Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We Build

One of the very first things that we noticed in blending our families, was that we were definitely going to need a shed!  Two households into one, you do the math.  A shed was a must!  What would be the best way to begin?  Should we buy one used?  Should we buy a kit?  Should we purchase the materials and build and design our own?  We decided to design a plan, get the materials and build it ourselves.  So, all day Saturday we went up the hill for supplies, and back down the hill to unload, dug up grass, poured cement and worked busily ALL DAY long!!  At the end of the day, I went out to see our new shed.  What I found surprised me!  After hours of work, many hands, what I found made a profound impression on me, and hence the inspiration for this post.  There before me, I found only a square in the grass in the shape of a rectangle.  I stood and looked at the wood framed, reinforced, cement foundation and a few stakes marking the shape of our future shed.  We are building a shed!  We are all building!  We are building friendships.  We are building businesses and communities.  Most importantly, we are building families.  And so, we build!  And because Families Change, we are never done!  The business of building families is a contractors dream----- always changing.  We don't have the option of buying used or finding kit with everything we need included.  We must design our families after the pattern of our choice.  Then, we must be willing go up and down the hills of life, as we work to create.  And so, We build!

Flexibility is a must for any builder.  Supplies at times may be scarce.  Designs may be flawed.  Problems may arise in the beginning, middle or even the end of a project, requiring us to change our plans.  Many times, as a mother, I have found my supplies scarce.  Just plain out of time and patience.  Perhaps our shelves are empty of emotional or even physical endurance.  We may realize a flaw in our design.  Perhaps a discipline plan or a schedule is not working------ so we change.  Maybe relationships have been strained ----- so we reinforce. Then, there are those times, that a project comes to a stand-still, requiring us to change or even create a new design for our future.  Death and divorce, marriage, remarriage and the realization that our nest is now empty, require us to regroup, be flexible, possibly even re-create---------And so, We Build!!!  I know that when I realized my first husband had challenges extremely difficult for a marriage, I needed patience, love and inspiration to create a new plan.  Then, a few years later, when he left our family for good, I had to sit down, cry, ponder, and create yet a new design, a new vision for what my family looked like.  I needed courage and strength beyond my own.  And so, We Build!

 3 years later, I found myself looking at a yet another new design, when dating and remarriage presented itself.  Again, I needed to sit down, be willing to toss my design aside AGAIN, and seek divine intervention and inspiration in creating another plan, just right, for all 13 of us!!! And, find the patience, trust and determination to start all over again------- in searching to find the perfect piece of land, and begin again.  We build!!!

 Patience is something that I have always needed to work on, and forever wish I had more of.  When my husband said he could design the shed and build it himself, I thought, "Super--- he has a couple of days off, we ought to have the shed built and the garage emptied by the end of the week."  However, I can testify that sheds are not built in a week, nor are families.  Both require constant hard work.  As well as creativity and endurance.

Each night, I have enjoyed discussing the progress.  "Today, we prepared the ground for the foundation."  "We just finished the foundation, a firm foundation, a reinforced foundation, a foundation that cannot be moved----- and it will take a couple of days to dry."  "The walls are up, I need to get up early in the morning, before work, and reinforce them, so they will be strong to withstand any weather."  Building cannot be rushed.  There are many things that need to be done, even things that no one will ever see, to make our shed sturdy and strong.  And so it is for families----- sturdy and strong.  This shed-building has already taught me so much more than the importance of moving your thumb BEFORE you swing the hammer.  I never realized how much building experience I already have.  (And, my husband thought he was the only one with construction experience!)  We all have more building experience than we realize.  Some have survived divorce as children.  Others have lost parents and siblings at a young age.  Some have watched older siblings leave home and witnessed, firsthand, the redesigning and building of families.  There are those who have cared for elderly parents and then buried them.  Both again, requiring a new design of family.  Then others, have withstood the tsunami of storms and buried children and suffered the loss of a spouse through death or divorce----- not only forcing a new vision for the family, but unseen strength and hands.  So, we all been builders of some sort or another all of our lives.  So, we too have experience.  We just need to dig deep.  I think we will find that not only do we have more knowledge than we thought, but we are stronger than we ever knew.

One thing that has really impressed me, is that even when the night comes, or the weather turns for the worst, my husband can be found searching for ways to improve the shed, drawing plans for the perfect roof or even calculating the exact amount of materials to be purchased.   This shed building experience has taught me so much about building families.  First and foremost, it cannot be done in day.  Building families requires a plan----- a plan of core values to instill and upon which to base our teachings, a financial plan, a plan for discipline, a plan for the future and even plans for fun.  I need to be willing search for new ways, study sturdiness and seek to improve upon the design for my sweet family, and be willing to work hard to implement what I learn.   Due to my shortage of patience, sometimes I want to wake up to the family unit I thought of and dreamed of, only the night before.  Or better yet, the perfect family EVERYONE else seems to be a part of.  However, in order to have the strong family I so desire, I need to plan and be flexible and be willing to change-----and sometimes just wait for things to settle and the cement to dry.  I also need to invest the time in pondering the days' accomplishments and coming up with a plan of attack for the future.  One day at a time, both our shed building and family building are coming together.  Somedays, there may not be visible progress, but our plans are in the works, our thoughts are focused, and we are building, and the cement of love and dedication are drying---------we are building and reinforcing in preparation for any storm or change.  Our foundations are strong.  We built the foundation for the shed out of a well-calculated wood frame, cement mixed with rocks for even more strength and wire caging to reinforce an already strong foundation.  For our family, we have chosen a framework of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and cement of faith, reinforced with love and rocks of reality------ reality in knowing that families change, and regardless ----We Build and even re-Build!  A plan designed  for the shed.  Time taken to reinforce the foundation and the walls, not in case of a storm, but in preparation for the storms that will surely come.

Families Change and there is no way around it. Loved ones pass away.  Children grow up and move on.  Jobs are lost.  Illness strikes.  Depression sets in.  Divorce divides.  But, if we remember to build upon a firm foundation of faith, change will come, and we will stand strong!  Put "HAPPINESS" back into families by taking out the word "Perfection," and replacing it with the words, "Perfectly willing to smile, to "build" and make it work------as families change.  With time and design.  Work and patience.  Flexibility and love.  Those we choose to Build up ----- in reality are Building us!   We design.  We wait.  We ponder.  We study.  We reinforce. We're flexible.  We smile.
 And, ---We Build!!!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


When we change the way we look at things----- the things we are looking at change!  As a 5 year-old little girl, and a pretty spunky one I might add, I suffered a series of serious headaches.  This was odd for a young child, so my parents took me to see the doctor.  He suggested I have my eyes tested.  Sure enough, the verdict was in, I was visually challenged.  I had a unique prescription.  Not only were some pretty thick lenses required, but my eyes worked against each other, rather than as the team they were designed to be, hence, the paralyzing headaches.    The eye doctor’s office was near a homemade candy store.  And, a favorite treat of mine were their homemade pink candy canes. 

I remember like it was yesterday.  My mom picked me up from school and we went to the eye doctor's, with the promise of a candy cane predicated upon my cooperative yet brave behavior.  With a deal like that, I pranced into the doctor's office with a smile.  I sat on the chair, as he opened the velvet-lined case revealing the chocolate brown rimmed frames and their thick prescriptive lenses.  He cleaned them delicately with a satin cloth and placed them on my face.  It was like putting your TV on the appropriate channel.
The static and fuzz I had been looking at for 5 years, instantly became clear, distinct and in living color!  I felt like a brand new person.  You would have to ask my mom how long it took for the smile to leave my face, but I would imagine, quite some time.  I never wanted to take them off again!!  We walked outside and suddenly I was amazed that the green trees were not just cartoon-like clumps of color, but individual leaves creating each unique arbor.  The road was not just a solid charcoal strip highway, but a myriad of white, black and gray stone-like flecks that together, created each street.  The pink candy cane I will never forget!  As soon as it came into my 5 year old view, I was stunned to realize they were not pink at all.  They were hand-twisted with red and white stripes, creating the festive candy cane I adored!!  When we change the way we look at things--------- the things we are looking at always seem to CHANGE! 

When my husband left, my world as I knew it, became, once again, days of static and fuzz.   My future was no longer crisp and distinct.  My days were no longer bright.  And, my purpose in life lost its’ colorful luster of meaning.   However, with clarity, I remember receiving divorce papers in the mail.  Though I had known for months this would be the outcome.  I knew when I was to watch for the paperwork.  An email indicated the papers would arrive that week.  I opened the mailbox that winter day.  Amidst the snow, I leaned over to retrieve the mail.  There I noticed a large white envelope folded-to-fit, stuffed in with day’s delivery.  The return address was all too familiar, as I had spent some long hours in that cold office.  I put the mail on my shelf and waited until kids were tucked in bed for the night.  Then, alone on my bed, I opened the envelope.  No office visit, phone call or email could have prepared me for what I would see nor how I would feel.  There in black and white, authenticated with a judge’s signature, were the words indicating the official end of life as I had known it for the past 20 years.  I went from being a Mrs. to a Ms., wife to divorcee, and worst of all,  I was now a“single mother” with all it’s devastating statistics.  My vision quickly clouded with tears and I sobbed like I had never sobbed before.  Tears of fear poured down my face.  Tears of failure, embarrassment and loneliness soon soaked my pillow.   I longed for a new pair of glasses that had changed my vision so dramatically as a child.  Soon, I realized that was the answer.  The glasses, I had them all along.  They were tucked deep inside my heart and mind. 
The lenses, thick with perseverance and framed in solid determination.  I took out my cloth of faith and cleaned them with my new attitude.  I put them on, and my world, again, went from fuzz and static to vibrant color.   They changed the way I looked at myself, and I began to change!!!  Where I had seen myself as divorcee, I now saw only determination to overcome any stereotype and rather than feel sorry for myself, I would make something of myself.  That “single mom and her statistics” became crystal clear----- I would beat the odds with my contagious positivity and make sure my children knew that divorce or any family change, was no excuse for failure.  And, later, 3 years later to be exact, those glasses have continued to serve me well.   Rather than used and remarried, I decided I would be “married again”-------blessed again, with another sacred opportunity to be a wife, a companion, a best friend and confidant.  And, being a Step-Mom gave me the chance to Step-in, whenever and where ever needed to make a difference in his children’s lives.  It didn’t take me long to realize that my glasses of perseverance, determination and faith, became my super powers----- allowing me to escape the dangers of bitterness, self-pity, hate and injustice.  While enabling me to more clearly see the possibilities ahead.  Some say, “seeing is believing.”
However, I would have to say, “believing is REALLY seeing!!!”  Believing in myself and all that I can overcome and accomplish, regardless of the hand of unfairness that I had been dealt.  Believing in my ability to succeed regardless of statistics.  And, believing that a loving Heavenly Father sees me, believes in me------ in whom I KNOW, with Him, anything is possible!!!  No more static and fuzz, only clarity and a vibrant rainbow of possibilities-----When we change the way we look at things---things change!I see myself becoming an all-star wife again.  Contrary to the fairy tale stereotype, I see myself blending and becoming a champion mother and step-mother.  Everyday, I SEE myself determined, faithfull, and beating the statistical odds, and creating a strong unified family, in spite of life's unfairness and the consequences of choice.  I believe in me.
 I know that even though Families Change, and they do, so can we!  No more pink candy canes but clearly striped.  Believing is ……. SEEING!!!!

Monday, September 9, 2013


I'm sitting in class and we are having a discussion about hard challenges that often come our way.  In particular, we spoke of many of the challenges during the Biblical era.   Picture me, 47 years old, husband left after 21 years of marriage to pursue an alternative lifestyle, spent the last 3 years living week to week financially and day to day emotionally as a single mother of 4.  Then, now, remarried, combined parents of 10 and when I am not in school full-time or at work, I am busy blending and cleaning, blending and cooking, blending and organizing and sometimes blending and playing--------- needless to say, this discussion of "challenges that come our way" made me smile and provoked a lot of feelings within me.  A young student maybe 18 years old, raised her hand.  I sat two rows behind her.  She talked about how no matter when we live, we have the knowledge and know-how of our time.  One period did not necessarily require anymore faith to live than another.  She went on to talk about how we have trials, no matter when we live, and we just have to get through it.  My head and heart began to spin.  I laughed inside and with an almost audible chuckle, I thought, "Oh boy, wait until that young girl grows up, and sees how really hard life can be?"  "Wait until all she hoped for and planned on crumbles around her and she has to pick up the pieces!"  I sat feeling somewhat older and wiser then, my eyes wandered down.   Almost as a neon billboard in Vegas, I saw it,  an artificial leg.  That young girl, whom I thought had not really lived through, let alone survived a real-life challenge, was missing her leg!!!

 My heart began to beat with deep feelings of compassion and admiration for this young lady.  Then, I was humbled-------just looking at her face, she seemed as though everything was fine.  Day after day, she would carry her back pack into class, listen and take notes, just like everyone else.   Perhaps, some of those days she was in pain, real physical pain, from walking all over campus with an artificial leg?  Just like me, on those days when I am so exhausted physically, and my back is straining to carry my heavy pack of books and burdens?   Maybe there were days when she felt all alone, like no one else REALLY understood what it was like to live each day without her leg--to live each day with her leg   Just like I have often thought, to live each day without the normalcy I once knew?  A tear rolled down my cheek when I wondered if she ever felt like everyone was staring at her because she was different?  Just like I feel each and every day?   I wondered if she had days when her artificial leg just rubbed the wrong way and made a raw spot that just writhed in pain?  Just like me, on those days when surviving family change is just too hard, and my feelings are raw and the pain is so real?

As my eyes and heart took note of her predicament, I was overwhelmed with so many feelings, but the most poignant was this:  "We just never know what is going on in the lives of those around us.  We don't know what pain, what heart ache nor what challenges people are facing.  But, this we DO KNOW--we are ALL facing them.  And, though are challenges may be different, many of our feelings are the same!!" 

Realizing that many of my feelings may be her feelings created an instant bond of empathy and compassion.  And, a desire to know her, to love her, to lift her, to lighten her load, and just to make her smile.  Feelings are a gift!  Feelings are powerful.  Feelings are a means of expressing ourselves and our experiences.  Feelings can bridge gaps or create a huge divide between us.  Feelings can help us draw near to one another, or they can isolate us from anyone or anything that can help us.  It's what we choose to do with our feelings that makes all the difference.

I have often felt like no one understands my story, therefore no one could ever understand how I feel.  However, this young lady taught me, just through my feelings, that though our journeys may be different, our feelings, our loneliness, our broken hearts, our challenges may be much the same.  So, when my feelings get the best of me, and they do from time to time, I will remember, that behind every door, behind every perfect PTA president, behind every perfect body and hairdo.  Behind every straight A student.  Behind every perfect parent with perfect children.  Behind everyone who seems to have everything I don't, there may be a heavy load to carry, a broken heart, a lonely spirit, or a missing leg or something else that is missing that makes them feel different--- painfully different.  Yet, their feelings may be just like mine----so I can share, lift and lighten as I am realizing that not only do we all have challenges to face, but we all have FEELINGS---- feelings that are so amazingly similar that we need not ever feel alone.   Feelings that have been felt by someone familiar, even to our Savior, that we need not suffer, or "feel" alone.  Heaven won't be filled with people who have never made mistakes---but with people who knew how to become better because of them.  I am sorry for my quick thoughts of judgment towards this young student whom  I thought did not understand what a challenge is.  However, I will be forever grateful for the feelings that I had because of this experience.  I will also be forever grateful for the feelings of love and admiration I have for her and for others, because of the feelings we share, though unspoken, quite binding......our FEELINGS.

Feelings Challenge:  This week, try to share more feelings with the intent to create a bond with your spouse, your family, your children, your friends and co-workers.  They are hard to share because of the amazing good that can come, when we do share ourselves......feelings!!  I took this challenge!!  Let me know how it goes!!!