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Friday, February 28, 2014

Here In My Car

It was raining.

And no, I will not admit how long it took me to figure out how to turn the wipers on in my new car!  I sat in the Target parking lot, two soggy kids in tow, and pushed buttons and twisted knobs like an astronaut in a space shuttle.  Like Sandra Bullock in that ulcer-inducing flick, Gravity!  Oye!

Believe me, there was much rejoicing in the land the moment the wipers kicked on and the rivulets of water dispersed.

I drove home shamefaced yet happy; grateful for wipers that worked and a car that ran well.  I have  known cars that didn't...

My first car was a 1985 Oldsmobile.  A Cutlass Ciera.  It was big, brown, and ugly.  Your typical "piece-of-junk-perfect-for-a-teenager" car.  When the teacher parking lot at the high school flooded, my car was like a boat.  The only car beefy enough to brave the deep puddles and survive without stalling.

My guy friends loved my "hunk o' junk" because I wasn't afraid to take it off-roading.  That Cutlass Ciera took "the road less travelled" often--rattling down dirt paths, barreling through overgrown fields, and bouncing in and out of ditches.

The radio was broken and the only way to switch stations was to slap the dashboard with your palm.  It's hubcaps were missing and the AC was finicky.  It was subjected to all kinds of shenanigans.  It was egged, toilet papered, squided (the act of placing squids all over a car), and plastic wrapped.  Once, when leaving my part time job at the bookstore at the end of my shift, I discovered my car had been completely FILLED with crumpled newspapers.

I braved epic, northern Utah snow storms in that car.  I once packed twelve people into that car.  I ran out of gas on the highway, lost my antenna in the mountains, and stargazed on the rusted hood.  I felt freedom and summertime-joy in that car; with the windows down and the tunes cranked up.  I parked with a boy in that car.  A friendly police officer then caught us in that car!  Relationships blossomed.  Friendships were strengthened.  Hearts were broken in that car.

And I'm certain I fell in love with my James in that car.

The windshield wipers in my pretty Highlander whooshed, whooshed, whooshed all the way home.  Bridget blew spit bubbles in the backseat, while Cam played with his Matchbox car.  I thought about charcoal-gray skies and looming storm clouds, and how the sound of rain on a roof makes me feel nostalgic.

Thank goodness for rainy days and memories.


Friday, February 21, 2014

On Being Beautiful

When you get asked to speak to a large and impressionable group of young girls (ages 12-17) about the importance of inner beauty, there is only one thing you can do...

Go on Facebook!

In preparation for my speech, I posed some thought-inspiring questions on my "wall."  I decided to "rally the troops"--friends, family members, readers, followers--and ask them for help in defining beauty.

"What makes a person beautiful?," I asked.  The response was incredible...

--Beautiful is the way a person treats others.  Being kind, giving compliments, smiling and loving others the way our Savior asks us to do.

--Beauty is making a person's load lighter; reaching out.

--Confidence is beautiful.

--True beauty:  Those who LOVE themselves for WHO they are.  They have charity towards others.

--A beautiful person has a positive outlook on life.

--Courage is beautiful.  Being brave.  Speaking truth.  Truth is light, light is love, love is beautiful.

--I think about who I am, a daughter of THE KING.  Before I even had a physical body, I was beautiful and special to my Father in Heaven.

--I feel beautiful when I find a reason to laugh.  Happiness is beautiful.

--Celebrating even the smallest successes is beautiful.  Be proud of yourself.

--Supporting other women is beautiful.  No comparing, not categorizing, no competing...just cheering.

--A happy, funny, kind, and loving person radiates true beauty.  Anyone who makes me feel good just by being around them is beautiful.

--Seeing that someone needed some kindness and then being brave enough to show it.

Aren't those wonderful?!  No one referenced pretty hair or plastic surgery.  No one commented on super model bodies or fashion and style.  You won't find mention of makeup, boobs, wealth, fame, accessories, or skin in the comment thread.

The common, recurring theme of all the comments was that real beauty lies in the kindness and love we extend to others.  Compassion is beautiful.  Reaching and striving to lift one another from the mud bogs in life's path is beautiful.  Living with an eye turned to God and a hand outstretched to mankind is beautiful.  Beautiful hearts matter most.

I am certain many of you are familiar with Stephanie Nielson, the blogger behind the Nie Nie Dialogues, and the author of Heaven Is Here.  In August of 2008, she and her husband were in a horrific, fiery plane crash.  She suffered severe burns over eighty percent of her body and spent four months in a coma.  In her book she writes, "I know, now, without a doubt that the true source of happiness, self-worth, and authentic beauty doesn't come from the outside.  Women are constantly being persuaded to want something unachievable, to look younger or thinner and above all to fit in because being different is too painful and embarrassing.  I have accepted myself in a world that does not accept me, because I have learned--and more than any of the lessons of my accident, this is the one I wish I could teach everybody--that our hearts matter most.  Your heart matters most, so be gentler and more patient with yourself, and their hearts matter most, too, so be kinder and more compassionate to others.  It's a beautiful heart, not a perfect body, that leads to a beautiful life."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lessons From Lilly

In my opinion, one of the most exciting things about being a mother is learning something new every day.  My children are the teachers.

Last week, while shopping in my beloved Target, I found a package of eight, blank "project books."  I bought them for Lilly knowing she would be thrilled.  Her new-found love for writing and illustrating her own storybooks makes my heart soar with the clouds!  She's entertained; I'm happy.  Here's her most recent story:

From Ms. Lilly and her story, "The Little Princess," we learn a number of things:

1.) The middle finger is bad.
2.) The story telling community (and the Brothers Grimm) might have it wrong.  All these years I thought the necessary opening line to a fairy tale was "once upon a time."  Nope.  According to Lilly, it's "once a pond a time." know...Lilly is always right!
3.) Preness and princess is basically the same thing.
4.) Use caution when wandering into dark caves.
5.) Princes can be poor.
6.) When faced with big, life decisions, counsel with your mom and dad.  And by "counsel" I mean, "get their permission."

And the last thing is something I personally learn from Lilly on a regular basis:

7.) Kids are a riot!  Despite the challenges, the frustrations, and "the hard stuff," motherhood is a kick in the pants!

In a really good way. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Just A Cloud Away" At The Dentist

I didn't expect to cry at the pediatric dentist's office.  I wasn't the one in the dreaded red vinyl chair, being subjected to x-rays and a tooth extraction.

But I cried anyway.

I knew Cam's infamous "Chiclets" tooth was trouble the moment it started shifting in his mouth.  Like a ballroom dancer doing the fox trot, that large tooth was up and down and left and right; always changing everyday.  When we'd help him brush his teeth, it would wiggle to and fro.  I knew it was time to see The Ridiculously Good-Looking Dentist.

It was obvious Cam was anxious the moment we stepped through the door.  His eyes crinkled in that puppy dog way that warns of impending tears. He started nervously babbling, with the only coherent and distinguishable phrase being:  I don't need it, I don't need it.  He uttered it repeatedly.

After much coercion, lots of sweat, and shameless bribery, the dental assistant, Shelly, and I finally got Cam settled in a chair.  He watched Despicable Me 2 while Shelly and I visited in quiet tones.  I recognized a scene from the movie immediately, simply because the song being played is one of my favorites:

This rainy day is temporary.
The contrast is why we got him.
'Cause sunshine due
is just a cloud away. 

I have had a number of rainy days lately.  Camren has been "pull-your-hair-out" challenging; his Asperger's my nemesis.  I wring my hands with worry.  I lie awake at night, wondering what trials his future holds.  I read articles and books and blogs in an effort to educate myself.  I want to help him; I feel like I'm failing.

But here's the thing...  Rainy days are temporary, always.  They may last awhile, but they never stay forever.

That was when Shelly said to me, "You are a good mom."

"What?," I asked, genuinely surprised.

"No, I mean it," she said, "You are a good mom.  I can tell.  I can see it."

The proverbial dam broke and I cried.  Shelly cried too.  I told her everything:  Cam's language delay.  His psych evaluations.  His ASD diagnosis in August.  His struggles in preschool.  The peace I felt when I was informed of his extraordinary potential.  The peace I attempt to cling to when times are hard.

Sometimes it feels as though Cam's disabilities trap me in a perpetual corner; pinned against the adjacent walls of heartbreak and frustration.  I do not know how to free myself.  With my weary back pressed up against the wall, I feel lost in my entrapment.

But then the "Shellys" come along.  The angels from heaven, the gifts of light and love.  They are the compassionate and sensitive souls; strangers and loved ones alike.  They are the clear whisper of an answer to a prayer.  The storm quenchers.  The sunshine...

And the clouds part,
and I honestly feel like everything is going to be okay.

(Will you be "a Shelly" for someone today?)