Monday, January 3, 2022

Ocean thoughts

 Growing up surrounded by water I used to take refuge in the ocean when I felt sad or depleted, always letting it recharge my soul. I went to the ocean to mourn over my parent's divorce, to escape a chaotic home life, to seek clarity during times of confusion, to escape sadness and find peace in the serene quiet of a safe, underwater world.

I turned to the ocean during crushing, heart wrenching breakups and teenage angst. I went to the ocean to revive my spirits when I didn't feel like I could make it one more day.I went to the ocean to find self-confidence in who I was in uncertain times because In the ocean I was strong, capable, confident, loved, and nurtured, as the water shaped me into someone who could boldly face the world on land.
As I grew farther away from any belief in God, the ocean became a sacred connection to the divinity of my Mother Earth. I felt Her saline blood pulsing through my veins, strengthening me and moving me forward on Her currents. She held me for years in a hallowed space where I always felt safe, loved, and nourished. I became dependent on Her for emotional, mental, & spiritual survival. She became my every breath. In the water I felt powerful, but out of the water, my life was still hard and messy.
Down the long road of healing and as I was accepting God back into my life, I decided to allow Him to take charge and lead me wherever I needed to go. I was trusteing Him completely to guide me toward a life of safety, hope, happiness, and love, even if it wasn't near my ocean.
And He did.
After I put God in charge of my life, He led me towards the people and experiences I needed that would spiritually fulfill me, stretch me, and strengthen me in ways I never imagined.
I learned to build my life on a solid foundation and to fill my heart and soul with a faith that continues to lift me up. I developed new abilities that I never imagined for myself--things that would give me lasting joy in this world like becoming a wife and mother and having a family.
I learned, over time, that I can live away from the ocean and still be okay because of the people and things that fulfill me and because of the lasting truths I've built my life upon. I used to not feel like I could breathe without the ocean, but now I know I can.
So every time I return to the ocean and dive deep into that clear, blue water I say a heartfelt "Thank You" to my Mother Earth for lifting me and carrying me through the hardest times of my life. I thank her for giving me a sacred, loving, & beautiful space to heal, to grow, to draw strength from, and to feel safe in. And I thank her for always welcoming me back, no matter how long I've been away.
My spiritual connection with Mother Earth is a lifelong expression of gratitude for all the beauty God has given me. I still feel her strength and divinity through the power of God each and every time I find refuge in nature. The intention of Mother Earth is always present, and She is a force for good.
I'm so grateful for the ocean, for God, and for this beautiful earth, I call Mother.
**a few okole slappers out at Pops on December 29, 2021

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Grandma's Secret Sock Jar

 Yesterday was my Grandma Lois's birthday! She passed away 11 years ago, shortly after she turned 100, but I still think of her very often, especially every Nov 27th. Although I didn't get to grow up around her, I did get to make some incredible memories when I moved near her during my college years. During that special time living near my Grandma, I learned a lot about a woman and mother who loved her family deeply, who loved her Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ, and who tried her best in everything she did. She was creative and unique, cheerful and energetic, and one of the most fun people to be around! I learned a lot of life lessons from my Grandma during that time which I will never forget. Even my husband, whom I was dating when I introduced him to my Grandma, formed a special bond with her. He learned to love her quirkiness, and her funny sense of humor and looked forward to our visits with her at the senior center.

There are many moments in my life when I feel my Grandmas's personality come out in something I am saying or doing. I'll suddenly stop whatever I'm doing and say to myself, "This a Grandma Lois moment!" It always makes me smile! I feel close to my Grandma when I feel that I'm emulating her personality or characteristics. Today I had a moment when I really felt the Lois Stokes' genes pulsing through my veins! I was asked to teach in a Primary Sunday school class, which is something my Grandma loved to do. She taught Sunday school for our church for many, many years. She even wrote a book about how to be a good Primary Sunday school teacher! So today as I was teaching these little 6 years olds I brought a fun game that I used to play at my Grandma's house, which I call Grandma's Secret Sock Jar

She used to have a large jar in her house that was covered in black paper so you couldn't see what was inside. Then she cut the bottom of a tube sock and stuck the top of the sock over the top of the jar so you couldn't see what was at the bottom, either. The fun part was sticking your hand and arm down the sock and picking out a prize at the bottom! Sometimes she would have us play a guessing/feeling game where she stuck random objects in the secret jar and we had to guess what they were. This was one of my favorite things to do when I was a child visiting Grandma's house! 

So I channeled my inner Grandma and brought Grandma's secret sock jar and played a guessing/feeling game with the Sunday school kids. They had to guess what different items there were from nature like a walnut, a seashell, a pinecone, a wasp nest, fools gold, a leaf, and an orange. As I was walking around having the children stick their hands in the jar to guess, while also reminding them how much their Heavenly Father loved them and that He made all these beautiful things in nature just for them, I had to stop and say to myself,"This is a Grandma Lois moment!"

My Grandma had the best ideas and I've used so many of them in my callings with children. Thank you, Grandma!!

I miss my Grandma Lois a lot and I think of her often. One of the last times I saw her she bore her testimony to me of her love for Jesus Christ. She said that after she died if I ever wanted to hear her testimony again to just read the words to the LDS hymn, I Know that my Redeemer Lives. Now I can't read or sing that hymn without crying. I can hear my Grandma's voice in those words and I know she is living happily above with our Savior and Redeemer. Her testimony gives me strength during hard times and helps me feel loved. I look forward to when we can be together again-- singing, dancing, laughing, telling stories, sharing our testimonies, and having those special moments together that only the best of Grandmas can provide!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

My Conversion Story

 I've shared this story in small conversations with several people, but I just recently shared it again with my entire church congregation, so I thought I would share it here, too. 😀 This is a story that is deeply meaningful to me in my conversion as a faithful Christian and devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is a story that confirms my faith in God over and over again!

I believe that with everyone’s life stories or backgrounds there are stories of divine intervention, of answers to prayers, of miracles, and of strengthened testimonies of God’s marvelous hand in our lives. I could probably sit down with each and every one of you and listen as you tell me the amazing circumstances or tender mercies that brought you to be where you are right now. Including, of course, the beautiful struggles and hardships that have given you clarity and growth on your journey. And with every single story I strongly believe we are brought right back to our Saviour Jesus Christ, where His power, His influence, and His radiating light first began to touch our lives. 

I grew up in Hawaii and was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was officially baptized when I was 8 years old. As a child I loved going to church and looked forward every week to learning and growing in the gospel. I loved the Young Women's program and still believe that attending my Young Women's classes and activities is what planted small seeds of faith inside me to help me build my testimony later on. As a young girl and youth I was always mindful of my Heavenly Father and truly desired to make good choices in my life, not only for my own well being, but to receive the many blessings he had in store for me. 

However, when I was 15 years old my parents divorced and our family quickly drifted away from the church. It was a really hard and confusing time for me as everything I knew and believed about my family quickly changed in an instant. It seemed that my family was falling apart as my siblings and I were each trying to navigate through a stressful situation and a rapidly changing home environment. Things like family prayer, attending the Sacrament, and gospel conversations were replaced by the critical demand to survive in these newly defined living conditions.

A huge part of me wanted to keep going to church-- to keep attending my Young Women's meetings and to take the weekly sacrament, but I no longer had the family support to do so on my own.  The overwhelming pain and confusion of being thrown into this new life arrangement allowed me to become further susceptible to the outside influences of the world and the negative peer pressures that would slowly lead me away from my Heavenly Father. 

It wasn’t until 7 years later that I found myself in a situation where I desperately needed my life to change yet I didn’t know how or where to begin. I had moved across the Pacific ocean to San Diego, CA to live with some friends from high school who moved there right after high school graduation. I was 21 years old and found myself completely on my own. I didn't feel especially close with my family at this point--in fact I often felt that nobody cared about me anymore. I hadn’t been to church or thought about God in years. In fact, I wasn't even sure there was a God at all!

I was living a day to day life I never imagined for myself. Not only was I making poor choices with extremely negative emotional, physical, and spiritual consequences, but I often felt lost, alone, confused and hopeless as I was trying each day to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

It wasn’t until one Saturday night when I felt completely drained of hope, that I felt a strange prompting out of nowhere to kneel down and pray for help. I quickly nudged it away, thinking, "I don’t pray! I’m not even religious! In fact, I’m not even sure there is a God.” But the prompting came again into my mind to kneel beside my bed and pray. My roommates were out for the evening so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try. 

I knelt by my bedside and said the most pleading and tear-filled prayer, asking God (if he even remembered me) to please offer me some help and guidance in my life. I told Him that I needed some direction and I didn't know where to turn. I also told Him I wasn't happy and I didn't know what happiness was supposed to look like anymore. I felt like my heart would break as I kneeled next to my bed, begging for relief from someone I wasn't even sure existed.

After my prayer I rolled over into bed and I cried myself to sleep.

The next morning I got up and again felt a strange prompting to go to church. Of course my first thought was,”I don’t go to church. I’m not even religious. I don’t belong in a church!” Again  a feeling deep in my heart told me that it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Next thing I knew I had called a taxi and had him drop me off at the closest Mormon church. I didn’t know what time the meeting started but just figured I’d figure it out when I got there.  However, as soon as the driver dropped me off at the front entrance, I felt very uncomfortable walking up the stairs. I felt even more uncomfortable walking in the front doors. I could hear music coming from the chapel room but I immediately felt nervous and uncomfortable about going in there alone. I was starting to give up on this whole idea and so decided it would be best if I just used the restroom and then headed home. I entered the restroom and silently stood in front of the mirror staring at my reflection. What was I doing here? I asked myself. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.

 I was starting to cry again when suddenly I heard the toilet flush behind me. The stall door opened and I froze still. There standing in front of me was a girl I knew from Hawaii. Her name was Pouneh and she was one of the only members of my church I’d known towards the end of high school. The last I saw of her she had gone away on a mission somewhere far away. This, of course, was long before social media, so basically if two people  moved away they dropped off the face of the earth! But there she was--my old friend--standing right in front of me smiling the biggest, most welcoming smile.

I recall her exclaining, ”Sally, I’ve been looking for you for years!”  She quickly pulled me in for a long embrace. I cried. She cried. We stood there crying like that for a long time and I knew in that moment that this was the answer to the prayer. I knew in that moment that God had sent this friend to help me, to guide me, and to be an instrument in His hands in helping me change the entire direction of my life.

For the next few months she picked me up for church every Sunday. She introduced me to young adults my age who were making good life choices and moving forward in positive directions. She answered all my questions and was patient with me when I questioned things over and over again. She was a light and an example to me in a time when I truly needed it. But most of all she helped me recognize the power of Jesus Christ in my life as I slowly turned my life over to Him and allowed him to lead me down the path I was supposed to be on. 

As I continued to attend my church meetings, read the scriptures, practice living gospel principles, obey God's commandments, and surround myself with uplifting people, I witnessed the spirit work miracles in my life. I watched Him stretch me and refine me, I watched Him help me achieve peace and happiness I never thought possible, I watched Him lead me towards meeting my husband, getting sealed in the Temple, and starting a family. I watched Him guide me towards reaching my truest potential as a daughter of God. By bringing God and Jesus Christ back into my life, I gave myself permission to follow a path that I never could have planned on my own.

I just want to leave you with my testimony that I know that if we put our faith in Christ and allow Him to lead us and guide us, we will be exactly where we need to be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Like an Iceberg

 My seven year old has been developing headaches, stomach aches, and the need to throw up nearly every time it's time to take him to school in the mornings. But otherwise, he is fine! It's been surprising to me, this aversion to school, because he has always been the most outgoing of my four children-- the one who is always eager to do social things and play with friends when my other kids are perfectly fine staying home with each other. These psychosomatic sick symptoms started last year and are, unfortunately, becoming a daily routine into his 2nd grade year. When I pick him up from school at the end of the day, however, he is happy and chatty and tells me all the fun and cool things he learned that day: "Mom, did you know that hermit crabs aren't really crabs and they borrow shells from other creatures!" or "Mom, today we made pumpkin art using glue and chalk! We have to do it at home today, too!" or "I really like my teacher, she's the best teacher I ever had." The list goes on and on. He is happy at his new school, too!

Pumpkin art by Mal!

The fact of the matter is he's a totally different child after school than before school. Here is a boy who loves to learn new things, and loves to interact with others, plus loves art and science and engineering, and the all the awesome things they do at his STEAM school, yet has the hardest time getting there in the morning! So hard! For him...and for me.

Towards the beginning of the school year I took him to our family doctor for a full check up. 100% healthy. Then I took him to the eye doctor to make sure it wasn't a vision problem. 100% healthy. He's adequately fed and hydrated and gets enough sleep, too! 100% healthy! Then I spoke to the school nurse and we came up with a plan that if he came down with "sick symptoms" he could take 1 purple tylenol, drink water, and wait 20 minutes before calling me to pick him up. This plan worked on several occassions as he felt better after taking the candy pill and then went back to class. Phew--problem averted. However, I am still having a rough time getting him out the door in the morning. (His symptoms magically went away the three weeks I was doing my student observations at his school. I think having me there was a nice morale boost), however we are back to square one.

This morning as it was time to start getting ready for school I could hear him also starting his usual complaints--I don't feel good, my head hurts, I feel like I need to throw up.... ,I was in the bathroom finishing up brushing my teeth and so started my usual responses--That's too bad. It sucks to feel sick. Maybe you'll feel better after breakfast...With absolutely no feeling or empathy in my voice I kept responding to his complaints as usual, gently prodding him up the stairs to the breakfast table. I was feeling frustrated inside and almost started blaming him again for these made up sicknesses as I have on other days when I felt frustrated, when I immediately felt the spirit tell me I need to get down on the floor with him and talk about anxiety.

Anxiety, I thought? Mal doesn't have anxiety! He's always been gregarious and outgoing and ready to jump right into things, not like my other boys who've dealt with/are still dealing with anxiety. But I went with the spirit, and this is what I told him: When your oldest brother was about your age he woke up every morning with a headache and a stomache ache. We didn't know what was wrong with him! We took him to the family doctor and we took him to the optometrist but he was completely healthy! He didn't go to school for many, many years because we felt that homeschooling was best for him, but he still woke up sick every day! I was very concerned about him when finally I realized that what he was feeling was worry. 
Often times when we are worried about things, our bodies will react with feeling sick. This is often called anxiety and it is perfectly normal, sometimes it can even help us! For instance when I'm having anxiety about getting my homework done, it motivates me to sit down and get it done! Then my anxiety is gone!
 Sometimes we can feel anxiety when we are excited about something! For instance when I was in high school I would get really bad stomach aches before I went to concerts. It was weird because I was so excited, yet I didn't feel good for the entire day until I was at the show! But sometimes we can feel anxiety when we're really worried about things and that can have a negative affect on our bodies, like maybe headaches, stomach aches, and nausea, just like your big brother used to feel.  I let hime soak that all in for a few minutes then asked,"
Do you ever worry about things? 

Yes, he said. There are lots of things I think about that I don't like. 
About school? I prodded. 
No. just stuff. he said.

Tears came to my eyes as I realized how evasive I've been towards addressing the real, underlying cause of his sicknesses. I think deep down I just wanted him to be okay and figured he would eventually be okay if we just got past this small, irritating hurdle. But the truth is, he needed me to stop and actually listen to him, to hear him, to see him, and to understand what's happening in his little 7 year old brain. I think I get so busy with addressing all the BIG kid issues with my three older boys that I want Mally to be the easy caboose. But no kids are easy--they all come with their own set of needs, even a 7 year old boy who is happy, gregarious, and full of spunk is going to need someone to help him through hard things.

I tried to prod him a little more about telling me what things he worries about, but he wouldn't say anymore. But now I jave a good jumping off point for continuing to help him feel better. Once I was able to understand what my oldest son was feeling it became much easier to address his needs and help him overcome the hard stuff.

As we were still sitting on the floor, with Mal cuddled on my lap, I told him that I worry about a lot of things, too. In fact, I used to worry so much about so many things that I, too, would make myself sick. 
But I don't have to worry as badly anymore. Now, whenever I start to feel overly worried I get down on my knees and ask my Savior Jesus Christ to help me. I will list off all the things I am worried about and ask him to please help me by taking these burdens from me--by sharing the load of my worries and alleviating the stress I feel. Almost immediately I feel his love and calm as I share with Him my most pressing needs. I know that with my Savior I can conquer any worry and overcome any doubts. I know that with my Savior I am not alone even when I feel so alone in my worries. He lifts my burdens and in return gives me love and security. 

Mal's issue with anxiety reminds me of when I first learned about the iceberg of behaviours diagram when I was working in wilderness therapy many years ago. His school sickness (or anger or sadness or acting out or whatever behaviour inserted) is only the very top of what we see. In this case all I could see was him acting sick everytime it was time to go to school. However, if we look at him as an iceberg, there is so much more underneath that we can't see, which are the causes of his behaviour. This is pretty much how all people are--like icebergs, hiding all the scary, ugly, hard things underneath the surface of what we're truly feeling. 

We stayed cuddling there for a moment until our crazy kitty, Juzo, came up and bit his face, luckily not hard! It made him laugh. 
Crazy Juzo

I'm hoping as we especially focus on our Mal to overcome his worries, we can also help him learn to share his worries with God. One thing I know for sure is that we don't have to go through this life alone. I've been in situations where I was completely alone and riddled with anxiety, yet I always had my Savior there to help me. I made it through and now I get to help my boys.

After I dropped of Mal at school I sat in the car for a second and opened up my Facebook. An old memory popped up from November 2, 2017, which I thought was perfectly fitting for my experience this morning. :

     I was having a rough day personally but then started thinking about each of my boys individually. They are so strong and confident and passionate about life. They truly are a bright light. They are such a strength to me and they teach me everyday how to be a better person and a better mother. I am grateful everyday for the direct access I have to God's power to help me raise these boys. I am often a weak person and really don't know what to do but I have the greatest help there ever was.

Reading this memory reminded me to keep praying for my boys and their needs everyday, however it also reminded me how important it is to keep journaling my thoughts. These memories, whether they be on facebook or instagram, remind me who I am and what my continuous goals are. I don't want to lose sight of that in the hustle and bustle of life.  I don't want to bury all my thoughts underneath the surface like an iceberg. I need to let my light shine like a fire (which is the opposite of iceberg if you google it.) 

So, the blogging is back!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Boo! Happy 2021

In case anyone was wondering about the substantial maturity and self-growth I've experienced in 2020, I have a beautiful story to demonstrate just that:

Several weeks ago I was happily shopping by myself in Walmart when I came across a grumpy lady. Stumbling across this grumpy lady was totally unexpected because I didn't think anyone could possibly be grumpy on this beautiful winter's day in small-town Walmart. I mean, the birds were singing (like, literally there was a bird flying through the rafters), the customers were all smiling (you know, under their face masks, I bet), and I could literally feel the prices dropping just so I could live better (Save Money, Live Better) as I was strolling through the store. 

I was there for one reason: to purchase stuff to make Graham cracker candy houses with my kids. I spent a few minutes on the candy aisle happily throwing in my cart everything from Twizzlers to gum drops to Reese's pieces to Junior mints! I could just imagine the joyful look on my children's faces as I returned home with all this sugary junk that they would consume within minutes of building their holiday cracker homes. With a contented smile of mass-consumer-completion on my masked face I then began to exit the aisle with preparations to turn right at the T section of candy aisle and main-aisle, heading towards the cashiers at the front of the store. 

Now, I've always liked to treat shopping in Walmart like driving on a busy highway. You have to follow the same traffic rules or someone's going to get hurt. With this in mind I arrived at the T section of candy aisle and main-aisle and made a complete stop, careful to look right and look left before turning. I noticed right away upon stopping that there were some oncoming elderly shoppers coming down the main aisle. I had to make a quick decision; do I wait at the T section and let them walk past or do I make a quick right-hand turn in front of them? I decided that they were walking slow enough that I could easily make the right-hand turn, no problem, even while still maintaining a 6-foot social distance. So I went for it! I pushed my cart out into oncoming aisle, turned right at the intersection, and headed towards the front of the store.

Well, all was happy and wonderful in Walmart up until this moment, when I suddenly heard a voice come from behind me saying loudly so everyone could hear, "Well, that was Fu**ing rude!" 

Who, me? I thought. I jerked around only to look right into the angry, squinting eyes of an elderly women who had just been deeply offended by yours truly. She stared me down like I had just done the worst thing imaginable to her and her husband. I was not only shocked, but insulted by her accusation! 

Within my shocked mind I had to make a quick decision: do I cuss back at this woman and tell her to go stick it where the sun don't shine, causing even more of a ruckus between  disgruntled Walmart shoppers, or do I take the high road and choose option B? 

I chose option B.

Nevertheless, I didn't really know what option B was at the moment. However, my subconscious mind knew exactly what option B was because before I knew what was happening I was hurrying down the aisle towards the next right-hand turn. I swiftly turned right and pushed my cart to the side. Then I crouched down besides the endcap display and waited, hidden from view of the grumpy lady and her husband. In the next 3 seconds the elderly couple came into view. I could see them inching towards me, slowly, slowly, slowly making their way towards the front of the store. I waited for the precise moment, which was right before they were about to pass me, then I jumped out and yelled, "BOO!" as loud as I could, with my hands opened wide in front of me like a Cheetah in attack mode.

The couple startled, jumped, and then stopped to stare at me in disbelief. The woman had grabbed tightly onto her husband's arm who had dramatically placed his hand on his chest. Both of their eyes were bulging with fright. I could tell they were in ultimate fight or flight mode for about 5 seconds before they realized what was happening. 

Mission accomplished
, I thought! I suddenly couldn't help myself and started laughing so hard I had to hold onto the endcap to steady my shaking body. As I was in total self-indulged hysterics over what had just happened, the couple started speedily walking away from me. I heard the woman say as they were leaving the scene, "Well, that women was Fu**ing weird," which sent me into another fit of laughter. 

I was feeling supremely proud of how that whole situation turned out for about a minute afterward, until it suddenly sunk in what I had just done: Oh.My.Gosh. I just scared the crap out of an old couple! Holy Sh*t! I just crouched behind an aisle and jumped out and said BOO to some strangers shopping in Walmart. What the heck is wrong with me? I was immediately filled with embarrassment and shame over what I had done. Why did I do that? I wondered. 

Who am I?

Then it dawned on me that it was simply a knee-jerk reaction. It wasn't premeditated or planned. There wasn't a single thought in my brain telling me that I should hide around the corner and scare those people, it just...happened. So, if it wasn't planned and I didn't think of it on my own, where did it come from? And that's when I realized that I am finally growing up into mature adulthood. You see, in times past my knee-jerk reaction would have been to tell that woman exactly what I thought of her, involving some very colorful words and phrases that would have left us both feeling angry and resentful. But look at me now! I have grown and evolved to a whole new level. My subconscious mind has so much more self-control these days that my first reaction upon being offended is not to offend back, but to choose option B, which is apparently much more mild. In the end, nobody had to walk away from that situation feeling angry or insulted, but instead, we got to walk away feeling extremely awkward and weirded out. That is a huge improvement, my friends!!(This is the part where you applaud for me and tell me welcome to adulthood where adults learn how to deal with jerks in more mature ways)

After making this beautiful realization, I didn't feel as embarrassed anymore. I actually felt proud of my accomplishment! I did, however, take off my jacket and change out my face mask so they wouldn't recognize me in the checkout. I didn't, however, go to the checkout right away because I was too embarrassed to run into them again. Furthermore, I'd like to extend an open apology to all the inconsiderate jerks who I've had to yell at over the years for saying and doing stupid things. If I could do it all all over again, I would've chosen the higher road.

All in all, this was a great way to end 2020! 

Happy New Year! May 2021 bring growth and change in all the ways that you need. 💓💗 (or all the ways you don't need)

Disclaimer: I have nothing against the elderly. Conflicts with other humans come in all sorts of shapes, ages, genders, races, economic backgrounds, and sizes. You can read about another knee-jerk reaction here: Impulsive

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

2020 Book Update

 I went to the library last night to write a paper but ended up perusing the book sale half the time, instead. Oh how I LOVE books. Everything about looking at, smelling, and touching books carries me into a different time and place and reality til I am no longer standing in a tiny library in Cedar City Utah but instead am surrounded by people, places, stories, and adventures of which I cant wait to be a part of!  I ended up going home with three books last night, which I will read when I don't have anything else to read. I like to always have extra books on hand for when I'm done with my monthly book club book. Then I have something else to read while I wait for the next book club book! 

 It's a rule in our house that you have to always be working on a book. My boys are pretty good at this because 3/4 of them love to read, too. The one who doesn't love to read takes a bit of motivating to find the right book. Here's a photo I took several months ago of what everyone was working on, from Micah all the way down to Malachi.

Here's the latest update of Books we've read for book club since 2014:

1.The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

2. The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews

3. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein

4. The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

6. Unbroken by Lauren HIllenbrand

7. Dealing With Dragons #1 by Patricia C. Wrede

8. Words by Heart by Ouida Sebestyen

9.  Wonder by R.J Palacio

10. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

11. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

12. These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

13. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

14. Let Us Eat Cake by Sharon Boorstin

15. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

16. Doing No Harm by Carla Kelly

17. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

18. Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck

19. Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli

20. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

21. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

22. Immortal Nicholas by Glenn Beck

23. The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

24. Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

25. Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

26. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

27. Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts

28. Does my Head look big in this? Randa Abdah-Fattah

30. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

31. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

32. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

33. Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo

34. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

35. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

36. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

37. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by Jon Boyne

39. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

40. Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

41. Educated by Tara Westover

42. The Broken Road by Paul Richard Evans

43. The Forgotten Road by Richard Paul Evans

44. Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

45. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Henry Ford

46. Not If I save you First by Ally Carter

47. The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright

48.Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

49. The Road home by Richard Evans

50. My grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry by Fredrik Backman.

51. Britt Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman

52. Sweetwater by Christina Kline

53. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

54. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

55. All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

56. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

57. Holly Banks Full of Angst by Julie Valerie

58. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

59. Enchanted #1 by Alathea Kontis

60. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

61. Circe by Madelyn Miller

62. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

63. The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

64. Hold on but don’t hold still by Kristina Kusmic

65. Everything I Never Told you by Celeste Ng

66. Dracula by Bram Stoker (current)

The two fiction books I liked the most from the past year were Circe and The Island of Sea Women. Daring Greatly was my favorite non-fiction. Holly Banks Full of Angst was the overall worst book I read last year.

Books I've read in the past year that were not for book club:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

2. A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese ann Fowler

3. Love the One your with by Emily Giffn

4. Divergent by Monica Roth

5. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

6. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kid

7. Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins

8. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

9. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

My favorites of these were The Glass Castle and The Book Thief. I actually just finished the Book Thief yesterday and I loved it so much I am still thinking about it. It is one of the most beautiful and poetic books I've ever read. I laughed, I cried, and I fell in love with Liesel Memminger's big, thieving heart, Rudy's adventurous spirit, Mama and Papa Hubberman's unconditional love, Max's determination, and the perspective of the infiltration of evil Nazi Germany from their little houses in Himmel street. I even enjoyed the haunting perspective of the narrator, Death himself. 

In other news, historical fiction is still my favorite genre.

-I also notice that I read a lot of books by female authors.

-I'm not excited to read Dracula this month, but hey--I can't always choose our book club book! The point of book club is to expand my mind and read things I never would've chosen myself.

-Last night I picked up a random fiction book called Mennonite in a little Black Dress and a current non-fiction book called Let's Talk About Race and a book for Micah by Richard Brautigan. 

Happy reading from my online avatar who looks EXACTLY like me! ;)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Corona-life

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I completely forget that there's a world pandemic happening where everyone's children are out of school, and the stores have tape telling people where to stand 6 feet apart, and folks are wearing face masks and gloves in public, and sports are cancelled, and church is cancelled, and music lessons are cancelled, and friends and family are separated, and travel plans are cancelled, and we can't have play-dates or go to the library or go thrift store shopping, and people are scared, and some people are dying, and nothing feels normal. I forget ALL of that because I'm still in my groggy sleep state, but then it slowly hits me and I can'! 😲

This new, surreal reality is something I never would've imagined happening. I've heard of prepper people in our area prepping for world pandemics like this, but it always sounded extreme such as keeping extra supplies underground, including face masks and non-perishable foods, etc. Maybe it is extreme? I don't know how bad this could get!  I mean,we have our one-year food supply and feel safe and comfortable enough in our home if we absolutely can't leave the house for a month or more...but that's it. I suppose with mine and  husband's wilderness primitive survival backgrounds we're not scared of running out of toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, or hand soap. We've both learned from our primitive survival days that you can survive off of very, very little and still thrive. There are ways to be abundant and resourceful without going to Walmart. So no, running out of stuff doesn't scare me, what scares me is all the people out there who start to panic and turn into angry, resentful monsters trying to hoard everything in the store, who then turn their homes into scary, fearful places full of animosity and contention. That's what scares me about a pandemic--that children have to live quarantined in homes with these psychotic parents. It's really the children who suffer here, trying to be "home schooled" by overly stressed out parents who are freaking out 24/7.

As I was playing tennis-baseball with Malachi and Odin this afternoon I was reflecting on how this change of pace has actually been really nice. I mean, I don't want it to be like this forever, but on a personal level it's helped me to be truly grateful for the love we have in our family, for the ability to be around each other 24/7 with just normal amounts of arguing, for the bonding we're experiencing over these weird changes, and that we can go play tennis-baseball in the middle of the afternoon just for fun. --Normally I would be running around picking people up from school, getting people to activities. and probably stressing about how much I didn't get done that day and how much I still have to do. Just hanging out with my kiddos and playing games and doing a little bit of school and exercising and making meals here and there has been a nice change of pace from the normal. Oh, and finding 1000 things to keep Malachi busy during the day because he never stops moving....has been fun. :/

 I saw this quote online and I thought it was insightful:

 Are there things we don't want to rush back to after this is all over? Are there things we could do better at, or even not at all, to strengthen ourselves and our  family?  

I decided to make a little comparison list so I can see how different our lives are right now during this change of pace (well, mostly mine and the kids, my husband runs on different frequencies with his job). Perhaps it will offer me some insight into which parts of normal really are worth getting back to and what we could ditch behind.

The weekly schedule:

Normal life: My alarm goes off at 6:45am to take Z to Jazz Band. Then I come home and get other kids up for school. I help O get ready for his carpool ride at 7:30am. I make breakfast for J and Mal. I get Mal on the bus at 8:23am, hopefully with some food in his tummy since he barely eats breakfast. I then drive J, who can't ride the bus because of sensory issues, to school by 8:50am. Lots of hurrying, rushing, and move, move, move. 
I spend the next three hours before Mal gets home either running in the hills, or on the trail, or lifting weights at the gym, and also doing chores around the house. On Monday mornings I work in the gym daycare for a couple hours.
I get Mal from off the bus at 11:55am in front of our street. I then make Mal lunch and we go get Jonah at 12:20 because he only goes to school half-day. Depending on the day I then spend the next 2 hours with J and Mal either going to a park to play, running errands, grocery shopping, going to J's counselor, donating plasma (the boys go into the daycare) or hanging out at home until it's time to get O at 2:30pm. After we get O from school we come straight home. Then it's play time, homework time, chore time, after school snack time, not necessarily in that order. I pick up Z from school at 2:45pm, unless he hits the gym after school then I pick him up at the gym at 3:30pm. A couple days a week Micah meets him at the gym and they work out together.
 Sometimes after school friends come over to play and there's kids running all over the backyard and around the house. Sometimes Z goes to Kai's house, sometimes O goes to Dakota's house, sometimes Mal goes to Zoey's house, sometimes J goes to Caleb's house, sometimes everyone comes to our house!
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 4pm Z has lacrosse practice. Micah and I take turns running him to practices. Wednesday nights he has guitar class at 7pm. Wednesday afternoons O has a paper route. I run out to Enoch every Wednesday to pick up his newspapers. Malachi and I always stop at the Hub on the way back for a slice of pizza for him and a diet dr. Pepper for me. Tuesday nights is church youth activities for both Z and O. Micah has Bishopric meetings on Tuesday evenings along with church youth activities because he is over the Deacons. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday at 5pm I do Primary Boy's activities (previously known as scouts). If it's the 2nd Tuesday of the month I go out to lunch with friends. The 4th Thursday night is book club. 
I finally signed up to coach soccer this season for Mal's team so we have soccer practices Wednesday evenings then games on Thursdays and Saturdays. O also has practices and games during the week and on Saturdays.  
On Saturdays we have fun, relax, and just hang out. Hiking, biking, movies, soccer games, maybe a buffet here or there. Micah usually does a long distance bike ride--5-6 hours.On Sundays we go to church at 9am then come home and have the rest of the day to relax, watch movies, or spend time in nature as a family. 
Every evening at 8pm we do family scripture study. Then Mal is in bed my 9pm, everyone else by 10. On weekends we let the boys stay up til 11pm. 

Corona-life: My alarm goes off at 7:40am so I can pick up school breakfast from the school bus which parks down the street. Each morning between 7:50am-8:10am they hand out breakfast for school families. 
I then come home and toss the paper bags on the dining room table as my kids slowly make their way upstairs or out of their rooms. We eat breakfast/get dressed/brush teeth at a leisurely pace until about 9am. At 9am we do personal scripture study. The older boys read on their own while I read to the younger two. I also do my own scripture study at this time. 

After scriptures it's school time. Z and O and J each spend about an hour doing online "school." It doesn't take them very long. Z practices his flute an hour every day. 
Our main focus is keeping up on reading and math and instruments. Everything else is up in the air weather it gets finished or turned in. 
At 11:30am we get school bus lunch. My friend Christy and I take turns picking up the meals. I drop off breakfast at her house and and she does lunch. I then watch as my kids pick through the lunches like picky little vultures until I end up making something extra to go along with all the chocolate milks and apple juices they just consumed. The leftovers go to our chickens out back.
After lunch the kids are allowed to do some screen time..i.e. Nintendo switches, Roblox, TV shows, etc...whatever they are into these days. Z and O just got Switch Lites for their birthdays so there's a lot of that going on. Mal is obsessed with Roblox. Jonah likes everything screentime.
Everyone has to get outside everyday and exercise for at least an hour. Two days a week Micah takes Z and J hiking as they are training to hike King's Peak this summer. Several days a week I play soccer with O at the park.  We've been doing lots of bike rides up the canyon, walking on the bike trail, playing at the dirt mound, playing in our big backyard (we have a trampoline, swing set, tether-ball, sand pit, large grassy yard with turtles, rabbits, chickens, and dogs) and exploring nature. We make things and get crafty. We "planted" a fairy rock garden on the bike trail. Our boys had been collecting painted rocks from around town the past year so we're recirculating some of those plus we painted some of our own. Something fun to keep busy!
Even though we get outside a lot, it feels like my kids are still on screeny things more than I'd like. I finally kept track for two days and each child is averaging 4-5 hours per day, with the exception of Mal who is 2-3 hours a day. It makes me cringe, but it's a necessary evil because us parents also need some time to exercise, cook, clean, shop, study, read, work (Micah)and stay sane without kids in our faces 24/7. And I mean that in the most loving way.

A couple days a week Micah and I venture out to a store for groceries and supplies. Micah does his Bishopric meetings online through face chats. My friends and I did a special "social distancing" lunch where we sat in a large circle in the parking lot, 6 feet apart, while eating our lunches. We had a dance party and I taught everyone the coronavirus hand-washing dance. It was a blast! (Ghen Co Vy)
 For exercise (and sanity)I go running on the bike trail or in the hills nearly everyday. Micah rides his bike long-distance several days a week. We lift weights at home with the minimal weights we have. I do yoga in the downstairs family room. 
We both donate plasma twice a week.
On Sundays we have the sacrament in our living room. Z prepares it, Micah blesses it, and O passes it out. We dress in our Sunday best to honor this sacred ordinance. For church we discuss the Come Follow Me lesson for the week which is focused on the Book of Mormon this year.

At 7pm every night we sit down as a family for dinner. One night we ordered take out for everyone and I drove around to three different restaurants to pick everything up. (Tacos El hefe for Micah, Z and O, Berry Bar for me, and McDonalds for J and Mal) After dinner everyone helps clean up and does their chores. We do family scriptures at 8pm. After scriptures everyone hangs out and does whatever--plays board games, more screen time, movie time, reading time, etc.. 
Mal gets to bed by 9:30pm. the other boys and parents by 10pm. 

There isn't much variation to our days, unless I think of something extra to do.
This week I went shopping for donations for a Women's Crisis center. It felt good to do some good as I was feeling so blessed myself, I wanted to give to others in need. I donated things like feminine hygiene products, tp, paper towels, diapers, wipes, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dish soap, and laundry soap.
I also made frozen cookie dough for my Boy's activity boys and dropped it off at their houses so they could bake their own cookies. (throw out the bag and wash their hands!)
I delivered toilet paper and diapers to a sister in our ward who was feeling desperate.
I had social distancing lunch bunch yesterday.

There's little things we can do so life doesn't get too comfortable in our little corona-bubble. 

I get anxious around the house during the day if it gets too messy or if my kids are sitting around too much. I try to breathe and relax and be grateful that they get along so well and are healthy and safe, even if my house gets messy and Roblox is on for 10 hours straight.

One hard thing right now, however, is that our cat of seven years has gone missing. He's been gone almost a week and we have no idea where he could've gone off to. It is J's cat and he is on the border of being heartbroken that his kitty is gone and having hope that the cat will come back. Him and the cat are in my prayers everyday. I just hope the poor thing is safe, wherever he is. 

So that's my life right now. Better? I don't know. Busy? Of course! Crazy? Always! I'm not excited to rush back to all the driving around I do each day, but I am anxious for everyone to get back to school. I really like/need/want my quiet time. But also important is that some of my boys do better with structure. School and sports is a positive outlet for them, socially, physically, and mentally. It's really hard that all of that is taken away right now. 

Spring break is next week but the Snow Canyon campgrounds where we were going are closed down. We might venture into no-man's-land, or we might just stay home. We haven't decided what course to take yet on this crazy pandemic adventure. 

Til next time....