Monday, May 30, 2011

Manners matter most because they show love.

Yesterday found me back in my home ward teaching a combined YW/YM lesson on manners.

They are a bunch of good kids, 5 of them my piano students even. Hard to imagine any of them being guilty of burping in public, but hey, we were all young once.

We did some role -playing and had a good discussion. They know manners are important, it’s just sometimes we forget that at their root is a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.*

Which is why we don’t smack our lips, lick our fingers, or belch. We don’t chew with our mouth open, because others don’t want to see. We don’t put our elbows on the table, because it crowds others. We don’t burp out loud because it is unappetizing. We don’t take the biggest piece or take the biggest helping because it leaves nothing for others.
(Do you get the theme here? It’s about not offending others. )

Some think manners are a list of do’s and don’ts society has constructed to be all hoity-toity, but that’s not the point at all. We learn and practice table and social manners because it’s the kind thing to do. It’s Christ-like. The goal, always, is to consider others.

I think most of us are ill-mannered and rude not out of meanness but most likely out of cluelessness. But ignorance in protocol and respect can be quite costly. When you consider that good manners foster good will it’s risky to not read the social cues and behave accordingly. It makes people, well, not like you so much.

The discussion outline, then:

1. We can show respect/disrespect for Deity, People, Places, & Things

• People (God, Elderly, Peers, Parents, Teachers, Adults, Races, Children, Handicapped, etc)
• Places (Home, Cultural Events, School, Churches, Temples, etc)
• Things (Rules, Societal norms, Private Property, Ideas, etc)
• Respect for the Sacred
• Other

2. We show respect/disrespect through Words, Actions & Attitudes
Examples of disrespect:
• Making fun of, humor at another’s expense, teasing
• Name calling, put downs, sarcasm, gossiping, yelling, verbal abuse
• Casualness, inattentiveness, sloppiness, ignoring
• Hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, physical abuse of any kind
• Line cutting, talking on cell phone /texting inappropriately
• Talking when social situation requires silence, interrupting, dominating conversation
• Bad manners in social situations, ungentlemanly/unladylike behavior, rude/crude behavior
• Lack of self- control, inappropriate behavior, etc
• Not being loyal to those not there, talking behind their back
• Other

3. Reasons why we might show disrespect:

• Rationalize (think they don’t reserve respect)
• Ignorance (not aware of cultural norms, lack of social skills, not knowing what’s appropriate to the moment, being raised in a barn☺ etc)
• Self-centeredness (me, me, me!, impulsiveness, lack of self control, etc)
• Inexperience (being young and not having been in society or social situations much, insecurity, etc)
• Power/ Revenge (we want to feel in control or get back at others)
• Cruelty – (we like being mean, we lack empathy, etc)
• Other

We all, young and old, would like to become gracious and refined, I think. It is a natural fruit of the spirit. But we have to practice and rein in our behavior until thoughtfulness towards others becomes second nature and part of who are.

But forced or stiff manners, that’s no good either. Think Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. Ugh. No, courtesy, good manners, graciousness is best when it is least obvious. If our behavior comes from the heart and a genuine concern for the well being of others then the rest will follow.

Don’t know how much the youth got from this lesson, but it was a needed reminder for me. There’s a lot I need to work on.

The YW/YM did give me chocolate as a thank you. I graciously and politely accepted.

*"Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."
—Emily Post
A good place to brush up on the rules:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

1 Cor. 15:22

Yesterday was the funeral of one of our former BYU ward members. Maybe you read about it:

He was an amazing kid and it was a sad funeral. Due to unusual circumstances, Ld conducted the services held here in Utah. We were also responsible for providing the funeral dinner for 200 people. Two other sisters (amazing and wonderful women) and I shopped, cooked, served and cleaned up. I have never been more happy to help.

Elder Lund, representing the church and general authorities, spoke. So did Ld.

Hard to understand when a young missionary is taken. But, as ld said in his remarks,

...there is a special kind of strength that comes when grief is shared. And though deprived and separated for a season from Ben's physical presence, grief will not get the last word.

...there is is indeed strength and peace beyond our tears...

...and in the coming days and years as we move through life, we will feel the consolation of doctrine and of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has promised us that.

This sweet missionarys family is counting on that. We all are.

Monday, May 23, 2011

pointing the finger at myself

Arrogance and conceit. So easy to recognize in others but so very hard to see in ourselves. We notice those who strut, or pose, or sputter loudly. In their mind it passes for self-confidence.

But when does self-confidence, high self-esteem even, morph into that great sin Pride? Where do you draw the line? It's not always clear, but if the line is so blurry perhaps it is best to stay miles away.

I’m inclined to think so. Cultivating a humility mindset is the scriptural antidote. Because humility, true and authentic humility, fosters quiet confidence. But not so much in ourselves, rather, ‘we know in whom we trust’ (2 Ne 4:19)

A lot to think about. And then here, some reading today that intersects:

As I sift and weigh his argument that self-esteem is crap, this stands out:

…those who recognize their weakness and respond in faith, are the ones the scriptures focus on. The scriptures seem to assume that at some point everyone will discover that he or she is inadequate. I think they tell us that at some point everyone will lose confidence. At that point, the choices are despair and faith. Being reduced to despair may be exactly what we need in order to see that choice. As a result, though it may give us the appearance of mental and spiritual health, by postponing the choice between despair and faith, self-confidence built on an image of oneself probably will harm us, leading us to believe there is an alternative to trusting in God, namely trusting in ourselves. Such self-confidence may well hurt us spiritually by allowing us to continue to trust in the arm of flesh.

Ironically, since by definition an image is not the real thing, the self placed at the center when one is concerned about self-image isn’t even a real self. (This is a corollary of the fact that love is necessarily of something other than ourselves: love of self is love of something that is not really our self.) Those in the world who advocate self-image ask us to leave reality in order to concentrate on a fantasy, a positive fantasy to be sure, but a fantasy nonetheless. The self we love in any form of selfishness is an imaginary, not a real self--even if that selfishness, like self- image and Positive Mental Attitude “psychology,” is one our culture and its leaders and teachers approve of.

Advocates of self-esteem will say that such an image is, perhaps, a fantasy, but it is also a goal, something the person can look to which will determine what he will be and how he will perform. But the scriptures seem to me to say that what determines what a person will be, with the Lord’s help, and how she will perform is how much a person ceases to think about herself, how lost she becomes in the work, how much she becomes like a little child, unconcerned about herself as she goes about her Father’s business, not how much she has paid attention to herself, as a goal or otherwise. As a friend of mine said, “It is dangerous to think too much about ourselves. Of all subjects, that’s the one we are the most liable to be biased about.” What the scriptures demand is humility, not self-esteem.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

better to make a mistake than to do nothing

ld downloaded Better by Mistake* for me on my Ipad. It's been a good companion to my head cold today. Also, fits into January's reading of Outliers** well. Then again so does this (see link)

Great article about Carol S. Dweck's research on fixed versus growth mindsets. The gist: even geniuses work hard.

Here, the visuals make it more clear. Love this pdf:

The more we read the more connections, synthesis and synchronicity we see. Giving rise to a lot of aha's!, hmm's, and interesting. Love those.

*by Alina Tugend
** by Malcolm Gladwell

Monday, May 16, 2011

happy birthday mom

Just a few rambly vignettes and thoughts today. Do you remember this about Mother?

*She loved chocolate and a scoop of ice cream in a cantaloupe half.

*She had a crazy thing going for paint. She would wake up one morning and decide to paint over furniture, picture frames, walls, etc. She did this often. I think she just got bored looking at the 'same old' and was her attempt to spice things up.

*She was a woman of high energy. Always had a project going. And worked in a kind of frenzied way, so much so that when it was over she usually crashed. Then rested. Until the next project.

*Had an over-the-top love for her kids. Despite all clear evidence and whether we deserved it or not, she thought we were wonderful.

*At age 32 and with 5 children, she went back to school to finish her degree. Took community courses at PVC and eventually finished up at University of Arizona. Oh, the memory of those summers in Tucson.

*She could be feisty, fiery, but never mean. Sometimes emotional, true. But very kind hearted. And a giver, a real giver. Often at great cost to herself.

*She was hugely creative and went in phases: One summer she got a wild hair to take up sewing. She claimed that she had always felt bad that Grandma Arnett was such a wonderful seamstress and she not so much. Never mind that she didn’t actually enjoy sewing. So to prove to herself (and to Dad) she bought fabric and sewed something nearly everyday. I was the grateful beneficiary of this craze and every Sunday sported a new dress and I had more skirts and culottes (they were the sytle then) than I any girl I know. And she too had a new dress a week. And then suddenly she packed up the fabric and was done. On to something else.

*She was a curious person and wanted new experiences. And had a sense of always striving to be better, to learn, to grow.

*She was a bird watcher and card carrying member of Blythe intelligentsia. :)

*She sang beautifully.

*She had an eye for beauty and style. She was herself a beautiful woman. She loved makeup and dressing up. And she had a mild obsession with footwear. Dad said when he married her she had four barrels of shoes.

Remarkable and endearing in so many ways.

*St. David, Arizona and Blythe, California were not exactly hotbeds of culture and refinement or of anything really. Bleak and dreary, although my dad maintained they had their own kind of beauty and attraction. But the life she carved out for herself out of those obscure and desolate places was one of strength and resilience because she never gave in to her environment. She always had hope and faith. And was motivated by ideas, grand ideas. People, from school or church, would drop by our house just to have a gospel discussion or a political chat with her. I thought this was perfectly normal.

She loved the gospel and loved talking about it. The ideas and doctrine fascinated her and she was good at sharing it with others.

*As she grew and matured in life she went beyond the churchy-surfacy. She tried, really tried, to internalize Christ-like attributes. I think she grew to have a great understanding of forgiveness and faith. In fact, her example of living out these two traits is sort of the over arching theme of her life.

She taught me that what is said is important and so is what is not said:
I have my mothers journals. And they are priceless. They document the growth of a woman who has matured in gospel living. You can see her struggles in her journal pages. There are, here and there, a handful of pages ripped out at a time. Someone had offended her, or she was hurt, and torn up so mother used her journal to vent and work through her thoughts. And then after struggle and prayer, she decided to forgive. And she didn’t want those pages to stand, because she had moved on. And she didn’t want others to be hurt by what she was feeling at the time, a little mercy was required. I know this because she told me. She said to me, " Even the Lord doesn't judge us until this life is over because there is more to life and a person than our very worst moment. A person can change and grow". Those ripped out pages speak volumes to me.

And her faith. If she was anything, she was a woman of faith. She believed, even when she wasn't always sure, and she lived out her faith with optimism and hope.

Oh I know you are thinking in her death and absence I am making her sound perfect. Nope. She would be the first to dispel that notion. But I will say this, or rather leave you with the words of King Arthur, when Pellinor asks him 'who was that'?

King Arthur: One of what we all are Pelli. Less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. But it seems that some of the drops sparkle, Pelli. Some of them do sparkle!
-From the play, Camelot

Saturday, May 14, 2011

higher, higher. push me higher.

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing? 

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!

--Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894 )

I"m not so old that I can't remember the joy and freedom I felt while swinging.

Must be why I like my rocking chair so much, they are similar. Sort of.

Friday, May 13, 2011

more jlw & eileen :)

For obvious reasons I have an intense curiosity in learning more about Chinese culture. I have been learning a lot here:;jsessionid=IFBFJMBNNKCL

The course is taught by two energetic and lively professors. Fascinating stuff, not boring at all, but granted I have a vested interest.

P.S. It is not true that you can see the Great Wall from space.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

black profile portraiture

Made from black foam board from All-a-Dollar and since Cate and I used up all the watercolor paper on previous crafting, I resorted to using old sheet music. Oh, and I borrowed some black paint from Megs. I finished them during the RS lesson Sunday (yeah, really I am just that bad) and gave them to Keny & Megs for Mother's Day. I'll be making more, there are things I would do differently and things I would add. But seriously, silhouettes, the contrast, the outlines, the shadows, appeal to and fascinate me. They are a definite pinterest:)

Monday, May 9, 2011

more pics

Riding buses, cooking, eating & chilling with lots of fam. Word is he's having a great time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

meaningful mothers day msning and texting

Today, from my spawn:

from JLW (a private joke): Hey 'lil kid mommy

from Bird: happy mothers day mom i love you more than air and a big truck.

from Megs: Happy mothers day! E. D. S. H. A. M. L. Y.

Man, I love these little bugger kidlets.

i like the flowers and the dinners and the chocolate

I don’t share quite the same sentiments as many do about mothers day, that they hate the day because they feel quilty, never able to measure up to the accolades and stories of self sacrificing mothers in talks and lessons in church.

I have felt this way before but as the years pass less so.

Mothers day is what it is. A contrived and hallmarky day that can’t possibly speak to us all.

So what.

I take my meaning from it simply that I am glad to be a mother. I love my chilluns and count myself lucky for the experience.

Have I been and am I a perfect mother? Are you kidding?

I tried. I really tried. But I was so ignorant and fallible.

This mothering thing. No one does it perfectly, in spite of the fact that todays culture has professionalized* it and made it into a performance art. It's not ladies, it's really not. It's a relationship above all else and there are as many ways to be a good mother as there are people.

Mothering, long term mothering that is, does confer a sort of wisdom to us, though. But only if we've been paying attention through the years.

Amy Tan, in The Joy Luck Club writes of listening to her mother's pearls of wisdom:

She said that if I listened to her, later I would know what she knew: where true words came from, always from up high, above everything else. And if I didn't listen to her, she said my ear would bend too easily to other people, all saying words that had no lasting meaning, because they came from the bottom of their hearts, where their own desires lived, a place where I could not belong.

The wisdom of motherhood. Oh, Mom. I miss you.

Some interesting reads, then. And no I'm not linking to Tiger mother Amy Chua. No, today should be for gentler (and more random) reading.

Measuring Mothering by Rebecca Kukla

Those mormon mommy blogs, they are addictive.

The original article that started all the chatter.

And then this. What do you think? Let's discuss.

Anna Quindlen. Her Newsweek article. She's written several good things about mommyhood. Elder Ballard even quoted her once in a general conference talk. How's that for legitimacy? he he he
*The professionalization of Motherhood. Interesting, too. See: Flown Away, Left Behind by Anna Quindlen NEWSWEEK, SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 2004

And simply because I have always loved this song, especially the last verses. It speaks to the ideal, I know, which oddly enough I cling to. It tears me up everytime.

A mother's words teach children righteous living,
And her example leads them to the light.
She speaks the words of truth, that guide their tender youth,
And point the course they take throughout their life.

A mother's life reflects itself in our life,
Her ways of living are engrained in ours.
And through the changing years, and days of joy and tears.

Her love will lead us on,
Her words will point the course,
Her hands will lift us up,
To God.

(words and music by Steven Jones)

Oh, I don't know how to format this to fit my blog space. Just go to link below if it doesn't show up. Sorry, I'm so tech lousy.

Friday, May 6, 2011

character ed

I saved this years ago thinking it gave some pretty great direction on raising charactered children. Even then with all best intentions, I screwed up often. Why can't there be do-overs in parenting? Sigh. We do the best we can with the knowledge and resources available to us. But here's the important part, we never give up, but keep trying to love and nurture.

So, from deep within my computer files, comes this. Guess which point suits my particular interest?

...Children's character development certainly can't come from the classroom alone. The qualities of character develop through an interplay of family, school, church, and community influences and the child's individual temperament, experiences, and choices.

What can parents do to encourage their child's development of the qualities of good character? We have many opportunities and tools for this important task. Using them will give us the joy and satisfaction of seeing our child grow into a person of integrity, compassion, and character.

1. Social Learning - A Family Culture of Character

Parents who exhibit the qualities of good character powerfully transmit their values by modeling the choices and actions that are essential to being a person of good character. Are we honest, trustworthy, fair, compassionate, respectful, involved in the greater good of our family and community? How do our children know this? They see it in our everyday actions and choices. They see that it brings a sense of joy, satisfaction, and peace to their family life. Children also learn that when they violate these guiding ethics, parents will implement consequences with fairness and dignity.

Yup. Example isn't the best way to teach, it's the only way.

In her books on moral development in children, Michelle Borba teaches that the first step is empathy. Empathy is the necessary condition in the parent-child relationship that allows us to teach all of the other character values to our children. When our children feel that we understand and care about them deeply, they have the intrinsic motivation to learn the lessons of love and character we share.

Can you say attention paid?

2. Direct Instruction - Teachable Moments to Build Character
Discipline strategies are an important tool to use teachable moments to build character. We should always take the opportunity to explain why our child's behavior is wrong when we correct him. Make a habit of identifying in your own mind the value you wish to teach the child based on the particular behavior. Choose a consequence that is appropriate to teach that value. One natural consequence that we can use is to 'make amends'. For example, dishonesty is best resolved when we confess and are held accountable. Sometimes an apology to the person wronged is enough; other times we must take action to right the wrong. Brief, but direct instruction about why we have a family rule and the underlying value we hold helps the child learn from consequences and discipline.

Discipline that teaches doesn't include harshness, yelling, name calling, criticism and other forms of verbal and emotional abuse. Do that and all you teach is how to avoid.

3. Story Telling - Learning Qualities of Character from Literature and Life
Parents and teachers used stories to teach moral lessons long before the books were invented; and if you think about it, we still do. As we tell the stories of our lives and the world around us, we convey lessons of virtue and ethics to our children. Discussions about the stories we see on TV are opportunities to reinforce our values. Listening and responding to our child's stories about school and peers, we can help them think through the right thing to do. Being mindful of our children listening to the stories we tell other adults, we teach that our values guide all aspects of our life. Children's literature abounds with great books that illustrate important values. Great books reach the inner child and teach their lessons without the parent's interpretation or instruction. About Children's Books will guide you to finding some good children's literature choices that teach character. Sharing real-life stories from the news and internet with our children inspires us all to pursue our values in life.

Bingo. Reading/discussing/learning from literature is basic to character education. Well, duh. I have always believed this.

4. Experiential Learning - Practicing Qualities of Character
We know from education models that we must practice what we learn before it comes naturally to us. We can learn vicariously when we see it and learn directly when we hear it. But, we need to do it and feel it to know the true meaning of character in our selves. We can use opportunities for decision-making to help our child take ethical action and see the positive results in their daily lives. We can also find opportunities to be involved in social and community action that is accessible for our children. Find ways for your children to learn altruism through good deeds.

Character Education (From Kimberly L. Keith, Your Guide to Parenting of K-6 Children).

Despite all our screw ups as parents, ld and I have some pretty great kids, who in turn, helped raise and nurture us. And that may be the most important point of parenthood after all, to grow up ourselves.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

springtime in the tundra. finally.

Things are bloomin’ around here, despite all previous weather attempts to keep it from happening. We have color and bees and sweet smells, people.

All those April showers did bring May flowers.

I want to weave flowers in my hair and string crepe paper streamers from the trees and run around barefoot singing and skipping. Tra la la la la.
Look at all the cheery hope springing up in our yard:

"The world's favorite season is the spring. 
All things seem possible in May."

- Edwin Way Teale