General Conference Book Club Week 11: Elder Ringwood

(Remember that today is the first day of the 12 days of Christmas.  If you’re interested in joining us in a challenge to spread kindness, click here for more information.)

I know the holidays are a really busy time.  Amidst all of it, try to remember this advice we learned in last week’s talk by Sister Matsumori:

“If we provide a still and quiet time each day when we are not bombarded by television, computer, video games, or personal electronic devices, we allow that still, small voice an opportunity to provide personal revelation and to whisper sweet guidance, reassurance, and comfort to us.”

So whether it’s this book club, or time in your scriptures, let’s take the time to replenish our Spirits so we can keep our priorities strong amid all the bustle.  (I slacked off last week and I felt it.)

This week’s talk is called “An Easiness and Willingness to Believe” and was given by Elder Michael T. Ringwood of the Quorum of the Seventy during the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference.  Our lives can become complicated, but the gospel is quite simple; just taking the most simple, basic steps in our daily lives gives us access to the knowledge, blessings and faith we need to wade through all the complications.

“The daily living of the gospel brings a softness of heart needed to have an easiness and willingness to believe the word of God.”

“If you are like me, you will find what really brought an easiness and willingness to believe were not the circumstances but the commitment to live the gospel during [significant] periods of life.”

You can read it here, or watch it here, or listen here.  It’s also on page 100 in the November Ensign.  Share your insights and goals in the comments after reading the talk.  I missed all your voices last week.  (Go here if you’d like more information about this General Conference Book Club.)

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A Christmas challenge: Are you in?

Last night, I read my kids the last chapter of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Grant and I both cried.  And after I tucked them into bed and was doing the dishes, I kept thinking about how I haven’t done much to act out the true meaning of Christmas yet this year.  And my wheels started turning, and I made a plan.  And I love it, so I wanted to invite you to join in.  It’s nothing super original– maybe a twist on two or three different ideas I’ve heard about before all lumped together– but I’m confident it will help me get my Christmas mojo back (can I be honest?  I’ve never really understood that word.), and more importantly, share with others the love of God and the spirit of the season.

So here’s the basic idea:  Random acts of kindness every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. It can be anything. (Hence, “random.”)

Here are a few ideas I threw around in my head:  mailing a Christmas package to someone, paying for the next person’s order in the drive-thru window or swiping my card to pay for a particular someone’s purchase behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store, write a letter or make a phone call to someone who might need it, show up at another tired mom’s house and help her fold laundry or wrap presents, drop off goodies at the house of a grumpy or lonely neighbor, . . .  You get the idea.  No need to spend– just look for an opportunity for kindness and jump on it, whether for a loved one or a stranger.

So I’m going to start on December 13th (this Sunday) and spread some Christmas kindness every day through Christmas Eve.  And I’ll involve my children as much as possible– coming up with ideas, or making something together, or delivering or whatever– so that we can feel the spirit of it as a family.  Anybody want to join me in the challenge?

Here’s a button if you want one.  You can blog about it and invite others, or put it on your sidebar as a reminder, or do whatever works for you.

This post right here can be the gathering place for sharing the joy.  Come back and report each day what you did. (I’ll keep a link on my sidebar here for easy access.) And unless you’re in it for the glory, comment your “reports” anonymously or with initials or a pseudonym or something.  I just think it would be fun to hear about each other’s experiences and rejoice (anonymously) in the whole business of joyful service together. Plus, we can read and then steal ideas.

“In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. ‘It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.’  Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Then each Christmas will be the best Christmas ever.”Thomas S. Monson

I feel more Christmasy already.

p.s.  The reporting back is not necessary, but just helps with three things:  1) accountability/slacker prevention, 2) letting you “tell” someone about something you did that you’re so excited about, but you can still remain anonymous, and 3) sharing service ideas.  There’s no rule about reporting daily, just update us as often as you can or want to.

Technology is not the enemy.

I think the computer age gets a bad rap from people who call themselves “old fashioned” or more personal and sentimental.  I just spent about four days without the internet and, let me tell you, it felt like you old fashioned people would feel if you found out that the Pony Express was on vacation.  With no offense meant to the lovely little warm place I call my home, I felt like I was totally disconnected from the “real world.”* I couldn’t buy tickets to the Christmas play.  I couldn’t book our let-praises-shout-forth-Matt-is-finally-graduating-from-law-school-vacation-celebration reservations.  I couldn’t even look up the phone numbers I needed so I could do it all by phone.  Matt told me to put together emergency kits for the car due to our “Blizzard Warning,” but I couldn’t do a 30-second online research project about what items should be included.  And give me a break, it’s not like I’m going to pack up the kids and go to the library and sort through a card catalog to find an article in a magazine from 1987 about car kits.  (So I just resorted to chocolate, latin music CDs and warm socks– I figure if I’m going to freeze to death on the side of the freeway, I might as well be with the things I love.)  (I’m kidding.  I’m more responsible than that.  I got a blanket and flares.  And once I can get out of my driveway again, I’ll buy some chocolate.)

I’m rambling.  Sorry.

Anyway, my point is:  The internet is good.  Very good.  And it’s not even impersonal.  I mean look at you (a person) reading my blog right now.  And when you (again, a person) comment on my blog, it’s a tidbit of personal interaction that most likely would not exist in my otherwise scraping-oatmeal-off-the-table-and-forcing-antibiotics-down-screaming-throats-and-drying-wet-gloves-by-the-fire kind of day.  It brings unanticipated and pleasant human contact into my day.  Some of my friends that live inside this computer are:

  1. people I met and knew once, but not as well as I would have liked to and yet this virtual world has reunited us and built our friendship stronger,
  2. people with whom I’ve emailed and even phone-called for advice or to share a funny thought, and I consider them real friends even though we’ve never even laid eyes on each other,
  3. other people I’ve never met at all, but feel like if we met up at any given moment at the Cheesecake Factory, we could sit there together for hours laughing and talking (and consuming cheesecake unabashedly) as if we’ve known each other for ages, and
  4. really creepy lurker people who pull up my blog daily just like to look at my profile picture longingly (because who doesn’t fantasize about being a stay-at-home mom with three children who give them adventures like this?  Okay, I admit it, there are some unhealthy sides to virtual networking.  If you happen to belong to this category, please don’t let me know because I’d like to continue sleeping well at night.)

And I do like getting a nice, handwritten note in the mail now and then, but I don’t think email is impersonal unless the author writes impersonally. Grant entered the technology age this week and wrote his very first email.

Hi granpa I am haveing so much fun with granma I miss you this is my frst leter on the compooter you are my favrit granpa from Grant

I think it’s among the top 10 cutest things I’ve seen in my life.  And he was overjoyed when the very next day there was a note back from Grandpa.  So I like technology.  A lot.  And I’d cancel my gym membership, dental cleanings, and insurance on my car before I’d cancel my Internet.  Because I’m such a people person, of course.

(*Disclaimer:  with all due respect to this great talk by Elder Bednar, ” Things As They Really Are,” I know that what matters most is not virtual.  What’s real is what’s important, but I do love getting to know the real people behind the virtual friendships I’ve found through blogging.)

General Conference Book Club Week 10: Sister Matsumori

Okay, back online.  (Insert MoTab singing Hallelujiah Chorus here.)

This week’s talk, Helping Others Recognize the Whisperings of the Spiritwas given by Sister Vicki F. Matsumori during the Saturday morning session of General Conference.  I really liked this talk when I heard it because, as a mother, I feel like this is one of my greatest responsibilities– to teach my kids what to listen to when I’m not around to teach them or influence them.  Anyway, there’s some great stuff in here that reminds me how to teach, but also how to keep myself in line.

“We can help others become more familiar with the promptings of the Spirit when we share our testimony of the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives.”

“One reason we are encouraged to pray and read the scriptures every single day is that both of these activities invite the Spirit into our homes and into the lives of our family members.”

“When we come to understand the whisperings of the Spirit, we will be able to hear Him teach us …”

You can read the talk here, listen to it here, or watch it here.  It’s also on page 70 of the November Ensign.  (Go here for GCBC information.)

Thanks to those of you who already commented about this talk on the previous post.  Rest assured your insights have been read, but feel free to cut and paste them into this post if you want them to be part of the comment thread.

Technical Difficulties

No internet. Kill me now. My modem sounded like the garbage disposal. Probably won’t be online until later in the week. (I’m dictating this post to my sister over the phone.)

General Conference book talk will be, “Helping Others Recognize the Whisperings of the Spirit,” Vicky F. Matsumori (Conference Ensign, page 9).

Hopefully back on-line soon. Have a good week.

If you haven’t laughed yet today …

Here’s your chance.  Either read this or yesterday’s post.  That gives you a choice between laughing at me or laughing at people who are funny on purpose.  (Click on the comics to see them better if the font is too small to read.)

1.  Do you feel like maybe this flu season is out to get you?  Like you have as much chance of surviving it as the dinosaurs did of surviving giant meteors/flood/ice age/whatever it is that squelched their existence?

2. I was an avid dog lover growing up.  I worked for a breeder mucking out dog kennels to earn a puppy of my own.  My kids keep begging me for a pet, but I have less patience for it now.  Dogs are stupid.  And I already have toddlers.

3.  And finally, my favorite.  My husband graduates from law school within the month, assuming he gets his final paper done.  I already told him last night I’m not speaking to him for six months if he doesn’t finish, so hopefully that will work to guarantee his graduation.  In the meantime, this gave me a genius idea of how to generate income to pay off his outrageous students loans that will soon kick in.  I bet you wish you’d thought of it before, too.  I forsee a revolution among us bloggers.

(Credit:  I pulled all these comics off of Yahoo! Comics this week.)

Public shame

When I got home last night with all my children, late enough that Matt actually beat us home, I looked at him as we piled in the door and said, “If ever an outing were worthy of a blog post . . .”

It was kind of like The Beverly Hillbillies Get a Check-up or Family Services Candidates Go to the Doctor or something like that.

Let me back up a little bit.  Natalie has a urinary tract infection.  Again.  On Sunday we took her to Urgent Care when her fever was 105 two hours after taking Motrin.  They put her on an antibiotic, but as of yesterday, she was still running a fever, so my doctor wanted me to bring her in last night.  I gathered up the kids and our overdue library books (to drop off on the way), changed out of my pajamas (yep, at 5:30 p.m.– Don’t judge, I got a lot of laundry done yesterday), and herded everyone to the van.  As I walked past the mirror I realized that I had no make-up on and still had a little bedhead.  Oh well.  Sigh.

We ran our quick errands and made it to the doctor’s office on time.  I obsessively tried to keep my kids from touching everything so they wouldn’t go home with H1N1.  Impossible.  I realized Natalie was wearing a pajama shirt stained with medicine from a previous dosage battle.  Oh well, at least she was wearing regular pants and shoes and jacket.  I zipped it up.

The boys sat in the hall while Natalie and I tried to collect a urine sample.  She peed all over my hand.  Lovely.

Clark has had a messy face since the day he was born. (I joke he’ll have a dirty face in his wedding pictures.)  Today was no execption.  The masterpiece of the day was an artistic blend of pizza and snot.

When we sat down in the exam room, the nurse asked a few questions and left.  It was then that Grant pointed out his shoes to me.  One was a navy blue lace-up tennis shoe and the other was a beige, suede slip-on.  “Grant, WHY do you have two different shoes on?”  “I couldn’t find one of them.”  (Silent eye rolling by me.)

The doctor came in and began to examine Natalie.  When she pulled her hair back to look into her ears, she revealed a large dark blue scribble all over Natalie’s forehead and temple.  “Oh, boy,”  I laughed nervously, “it looks like somebody played with markers today.”

She asked us to wait for a while so she could run some tests.  Grant and Clark both kept passing gas, which they thought was hilarious, but I was disgusted.  I made Clark open the door a little to air out the room because it was gross, and I didn’t want the doctor to have to walk back in to a wall of stench.  I kept getting a whiff of the nastiness and growling at my boys to “Stop it already,” and sometimes they would giggle and sometimes they’d swear it wasn’t them.

When the doctor returned, we discussed her findings, got a new prescription, made arrangements for follow up, and she left.  I helped the kids gather up their books and toys we brought along.  As I started to put on Natalie’s jacket, I had a sudden realization.  “Natalie!!  Did you poop in your underwear??”  She wouldn’t look me in the eye.  Oh.  sweet.  mercy.

We found a bathroom and I remedied things as much as I could.  I shoved a wad of toilet paper in her underwear to sit on in her car seat.  It was now past their bedtime, but we still had to go fill her prescription.

The kids ran back and forth between the massage chair in the pharmacy waiting area and the toy aisle.  I did my best to control them, but eventually gave in and let them chase each other with light-sabers as long as they were kind of quiet and didn’t hurt each other.  Finally I paid for the prescription– get this:  $240.00 after insurance — and we left.

The only redeeming thing about this story is that I called out the manager and asked him to cover up the nasty magazines that were at my children’s eye level.  He was kind and agreed, but I’m sure that deep down inside he wondered how a mother so “concerned” for her children could let them run around with mismatched shoes, markered faces and poop in their pants.  Whatever, man.  I just paid my entire grocery budget on one of your blasted prescriptions.

So that was my evening outing with my children.  How was your day?  Now if you’ll excuse me, I guess I’d better go put up some blinking pink flamingo Christmas lights in my yard or something just to keep our December on a roll.