Friday, May 28, 2010

Encouragement: the process of inspiring others to live with greater hope and courage

If I have a choice (and I do) between being a dream stealer or an encourager, I choose the latter. Given the far-reaching consequences of discouraging someone through one’s pathologically critical nature, I hope I never have the label attributed to me.

I am grateful to the people in my life who have expressed their love to me through encouragement. Their positive push, smile, optimism and hope have made a huge difference in my life. The “you can do it, Candy” when things are tough has kept me on course. I owe so much of my own personal resilience to the encouraging words of my parents (along with others) and when my courage fails me I pull from the past and remember their words.

The world is so full of dream stealers. Those who chase, drive or beat out of us our dreams. Like the evil Dementors in Harry Potter, they suck the spirit of peace, hope and happiness and drain it out of their victims.

I admit to having been like a Dementor at times, sucking life and energy out of people and events by my negative attitude. It’s interesting and applicable that in Harry’s world the only way to resist the Dementors is to completely fill yourself with your very best memory. Hopefully those memories for all of us include recalling words of encouragement. Because encouraging words can turn peoples lives around for the good, they can help us stand up to the Dementors, those crazy, mean chronic criticizers who wound and suck all of our courage and joy.

Living a ‘demented’ life, it’s not good. Kenzie introduced me to John Gottman when she studied him extensively at BYU. Gottman is a researcher who has worked in the area of marriages but his findings make sense for families and all relationships as well. He found that there is a number of criticisms compared to praises beyond which a marriage crumbles, and that number is one (1) criticism to five (5) praises. That's right. The minimum to keep a marriage off the rocks is 1 bad:5 good.

Here’s the thing: 1 bad remark for every four good ones is still not that great. And surely, if a marriage must have at least five positives for every negative, then the growing souls of young children, so dependent on the positive regard of their parents must have more.

Given what we know, through social science research and the gospel of Jesus Christ, I can’t really see a place for being critical instead of encouraging, or of being harsh instead of kind. Seems relationships work best when we are gentle with one another.

Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better? Take the time to close your eyes and remember a recent time (or a time during your childhood) when someone tried to motivate you to do better by trying to make you feel bad. Remember exactly what happened. Get in touch with how you felt. Be aware of what you were deciding about yourself, about the other person, and about what to do in the future (even though, most likely, you were not aware that you were making decisions at the time). Did you feel motivated to do better? If so, was it a good feeling?
Or was it based on negative feelings about yourself or the other person? Did you feel motivated to give up or to cover up so you could avoid future humiliation?...Children do not develop positive characteristics based on the feelings and subconscious decisions they make as a result of punishment”

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson, Ed.D

Encouragement. Working along beside. Rooting for one another. It’s the best way to show our love. It’s the Savior’s way. Being a dementor, or a dream stealer of anyone is not something I want to be.
Another quote then:

I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.

Charles Schwab

I'll be working harder on this.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

friday pics

For Mother’s day ld gave me a new Canon EOS. Yup, I have joined the ranks of every other blogger in the universe who thinks they are a photographer as opposed to my lovely nieces who really are. They are phenomenal professional photographers. I am not.

Yes, I make no pretenses in knowing what I am doing. And until I can take Chea’s workshop, I’m on my own. Yesterday Kenz and her fam consented to be my subjects.

I can’t take credit for the color scheme. Kenz chose it, she did a great job, eh?

In this photo I tried to set the mood. I asked Brig to look ‘through the camera’ like he was looking 300 miles away. (Tip courtesy of America’s Next Top Model, he he he)

Timeless. I told them to look timeless. As opposed to trendy.

Conduct a searing soul search, guys. Only Maddie takes me at my word.

In this one I told them to contemplate the qualities of wind.

I told Kenz to look all Mona Lisa like:

In this one I told Cate to pretend to be an ice cream cone and melt.

Great fun searching my subjects soul. They dug deep.

More pics to follow. If I show progress as a photographer ld has promised me another lens.

Friday, May 21, 2010

brotherly love

Yesterday I needed a favor. Quick. A really big favor, one involving trust. As has happened so many times in my life, I turned to one of my brothers. Without hesitation, he responded.

My brothers have always been there for me. Always.

From Time Magazine:
Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life. "Siblings," says family psychologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, Davis, "are with us for the whole journey."

This, too:
Sibling relationships - and 80 percent of Americans have at least one - outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust.
-Erica E. Goode, "The Secret World of Siblings," U.S. News & World Report, 10 January 1994

Never any distrust here.
I get all teary thinking about how much I love my brothers.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

disciplined faith

Anne Lamott remains a favorite. From her book entitled Bird by Bird:

Thirty years ago, my older brother who was ten years old at the time was trying to get a report on birds done that he'd had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and unopened books on birds. Immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'

I am faced with several big projects this summer. Some personal, some church calling related, all self-initiated. And all involving creativity and making it up as I go. I have set the bar overwhelmingly high. Given my tendency to get side-tracked and procrastinate you see my reality. Plus work infused with creativity is extremely hard. A desire to solve a problem or see something in a new light can move us into a state of uncertainty. And then here come the voices of anxiety, judgment, and sometimes doom. You sense a creative possibility, but aren’t sure about where to go with it, how to proceed, what approach to take.

Another Anne quote then:

The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world.

Yup. The only way really to proceed with any project, assignment or challenge that lies before us.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

If you say you understand something, then you can explain what you understand to others. Anything short of that is deception, not understanding.

A most interesting article. Go read, go read:

...the most stunning finding to come out of education research in the past decade: more than any other variable in education—more than schools or curriculum—teachers matter.

Parents have always worried about where to send their children to school; but the school, statistically speaking, does not matter as much as which adult stands in front of their children. Teacher quality tends to vary more within schools—even supposedly good schools—than among schools

Interesting because Kenz and I have been discussing lately this very subject. It’s inevitable if you have kids and realize you are responsible for educating them the topic is going to come up.

Teachers matter. And we are reminded of this when we run across a really good one.

The RS lesson Sunday in our BYU ward was taught by a lovely girl, a recently returned missionary of 4 months. She’s sweet and quietly confident and has excellent teaching skills. In fact, I have seldom seen better.
Reflecting on her lesson has me thinking again about what makes a great teacher and why some have it and some don’t. To be sure gospel teaching is different in many ways from secular teaching. There is the Spirit factor.

Still methods and ability to connect to others is essential to both, I think. The reason for this is that great teaching is only great if great learning takes place. So a great teacher must have a method that actually gets through to the learner at an unexpected level.

Mastery of subject, discipline in preparation, presentation and conclusion, doctrinally correct and filled with the spirit. Check.
Continually evaluating one’s own teaching methods and technique. Check.
Able to connect, makes the subject matter relevant. Check.
Causes you to think. Check.

I still think my own mother, a teacher extraordinaire in her own right, said it best:

You teach what you are.

Monday, May 17, 2010

play is the work of childhood

Cate has taken to dramatic play in a big way. She shops and cooks and nurses her baby and is a strict piano teacher. Real strict. You don’t want to get in the way of her pointer stick.

Today I took her back to Blythe. To my house on 5th Street.

She hollers for Maddie to come and play.

The lady of the house graciously invites me in.

Hey, I can see you out my window, too. Great fun.

Time to grocery shop.

Do you need anything at the store, Grandy? Oh yes. I would like some bread. Oh-tay.

Wheeling out the groceries. It's hard wert. (work:)

My Cate reminds me that:
We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are at play.
-- Charles Schaefer

Playing with her is the highlight of my day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better. --Maya Angelou

The organist in our new ward doesn't play the pedals at all. I miss the added richness and depth. She also plays the organ like a piano, no organ technique at all. You can hear it when she plays. I am not dissing her. Her willingness to step up and serve is nothing but admirable. It's just that our last student ward spoiled us, the kids were unbelievably musical and well trained.

After hearing our new organist struggle I thought I would pass along to her the following links. Still working on how to subtly do that.
No excuse now.

There is never any shame in not knowing something once. We've all been there. But to remain in ignorance, when shown a better way, what a sad waste.

On second thought, I don't think I'll be saying anything to this young sister at all. My own mediocre and inadequate performances in so many areas shock me back to reality. Where do I get off, eh?

If she asks, then I'll gladly share.

Oh. Have a listen to what is dubbed the world's best organist. Listen clear to the end. This just cracks me up.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I put together and gave my girls this little homemade mommy planner for Mother’s day and filled it with lists, schedules, resources, calendars and anything else I could think of to help them in the day to day trench work that is mothering. It’s a work in process and I plan on adding to it as I think of new lists and websites. He he he.

It includes:
* Health charts and records (like immunizations and baby teeth chart)
* Sample baby feeding charting, baby sitter chart,
* Phone directory – family & emergency numbers
* An exhaustive list of items needed for baby and nursery
* How to stock a diaper bag
* Reading lists for baby and toddler, check off chart of books read
* Info sheets on how to read to a baby
* Monthly calendar to record illnesses, cute things they do or say, appointments,
* List of field trips to take
* List of resources like: websites/books on parenting and mothering, etc.

I plan on adding:
* Preschool themes/lesson outlines
* FHE for toddlers ideas
* List of Age appropriate development
* List of age appropriate toys
* List of daily nutritional needs and portions for toddlers (Laugh if you will, but my mom once typed this up and posted it up on my fridge when JLW was a toddler. I think it was a subtle reminder that I should be feeding him an egg in the morning instead of doughnuts)
* Gift giving record
* And a ton of other stuff
(Go ahead and think it. I am obsessed).

Mothering can be overwhelming. I want to help my girls get a handle on it, because once they do, then maybe they’ll see that being a great mom isn’t so much hard as it’s just time. It all takes time. Lots and lots of time. And careful thought. And commitment. And knowledge.
It requires the best you can bring to it.

I also included some quotes I love. A couple being especially meaningful to me:

… we can glut ourselves with how to raise children information and we can strive to become more mature and aware but none of this will spare us from the inevitability that sometime we are going to fail our children. Because there is a big gap between knowing and doing. Because mature, aware people are imperfect too. Or because some current event in our life may so absorb or depress us that when our children need us we cannot come through. Facing fallibility as mothers and as fathers is another of our necessary losses.
Judith Viorst, from her book Necessary Losses

and this:
We will have to give up the hope that, if we try hard, we somehow will always do right by our children. The connection is imperfect. We will sometimes do wrong.

This knowledge of our fallibility, our imperfections, it’s important to remember in our mothering. Because without recognizing this how can we access the Savior’s atonement? Yes, the Atonement reaches even into our family relationships, we need it then, too. It can heal and make whole what our own imperfect parenting could not do.

So, we do all we can with our schedules and charts and worrying about our kids psyches. We read to them and help them develop good habits and build memories. We take seriously the charge that they be ‘fed, educated and exalted’.

But even then we are going to fall short. It’s a given. Mercifully and thankfully, the doctrine of the Atonement applies to our family life as well.

And although we are given no manuals with each child, we are promised help:

“When you have come to the Lord in meekness and lowliness of heart and, as one mother said, “pounded on the doors of heaven to ask for, to plead for, to demand guidance and wisdom and help for this wondrous task,” that door is thrown open to provide you the influence and the help of all eternity. Claim the promises of the Savior of the world. Ask for the healing balm of the Atonement for whatever may be troubling you or your children. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.

You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you... Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be.

Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘Because She Is a Mother’,” Ensign, May 1997, 35

My daughters are /will soon be terrific mothers. They bring to it their all and it’s very sweet to see.

I am one thankful mother. Thankful that my children, sons in law and grandchildren are in my life. I haven’t done it perfectly or even well sometimes, but I love, love them.

I am the luckiest.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Late Monday night I finally got around to watching this:

Yup. A very accessible and modern dress version of Hamlet. I have been urging my girls (and everyone else, too) to run over to their website and watch. 'Kenz and I saw Hamlet a couple years ago down at the SF but this newer adaptation builds on the previous. Go watch, go watch. (Just make sure you can block out the time. It's long).

I'm curious to know what you all think about the David Tennant performance, he's intense and frenzied to be sure. A fascinating performance. And Patrick Stewart (Jean Luc Picard) as Claudius never disappoints.

Ah, and then Ophelia. She has long been a character that interests me.

Years ago when my girls were just entering adolescence I read the popular and insightful Reviving Ophelia (required reading for Mothers of teen daughters). So named for Hamlet's famous love who killed herself because the world was too overwhelming for her. And because she did not know how to be accountable. The book addresses the hazards of young women growing up in a superficial society.
"You all die at 15." Chap. 1, p. 19
"Young girls slowly bury their childhood, put away their independent and imperious selves and submissively enter adult existence." Chap. 1, p. 21

"Girls stop being and start seeming." Chap. 1, p. 22

"The world tells us what we are to be and shapes us by the ends it sets before us. To men it says, work. To us, it says, seem. The less a woman has in her head the lighter she is for carrying." Chap. 1, p. 22

But now as I revisit the character Ophelia the less I view her 'syndrome' as entirely gender specific. To me it's all about the pain of becoming accountable for our thoughts, actions, life and very being. The problem with Ophelia is that she is utterly devoid of insights and content to remain so.

Read this and see what you think:
(Diagnosing and Treating THE OPHELIA SYNDROME by Thomas G. Plummer, BYU TODAY, Sept 1989)

All this would make for interesting and delightful Mother's day dinner table conversation, no?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

she can guzzle a gallon

I asked JLW to fix Cate a bottle of milk. He went off about how he’s 'never seen a kid drink more milk'.

All the while Cate is chanting in the background, “more mulk, more mulk, PEASE!”

JLW reluctantly complies.

He comes out to the living room and plops this in front of Cate:

“Here, big baby.” He chuckles.

NannyJanny. He’s a funny guy.

recent haps

Been away from the computer the past couple of weeks. Been busy doing fun stuff, like:

• Celebrating Kody’s BYU graduation. So proud of you, Kodison!

• Attending Bloomsbury. (Lacy rocks!)

• Frequenting Happy Hour at Sonic (drinks half off from 2pm-4pm, recommend the lime)

• Meeting and greeting new students in our ward

• Sewing Maddie’s blessing dress.

See, my life isn’t all surfing and cyberspace. I do other stuff, too.