Month: September 2015

Parenting: one big experiment (and a boy who can fly!)

Parenting: one big experiment (and a boy who can fly!)

Saw this today on the Mormon Channel. Like it. This is one thing I love about being a parent: it is an experiment. You are free to try what you think will be fun, successful, and memorable.  You get to create! Like a well-designed experiment, though, I’m 

Homecoming 2015, a missionary brother’s watchful care, and tailoring woes

Homecoming 2015, a missionary brother’s watchful care, and tailoring woes

I emailed this photo to Elder Livingston of Julia’s homecoming date night, and he responded in a darling big brother way: “Man, if I hear that some kid was mean to my sister, or rude on a date, I will be coming to call on him in 

Careful and troubled: putting the burden down, just for today

Careful and troubled: putting the burden down, just for today

paperwork pilesI walked in from church today to see my dining room table covered with the disarrayed papers, binders, and whatnot. It reflected another week when I just didn’t have (or take?) the time to sit down and catch up on paperwork.

Why are these piles so challenging for me? Partly because my top priority isn’t dealing with papers, so I let them go until they are a necessity. Secondly, because I don’t LIKE paperwork, and third, because I’m a detail-oriented person. Mostly they bother me because I believe they reflect poorly on what I am accomplishing. I am often “careful and troubled about many things.” I want my life to be in order, and I want my home to reflect that. I want to handle each item carefully. I am afraid to throw away a bill or insurance notice or school flyer that I’m supposed to do something with, because I don’t want to cause problems for anyone or for myself. And I don’t like to slop something together–it goes against my nature. So it’s hard for me to just rush through something and get it done. I’m methodical.

I think I have some new insight on piles today from the time I spent at church: it mattereth not (1 Nephi 6:3; Jacob 5:8Jacob 5:13Alma 40:8; Alma 58:37; Alma 61:9Ether 15:34D&C 80:3; et al.). Where are my priorities? Am I doing each day the things that matter most? Am I focused on Christ? Am I clothing the naked? Feeding the hungry? I sure did a lot of laundry and made a lot of meals this last week: check! Did I lift the hands that hang down? Strengthen any feeble knees? I arranged my day to go see two of my daughters perform on stage and on the cross country course. I know they were both thankful I was there: check! Did I speak kind words to those who needed them? I had a sick child and a tired husband, and I tried to encourage both of them: check! There was a lot I didn’t do perfectly, but there was a lot of good I did do instead of sitting down and working on paperwork. This is what God wants me to do. Paperwork has a place, but it’s not always the first, most important place. Being there with a child or a spouse often matters more.

notes from Relief Society

This is from my church notes. This image is such a powerful one to me: the bumps in the path of life are representing the trials and challenges we face. Sometimes that’s all we can see! But if we lift our eyes to the Savior, we can get the longer view that helps us overcome our trials and keep perspective. That’s the gift I got from going to church today: the comforting reminder that when I focus on doing what really matters in the long run–coming to Christ, service and kindness–that the rest will work out. Piles will get cleaned up. And I will have the satisfaction of having done what is most rewarding.

Mary and Martha Minerva Teichert(“Christ with Mary and Martha” by Minerva Teichert. This image from ldsart.com.)

This is what I love about the story of the Mary and Martha. Christ reminded Martha that focusing on ONE thing– one person–Christ!–would help her know what was most needed in a moment. Mary knew that in that moment, she wanted to visit with and learn from the Lord. It didn’t mean that they wouldn’t be hungry at the end or that dinner didn’t need to be made or that what Martha wasn’t doing wasn’t valuable; it just meant that Mary was hungry spiritually, and she knew that need could be filled right then when Christ was there. I think that if I keep my eye on the Savior and try to seize the opportunities to get to know him, serve others as he would, and treat others as he would, when they present themselves in my day, that in the end, the other stuff that doesn’t really matter after all will get taken care of.

I am reminded of this quote from President Benson that I love: “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.” (“The Great Commandment,” April 1988).

So today, I’m going to stick the papers in a pile and not worry about them, but spend some time on the things that matter more: getting to know the Lord, counseling with my family, enjoying them, planning how to serve this week.  I’ll trust that pile to the Lord to help me get done what is important during the week. Just for today, I’ll focus on the Lord.

I’m so grateful for fasting, for church, for the sacrament, for wonderful talks and lessons prepared lovingly and sincerely and the Holy Ghost strengthening me and helping me get that longer-view focus that I so very much need. What would I ever do without the Sabbath Day? Without ward members to strengthen me? Without priesthood ordinances like the sacrament that strengthen me for the coming week? Without inspired thoughts from the Holy Ghost that give me relief from my weekly worries.

It feels good to put the burden down….

A few songs I’ve written

A few songs I’ve written

I am not a professional musician. But my mom was, and she’s written quite a few songs. I knew when we needed some songs for our elementary school, that I should just give it a go, because that’s what she’s taught me. She raised me 

Talking Like the Rain

Talking Like the Rain

It’s been raining this week (hooray!), and I couldn’t help but think about a book of poetry we have called Talking Like the Rain: A Read-to-me Book of Poems, selected by X.J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy and illustrated by Jane Dyer. This beautiful book of 

Building courage and confidence in a child through art, displays, and praise

Building courage and confidence in a child through art, displays, and praise

Black bean sweet potato chiliThis morning I ate some leftover black bean soup that Eliza made last night. She had finished her work early in a class at school, so she was browsing recipes online (they were using computers) and found a recipe for black bean sweet potato chili. She made it for dinner for us last night, and it was delicious! It sounded better than hot cereal this morning, so I enjoyed a bowl. (Sorry. I wish I had a food photographer. I really don’t care to become one right now, so thanks for bearing with my cell phone shots!)

Eating this chili made me think of Sunset magazine. Thinking of Sunset magazine reminded me of how I grew up where Sunset was published, and one time as a child I was asked to come in and do some art that was included in an article. I don’t have the article, but my mom saved the picture I colored and framed it. It hung in our home for years until we moved, and then at some point she gave it to me.

Thinking about that fun experience, (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie), I remembered a photograph my mom had pasted into an art scrapbook that she made of some of my childhood art. I went to find that photograph and scrapbook. I found it:

Lizzie drawing

Of course, I decided to go through the album. I was impressed with how blessed I was to have people around me who were so encouraging of my artistic efforts! My mom and dad, first of all, made a really big deal about my artwork. Looking back, my art is so like many children’s work that I see:

Roayl family drawingBut my mom was super observant. She noticed what I drew, and she recorded her thoughts and my work together and made an entire scrapbook for me of them. She pointed out that I loved to draw families and particularly seemed occupied with mothers and fathers who had crowns on their heads. Considering the fact that I didn’t grow up bathed in a Disney princess-laden world, this has often made me wonder if I had some memories from our premortal existence–where we did live in the presence of our royal, Heavenly Father and Mother–that somehow simmered in my spirit. I don’t know, but it’s fun to see what I drew!

sacrament meeting program drawing Lizzie M.

My mom always let me draw during sacrament meeting, so the back of the printed program naturally became my drawing pages. I love that my mom encouraged me to do this. I think it made me a better listener. I still love to take notes during church, since I retain information so much better by writing it down when I hear it.

My teacher, Mrs. Policci, was as amazing as my mom in encouraging the children in her kindergarten class. She wrote what we were drawing on our papers. She verbally encouraged and praised our work. She was happy, cheerful, creative, and fun to be around. I adored being in her class. She had us do such fun art projects. I still remember the full-sized body of ourselves we drew and painted. She hand wrote newsletters and quoted children. No wonder I wanted to make newsletters later in life! I had grown up believing my work could be published!

kindergarten body painting Lizzie M

Mrs. Policci's handwritten newsletter

kindergarten newsletter Mrs. Policcii Lizzie M.

I noticed that the community also encouraged children’s art by borrowing it, hanging up in places like the library, and then returning it with a note of thanks! Someone went to a lot of trouble to help encourage children in their creative works. Wow!

IMG_3215

I notice that my work wasn’t anything crazy astonishing. I think that’s really important. Hanging EVERY child’s work sends a wonderful true message: YOU MATTER! YOU ARE CREATIVE! WE LOVE YOU!

Lizzie M. library picture

My teacher even told me once that if I had done a picture in oils, someone would pay money for it and hang it in their home. Would they have? I don’t know. But she nurtured a seed of belief in me that my parents had planted there. My mom and dad made a big deal about my art, and I loved creating through art and making people feel happy. I began to believe that I was capable of creating something good.

Now I have my children’s artistic works on the walls of our home, too. Perhaps none of my children will actually create art for a living. Perhaps they will only draw blackline drawings on the back of sacrament programs for their children to color in with crayons as they learn to be reverent. Or perhaps they will sketch something funny on a homemade card to their spouse, child, or sibling. That’s great with me! I know that there is a longer goal in view when it comes to creating and encouraging children in art. Even more than the fine motor skill development or art appreciation or brain development that happen when a child creates art, it’s the messages we send that are so important. YOU MATTER. YOU ARE CREATIVE. YOU CAN MAKE SOMETHING WORTHWHILE. WE LOVE YOU!

I am excited to get to help with art at our children’s school this year as well as music. Children matter. They grow up to be adults who nurture other children, who make a difference in their homes, communities, nations, and world. THANK YOU to my family, teachers, leaders, and community members who nurtured me to believe that I am creative and can create something worth sharing.

How to fix a nursemaid’s elbow

How to fix a nursemaid’s elbow

Saturday night, Anna’s elbow/arm was really hurting. She couldn’t recall doing anything to it, nor could anyone else. I had taken her shopping for some fabric for her sewing class, and she didn’t have any interest in anything by the time we got there but 

A Night Divided

A Night Divided

I just finished listening to A Night Divided on Audible yesterday and LOVED it! If you have ever seen the movie “Night Crossing,” you will love this. If you are interested in Cold War history, you will love this. If you like historical fiction or gripping 

4 things you can do to help someone with depression

4 things you can do to help someone with depression

I recently read a blog post written by a dear friend of mine, a young mother who, after her first child, has not been able to fully shed the burden of depression.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have “been there, done that.” My own journey with depression began my freshman year in college. I continued to deal with depression during college, my mission, and then especially as a mother. Like physical illnesses such as diabetes, depression has been a condition that has taught me and my husband many lessons over the past 28 years. I hope to share more in the future about what I have learned, but today I wanted to share 4 things that I would recommend for someone who wants to help a friend, family member or spouse who suffers from depression. (These are things that I also do to help myself deal with discouragement or feelings of depression.)

Note: I hesitate to post 4 things. Sometimes just trying to do one thing is enough focus for a day or even for a moment. But here are four, in case someone needs a new idea, and the fourth is the one they needed.

1. Pray. Chronic depression is, I imagine, like any other chronic illness. Sometimes just the fact that it doesn’t go permanently away can be really frustrating at times. To have a wave of depression return after a long period of “remission” can be particularly discouraging. I have felt comforted just hearing the words from my husband’s mouth as we kneel in prayer together at the start of another hard day: “Please bless Liz to have strength and energy and the help that she needs today.” He has prayed for me in countless prayers, day after day after day and prayed specifically in so many ways. We have prayed over the phone together. Each time we pray together, it helps me feel loved and know that he cares. Of course, his prayers are sincere, and I feel that. It is so important to feel that there is someone on earth who really cares and won’t give up on you while you are fighting your inner battle. Being depressed can make God seem really far away, so having someone you can hear or see brings God closer.

2. Be positive. Being positive and having hope for someone even when they do not feel positive or feel hopeful can be like holding out a candle in a dark room to guide someone to the door. Being positive is a part of cognitive therapy, or learning to think in healthy ways, and it takes lots of practice. It’s not a one-time exercise. It’s just like physical exercise: you have to practice repeatedly to be benefitted. Having a mental exercise partner is super helpful.

For me, cognitive therapy it is something I have to constantly work on. Cognitive therapy can be as or more effective than medication. (NOTE: Anyone who is taking medication for any form of mental illness–such as an antidepressant–should never stop medication without consulting a doctor. You cannot just stop taking an antidepressant to begin cognitive therapy. Antidepressant medication can be a very helpful aid in helping people to deal with their mental illness. Please follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.) I agree that you cannot just get rid of depression by mentally “flipping a switch” or trying to be more positive, but over time, working on recognizing unhealthy/unrealistic/negative thinking patterns is very helpful. I have learned that I can avoid moving further into depression by exercising mentally. I can avoid becoming depressed when I get sick or discouraged by practicing healthy thinking.

I read a scripture this morning that I hadn’t noticed before. In his war-time letter to his leader and friend Moroni, Helaman writes, “But behold, here is one thing in which we may have great joy” (Alma 56:9). Counting blessings and seeing the one positive thing isn’t just a nice piece of advice. It is cognitive therapy. When I was dealing with my worst time of depression, Lane would gently ask me, after we had knelt in prayer together and before he had to leave for work, “What are you looking forward to today?” This practice has helped me to think about what I can look forward to in a day that begins feeling heavier than I can bear. If I have something–just one thing–to look forward to, I can take a step forward in that direction. If I couldn’t think of anything, he would sometimes help me think of something. He was always patient. I am enormously blessed with a patient husband.

I know not everyone has a husband on hand to help. Finding a friend who can help you and being that friend for someone who is struggling is a real gift.

3. Listen compassionately. It must be tiresome to be a friend/companion/spouse who is helping someone with depression, but your efforts are not in vain. Allowing someone with depression to share their burden can be so therapeutic for them. I remember this quote from my childhood: “A good pair of ears will drain dry an hundred tongues” (Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac). I find that talking out a concern can help me gain perspective on it which allows me to deal with it more effectively. Sharing burdens with a trusted, compassionate friend (who doesn’t try to solve your problems for you, but can give you an honest, balanced perspective if you want one) is much cheaper than paying for a therapist!

4. Support them in exercising physically and working. Physical exercise is one of my best medicines for maintaining good mental health (coupled with sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating whole foods). After running and showering, I can face even a day in which my mind/body/spirit feels discouraged or depressed. It may be hard, but it is not as hard as it is when I just choose to sit or stay in bed. I think Sundays are challenging because I don’t exercise and I sit so much. But the day of rest is good in the longer view.

When my children were younger, I needed a lot of support to make exercise happen. That included allocating some financial resources to make it possible. That was a sacrifice, but Lane agrees it is worth it. “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” 😊 Now, when I have all of my children in school, I still appreciate encouragement to exercise. I love it when Lane prays, “Please help Liz accomplish her exercise goals.”

Work is also critical in dealing with mental illness. If I can work hard, I feel so much better. I can shirk a hard-start morning with a good run and an opportunity to get to work and accomplish something. When I have sick children at home or children’s needs that take me away from a project that I had wanted to accomplish, I remind myself that my first and most important job is nurturing my family. That is my work. God’s “work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). When I am doing my work, and remember that I am doing just what I was placed in my circumstances to do, then I can access peace. I appreciate it when Lane helps me with my work when he gets home from his job. He does this willingly. I know that it requires unselfishness on his part, and it is a great example to me and helps me try to keep going even when internally, it is an uphill battle.

I believe you can do anything if you have help. That includes dealing with, and perhaps even overcoming, depression.

I want to express deep gratitude to Heavenly Father and Jesus, my husband, children, parents, siblings, extended family, friends, visiting teachers, counselors, and others who have extended the love of God to me by doing these (and other supportive things) to help me on my journey through life–including dealing with depression.

My Father’s Dragon

My Father’s Dragon

Yesterday I was drinking some cranberry juice (Straight! UNSWEETENED! Yowza! Talk about TART!), and I thought about cranberry, which reminded me of one of our family’s favorite books, My Father’s Dragon.  If I could, I would recommend this book to every family with a young boy who