allows us to open up and learn, as life unfolds or withdraw and learn nothing.  I am grateful that my parents instilled in me a positive outlook on life, regardless of what exterior forces present.   I grew up in Northern California, near the Lake Tahoe area.  Oft times, there would be forest fires----some were controlled burns by the forest service and other times accidental---- perhaps by a car accident or fireworks.   However, it never ceased to amaze me, that, though it took years to re-grow, the forest would grow back better, stronger and thicker, with each fire.  We all have times in our lives when we feel completely "burned", by tragedy, illness, sorrow, depression, emptiness, failure, employment, finances, or just that we plain don't measure up.........  Then, we have the opportunity to "come back" better, stronger and thicker than ever before.  And, just as the new trees grow and thrive together, we need each other!!  I like to say, "The grass is always greener------after it's been burned!" 

Monday, November 5, 2012


Cheerfully doing all that is in my power.............

My story

My husband and I had just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with a weekend getaway.   It was picturesque and so relaxing.  We had 4 children ranging from 8 to 18 years of age, each of them so amazingly talented, in their own way.  I was working a couple of afternoons each week as a lunch recess duty at our son’s elementary school.  It was perfect.  I had enough time during the day to take care of the house, serve on the PTA and was anticipating serving as the PTA president at the junior high the following year.  I was done with diapers and was excited to spend my days serving in our ward and in our children’s schools, to sort of pay back all those wonderful women who had dedicated their time and days, when my children were all babies at home.  I was supposed to meet my husband for lunch, that afternoon, as soon as I finished at the elementary school.  I returned to the car, looked at my phone, to find a text from my husband.  It read:  “I’m sorry.  I went to the house and took my things.”
            My sweetheart had been struggling and I had been aware of his challenges for a few years prior.  Well, that day, he gave up, Satan won, and he was not only done trying but done being part of our family as we knew it.  He was gone for good.  I immediately knelt in prayer and asked Heavenly Father for peace and direction for the coming hours, weeks and even months.  I felt as though my handcart had just been loaded to its capacity, and I had been sent out to join a company, without a map, only the Spirit and my faith as a guide.  I also knew it would be hard and long------but I KNEW we would make it!!

            The next day, I posted a laminated strip on the wall in our kitchen.  It read:  Family Theme 2010, I CAN do hard things……..and SMILE!  I introduced this theme that night during family prayer.  I told my children that this was indeed a hard thing, but that our attitudes would dictate much of the outcome.  I reminded them of Pack Meeting, baseball games, softball games and community plays that they were all involved in.  I reminded them of their school work, and the importance of their personal prayers and scripture study.  Most of all, I reminded them that this family change did not DEFINE them, but that it would REFINE them.  I told them that this difficult challenge was no excuse to give up or for failure and that we all had obligations awaiting us, and to get to work!  Joseph Smith, during some very lonely and dark hours in the Liberty Jail said it best, “Therefore, let us cheerfully do all things that lie within our power.”  I found some things that really helped our family during this difficult time of family change:

1.        We posted a motivational Quote of the Week.  I introduce the new quote each week during Family Home Evening and we talked about how we could become better throughout the week, by keeping this thought in our minds and hearts.  One particular quote we had up was from President Monson.  It read, “We face many challenges in the world today, but I assure you that our Heavenly Father is mindful of us.  He loves each of us and will bless us as we seek Him through prayer and strive to keep his commandments.”   April 2011 General Conference

2.      Start a new family tradition.  That first Friday night, that my husband was gone, the stillness frightened me.  I began to feel the loneliness and I did not want my kids to feel that deep pain I was feeling.  Though, I knew it would come.  So, I announced, “Hey kids, it Friday Family Pizza Night---invite as many of your friends over to our house, I will supply the $5 pizza and let’s have fun!”  The house went from quiet loneliness to a house full of laughing kids in about 30 minutes.  We had a great time!  We were together.   Still, over a year later, everyone anticipates Friday Family Pizza night.  Friends are invited and we continue to have fun together and look forward to Fridays with excitement, not sorrow.

3.      Have regular Family Home Evenings, family prayer and family scripture study.  If your family has always done these things than this is the time to keep it up.  If your family has never done these things, than now is the time to get to work.  There is incredible power that comes not only from studying and learning the gospel as a family.  But, there is power in obedience and during any family change or challenge we need that power.  It is a power that brings peace.  A power that brings blessings.  A power that brings hope, when you may feel all hope it lost.  And, it’s a power of unity during a time of trying change.  It is the glue that unifies during a time when it would be easy to fall apart.

4.      Serve together!  I have always said that a formula for great day is to do something for myself, something for my family and something for someone else.  It works every time!!!  It does not have to be something big.  Talk about it in Family Home Evening and do something each week.  Perhaps, it is to get up early and shovel a neighbor’s driveway, to make cookies after school one day and deliver them to someone who has been sick.  If extended family is nearby, perhaps it is to plan a surprise visit to one of them.  Or, write letters to the full-time missionaries.  Holidays are a great time to be a secret Santa, Easter Bunny or deliver a Halloween treat.  My kids love to ding-dong-ditch the treats and they always make elaborate plans on who will run, carry the cookies and ring the bell.  Then, we hide and watch our gift be received.  Lift up the hands that hang down, and your’s will feel lighter as you do.

5.      Re-decorate a room.  Home is where the heart is, so we need to make it warm, bright and even a little bit of heaven.   Move the furniture around, hang a new picture, re-organize some cupboards and even clean along the way.  It is fun to rediscover long lost items under a bed or dresser, to clean, change and even brighten a room with a new coat of paint.  We did this and then we had a great lesson on how some change comes our way because of our own choices, like re-doing a room.  And, other times, change comes our way because of someone else’s choices.  Stephen R. Covey teaches us that we are not products of our circumstances, but products of our decisions.   We talked choosing to do hard things and smiling.  We talked about becoming better not bitter.  We enjoyed the newness of the room……and we realized that each day we could choose to be happy and the importance of good choices and how they lift and brighten the soul and all those around you, just like the new room.

The words to I Am A Child of God have never been more true than they are today.  I plead each morning and night for a loving Heavenly Father to lead me, to guide, and to walk beside me………and He always does.  I know that Heavenly Father loves his children.   Better yet, I know Heavenly Father loves me and my children.  I know that He will direct me as I put my faith in Him and “cheerfully do ALL things that lie in my power” to adjust and help my children adjust to change, challenge and even trial.  We all can do hard things------ it’s smiling while we do them that is difficult.  But, that smile shows our Heavenly Father that we trust His plan. That smile tells our families that things will be all right.  That smile gives courage to those around us to do the same. 
Families Change..........and so can we......for the better!!

 FamiliesChange Update:   On August 8, 2013, I married Brian Weidmer, a close friend from Northern California.  We grew up together, laughed in high school together......................families change and as they do, I continue to learn and grow and trust my Heavenly Father.  Being a step parent is just that many more opportunities to change the world, one child at a time!!!