The Return to Reading

Almost a year ago, I announced that I was beginning to read again now that I’ve emerged from the fog of infant and toddler years. At that time, my readers responded with an insane amount of good book recommendations. I’m happy to report that I have read the following since then (and probably some more that I forgot to record.  I put an asterisk by the ones I enjoyed the most.):

The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother  




















The Help*

Kathryn Stockett

I obviously haven’t made a ton of progress, but I’m ready to really dig in to your suggestions this year. Matt got me a Kindle for Christmas, and I really love it. My favorite thing about it is easy one-handed reading while I’m all tucked in to my bed covers. Anyway, I’ve made a list from your recommendations of 49 books I’d like to read. Do you think it’s possible I can read them all in 2011?! My goal* is to at least start all of them. Despite my undying trust in your taste, I’m a super picky reader and sometimes things turn me off that don’t bother other people. However, I want to at least give them all a chance, even if I decide partway through that they’re not for me. You can click here to see my list of books I want to read, courtesy of YOU.

*by “goal,” I mean I really want to try.  I’m not going to freak out if  I don’t finish the whole list, but I bet I get a lot more read this year just by trying.

Do you have any must-reads to add to the list that you’ve read in the last year?  Keep in mind my picky criteria:  I’m kind of a book prude (hate blatant sexuality, especially sexual violence, or casual coming-of-age experimentation, as well as child abuse or crass language) and I try to steer clear of dark, brooding, or depressing literature (Seriously, I get discouraged for days just from reading sad news headlines).

Some days probably shouldn’t be journaled.

My first clue that today wasn’t going to be great was my Facebook status at 7 a.m.: “I made the mistake of reading the morning news headlines. People are stupid. And now I’m in a bad mood.” Note to self: Don’t do that anymore. It totally sucks the positive energy out of your day. From that point on, everything bugged me. The weather, the Cheerios on the floor, the last-minute scrambles for gloves/coats/boots on the way out the door to the bus, the lame breakfast options, the fact that I live here, and my friends all seem far away (because they ARE), old people shouldn’t be allowed to drive, etc. You get the point —–> Grumpy!

I’ve never struggled with any serious depression or anything (and don’t worry, I don’t credit myself for that other than luck), but I’ve noticed that I do have a lot more “bad days” in the wintertime. Today was one of those. I volunteered at Clark’s school with some very nice people who were kind and helpful, but I still couldn’t shake off the negative energy. So by the time I picked up Natalie from preschool, I could tell I needed to be more proactive about my mood status, so we went to a bakery and I bought a peanut butter brownie. That helped a little, except that there was this woman there who had obviously done so much plastic surgery to herself that she looked awful, and then I started hating the universe again. (I can already tell I’m going to regret this post.) I started having conversations with myself that were half-pathetic and half-existential. “I wonder if everyone in the world is weird, and I’m the only normal one?, or maybe everyone else is normal and I’m just weird?” (Remember I had read bad headlines this morning and I was already mad at those people.) So in a moment of self-pity, I said to Natalie, who was happily munching her cupcake, “Natalie, are you glad I’m your mommy?” She quickly replied, “I like daddy.” “I know you like daddy, but are you glad I’m your mommy?” She kept her head still but pointed her eyeballs up at the ceiling, “N-O, no.” She said something like, “Alright, alright, I’m just kidding…. yeeesss,” but overall, my trip to the bakery wasn’t that helpful either.

My next attempt at improvement was a little less stellar, but overall more effective.  When we got back to the house, I stuck “Olivia Takes Ballet” in the DVD player and selected “Play All.”  I told Natalie I was going to go lie down, and I did.  I quickly dozed off (Oh, how I love a nap!) and slept for about 40 minutes.  I heard Clark come home from school and I opened my eyes and knew I needed to get up and face the music.  (Music is a code word for a chaotic blend of snacks, chores, homework, squabbling, and other kid-induced discomfort.) I stared out the window for a minute and my eyes fell on my scriptures on the bedside table.  I thought, “Maybe I should read my five pages now instead of waiting until bedtime.”  It helped a lot.  I read about Lehi’s dream and how he found himself in a “dark and dreary world,” and I thought about how it really is dark and dreary sometimes, but then he prayed to the Lord and pleaded for mercy and was brought out of that darkness into a spacious field where he could see the Tree of Life and find his way to the joy that it offered.  So I thought about how we don’t have to get stuck in that dreary part or get tricked into thinking that’s all there is because the Lord can help us find bright open spots with a better view and blessings in sight.  By that time, Grant was home from school, too, and Clark burst in the room yelling about something, so I still have one page left to finish tonight.  And that’s pretty much when my day started over.  Thank goodness.

So I’m going to try to think of a bright, spacious field with a glowy, shiny tree full of joy-fruit the next time things seem dark and dreary, which happens sometimes in the winter. Peanut butter brownies, naps, and exotic beachfront getaways are nice, too.  Two out of three ‘aint bad.

Confession and Resolution: Scriptures

(For the record, my family scripture study has never looked like this picture … too much smiling, too few injuries … but it’s a cute picture anyway.  A happy piece of fiction to strive for.)

My readers are geniuses.  Obviously.  So I love it when I vent, and you come back with two really really important things:  empathy and ideas.  I’ve noticed that Annie and I are alike in one thing in particular.  When we’re not happy with the way something is going, we both come up with big plans/programs/routines/systems/control-freak-type-mind-control-over-our-children-or-marriage-or-weight (or whatever the issue at hand is) efforts.  So her comment on my boo-hoo post about post-holiday detox knocked me back into my real self again:

“Thankfully, they do make Christmas rehab. It’s called New Year’s Resolutions.”

Of course.  That’s what I do.  I’ve got to break down our “issues” one by one and make plans to remedy them.  First up to bat:  Scriptures.  Over the holiday season, our scripture study fell through the cracks.  I realize this is ridiculously ironic since Christmas time is, you know, all scripturey and stuff.  We did lots of random nativity-related verses and studying, but we lost the routine, the habit…  and frankly, as it’s obvious now, we lost the blessings.

So, tonight for family home evening, we’re going to revisit the importance of scripture study and decide as a family how to best tackle this needed element of our family routine.  I have to come to a discussion like this with a few ideas already in place or we’ll end up discussing ad nauseum things like, “can we have refreshments every time we read scriptures?” and “When are we having another family movie night?” or “Did I tell you that I scored all the points at basketball practice last week?.”  Since a family changes as children grow, I’m thinking that our scripture study needs to be constantly adapting to meet reading levels, individual children’s needs, etc.  My proposal will be this:  We’re going to do scripture study as a family divided.  That may sound counter-intuitive, but I think it will work.  At bedtime, Either Matt or I will go with Grant (who just turned 8 and will be baptised very soon) and let him read one page out of the Book of Mormon.  We’ll discuss for clarity.  The other will go with Clark and Natalie, and Clark can read to Natalie out of the illustrated Scripture Stories.  (Really, if you have preschoolers or early readers and don’t have these, you NEED them.)  Then we can articulate the main message/lesson from the story we read and bear testimony of those principles.  And we are going to do it EVERY. NIGHT. (Within reason.  Sometimes they fall asleep in the car or one of us has an evening commitment, but I want these exceptions to be RARE.)

Anyway.  Here are the quotes I found to talk about tonight:

One of the best ways to draw near unto Him and to both learn about and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ is to consistently study the holy scriptures—to daily “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Ne. 32:3).     –Elder David A. Bednar

We encourage everyone to make careful study of the scriptures … and to prayerfully seek personal revelation to know their meaning for themselves.  – Elder Dallin H. Oaks

I promise you … that if you will study the scriptures diligently, your power to avoid temptation and to receive direction of the Holy Ghost in all you do will be increased.  — President Thomas S. Monson

There are powerful moments of communication through regular family prayer and through family scripture study. The scriptures will help define family values and goals, and talking together about them will assist family members to learn to become individually secure, spiritually strong, and self-reliant.  – Elder M. Russell Ballard

I printed them out and cut them out and we’ll read them, and hang them up on the wall next to this picture as a reminder of our commitment to our new goals.

And also?  Ahem. I’ve decided that I, personally, am going to take up Jocelyn on her challenge and read 5 pages of the Book of Mormon a day.  Starting today.  According to her calculations, this means I will finish it by Easter.  I need to do it.  Anyone want to join us?

I’m sure many of you have your own ideas of what/how/when to do scripture study.  Feel free to share them in the comments below because it’s always helpful to get new ideas.

GCBC Week 16: The Holy Ghost–Receiving Revelation

This week we are studying two really great talks. Elder Jensen and Elder Bednar both spoke about the Holy Ghost and I thought it might be really insightful to study them together.

The Holy Ghost and Revelation
Elder Jay E. Jensen
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

Receive the Holy Ghost
David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

How about you? What are your favorite moments or quotes from these talks?  Is there anything you learned here that you had not considered before?  What stood out to you as you studied it?  And, most importantly, what did it make you feel or want to do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(If this is your first time to General Conference Book Club, click here to learn more about it.)

Post-holiday detox

Isn’t Christmastime lovely?  And doesn’t winter really stink once Christmas is over?

Here are a few myths that are planted in children’s minds during a holiday vacation that are very hard (yea, even painful) to extract once the holiday is over:

1.  Everytime you turn around you will have a new present.  (Before you judge my parenting, please know that while I am a contributor to this and the other myths, it’s not all my fault.  There are generous family and friends everywhere, and things just get out of control!)

2.  You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want it, and candy for breakfast is fine.

3. We will spend our days thinking of fun things to do together.

4.  All chores and routines are pretty much out the window.

5.  There are lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other loved ones available anytime you want to play a game or otherwise need assistance.

I’m sure there are other myths too (feel free to add your own to the list), but these are the ones that haunt me the most now that we’re back to real life.

My children are convinced that I am the Grinch, Scrooge, and the Snow Witch combined because I will not let their mythical expectations continue unchecked.  It’s like they’ve completely forgotten how to put clothes in the hamper, clear their dishes, put everything they need in their backpacks every day, do chores and homework, entertain themselves, OBEY, and speak to me without complaining about how unfair their life is.

Someone tell me this will get better soon because I’m thinking about canceling the holidays next year.  Do they make Christmas rehab?