Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Death, Grief and Lessons Learned





Six months. Six months since my mom died. 

I find death to be such a strange experience, and wholly unique to the individual. I can't speak for others, but I'm taking this six month "anniversary" (is that what it is?) to share what I've felt, what I've learned, and where I go from here.

The idea of my mom actually dying has filled me with dread ever since I was a little girl. I have this vivid memory of laying in bed one night when I was probably 7 or 8 years old and realizing for the first time that my parents were going to die someday. I remember jumping up and running to my mom crying about this new revelation, to which she looked at me calmly and said "yep-we're all going to die one day and that's ok."

Guess what? 

She was right.

But needless to say as time went on, and particularly over the last few years as I saw my mom's health declining, I became more and more worried about the inevitable event of her passing. Mom and I were/are close. We talked often and went to lunch every Tuesday for probably the last 15 years. We've never had any big arguments or disagreements and for that I'm grateful (though I think that's probably atypical). I say all this so you understand a little bit about WHY I was so worried about her dying.

Who would I go to for advice?

What would family events look like?

How would my dad do?

How would I handle it??

Here is what I have learned:

1. I miss her every day, but not in a terribly sad way, but in a strange "I can't believe she is dead" sort of way. (Seriously, almost every day either Dave or I say "I can't believe Mom is dead"." It's the oddest feeling.) People ask how I'm doing and I answer "fine"--which is the truth. I'm not overcome with emotion or distraught with grief, but it's just...weird. I mean one day a person is here and the next, they aren't. It takes some getting used to. Almost every day I find myself going to text or call her, and then I realize she probably already knows whatever it is I was going to share with her anyway, but I throw a prayer up to Heaven just to keep her in the loop.

2. Her death has brought my family closer. I have a great family and we all get along. But grief has a way of bringing people together. We text and talk more. We coordinate "taking care of Dad" (and I use that term loosely because my Dad is handling things like a champ). One of the sweetest memories I have of the last six months is the day we spent saying goodbye to Mom and the hours following. There is beauty in death.

3. I can do hard things. Perhaps because I was so fearful of this happening it was almost a relief when it did. Because then you just take a big breath and say "Alright. I can handle this." And you move forward. When I look back to the several weeks surrounding Mom's death I wonder how we managed it--and then I realize that we weren't alone. The Savior was with us and sent angels, both earthly and heavenly, to help.

4.. I know with a surety that I WILL see her again. Not "I hope to see her again." Not "I'm telling myself so I can manage." I 100% know that I will see her again. I honestly can't imagine navigating death if you didn't know this. It would be devastating. Not to trivialize this serious subject but the best way I can describe how I feel is that my mom is on a long vacation and when she gets back, we will catch up. Basically, that's Heaven right? That knowledge is beautiful and freeing and available to all.

I'm grateful for these last six months. For the growth in the midst of trials. For the lessons learned. For the affirmation that life exists beyond this one and that we can be with our loved ones forever. Forever! What peace that gives, and how blessed I am to know it.




Saturday, January 22, 2022

2 Questions To Ask Yourself When Motivation Is Lacking



Motivation is a pesky concept to nail down. We know what it is, we have hope for where it can lead, but we can't always seem to find it. Then because we can't seem to find it we feel guilty, which on occasion leads to forward progress, but more often than not has quite the opposite effect. Perhaps one of the following scenarios sound familiar:

  • You have a list a mile long that seems insurmountable so instead of tackling it you're on your couch in your pjs because the second season of "Cheer" just dropped and you HAVE to find out if Navarro holds onto the title or if they are toppled by the evil TVCC down the road? 
  • Yesterday was a super productive day where you conquered your enormous to-do list, got your work out in and served your fellow man, but it's today has devolved into mindless tortilla chip eating while scrolling through social media.
  • You want to get healthy, you know you'll feel better if you do, but you've read 999 different books, articles, and IG posts about the "right" way to do it and they are in direct conflict with each other. "Bread is the root of all evil!" "Eat ONLY grains. Meat will kill you!" "Diet Coke is....(well, let's just leave Diet Coke out of it, shall we?) So instead of making a plan you are so overwhelmed that you give up and take a 2 hour nap.

Chasing motivation can be exhausting. Finding it is elusive. Instead let's take "getting motivated" out of the equation and shift the focus to getting unstuck by asking 2 simple questions and then digging a little deeper:

QUESTION #1: HOW DID I SPEND MY LAST HOUR?

Remove judgement--the past is behind you and it can't be changed, but it can give you some good data to work off of. Take the emotion out of it and consider what you can learn from the last 60 minutes. Dig deeper by asking:

  • Am I happy with how I spent the last 60 minutes?
  • Did it fill my emotional cup?
  • Did it move me closer to my goals?  

If the answer to these questions is yes, then fantastic! You're headed in the right direction. If the answer is no, that's OK! Take a minute to figure out why you were unhappy with the last hour. Consider asking the following:

  • Was I buffering (avoiding) a necessary task?
  • Am I stuck because I have "perfection paralysis"? 
  • Are my expectations realistic? If not, how can I reframe them?


QUESTION #2: HOW WILL I SPENT MY NEXT HOUR?

The beauty of the future is that it isn't written yet! Starting NOW you get to choose how you spend the next 60 minutes. It's a clean slate waiting to be filled and thanks to question #1 you have some great information to work off of. Analyze what that information means for your goals and decide accordingly, using some of these questions to find your answer:

  • What is one small step I can take right now?
  • How can I make my expectations more realistic?
  • What will be my priorities be for the next 60 minutes? (Set the intention).
  • How do I want to feel when the hour is up? 
Simplifying the process by asking these 2 questions and then digging a little deeper can help you overcome the overwhelm and propel you to positive action which will yield positive results. Your future is not yet written and change is possible regardless of your previous pattern of behavior.

In the meantime, be gentle on yourself, learn from the past and look forward to the future with faith (and maybe a Diet Coke.)



Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Freedom in "Keeping it Real"

 



A number of years ago I looked around my home at the chaos that raising 6 kids had created. Goldfish crackers on the couch, discarded socks, a pile of shoes by the door, dishes in the sink left over from baking cookies the night before and taking center stage were props we were creating for an upcoming high school production. On a whim, I turned on my camera to record the state of affairs and uploaded the video to Instagram. The caption read “Keeping It Real”.

 

I learned something in that moment. My baring it all for the world (or my small number of IG friends) to see was freeing. But more importantly, it was freeing for other people. Almost within seconds I was getting comments and messages from other moms saying, “thank you! My house looks just like this!” It’s as if by showing 60 seconds of real life, I allowed space for admitting that life is messy. It's imperfect. It’s real, and often, it’s pretty mediocre.

 

We live in a world full of big ideas. Constantly, we are encouraged to be better, live larger, dare more, reach higher. All are great concepts, but I fear that when taken in the aggregate they can produce the opposite results of what we want, or more importantly what is healthy for us. Too often perfection (or the pursuit of it) looms over us and instead of becoming better, we feel we are falling behind, missing out, or not measuring up. What if instead of trying to look, act, or be perfect, we instead embraced the mediocre?

 

At this point, some of you probably want to stop reading. You wouldn’t be the first. In fact, years ago I was asked to write an article on raising children for a parenting website. I titled it “Mediocrity, Let’s Celebrate.” The editors hated it.  Their feedback stated, “While we love the article, we don’t think the title is the type of message we want to send to our readers.” I was disappointed but I understood. The concept of mediocrity isn’t inspiring. It’s not sexy. It’s certainly not popular. But, what if, by understanding it, it allows for the freedom to let go of perfection and to let real life in? What if by recognizing that we will be great at very few things, but good enough at loads of others, we create space for adventure, compassion and grace for ourselves and others? What if by “keeping it real” we become better parents, spouses, friends, citizens and human beings?   

 

I’m going to dive into this idea of “keeping it real.” I hope that by doing so I learn more about myself and others. Perhaps in the messy, mundane, everyday life, great joy and purpose it to be found. I hope you join me.

 

Mediocrity—Let’s Celebrate!




Wednesday, January 5, 2022



As a mom do you ever feel like a flight attendant on a plane that's about to go down? Chaos is happening all around you, people are panicking, nobody knows what to do and you're standing up shouting:

"EVERYONE REMAIN CALM! WE ARE GOING TO BE JUST FINE!"

Now I understand that my job is to be the grown up. We can't have mom freaking out when things start going south, but every once in awhile, just a teensy part of the time, it can be a little overwhelming to keep the boat steady. Because as crazy as it seems, moms are people too. That's right. We get stressed, and upset and frustrated. Sometimes we even get our feelings hurt.

Shocker, I know.

I was talking to another mom recently and she said "you know sometimes I get tired of always having to be the one that's in a good mood, the one that has to cater to everyone else's feelings." That resonated with me. As moms we take on the troubles and cares of our children and spouses. We feel deeply when someone is hurting and we understand that often that hurt gets misdirected towards us. Once I heard someone say "you're only as happy as your saddest child." Now, I don't completely subscribe to that philosophy because if I did, with six kids the percentage of time I would be happy would be really low...But as a mom it can be challenging to navigate the times when our family members are struggling.

And I want to be clear that 90% of the time I'm grateful that I'm capable of managing the whirlwinds of family life. I want to hear my kid's troubles and I want them to come to me for advice. When my husband has a lot on his plate I want to lend a hand to help--I welcome it. I take great pride (is it ok to say pride?) in being able to do that. It's what I signed up for and it's in my job description--a job that I love. I mean that--I love it.

But if every once in a while, in a rare moment, I can't figure out how to put my oxygen mask on, maybe just give me a second to catch my breath, regain my composure and then return to directing you to the emergency exits.






 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

FOUR REASONS I AM A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS



"You know Mom, some people think we are crazy for being Mormon".

As a life long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints--what some mistakenly refer to as "the Mormon Church"--I'm no stranger to this sentiment that my daughter expressed one night while watching an episode of Dateline.  (What is it about me and Dateline?  And why does every murder happen in the state of Florida??)  But I digress...I'm fully aware that our religion can seem strange to others and that's evident by the types of questions I get asked:

"Do you wear magic underwear?"  (Uh--no...I don't believe my underwear has magical properties but I guess it would be kind of cool if it did.)

"Does your husband have more than one wife?"  (Nope--I'm plenty for him plus where would we put another wife??)

"Why don't you believe in birth control?"  (Actually, if we DIDN'T believe in it I'd have like 20 kids by now thanks to my fertile womb.)

"Why is Coca Cola evil?" ( It's not.  Diet Coke might be the greatest invention ever and anyone who thinks otherwise is missing out.  I drink Diet Coke, eat chocolate and am known to pop a couple of Excederin on occasion.)

Truth be told, I welcome these kinds of questions because I'd much rather someone ask me and get the real answer than find some crazy answer on Reddit threads.  It's like my husband says, "if I had a question about Jews I wouldn't ask a Catholic, I'd ask a Jew!"  So questions are good--even the weird ones.

But out of all those questions one that I am rarely asked is WHY am I a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?  It seems to me that's the real question on people's mind--either because they are actually curious or because they think I'm a little crazy, but regardless I thought I would share my top reasons I claim this faith:

REASON #1:  WHEREVER YOU GO THERE IS ALWAYS A CHURCH FAMILY

This is 100% true.  It does not matter if you live in Cleveland or Zimbabwe, you will find a Latter Day Saint congregation and they will be an automatic built in family.  My son who served a mission in Brazil remarked how wherever he went he would find the latino version of someone from his ward (that's LDS speak for "congregation") back home.  Need help moving into your new area?  Call the Bishop and a crew of youth and men with trucks will be there to help you unload and will smile while doing it.  Need a babysitter?  No problem--call the Young Women's President and she will give you at least six teenage girls who will be glad to help, and smile while doing it.  Sickness or death?  There will be a week's worth of dinners provided by your ward family, all delivered with that smile.  We not only take care of our own, but our neighbors as well--and we smile while doing it.

REASON #2:  NEED SOMETHING?  I CAN FIND IT!

Thanks to the vast network of church members we almost always know someone that has what you need.  No joke.  Need a plumber, electrician, mechanic or doctor?  I can find you one with about 10 minutes notice.  (A neighbor recently ran me down to say "I know you're Mormon and Mormons always know everyone and I need a concrete guy--who do you suggest?")  Need a Santa for a work party or a Princess for your 5 year old's birthday?  I've got just the people.  How about a chocolate fountain for a wedding reception.  Heck--I can find EVERYTHING you need for a reception  AND pull it together with a week's notice!  We are a resourceful people, we are.  (And really good at planning quick weddings.)

REASON #3:  I CAN LEARN ANY SKILL

It is 100% true that nearly every skill or talent I've learned has come from my association with the church.  We have a strong belief in education of any sort and many of our sermons, classes, youth activities, and studies center on developing new skills and talents.  Some examples:

*organizing a home
*keeping family records
*budgeting/estate planning
*planning events
*running organizations
*sewing
*cooking (notice I said I learned these things--I don't always practice them...)
*improving my relationship with my spouse
*parenting skills
*public speaking
*how to fix a vacuum
*how to change a tire
*how to use EXCEL
*painting/decorating
*how to deal with anxiety/depression
*helping loved ones with addictions
*diet and exercise
*dance and singing
*playing a musical instrument
*appreciation for the arts
*assertiveness and confidence
*crafts of every kind  (seriously--SO many crafts...)

This doesn't even scratch the surface but you get the idea.  If I want to learn it I guarantee I can find a class, talk, lesson or church member to teach me.

REASON #4:  IT'S TRUE

Sure, all of the above reasons are nice perks to being a member of the church, but the bottom line, is this:  I know it's true.  Not just "think".  I'm not just "pretty sure".  It's not just because "I grew up this way."  Nope--those things won't carry you through in this religion that frankly, requires quite a bit of you.  I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints because I know, with all the surety in the world, that this is right and true. Perhaps you think I'm deceived. Perhaps you think I'm misguided. Or perhaps you think, like my daughter said, "you're crazy." I'm ok with that because I know what I know and I'm blessed to know it.  I've seen the blessings that come from living it and the growth I experience because of it.  I feel it in the sweet moments of Sunday worship and service but perhaps more importantly when on my knees in the depths of despair.  I've read and studied and pondered and asked God if it's true and he told me with all the certainty in the world that it is.


*if you have questions about the Mormon church feel free to ask me or find answers at https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/comeuntochrist


Monday, August 24, 2020

Election Year Drama: Finding a Candidate Who Is "Honest, Good, and Wise"

WHO SHOULD I VOTE FOR??

I have friends and family on both sides of the political spectrum with very strong opinions about who they (and apparently I ) should vote for in the upcoming presidential election. Personally I have never before felt so strongly the weight of my vote. Not so much because I think it will make that big of a difference—living in a state that always swings democratic takes some of the pressure off—but because I feel a strong moral imperative to do my due diligence in supporting the person that I think is most fit for the job. 

Most of you know that I am a faithful (though imperfect) member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and as such I often seek counsel from scripture and leaders of our faith. As I have wrestled with my decision I sought guidance from our Church Handbook of Instruction which states: 

 

In accordance with the laws of their respective governments, members are encouraged to register to vote, to study issues and candidates carefully, and to vote for individuals whom they believe will act with integrity and sound judgment. Latter-day Saints have a special obligation to seek out, vote for, and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:10).

While affirming the right of expression on political and social issues, the Church is neutral regarding political parties, political platforms, and candidates for political office. The Church does not endorse any political party or candidate. Nor does it advise members how to vote.

(https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/general-handbook/38-church-policies-and-guidelines?lang=eng#title_number178)

 

I take seriously this mandate and I take exception with those of my faith who profess to tell others how they should vote or make assertions that “faithful members” should vote for a particular candidate. I also believe that the counsel given could aptly apply not just to members of my faith, but to all who are participating in the voting process. After all, don’t we all want leaders who are “honest, good, and wise?”

 

The trick is trying to figure out exactly who that is. It’s no secret that the media is biased. (I joke that every day I read CNN and Fox News and then try to find the truth somewhere in the middle.) Numbers can be skewed, news clips are spliced together to present a biased viewpoint and the amount of factually wrong memes, youtube compilations and quotes that are making the rounds on social media is exhausting.

 

So where does that leave me? I decided that the most unbiased information I could get comes from, for lack of a better phrase, “straight from the horse’s mouth.” 


Enter, Twitter.

 

The beauty of Twitter is that these are tweets put out by the individual themselves. (I realize we could make a case that the tweets are molded and fashioned by writers or PR teams but unless I happen to get invited to brunch with President Trump or Joe Biden, this is the closest I can get to what they actually are saying.)

 

So I did a little research. And I found it super fascinating. I’m not going to tell you my thoughts on the candidates at this time—I don’t want to bias you. But there is something about reading exactly what each one of the puts out there that is quite eye opening. In all honesty, it’s been the most helpful thing I’ve found so far to help me in my quest to “seek out, vote for, and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise.”

 

Perhaps you are interested as well. If so, I’ve compiled the links I used here. Happy reading! 

 

Trump’s Current Twitter Feed: https://twitter.com/potus?lang=en

Site that has categorized President Trump’s Tweets: http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com

Deleted Trump Tweets:

https://projects.propublica.org/politwoops/user/realDonaldTrump?page=2

 

Deleted Biden Tweets: https://projects.propublica.org/politwoops/user/JoeBiden?page=2

Archive of Biden’s Tweets from presidency: https://twitter.com/vp44?lang=en

Biden’s current tweets: https://twitter.com/JoeBiden?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

 

(I looked for a site that categorized Joe Biden’s tweets but have not yet found it. If you track one down, I would love to see it!)


Note: lest you think that I am strictly using Twitter as my voting barometer, rest assured that I'm studying up on the platforms and policies as well. But those Twitter feeds...they are fascinating...


*Photo Credit: Clouds In Bloom Photography

 

 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A Story of Hope. And Face Masks.

           

Let me tell you a story...It's a story of a group of people who in times of crisis came together to answer prayers, including mine...

As I write this we are on day 46 (?) of our quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic--the fact that this word is part of our everyday vocabulary is crazy to me, but here we are. It's affected nearly every aspect of our lives and each day as I look at an empty calendar and go on my near silent nightly walk, I am struck by just how drastically life can change. School is finished for the rest of the year, Kennedy's play (which she would have shined in) was cancelled (along with everything else) and Dave's work has drastically slowed. Mine is non-existent. To say things are unsettling would be an understatement. Not just for us, but for everyone.

Dave and I often talk about the idea that trials in our life make us stronger. It's not a new concept and we've seen it play out for us and our family. Heck, Dave even wrote a book  about it!  Perhaps it's because of those instances in our life that when this quarantine hit I decided we had to find some good to come of it.

It started in the form of sewing a few face masks.

Thanks to my near olympic ability to scroll for hours through Facebook I knew that there seemed to be some sort of need regarding face masks. I just had this feeling that I needed something to do and somewhere to channel my energy and serve so I rummaged through my meager craft supplies and then hit up my good friend Debra and my sister, Melinda and got to sewing. A few days later and a few FB posts later I found some friends that needed face masks and I found as I worked I was less worried, less stressed and a little happier.

Enter Pizza Hut. (Lisa Oliverio, I'm talking to you.)

Lisa, a big-wig in the Pizza Hut scene (and generous employer of many Morgan boys, for which we can't thank her enough) saw one of my posts and said she could use 200 face masks. 200! Now anyone that knows me knows that there is something about a big, seemingly impossible number that makes me...determined. (Who remembers the TP event of 2018??) Luckily, I have good friends who are in tune with promptings and this time was no different.

Barbara Rogers was on it.

As the head of our women's organization at church she had been looking for a service project for the women and their friends to participate in. (Also, she took pity on me and probably knew that given my meager sewing skills it was going to take me a looooong time to sew 200 face masks.) The woman was inspired because a day or so later "The SEWcial Distancing Club" was born. (name credit goes to Parker Morgan and thank heavens because Dave proposed calling it "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Face Masks").

If anyone is wondering about the power of a FB group, let me tell you about ours. Within a day or so we had 100 members. (We are now approaching 500!)  Friends and friends of friends who wanted to help. From the start we have been amazed to see women (and a few men) join the call to action. They have donated supplies, cut fabric, assembled packets and sewn and delivered face masks. How many you ask?

5426 as of this morning.

You read that right--over 5000 face masks which have been donated to over 50 organizations in our local community. Hospitals, clinics, assisted living homes, schools, homeless shelters, businesses, historical societies, and more. In fact, soon the entire Vancouver Police Department will be sporting masks from this group! And as we have worked we have seen miracles.

Our members tell us that their anxiety is removed. They report that their depression is lifted. Our club members talk about having a sense of community at a time when we are all isolated at home. Families are working together. Couples are delivering supplies and finished products. We hear stories of sisters cleaning out their mother's hope chest after her passing and finding brand new white sheets to donate to our cause because "it is what our mother would have wanted". Neighbors are cutting up their very own shirts to use as fabric because they want to contribute. Treats and supplies, and even dinner shows up on our door step right when they are needed. We are blessing the lives of the recipients of these masks but in the process, we are seeing that the true blessing comes to us that are serving.

If you have followed my blog you know that I've been struggling for a while to find my "purpose". After 28 years the last of our six children leaves home next year . I've prayed and prayed to know how to use my talents for a greater good. To find a way to feel fulfilled, but really to just contribute to the world at large.

This has been an answer to prayers. It's a testament to me that God is mindful. It's a reminder to me that He uses others to answer those pleas. I understand a little better about patience and "waiting on the Lord". And I've learned that people are good. So very good. For that, I am so very thankful.

And that goal of 200 face masks? Well, we've adjusted it a bit. 10,000 here we come!

*If you would like to join our cause (or even just follow our adventure) you can find us at:
SEWcial Distancing Club



Dave's Book: My God Hath Been My Support