Sunday, September 7, 2014

Happy #120: God can do anything.



A miracle happened today.

Thirty years ago, while working at the Canadian Embassy in Seattle, I met and made friends with a beautiful young woman from New Zealand, Rose-Marie Smith. It was the summer of 1984. We were instant friends and we loved spending time together. She gave me the plate pictured above as a gift and I've cherished it ever since. Rose-Marie was always doing kind and loving things for others.

That fall of '84, my husband (at the time) and I moved to Utah for graduate school. When we moved back to Washington in 1986, two years later, Rose-Marie and I picked up where we had left off, like good friends do. Several years later, Rose-Marie moved to CA and got married. I was busy with babies and toddlers and we fell out of touch. Also like good friends sometimes do.

I've thought of Rose-Marie so many, many times over the years that have passed. The plate she gave me has been with me in every kitchen I've had. Ten years ago, or so, I started trying to find her. But my efforts were always unsuccessful. She was in California the last time I had talked with her, she wasn't a member of my church, and I couldn't remember her married name.

I hoped and wished I could somehow find her, but I knew the possibility existed I may never see her again.

This morning I got dressed for church and walked down the street to our chapel to find an empty parking lot. I had forgotten that it was our Stake Conference. So I walked home.

Needing a prescription filled that couldn't wait, I went to Smith's Marketplace, something I NEVER do on a Sunday. Ever.

I was wandering around the tea towels, waiting for my prescription, when I turned to see a woman who looked just like my friend Rosie. She spoke briefly to a clerk and I only heard a word, but I thought I could detect an accent. I walked past her, looking at her face, her height, her features. Basically stalking her.

I stood in the isle next to the isle she was in, invisible to her view. My mind raced. Could it be her?? Could that woman who looks JUST like Rose-Marie BE Rose-Marie? And if it IS her, WHAT is she doing in UTAH?!?

I had to ask her. I couldn't walk away and wonder for the rest of my life if the woman was Rose-Marie's look-a-like.

I went back to where she was standing. Touching her arm to get her attention and smiling I said, "Excuse me. What's your name?" I stood there, looking in her eyes, waiting for her response, never expecting it to actually be her.

"Rose-Marie," she said, smiling back at me.

"Rose-Marie!!!" I said. "It's me!!! It's Kathleen!!!" We threw our arms around each other and cried and laughed and cried some more.

"What are you doing in UTAH?!?" I asked, as I hugged her.

She was here getting her son (who attends the University of Utah) settled into his new apartment. She was there at Smith's buying kitchen items, spices, condiments, this and that. And there we stood, in the tea towel isle where she had been looking for coasters. After over 20 years of not seeing each other and having totally lost contact.

It would be one thing if Rose-Marie and her family were Mormon. That might make bumping into her in SLC a possibility. But they're not Mormon. And it would be one thing if it were a week day, a day I normally go to Smith's Marketplace. But it wasn't. It was Sunday. And I never go to the store on Sunday.

God had put His hand into our lives and brought us back together. There was no doubt in my mind and no doubt in Rose-Marie's mind. And for us, who have both had our reasons in the past for feeling God may not be hearing or answering our prayers, it was crystal clear on this day that He is indeed paying attention.

God gave us back our friendship. Just because He loves us. Just because He is a God of good will toward His children. And just because He wants us to be happy.

I've been learning as a parent lately that our joy cannot be full for one child when another one of our children is hurting. And I think of our Heavenly Father. I think that this is the reason we ought to have more compassion for each other, more forgiveness for each other, extend more kindness to each other, help one another. Because our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and He wants us to help each other be happy.

He showed me today how He works to bring us happiness, how He listens for a long time, and how He brings things in when we least expect it. He showed me again today that He can be trusted to make things right.

God is a God of miracles. Yet He still allows us to participate. In all our glorious weakness and human frailty, He allows us to have the experiences that show us He is there, paying attention, listening.

And He can do anything. Anything.

Even in the isles of Smith's Marketplace in downtown Salt Lake City on a Sunday.




Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy #119 Just in time for love.


It's been awhile. Ok, a year.

I'm not sure what happened here, besides life. But I've learned so much since I've been gone and I feel strongly about sharing what I've been learning. Because it's about something we all need and something we can't live without.

Love.

I know I'm not alone when I say I don't know very much about how to love myself. There was a time when I didn't think it mattered at all. But I've changed my mind about that attitude. And I've decided it matters very much.

If you're anything like me, you're really good at loving and taking care of everyone but yourself. And you don't know very much about how to take care of yourself. Or very much about how to love yourself, for that matter.

So the next journey we're going to take together is about learning to love ourselves. What it means, why it matters, and how to do it.

And with Valentine's Day only days away, it's a good time to begin.

So stay tuned. Because we're just in time for love. :-)

All my love,

This time for you and for me,

Kathleen
Xoxoxo

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Happy # 118: Find your hopeful, childlike, fearless self.

Where were you when you were 10? More importantly, who were you? What were you doing? What were you thinking? How did you think about your life?

My guess is, with hope in your future.

Recently, a friend who has known me since childhood said he could see the sorrow behind my positive posts on Facebook. He could see me striving to see the good, find the good, and be grateful for everything in my life regardless of what was really going on in my heart. He was right. 

He can see this because he's known me since I was six years old and he knows the adverse background I come from. He saw it. Fully... He knows what I've come through and how hard I've worked to overcome my beginnings and make something different for my life.

I've been reflecting on his words and the power being positive has to create change. 

I've also been giving thought to the words of another friend. This friend said, ten years ago, he was impressed by my ability to take life as it comes to me, gracefully. "Hard won, I'm sure," he said. 

Hard won, indeed. I hadn't thought about myself that way then, but his words made an impact and I've reflected on them several times in the last decade.

These two sentiments have captured my attention with regard to what being positive really means and how being positive works to shape a life. Because it has certainly shaped mine.

What does being positive mean, exactly?

Anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Facebook knows I am working on a Masters of Architecture. It is, by in large, the most difficult thing I've ever done. It is HARD. Every day. And it has been a challenge to find the positive stream of thinking in this difficultly.

But it is the positive stream of thinking that illuminates the opportunity that lies in difficulty. 

Giving thought to the words of my friends, I began reflecting on myself as a ten year old. 

It was 1971. Easily our twentieth-something move, we lived in another small town, and our home was a trailer. All my clothes came from thrift stores. Christmases and birthdays, I just wanted something brand new, that nobody else had ever worn. Never happened. 

One day at school I learned a girl's mother had made the top she was wearing. So, I decided to make myself something new.

I borrowed the pattern from the girl, found fabric in the trailer we lived in, followed the pictures in the pattern to cut out the fabric, sat down at my mother's old sewing machine, and following the pictures in the pattern, taught myself to sew. Ten years old. No fear.

I wasn't afraid to try. I wasn't afraid to start. I wasn't afraid of that sewing machine, and it didn't matter to me that I didn't know how. I wasn't afraid of the machine, or the process.

I had childlike belief in God and a God-given belief in myself. There is no doubt in my mind that my faith in Him emboldened me.

I think back on that little girl living in poverty--moved every three months, sexually abused, uneducated parents, crazy (and married over a dozen times) mother, and raised on welfare in a dysfunctional family--who taught herself to sew.

I've examined her thinking and her willingness to try. A ten year old with a hopeful attitude, regardless of the difficulty she lived in.

Here's what I've decided being positive really means: it means finding a way to think and live and feel that is life enhancing rather than life depleting. It is open and life expanding, rather than closed off or in the act of withdrawing.

Rooted with the seeds of hope, being positive is being open to better things happening and thinking along those lines.

It doesn't mean life doesn't have difficulty or challenge. It simply means there is a course of thought, a consciously chosen neurological pathway that is believing and hopeful. There is a presence of gratitude and personal faith that whispers whatever we hope for is possible. And there is a mental choice that says, try. No fear. Then try again, if need be.

Taking life as it comes, gracefully, grows out of a patient, grateful heart. Finding the positive in life comes from a hopeful mind and learning to look forward. It comes from establishing patterns of belief with our thinking.

And finding the opportunity that lies in the middle of difficulty happens when a positive mind and grateful heart is open to the illumination and courage that inevitably follows hope.

So Happy #118 is: Find your hopeful, childlike, fearless self.

Because he, or she, is the key to the strength you need to make your life what you want it to be.

No fear. Or feel the fear and do it anyway.

Either way, love and wishes for fearlessness to you,

Kathleen

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Happy 117: Trust help will come.


A week ago today I woke in the middle of the night to chaos. There was banging around at my back door. Someone was yelling, making loud and strange noises. I came out of my bedroom to find Keaton coming up the stairs, his cell phone in his had. He held it out to me, telling me he had called 911.

I felt alarmed and confused. Keaton shared with me that someone had been trying to get in our back door. With 911 on the line, I went cautiously down the stairs.

By the time I reached the kitchen the noise at the back door had stopped. But I could still hear the person whaling loudly in my back yard. It was very dark outside and difficult to see, but I spotted movement in the back corner by the garage. Someone, dressed in dark clothing, was moving around, yelling and waving his arms everywhere.

He moved from the corner of the yard to the front of the garage where my car was parked, still yelling. I had hung up with 911 and was waiting for the police to arrive, but I didn't dare leave my kitchen window. I didn't want to lose track of the man's location in the darkness.

He was making loud and desperate noises, batting at the air like he was trying to get into a door that didn't exist. I stood there in the kitchen, frozen, my heart pounding with fear.

Suddenly it became clear to me that he was in trouble. He needed help. I watched him, stuck there at the garage, helpless, trying to find his way. Desperate. Confused. Unable to make progress.

In that moment, I saw the whole of humanity there in one young man. Lost. Stuck. Tormented. And the fear gave way as compassion filled my heart, pushing everything else out.

The police arrived a few minutes later and kindly escorted him from my yard. Two policemen took care of him and another two came to my door, asking to come inside.

The young man was drunk, not quite twenty, and barefoot. In the snow...

The policeman stayed for a long time, talking with me about preparations I should make for the future in the event I should actually need to protect myself from an intruder. And I listened.

But I couldn't help but reflect on the young man, the situation he had been in, and what I had seen.

I am grateful he landed in my back yard where he was able to get the help he needed. I'm grateful for the moments of human aloneness and desperation I observed. They were a good reminder of how stuck we all are, how dependent on each other we are, and how blessed we are by our loving Heavenly Father and Savior to have the help we need when we need it. By whatever means.

The supplication to come unto Christ has been close to my heart lately. I shared my testimony in church this morning about the grace of God, His mercy and kindness, and how blessed I feel to have my Savior, Jesus Christ, to turn to when I am stuck. Which is all the time, really. One way or another... 

Happy #117 is Trust help will come. Come unto Christ. We're all stuck in the corner of the yard or at the garage door. Or somewhere. For one reason or another.

Coming to Christ is simply seeking Him. Turning to Him, looking to Him, praying to Him. Our souls unite with heaven when we are in pain. Even if we're crying out and batting in the darkness, unaware of what our souls are pleading for.

God knows. And He will see us through.

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden. And I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy #116: Be in the experience.


Happy Regardless may have been better named Get through it, Regardless. Get over it, Regardless. Or Take whatever comes and then move the hell on, Regardless. ;) Something that says the only way to stability is taking the highs and lows and finding your way back to center, regardless. Happily and peacefully, if at all possible. :)

I started taking Christmas down yesterday. This amounted to ornaments, etc. coming off the tree and putting the tree away. After working through numerous hot flashes and using whatever excess energy I thought I had, but didn't, I had the tree packed into its box. Feeling thoroughly and completed exhausted, I had Kelsie sit on the box so I could strap it up. Why was I so tired??

Requiring more energy than I had, I flopped on my bed like a sack of rice and spent the next few hours doing something I never do: watching movies. (I do watch movies, just not three in a row...) Keaton was watching them with me, feeling absolutely delighted I was actually watching instead of multi-tasking, so when I passed out he turned everything off.

Today, I found myself square in the middle of the thing, whatever the thing was. I was packing up ornaments, Christmas balls, sparkly this, glittery that, nutcrackers, Santas, snowmen, beautiful everything, and I felt a sadness ribbon itself through the experience that I can't remember feeling while packing up Christmases past.

I felt as tender and green inside as those Christmas balls. But the raw kind of green. Not the shiny kind. The fragile, brand new leaf, barely braving to unfold, green. The one that says, I feel so delicate inside you could snap me into pieces between two of your fingers, green. Vulnerable green. All the memories of Joyce and Christmases for and with my children when they were little welled up inside of me. So I did what I always do. I took a hot shower, let myself feel, prayed for peace, and cried. Ok, bawled. I felt so sad.

Taking the time to be in the experience of any emotion is a gift of self-respect. Those moments, the emotion that is stirred in the feeling, and the connections the brain makes during the process won't come again. Because every experience changes us and by extension how we process and connect information.

This is one of the beauties of living. Being in the experience. Whatever it is. And feeling it.

I hope for easier feelings to find me. But in the meantime, I don't feel like a bowl full of wet noodles anymore. I have the peace I prayed for. (And the peace others have prayed for in my behalf, I'm certain.) And Christmas is tucked away for one more year.

Happy #116 is: Be in the experience. Because it's all we've really got anyway, whatever life is in the moment while it's going by. Being in the experience is where the real connection lives. In the giving experience or the receiving experience and the feelings that follow. And it's the real connection we're all after.

Plus, it's a kinder and more meaningful way to live and process life. And it's a good beginning to self-respect. The root of love...

So many benefits. :)

Are you feeling me?


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy #115: Ask different questions.

2012/13 New Year's Eve fireworks.
Downtown Salt Lake City, UT
About a month ago my friend LaDawn gave me a priceless little treasure. She discovered a book titled the Great Little Book of Afformations, by Dr. Noah St. John, and shared it with me as a gift.

It's changed the way I think.

The basic concept is that most of the questions we ask ourselves in our quiet moments are negative. The brain, naturally wired to find solutions, manifests the answers we are seeking--positive or negative. In his book, Dr. St. John suggests the positive change we often seek is sabotaged by the negative questions we ask ourselves. He offers a simple solution. Change the questions.

Understanding that outcome follows action and action follows thought, this new concept intrigued me.

So I began experimenting.

One of my negative and disempowering questions (for a good many years) was, "WHY am I still ALONE?!?!?"

It was simple to turn this one around, finding limitless ways to reframe this positively. One of my reframes was "Why am I surrounded by people who love and support me?"

New Year's Eve I decided to take my son downtown for the EVE celebration and fireworks. Personally, given what I've been through lately, I would have been content to stay in the warmth and comfort of my home and cut out pictures from magazines for my 2013 vision board. Crackling fire, cheese, crackers, grapes, bubbly, movies... That's how I would have celebrated had I been by myself. It was COLD outside!!

But I wanted my son to have the experience of fireworks on New Year's Eve. He's been with his dad for the celebration most years and they always stayed home.

So, I dressed up. Short sequin dress, hose, 3/4 length fur coat, fur hat, and cowboy boots. Not the most likely combination, but trust me. It looked good. And I was warm and I felt good. Which is all that really matters.

Downtown we went. A few minutes before midnight, I was given a tip by one of the event staff and we located ourselves  right beneath the spot where the fireworks would be going off. Best view possible. Feeling the bitter chill, I pulled my coat in tightly around myself and prepared to be amazed. :)  Right about then Keaton announces he's going to go check something out and he'll be right back. Then he leaves.

Any guesses what happens next?

Yeah. Countdown begins and the sky starts to light up like the fourth of July. Incredible. I look out into the midnight darkness beyond. The big, round moon is shining brightly in the distance and the most incredible burst of fireworks I have ever seen is cracking and blazing right before my eyes. And I'm standing there, alone.

No Keaton. Feeling suddenly self-conscious, I look around. People are gathered together, everyone in awe, lovers kissing the passionate wet kiss of a New Year's Eve, others clapping and cheering. And I'm alone.

I felt sad. :( And awkward...

Then my reframe question pops into my mind. "Why am I surrounded by people who love and support me?"

I looked again at the people all around me. This time, at their faces. They were smiling. So I smiled back. And I felt my heart lift. I may have been standing by myself, but I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by people who, in those first few minutes of a brand new year, were loving and supporting me.

Possibly just because I looked so good. ;) Lol. But whatever it takes. :)

Within seconds I saw the experience differently. Because I had asked a different question about my life. A positive question.

Happy #115 is Ask different questions. Reframe your thinking for love, faith, and hope.

Because perspective is everything.

Warmly and with the love that lets you know you're not alone,
Kathleen
xoxo

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy #114: Decide from the truth of your heart.



January 1st of a new year is a good time to make up your mind.

In my experience, it doesn't take time to change. It just takes time to decide to change. Change can happen overnight, once we've decided. Really decided.

The book of James (King James Version of the Bible) is packed with little goodies. Packed. If it's been awhile since you've taken the time, it's well worth the read start to finish. 

Being very familiar with first chapter, I was surprised one day when a word (and the verses that followed) jumped out at me as if I'd never considered it (and them) before.

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." James 1: 5-8

Wavereth. 

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines waver this way:

1. to vacillate irresolutely between choices : fluctuate in opinion, allegiance, or direction.
2. to weave or sway unsteadily to and fro (reel, totter) : to hesitate as if about to give way (falter).

The idea that a wavering man (or woman) should not expect to receive any thing of the Lord shocked me. Until I stopped to think about it. Then it made perfect sense.

God delivers us to our choices. Or lack thereof...

I've learned that the clearer I am with what I want, the more focused I am. And the more focused I am, the more likely I am to direct myself in ways that help me to realize what I'm striving for. I'm also far more likely to receive support in this place as well. 

It's been remarkable to me, in watching my life unfold, to see miracles abound in support of the choices I've made once a decision (that's right and in harmony with the truth of my heart) is determined. Flat out, honest to goodness miracles. Over and over and over again... 

When I reflect on the times in my life when I have been and/or felt confused, it was because I was trying to accommodate others instead of being true to myself. The clearer I became with the truth of my heart, the clearer the necessary decision became. Not that those decisions were easy to follow through on, by any means. But self truth has a way of illuminating everything. The requisite path of action, in particular.

So Happy #114 is this: Decide from the truth of your heart. Doing comes pretty naturally after that.

Give that a spin with your New Year's resolutions this time. :D You're bound to see real change.

And Happy New Year. May all your hopes and dreams be realized. 

Once you've made up your mind... ;-)

Warmly and with love,
Kathleen


Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy #113: Be clear about what you want.


Woman on Houseback
by Joyce L. Jones
June 6, 1932 - December 25, 2012

Let me preface this post by saying what we all know: clarity is not the easiest thing to come by. Confusion often blankets moments of decision, making it difficult to find a clear path.

Several months ago I began diligent personal effort in taking the Holy Spirit to be my guide. In my heart, I feel I've always tired to live this way. But you don't realize where your aim is off until you engage in target practice and begin trying to hit the bullseye every time. You know what I'm getting at here...

On this path of seeking constant spiritual discernment, I made specific and particular choices to strengthen my ability to receive divine guidance, insight, and direction.

As with anything we strive for, it is preparation that precedes power. It is the preparation that makes us ready when the moment of opportunity arrives. This is true in everything.

The Saturday before Christmas I was having lunch downtown with a few of my children. My oldest daughter, Kelsie (24), my daughter-in-law, Rhea (28), and my youngest son, Keaton (20). Lunch had been served and we were discussing Christmas plans when my kid's grandmother, Joyce, came to my mind.

Joyce, my X-husband's mother, had not been well lately. Struggling with dysplasia, she couldn't speak and eating and drinking had become nearly impossible. My former father-in-law, Bruce, was taking care of her in their home.

I asked how grandma was doing. Kelsie announced that hospice had been called and Sean (one of Joyce's sons) was driving from Portland to Seattle to see his mother that day.

I felt a sudden and striking sense of urgency. "HOSPICE?!?!?"

Caught off guard by the news I began asking for details and the conversation about end of life arrangements broke loose. Fighting back the tears I asked for more information (which Kelsie didn't have) and my youngest son, Keaton, began to cry with heartbreaking emotion.

I left the restaurant with him, trying to comfort him. Then I called Juliet (my youngest daughter, 22) and Jackson (my oldest son, 26), hoping they would know more. They didn't. They called their dad. He didn't know much more, but said it would be fine to come up to WA after Christmas. He said there was time.

Feeling frustrated and unsettled, I decided to call Bruce. It had been years since we had spoken or I had seen them. But I loved them and I knew they loved and appreciated me. And driven to find some sort of clarity with regard to when I needed to get up there, I was desperate. I didn't want my children to experience losing their grandmother without seeing her one last time.

When it comes to crossroads in life and death, timing is everything.

Bruce said it was hard to know exactly how much time Joyce had. Hospice indicated two weeks to two months, roughly. He said things seemed to change from day to day and he was as uncertain about timing as everyone else had been. He said he was sure we had our Christmas plans, and that he thought coming after Christmas would be fine, but he also said (several times), "...the sooner the better, Kathleen".

I hung up the phone and pondered his words, praying intently to know what to do.

It wasn't long before I was given the discernment and absolute clarity that we needed to leave immediately.

My beautiful daughter-in-law, Rhea, backed me up and made sure Jackson was on board. He had to work the day after Christmas, so it was a LOT of driving for them in a very short period of time. We gathered together as a family several hours later and decided to leave that night.We made arrangements for our departure, packed, loaded our cars, and left SLC at 2:00 in the morning with the intent to drive straight through to Seattle. Not a short road trip through several mountain passes. In the winter...

But we all knew by how we felt that we were doing the right thing. A remarkable feeling of peace and tranquility settled over us all. And in spite of the circumstances, we felt happy to be doing this together as a family.

We arrived Sunday evening and my kids were able to have precious, precious time with their grandmother. She was able to communicate the feelings of her heart with them via an alphabet sheet where she could point to letters and spell out words. She communicated that she loved them and would always love them. She said she was moving on, but would come to them and be with them from the other side. I can't imagine a more meaningful way for my children to receive their grandmother's love.

This was a profound experience for my children. It wasn't that many years ago that Joyce didn't believe in an afterlife or God at all.

My time with her was sweet and tender and precious. Looking deeply into my tear filled eyes, she reached up and gently brushed my hair aside, touching my forehead with her loving, frail hands. I could feel her love and her gratitude that I brought the kids to see her. And I could feel her pride in the job I had done raising them.

Joyce had always encouraged me. Especially with regard to my education and professional pursuit as an architect. She was proud of me and told me so. Frequently. In the only way she was able to tell me in these last moments, she did so again, sharing with me that she knew I would be very successful. Her wisdom in life carried on through her death and she left me with words of comfort, strength, and promise I will never forget.

The next day was Christmas eve. Kelsie had started throwing up in the middle of the night. It was violent and constant, with no subsiding or relief in sight. So I took her to the ER early that morning. They put her on an IV, gave her medication to ease the vomiting, and Kelsie spent Christmas eve in the ER. :(

Offering her loving support, Rhea relieved me at the hospital so I could return to take care of Joyce while Bruce took a much needed break with his sons Geoff and Brian and his grandsons, Jackson and Keaton. I stayed with Joyce, feeding her ice chips, talking with her, sharing memories, and telling her funny stories about the kids to lighten her heart.

Knowing she wanted to move on, I told her about Priesthood blessings and the power they have to help us make transitions in our lives. Summoning the courage, I asked Joyce if she wanted one. She let me know it was a possibility, but she needed to think about it. When Bruce and the boys returned, I told Jackson what I had shared with his grandmother and Brian and Jackson went in to Joyce's room to talk with her.

I will never forget the next few minutes that passed. Brian sat there at Joyce's bedside, asking his mother if she wanted a blessing, the one and only blessing he would give her in his lifetime, or hers.

She said yes. No reservations this time.

When Brian came out of the room, he was in tears. But I knew that Joyce had what she needed and that the opportunity to give a blessing to his mother had been a healing experience and a blessing for them both.

A few family members dropped by, including Brian's niece Hally. I hadn't seen her in years and it was wonderful to reconnect with her and spend a little time with her, her husband, and boys. She looked just like she did when she was four years old. :) Seeing her again was a light to my heart. And to her grandmother's.

By dinner time it was just Bruce and Keaton and I. We had a lovely Christmas eve dinner and I was happy I could be there to support him. We cared for Joyce together and I could feel how grateful he was that I was there.

About 9:30 pm or so, Joyce became unresponsive. We positioned her and put her oxygen back on so she could rest peacefully and decided I would come back first thing in the morning. Bruce was tired and I needed to get back to hotel to care for Kelsie.

At 7:30 Christmas morning, Bruce called asking me to come over. When I arrived a short time later, he said Joyce was still unresponsive and it appeared she was in a coma. We kept checking and she was breathing, but still no response. So we called hospice.

While we were waiting for them to arrive, Bruce made a delightful Christmas breakfast.  Cheesy eggs and bacon just the way I like it. So delicious. :) We talked about the events of the last day and a half and what a gift it was we were able to be there. He said, "you woke everyone up, Kathleen. ...when we talked on the phone, I thought it was an exaggeration when you said you'd drop everything and come that night if necessary. But it wasn't exaggeration. You meant it. Because that's just what you did."

Of course I did. Some things matter, most things don't. This mattered.

Bruce turned to look at me, looked me square in the eyes, and said, "Thank you." I felt his humble gratitude.

At 11:00 am Brian arrived and the hospice care worker was right behind him. She confirmed that Joyce was in a coma and talked with us about what to expect. Again, no clear information about time.

I brought chairs into Joyce's room so her family could be with her while they visited with each other. Bruce, Brian, and Kelsie sat in there talking and laughing, sharing memories of good times. Among others, Bruce shared the story of how he and her grandmother met and married. They were having such a wonderful time together.

It was a delightful conversation to listen to from the other room, their laughter filling the air of the house. I busied myself caring for Keaton, putting out food on the platters Joyce had made, and arranging chairs so people could gather just outside her door, should anyone else stop by.

Shortly after 1:00 pm, Joyce passed away, with Brian and Kelsie sitting there in the chairs at the end of her bed.

It could not have been more peaceful.

As I reflect on the experience, the brevity of time and the concentration of events, I marvel at the miracle. I am deeply and profoundly grateful we were there.

And I've realized, as I've reflected, that we were there because I was given the discernment to know we needed to be there. Immediately. And I was given the discernment to know what needed to happen because I was prepared to receive it.

Many months ago, when I began my journey of seeking to receive help from heaven, I was clear about what I wanted: God's inspiration and direction in my life, the Holy Spirit to be my guide.

Personal clarity with regard to wanting the gift of discernment to receive God's guidance and direction put me on a very distinct path. The clarity created commitment. And the commitment governed my choices and actions over time, preparing me for that moment when I would need to be able to see clearly. And without delay.

Joyce used to say, "You have to know what you want if you have any hope of getting it." She taught me so much about happiness and how to choose it for myself. Thank you, Joyce.

In her honor, I'm dedicating Happy #113 to her: Be clear about what you want.

My personal clarity about what I wanted is what served my family in a moment of need and got us to Washington in time to see Joyce before she died.

Be clear about what it is you really, really want. Look down the path and see where the ship you're on is taking you. Will the choices you're making in life serve you in death?

It's a new year.

Time to be clear. :D

Rest in peace, Joyce. I love you.

Kathleen
xoxoxo

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy #112: Pause somebody's quiet sadness.




These pictures of our friend Stephanie and her daughter Madi (taken by my daughter, Kelsie) capture the joy most mothers have felt with their babies. I don't think a person alive would see this precious little girl and want for her to feel alone in her life. Ever.

Or less than. Or inadequate. Or unloved...

And yet, for all the love and feelings of belonging we hope for our loved ones, there are people we care for who feel inadequate, alone, and lonely more than we know.

I received a voicemail from my cousin tonight. She expressed that as she drove home after a long, hard day, she began to think of this Christmas morning. It will be the first Christmas morning in nearly two decades that she won't wake up alone. She will be spending Christmas with my family this year.

She said that as she thought about waking up with us, about having people who love her to wake up to, she began to cry. She shared the hurt she's felt, waking up alone on Christmas, and how very, very painful it's been.

Nobody should have to wake up alone on Christmas. Or worse, wake up with people around and feel alone.

The holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving is days away with the Christmas whirlwind right behind it. And while we are all so busy preparing and getting ready for these events, there are opportunities every day to connect with the "less than" place in someone's heart.

There are people in your sphere and in your home who have moments when they feel less than, inadequate, and alone.

I do. I know you do. And everyone else does too. Everyone.

I would like to offer an invitation to slow down and connect during this holiday season. This takes love. True, compassionate, selfless love. And time.

Baby Madi and I had a beautiful time together when I took care of her about a week ago. Why? Because I took time with her. I looked in her eyes, spoke with loving kindness, and connected with her. She sat on my lap and we ate together. We talked. We smiled. I was 100% with her. And when her mother came to pick her up, she was happy instead of having tear filled eyes from hours of crying while Mom was away. Which is what usually happens...

Time.

Happy Regardless #112 is Pause somebody's quiet sadness. Connect with the "less than" place in someone's heart.

Your love and time is all it takes to bring a pause to someone's feelings of quiet sadness. And yours will be paused in those moments too.

Love is funny that way. :-)

With gratitude for you, for the time you took to read this, and for the very real power of love to lift and heal us all,

Kathleen







Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy #111: How cleaning the garage brought me back to Happy Regardless.



Happy Halloween!!

So, apparently I wasn't finished writing about happiness... ;-)

Some time ago I signed off of Facebook because I felt invisible. Tragic, but true. If you're ever tempted to think your effort in another person's direction doesn't matter, think again.

Anyway, a month or two passed and my children requested I reactivate my account. So I did. But in the time I was off, remarkable things happened. Real connection with people I love. (Pictures included at the end of this post for you visual types...)

A surprise phone call announced my dear friend Marty (whom I hadn't seen for years) was flying into SLC on business, giving us the opportunity to see each other. It was the first time he'd been here since my move to SLC eight years ago. Our time together was precious and magical. I hiked him up to Ensign Peak so he could see the view and we ended the evening with a lovely dinner together. After I changed. :) Smiling, talking, laughing, sparkling, and thoroughly enjoying every minute, we were reminded of how much we love and miss each other.

Another surprise call brought the news my best friend from high school and her mother were coming to town to celebrate her mom's 90th birthday. It was the first time I'd seen Vicky's mother, Irene, in thirty years. This visit was significant for me. Irene Palmer took me in when I was 17 and had nowhere to go. I had returned to my mother's house one night to find myself locked out and my belongings stacked in boxes on the porch. Irene compassionately came to my rescue. There aren't words sufficient to describe the gratitude I feel for this woman and her Christlike love. Irene was a powerful example of goodness to me. Her gesture may have seemed small and simple to her. But it meant everything to me and has profoundly influenced my life.

Delightfully, I bumped into a a few friends in unexpected places. I heard from few other friends I hadn't heard from in awhile and a couple of family members made contact. All bringing me to see I wasn't so invisible after all.

Real connection. The most meaningful kind. People who care about me reached out and connected with me. And I felt their love.

Connect with the ones you love, people. Because you never know when someone you really care about is feeling invisible. And it's a horrible thing to feel.

In the midst of all this beautiful and real connection, I decided to tackle the chore I've been trying to face for the last eight years and clean my freaking garage. No. Small. Thing. For several reasons. A huge thing, truth be told.

And this experience, the process of cleaning my garage, is what brought me back to my Happy Regardless blog.

I tried to write about love in my Love Life blog. But I think love may be something I write about later. When I'm older and wiser about love. Like when I'm 90. ;-) What I have learned is that love begins with self respect. And something I realized, while cleaning my garage, I haven't had very much of. :(

Respect is the foundation of love. And self respect is essential.

So we're back to happiness. Because the truth about happiness is that it begins with self respect, the basic and most essential ingredient for self love. And it's self love that makes happiness possible at all.

That doggone garage turned out to be something really spectacular. It was full of lessons to show me that sometimes falling apart is the only way to find the answers we need to grow into the good in store.

Process. Life is never really about the outcome.

So on we go. To giving that creates real connection, self respect, self love, and happiness. And whatever comes next. ;-)

Love to you.
Kathleen






Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy #110: Small Changes Ripple Outward

You know the furrowed brow look? The one that says intense focus or worried or STRESSED? The one you find on the face of most people trying to read something on their phone? You know the look, right? The one that drives many middle aged women to botox??

Well, I've been waking up with it for awhile. It may be because I can't see very well in the morning and need glasses. Everything is a constant blur... Or that my eyes are dry. Or that I'm anxious about the day. But whatever it is, it's not doing anything for my youthful good looks. ;-)

I asked my Dr. about waking up stressed with this furrowed brow and what to do about it. His answer was simple.

"You've just gotten into a bad habit of thinking stressful things when you wake up. That's all. So break the habit."

In essence, change your mind. That's it.

So I began practicing changing my mind when I wake up, knowing what I do about the power of thought to change how we feel.

And you know what? It worked.

If you've been following this blog from the beginning you know that I have five basic principles of happiness. Last week I found a video about the scientific revolution in positive psychology. I love it. And I highly, highly recommend you watch it. Because it's fabulous.

What I love the most about the scientific research that is beginning to back the power of the positive mind, is the real change that comes with it.

Shawn Achor says, "Your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral, or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy level rises. We found every single outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than at negative, neutral, or stressed...Dopamine floods into your system when you're positive, with two functions. #1. It makes you happier. And #2. It turns on all the learning centers in your brain, allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way."

He goes on to describe the process in helping people re-wire their brains. The concept is to do the exercises for 21 days, creating a new habit. You know, change your mind. :-) He said the test subject's brains began to retain a pattern of scanning the world for the positive first. The daily exercise is this:


Gratitude (3 new things you've never been grateful for before), journaling one positive experience of the day, exercise, meditation, and writing positive/loving/encouraging things to one person daily. The results were outstanding.

So Happy #110 is a reminder that small changes ripple outward. What we think impacts how we feel and how we feel impacts everything.

Try the experiment. Change your mind to the positive and practice being in the feeling of gratitude.

It's the beginning of and benchmark to bliss.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy #109: Happiness is for everyone.

August 24, 2011, I wrote what I thought would be my last post on this blog.

Following that entry I began an attempt to write about love. But it turns out love is a difficult thing to write about. At least for me. Which is odd because I am a very loving person with genuine love of and for mankind. Genuine.

But what surprised me even more than my experience in finding love hard to write about, was how limited the readership was. You can read about it here.

I can only attribute this to what I perceive to be the obvious: if you have love you don't want or need to read about it. If you don't have love, reading about it is painful. And who wants or needs any more pain?

I've considered returning to writing about finding happiness regardless of what life brings for a few months now. A combination of events brought me back. I've gained new understanding about love and happiness while we've been apart, and sharing my learning with you brings me happiness. Interestingly. And hope for love. Oddly. But no fear. I'll cloak the love talk so you barely notice I'm even mentioning it at all... ;-) I may even continue the love blog. But it will be from a different angle.

So we're back to the journey and we begin again. Because happiness is for everyone.

Thank you for reading.

Warmly and with love, :-)

Kathleen

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Happy # 108: Be happy regardless.

This will be my last post on this blog.

I began this journey almost two years ago as a way to document the process of finding happiness during misery. I discovered the things I believe increase happiness, do indeed make a difference. And that regardless of what you're going through, you can find happiness if you follow a few basic steps.

1. Find something to be grateful for. (Have a thankful heart.)
2. Find something to do. (Exercise and/or work it off.)
3. Find something to eat. (Nourish body, mind, and soul.)
4. Find something to look forward to. (A different way to think about your life.)
5. Find someone to serve.

To this list I would like to add: Trust God.

All this said, you can only take responsibility for your own happiness. And as much as you may want to, you can't fix someone else or make an unhappy person happy.

I think I've pretty much said everything there is to say on the subject... ;)

So I close this blog with gratitude for the journey that has shown me there is ALWAYS another way. And sometimes all it takes is simply finding the other way to think about a thing that helps ease the pain and move us into being able to let go.

I've learned things along the way about myself. And my personal happiness has increased immeasurably. While it blows my mind that it took until I was almost 50 years old to learn what I did, I am grateful I know these things now. A life abundant with love and happiness awaits. :D

Thank you for sharing life with me for awhile. And good luck on your own personal journey to being happy regardless.

I'm on to the next adventure in mine. Drop me a line and I'll include you. :)

Peace out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy # 107: God keeps His promises.


The other morning I was on a run and had started up the hill in the graveyard when all the sprinklers turned on. Within minutes there were multiple rainbows from the water streams shooting out under the sunshine.

It was beautiful, powerful, and peaceful. Naturally, I took a picture. :)

When I was looking at the photos later that evening, I noticed something interesting. In several of the images, a large rainbow had spanned a section of the tombstones.

And then it hit me. There it was--the symbol of God's promises--stretched out like a landmark over the symbols of death, as a reminder of eternal life.

It gave me peace.

God keeps his promises.

Period.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy #106: Disregard the distractions.

Cheerleaders Lift People
Ok, I know this is a ridiculous image in all the cheesy ways light up, sparkly, (and I love things that sparkle, but not these) online cut and paste sparkly images can be. But when I googled "cheerleader" and hit images, all that turned up were cheerleaders in short shorts with their chests busting out of their skimpy tops. Google it. You'll see what I mean. Or not.

I was trying to find an image to convey a sentiment I've been feeling strongly about--that we ought to say with less reserve the words of kindness which would express the loving thoughts we have of each other. Simply because we have the power to uplift one another. This is real and no small thing...

Recently, two men in my life--good friends, both happily married--have said loving things to me and I have been honestly, truly uplifted and edified by them.

My friend Rob, a friend from high school, reminded me at a critical moment that I've always been everyone's cheerleader. It was a simple thing for him to say. But it had profound impact on me because I had forgotten how true it is about my nature. By helping me remember something very positive about who I am, Rob grounded me. At a moment I needed it. I'll never forget the lesson he taught me about the importance of speaking the good we see in each other. Especially when it comes to essential parts of who we are in good ways.

Life is so full of distractions. I think we're all trying to do the best we can. But I think it's very easy to get sidetracked and lose sight of what's important. And sometimes of who we are...

Focus is a good thing. Focus on priorities and the people in our lives is a great thing. And essential if our lives are going to end up having any meaning at all.

So Happy #107 is simply: Disregard the distractions. See the good. Speak the good. And be someone's cheerleader.

Go, fight, win. :D

This looks like me, right? ;-)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy #105: Understand your wiring and Love As is.

Why does our self worth depend on what other people think? (It shouldn't, btw...)

My daughter, Kelsie, came home from teaching her peers in a Sunday School class today. A young man pulled her aside after her lesson and began making critical remarks, offering suggestions for how she could more fully engage the class in discussion.

Kelsie is an exceptional teacher, even at a young age. And she is confident in her abilities. Yet she was so troubled by this experience, she was still trying to process it hours later.

Why did she care? Because the remarks came from a boy.

"Well, at least I can take delight in the other boy's comments," she said.

"What you can take delight in is that you're alive and on this planet and beautiful and intelligent and talented!" I offered.

She was unaffected.

Why do we (women) care what men think??

Kelsie and I stood across the island from each other--smiling, thinking, her eyes twinkling...

Then suddenly she burst out, "It's biological, Mom!! Some areas of the female brain are larger than the same spots in the male brain, and visa versa. And parts of the limbic cortex, the part of the brain that controls emotional responses? Yeah. Ours is bigger. So we're wired to care what boys think!! Researchers put monkeys in a pen and offered them masculine and feminine toys. And guess what? The boy monkeys played with trucks and the girl monkeys played with dolls. It's biological."

"So what about the boy monkeys that played with dolls?" I asked. (I just assumed there were some that did.) "Does that mean they were gay monkeys? Or that they cared more about girls than the boy monkeys that played with trucks?"

"Yeah," Kelsie said.

And we laughed.

But the truth is somewhere around the edges. It's biological and sociological. We may be wired biologically to care about what men think because men are the center of what women (most of us) are wired to care about--marriage, babies, family, home, meaningful contribution (professional or otherwise). But we are affected by what men think because of our experience and/or how society has sculpted our perception of our worth.

When I suggested Kelsie be delighted because she's simply here, I realized it's what I take delight in. Because she's my daughter. And I wish she could see what I see and the value she has in this world just because she's here.

But it got me thinking of all the good that could come from simply finding our own worth in just being here on the planet. Maybe Jesus was trying to tell us something when He said, "As I have loved you, love one another." As He has loved us: As is.

His words would be more easily fulfilled if we found a little of that "as is" self love first.

We may be wired a given way. Or have had experiences to reinforce a particular belief. That doesn't mean we're we're stuck with it. (Whatever it is.)

You're the cake. Everything else is icing.

Learn to validate yourself. Decorate the cake. :-)

And feel your worth.

Then pass it on. You know, that whole "love one another" thing. Love As is...

You first. ;-)

PS. You can read my daughter's account of her experience HERE.

And as a side note, the research Kelsie referenced is in this article His brain, Her brain .


And check out this teaching tool for the BRAIN and get to know a little bit more about yourself. :-)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy #104: Follow the peaceful feelings.


It's Canada Day. And I've just returned home from spending the last four days making daily visits to the precious little town of Blaine, WA.

Blaine is nicely nestled right beside the US/Canadian border. It's BEAUTIFUL. A darling little seaside community. And I love it. I love the water, the seagulls, the sunsets, the marina, the people--everything. It's a small town with a population barely over 4,000. But on the Fourth of July this modest count explodes to over 15,000 as friends and loved ones fill the streets of this tiny little city. The sidewalks burst with color as hanging flower baskets grace the lamp posts. Flags of red, white, and blue adorn every building. And you can feel the excitement in the air as the town prepares to celebrate.

I hope to celebrate with them someday and to share their 4th of July festivities with my children and grandchildren. I also hope to help the community of Blaine revitalize their town over the next ten or twenty years.

I'm from Canada, and a US Citizen. So being in Blaine (and so close to Canada) feels good. It's like I've got my feet on the ground of both places I love. And I could stand at the Peace Arch with one foot in each country and make that true. Maybe I'll post a picture of that someday. :-)

All this said, this recent visit to WA was to sort out something (not in Blaine) that has become a difficulty for me. So I experienced some stress and angst almost the whole visit, except, interestingly, for the times I was actually in Blaine. This was a valuable experience of contrast for me.

Today, I am home. And I have peace.

In this process of trying to find solutions and make decisions, I've been reminded that following the peaceful feelings that come with particular decisions and actions is very, very important.

I was sleeping last night when the plane began it's descent. I woke only slightly to hear, "Welcome to beautiful Salt Lake City." Immediately all the stress of the trip was gone and I felt ease, knowing I would be seeing my family in minutes.

I don't know what will happen with my work in WA. Or with the situation I went up there to resolve.

But I've made some decisions and this much I'm clear about today: Life is uncharted territory. It happens one day at a time. And following what feels peaceful and right is the path of ease and the best course, I believe, in the moment. This may be a no-brainer for you. But for those of us who try way too hard for far too long, it's a revelation every time it comes back around.

Happy Canada Day. Bring on the Fourth of July.

I'm happy to be home. :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy #103: Be in it well.


I stood outside my home last night and looked up at the stars. Salt Lake City is well lit, so there aren't many readily observable bits of glitter in the midnight velvet. The downside to the upside of urban bliss...

I thought back on memories we've made as a family in the mountaintops of other places when the stars were so thick and luminous it seemed like we were standing in the Milky Way. And I thought about the millions of galaxies out there we don’t know about, and what they may contain. We have such limited knowledge. And we know so little. About anything.

My thoughts about my smallness and seeming insignificance brought this statement by Ghandi to mind, “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but is very important that you do it.”

I’m not sure I agree. (With the "will be insignificant" part.)

That said, I believe that however small and insignificant my life may be, my actions have an impact. The only good I may be able to do may be in the lives of my children and for those within my sphere, but that is significant.

Here’s why.

I have been paying particular attention recently to the importance of doing things well—whatever those things may be, in whatever moment. Work, laundry, weeding, planting flowers, preparing food, leisure, relaxation, being in a conversation…

Tonight I'm in Washington and earlier this evening I was sitting at a local sushi bar having dinner with a friend. Thanking us for coming in, our waiter (mid to late twenties would be my guess) reached across the bar to set my water down. I looked at his hand, holding my glass, then I glanced up to say thank you. In the split second it took to look from the glass in his hands to his eyes, I caught a glimpse of a tattoo on the inside of his forearm.

As we engaged in conversation during his service to us, I mentioned I had seen his tattoo and was intrigued by it. Surprising myself with what I said next, I asked if he would be willing show it to me.

I’ve had several men offer to show me their tattoos. Yeah. But I’ve never, not one time, ever asked to see someone’s tattoo.

He came out from behind the bar and over to our stools. Rolling up his sleeve, he stretched out his arm to show me the beautiful script that had caught my eye. He explained it was the poem he had written a few years ago when his mother died. Wanting to honor her and his memory of her, he put the poem and her name, Grace, on his arm.

He read aloud,

“In this life the lessons in your eyes to see,
Though things change, the future is still inside of me,
We must remember that tomorrow comes after the dark,
So you will always be in my heart
With unconditional love.”

Grace said and did things that were meaningful for her son. This is significant. His love for her, and his actions that demonstrated that love, provided an experience that was meaningful for me. And this is significant. Grace is not here on this planet anymore, but both her son and I are inspired by her life. And that is significant.

Doing things well requires the choice to do things well. Then paying attention and giving focus to what is in the moment.

It’s all we’ve really got anyway, the moment.

Be in it while it’s going by.

Be in it well.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy #102: Recognize your influence.


It's Father's Day.

My father died tragically when I was 15. He called me Pinky (& Pink) from the day I was born until the day he died, and to this day pink is my favorite color. (The roses I just planted in my yard, above.)

I don't have many memories of my Dad. He wasn't around very much. (And his unavailability created issues I'm still working through...) But in the few years of my life he was here, he gave me a priceless gift.

Confidence.

My father believed in me. He loved and adored me, and he told me so all the time. He told me I was brilliant and beautiful and that I could do anything I put my mind to.

And I grew up believing him.

There wasn't so much praise around after my father died. Fortunately for me, the confidence he fostered had set before he was gone.

A week or so ago a friend of mine said something praiseworthy to me and it affected me deeply. We talked a bit about why people don't say more positive things to each other more often. He remarked, " Why is it more acceptable, or at least more common, to offer gentle criticisms and/or corrections, while gentle affirmations and loving words are less common? Surely the motive is the same. And interestingly, frequently the result is the same, too. I think we should say heartfelt things to each other more often. Who else do we have? How else would we know?"

I've tried to convey a number of times and in a number of ways (in this blog), the importance of saying good things to each other. But today, on Father's Day, I want to draw particular attention to the importance of a father's praise in the lives of his children.

My father, limited as his time was on earth, had a lasting, positive, and profound influence on my life. I honor him today. I honor all the fathers out there who encourage and uplift their children.

Happy #103 is Recognize your influence. Because everyone around you is in need of hearing more good. And you are the most important part of that equation.

I miss you, Dad.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happy #101: Bounce back.


Bounce back.

You (and everyone you know) will suffer adversity. Given.

Yesterday, the day after the disappointment I wrote about, I called a dear and lifelong friend to check-in. A few minutes into the conversation, my friend shared she was feeling concerned about a visit she would be making that evening.

The morning or two before, a friend of my friend (names omitted for obvious reasons), had gone into the bedroom of her 19 year old son to wake him up. Her son had passed away in his sleep.

No warning. No indication there were problems with his health. He was alive the night before and gone the next morning.

It put things into perspective for me immediately.

So I said to myself, "Kathleen, get over yourself and bounce back." I say that a lot... It's largely the reason I've mastered the ability to take life as it comes and persevere. Happy. Regardless.

Perspective is everything. I don't know that it's possible to thrive in the face of adversity, setbacks, and loss. But I know it's possible to change how we feel by changing our outlook.

I'm praying for the peace of my friend, her friend, and her friend's family. And I'm thanking God for my blessings--my four precious ALIVE children at the top of that list.

Bounce back. And press on.

We all have a lot.

Just a reminder. :-)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happy #100: Hope for more, but be grateful for and take loving care of what you have.


By now you've all figured out I write as a way to work myself out of a place that is less than "happy". So bear with me, this post won't end up the downer it's going to start out as. ;-)

I received some exceptionally disappointing news yesterday. It was the sort of sad news that makes you want to give up trying to make your life work at all. You know the news. The prayer not answered in the way you hoped it would be. The hope you held that comes crashing down around you. The outcome so opposite to what you felt would happen, you realize it was your own hopeful thinking and not the path of right you thought it was. Worse, the spiritual impression you thought you had been given that turns out otherwise and causes you to question everything...

I write these words knowing there are a few of you out there who have experienced this.

Yesterday closed with me feeling like I didn't want to pray for anything anymore. Or pray at all. Ever. Not even to say, "NOT cool, God. NOT COOL!"

For those of you who know me, this not who I am.

Yet this most recent bit of bad news grabbed hold of my faithful roots and shook them with the intent to rip them clear of the spiritual ground they are firmly planted in. Those faithful roots that say God hears us, He loves us, and His hand is in our lives.

So when I went to bed last night (after thinking and doing the things I have recommended in this blog--which usually work), I was confused, hopeless, and mad at God.

But this morning I found myself turning to the only place I can find peace when I need it most. And there I was, praying.

Yesterday Kelsie said to me, "When you can't hope anymore, you just have to do. Sometimes trying to have hope is just too painful." More wise words from the youth in my life.

Doing requires action, work. Which may not be work exercised in hope, but will be action that produces results, nonetheless. So any action, even if you don't feel your best doing it, will move things forward.

The thought struck me that when these times happen, it's important to continue to try to be hopeful for more (of whatever it is you need and/or want), but to be grateful for and take loving care of what you have. I cannot underscore this enough. (Actually, I can't underscore it at all--there isn't an underline tag tab. But you get what I'm trying to emphasize here.)

Hope is a precious thing. It is the seed of faith. Without hope, we have nothing. And for anyone who has ever felt hopeless, you know how disabling (and sometimes paralyzing) it can be.

But I am given to appreciate the words of my 22 year old daughter, Kelsie. Because in working and serving and doing, with gratitude for whatever we can find to be grateful for, I think hope can find it's way back.

I have no answers about what happened yesterday. But when I woke up this morning and realized there was only one place to turn to feel better, I was grateful I believe in God's power to make things right in my life and help me find my way. (Even if it seems for the moment He's sequestered Himself in the heavens and is nowhere to be found.)

Yesterday I said to God, "What the HELL are YOU DOING?!?!?!?"

I meant it.

This morning, I thanked Him. For everything I should. Gratitude and commitment to God, regardless. Because I trust Him.

The sun is shining and the sounds of summer--birds chirping, lawnmowers mowing, and a small airplane buzzing in the background of a clear blue sky--are outside my window. I am grateful for life. For all of it.

Happy #101 is purely: Hope for more, but be grateful for and take loving care of what you have.

Those of you who regularly read this blog (you know who you are), thank you for your support. I feel your love.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy #99: Learn to frame it differently.


I was having dinner with my son Jackson last night when he shared personal sentiments about struggle that surprised me. Jackson is exceptionally articulate, with a vocabulary that requires nearly everyone to look up word or two. So his choice for common language at a key moment in our conversation caught me off guard. But in a good way, oddly. It was refreshing. And I think the first time I’ve ever heard my son swear.

I find the older I get, the more quiet I become. So when I expressed how I was feeling to Jackson, it was with very few sentences. I finished what I was saying and looked out the window to push the tears down and pull myself together. I took a deep breath, then turned back and looked in his eyes.

We sat quietly for a moment, just looking at each other. Then he said, “Yeah, sometimes life feels like shit. And you can see it that way. Or you can see that shit as manure. Fertilizer meant to help you grow, to fortify you. Shit or manure. It’s the same thing and it comes from the same place. How you see it is up to you. You were just sharing John 15 with us yesterday, that the Lord purges us and prunes us, to make us more than we are. He's got you, Mom. It's all fertilizer.”

Perspective on the shit of life. From my 24 year old son.

The bamboo plant only produces seed once in a long human lifetime. So the seeds are rare. And expensive. And for the first year after they’re planted, they appear to have no growth.

They require care, attention, and fertilization for years before they begin to show signs of growing. If the seed is adequately cared for, the growth happens below ground, in the roots. After three to four years the bamboo shaft breaks through the ground and grows 60-90 feet in six weeks.

But this only happens after the bamboo seed has been fortified and strengthened over time. In the ground. In the dark. While the seed grows in ways nobody can see.

“Did the plant grow 90’ in six weeks or in five years?” Elizabeth Smart asked on Sunday. She shared the story to illustrate her personal perspective about the importance of the growth we all experience when it seems like nothing is happening. “It is during the times of trial that we grow our 90 feet”, she said. “I would encourage you to consistently try to give and do your best.”

Perspective on the growth that comes from the dark times. From Elizabeth Smart ...

Jackson, 24.
Elizabeth, 23.

They’re more than half my age. And I learned from them both. Perfect lessons with perfect timing. Because God is good like that. I'm grateful.

It’s my 50th birthday today. It's almost 2:00 in the morning and it's raining. But I wanted to write this.

I wanted to salute the young people in my life I learn so much from and enjoy so thoroughly. And I hope for another 50 years with all of them--learning to frame things differently, receiving unexpected pearls of wisdom from their beautiful hearts and minds.

May we all grow up together.

Happy Birthday, to me. :-)

PS. I promised my dear friend Lori Roadhouse I'd announce the book, Happy Regardless with this 100th post. Just need a publisher. And an audience. And more ideas. And a few writing classes. And people who would buy the book. And a good editor. And...

Details. ;-)

Bring on the birthday trip to Hawaii and me on the beach in a bikini. Frame that. :D

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy #98: Education, education, learning.


Graduation at any age from anything is a victory. Just the ability to push through and finish deserves to be celebrated.

Education is difficult--under the best of circumstances. But for those of us who have struggled to complete our educations (all things considered), the work is worth the sacrifice.

A friend of mine, Randall Mackey (sits on the Utah State Board of Education), has been very supportive of my hope to complete a PhD. Every time we bump into each other, he asks how it's going. And he urges me, in every conversation, not to give up. One time in particular he said to me, "Kathleen, it will do more for you than you can imagine. But it's not the degree that will hold the real value when you're finished. It's who you will have become in the process." His expressed belief in what I'm doing encourages me to finish. Whatever it takes...

Thomas Jefferson said, “To penetrate and dissipate the clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.” And we all know what education does to break the cycle of poverty.

Education and learning are not always the same thing. But in the process of getting an education, we learn. (Though maybe not in the ways we were supposed to about the things we were supposed to...)

And learning is fundamental to progression.

In an effort to share some very inspiring writing about education and learning, I'm including my friend Peggy's recent blog post here. Peggy writes about her experience in trying to finish her own education with honesty, humor, and grace. It moved my daughter and I to tears.

I've shared the link to her blog in other posts. But here it is again. Peg's Blog .

Here's Peggy, and "Get schooled."

I started college in 1979. Oldest of nine children, I went off to Brigham Young University with high hopes, in clothes I had made for myself and with money saved from three summer jobs. The eight kids still at home meant my folks could not help much financially. I worked in the college bookstore, and majored in art. This was a poorly-considered choice, but it took me a year to figure that out. Art was a highly-competitive major, and I was just not that good at it. I chose BYU in the hopes of getting into their song-and-dance group, “The Young Ambassadors”, and when I was not successful at this, I decided to return to Arizona for the summer and regroup.

I secured a full-time custodial job at Arizona State University. As an employee, I could take classes for next to nothing, so stayed at ASU. I took French and Weightlifting. I stayed up too late and could not choose a major. I leaned toward Photo-journalism, although music was my first love. After a year at ASU, I decided the 4pm to midnight custodial job was interfering with my social life, so I quit and enrolled in Mesa Community College. Working my way backwards, high school was sure to be my next stop. Instead, I met a drummer. He had a band. I wanted to be in it, and I wanted him. Going back to high school might have been a better idea. But I was sold. Quit school, sang in bars and hotel lounges for a year, and married my drummer. Six kids and twenty-three years of marriage boot camp later, I graduated from the School of Dwindling Self-Esteem and found myself in a world where that particular education held no earning power. I knew I needed to go back to Real College. I had enrolled in a couple of classes at MCC a year or two before divorce, but that was quickly halted. I was “using too much gas” and “neglecting my duties at home” in this silly pursuit.

While working out the post-divorce financial arrangement, I quickly learned how fast $300 an hour in legal fees adds up, so naively settled for only four years of alimony, in spite of the guideline for a marriage as long as ours being three times higher. Divorce Math 101. I knew my soon-to-be ex would fight me on the higher numbers, and I figured I had a year of school under my belt, so I would be done in three, giving me a full year to secure a job, and then I would no longer be reliant upon a man who hated me for my support. It seemed logical, and it speeded up the process considerably, while eliminating legal costs.

I had no idea that I would have to withdraw from two semesters in a row because I could not keep my youngest son in school. Or that my 15-year-old daughter would require major spinal surgery, and that her father would use this surgery to try and take possession of both her and her younger brother. After two years of not sleeping at night because I dreaded the morning, which usually greeted me with a kicking, screaming, anxiety-ridden child who had to be stuffed into the car by his brothers and then relegated to the Principal’s office where he would kick the walls all day, I finally opted for an online K12 education for him.

I found some irony in the fact that twice I enrolled in Psychology 101, and twice I had to withdraw from that class to deal with the real-world psychological issues taking place in my own home. And this was upper-division stuff. But I got no college credit for it. What I had learned in two decades of raising children was only marketable in the form of child care, so I took a nanny job for a year, working for a very wealthy blended family. This was an education in social class and morals, and did not end well. Again, no college credit.

After four years of trial and error, I have become most creative in the balancing of my real-world education with my academic education, both of which are ongoing. As I have learned to navigate the world of Financial Aid and online possibilities, and also with the help of family and friends, I am finally within a year of securing that elusive Degree. If asked to sum up what I have learned thus far, my answer would have to be that I have learned that no one is ever fully educated. The lessons will continue to come long after the cap and gown have made their walk.

Onward and forward, Pegs. You will finish. :-)