Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Plea to Boys and their Parents

Twice a year members of my church gather to hear counsel from our Prophet and Apostles. With today's wonderful technology we are able to do this in the comfort of our home....still in our jammies. This morning my 16 year old and I were listening to the wonderful talks when she received a message from a young man..one she thought was a friend. It was a short message, but one that has upset her day and mine. He asked her to send him nude photos. This is the second boy to send her something along these lines in less than a month. Fortunately, I am very close with my daughter and she shared what she had received. She didn't respond and she went about removing him from all social media contact with her.

When a girl receives a message such as this it is not flattering. It is demoralizing. It may be an off the cuff gesture to the young man - but it leaves scars in its place. A girl who receives a message such as this feels violated, and feels as though she should hide, even though she has done nothing wrong. I am so grateful my daughter has the courage to be with me open about her texts, facebook posts, and photos on Instagram. Although I have wonderful parents, when I was sexually assaulted as a teenage girl I was afraid to tell anyone and didn't until I was an adult. I felt worthless and ashamed and so I kept it to myself. Seemingly simple messages such as the ones my daughter has received are an assault to her spirit and well-being, even though they are not a physical assault.

My first reaction to this message was anger, followed by sadness. I wanted to talk to the boy's parents, but wasn't sure where to start. As I looked him up on facebook I discovered that he was not "friends" with his parents or any other adult. Parents have been counseled on a regular basis on the importance of being aware of their child's activities on the internet, and yet there are still kids whose parents have chosen not to follow that counsel. To some teenagers this may seem intrusive, but as a parent it seems wise.

I am also sad because this boy, and the author of the first message my daughter received, are both members of our church. I know the teachings they have been taught, and, to be honest, I hold them to a higher standard. I know that our Father in Heaven loves them both and is a generously forgiving parent. Knowing this, however, does not mean that my daughter will ever spend time with either one of these boys. The first boy who sent a message a few weeks ago apologized to my daughter the next day for his "trashy" (his words) behavior and wanted to know if they could still be friends. My daughter's answer was a simple "no." As a mother, I would not willingly let my daughter spend time with someone who looks at her as anything less than a daughter of God who is trying to live the Christian lifestyle in which we wholly believe.

Parents, please make sure you are monitoring your children's social media behavior and teach them the power of their words. Boys, please understand that how you treat the young women in your life not only impacts them, but it will determine the kind of husband, father, and friend you will be in the future.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Temp Jobs, Car-sickness, Teenagers, and Paradigm Shifts

While looking for a job I have been lucky to have friends in high enough places that I've been able to do some temp work. One such job was working as a receptionist for a few hours a day at an engineering firm. Most of the employees would pass by the reception desk one or more times a day and I would say hi and do my best to learn their names. There was one man that whenever I greeted him would merely look at me and give me the head nod. You know the one. The cool kids in junior high and high school always excelled at it. It's a slightly tilted small head jerk accompanied by an eyebrow raise that said, "I acknowledge your existence....you are excused." I could never get this man to crack a smile, until one day he said to me, "So are you a temp, or a new employee?" I explained that I was a temp, and was looking for a job. He asked me if my background was in reception work (I'm sorry, every time I think of that I giggle...no offense to those who "receive.") Anyway, I gave him a very brief work history and told him which fields I was pursuing. He asked if I had a college degree and was visibly shocked to learn I had two. It was clear that he thought my capabilities were limited to answering the phone and attempting to transfer calls without hanging up on anyone. After this brief conversation he became very friendly and would give me more than a head nod when I said hello. Of course, it could all be in my head, he may have just been shy, or too preoccupied to have noticed me before this - but it didn't feel like that, which made me think of Pioneer Trek. (Go with me...it will all make sense.)

This past summer I had the opportunity to go with the youth from our church on a pioneer trek. The very large group was divided into families and I was fortunate enough to be an Aunt in one such family. (Lisa - you'll be happy to hear they all called me Auntie "M.") One evening, after a particularly long 10 mile day, I was telling the kids some amusing stories from my teenage years. One story, which may be more disgusting than amusing, led to an interesting discussion. First, the story. When I was 16 or 17, the wards (parishes) around Eugene decided to plan a day trip to the coast for all of the 16 - 18 year old youth. I was one of the people on the planning committee, which meant that after our last activity, a dance at a church building along the coast, I had to clean up. By the time I was done all of the people I knew had left and the only car left was a van full of guys from another ward and their leader. They were kind enough to give me a ride home. Sitting behind me was a guy who was feeling very talkative. He was nice, but I was exhausted and really just wanted to sleep. In addition, I had a brutal head and neck ache and kept trying to loosen up the muscles in my neck in the hopes that the pain would go away. He noticed me rubbing me neck and offered to give me a shoulder rub. "Oh, that's okay. I'm fine. Thanks, though." I responded. He, however, would not take no for an answer and the next thing I knew, this stranger starts rubbing my neck and shoulders. This was very awkward for me. How do I nicely get this guy to stop rubbing my shoulders? While trying to come up with a nice way out of the situation, the boy burped and then threw up in my hair and down my neck. Keep in mind that this was the 80s. I had long, huge, naturally curly hair that was particularly adept at catching all of his vomit. It was disgusting...to say the least. We pulled over to the side of the road. We had some paper towels, but no water and I ended up riding the last 45 minutes reeking like you wouldn't believe. We were all on the verge of being sick from the smell. As we finally pulled up to my house and I was scrambling out of the van, the boy said, "I don't suppose I could have your number?" I thought, are you kidding me?! You threw up in my hair! "Um, no." was all I said. Now, here is where the kids I was telling the story to shocked me. The girls were all moaning over how awful it would be to try and wash throw up out of your hair (6 washings - the last with tomato sauce), when 2 of the boys said, "That poor guy! He probably lost all confidence to ask any other girls for their phone number." In the many years since the incident, I never once thought of how mortified he must have been. The kids and I ended up having a great chat about seeing both sides of a situation. Which led me to ponder teenagers....

I get to work with the youth in our ward and absolutely LOVE it. I have done this many times over my adult life, since I seem to lack the maturity to be with the other grown ups. In my years of working with the young women I have noticed a common theme.  Almost all of them go through difficult times where they feel alone, different, misunderstood, and forgotten. They can't imagine that anyone else feels like they do since the other girls all appear to have loads of friends, amazingly together families, and can handle life in general. The irony, of course, is that most (maybe all) of the girls feel the same way inside. I wish there were some way to have an open dialogue so they would realize they are not alone, and that even the most seemingly together girl has moments (or more) of insecurity, doubt, and confusion. I know they would be shocked to learn the number of people who are having the same thoughts and worries they plague themselves with every day - and some of them are adults.

So, maybe I was a little hard on the man I mentioned in my last post...the one who interviewed me for position of wife. While not for me, he clearly was nervous and lost common sense for a few hours one afternoon, something I do on an almost daily basis. Just for a minute today attempt your own paradigm shift. If someone has wronged you, consider what could lead them to act that way....even if you have to wash your hair 6 times.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Triple Threat Girl

Watch out world, triple threat girl is on the loose! Over 40, divorced AND unemployed? It's shocking there isn't a line of suitors at my doorstep. Since the last several years seem to be an experiment in better living through rejection, I thought I would fill you in on the joys that can be found in looking for a job.

Thus far, according to my collection of nicely worded rejection emails, the employed world is evenly split - I am both over and under-qualified for most job openings along the Wasatch front. Somewhere in the vast corporate universe is a small gray cubicle with a tiny little desk that I will actually be QUALIFIED to sit at...I just haven't found it yet. (I don't know why it would be small, tiny and little. I now have this vision of myself attempting to sit at preschool sized furniture while sorting through stacks of paperwork and looking terribly important.)

Searching for a job is actually very similar to online dating. For about 5 months this spring I jumped back in to the pit of hope and despair, otherwise known as match.com. (And LDSplanet - because it's important to have several sources for both hope and despair.) Like a cover letter and resume, you do your best to catch the attention of someone you find attractive...both on screen and in person. It's like screaming "Pick me! Pick me!" in times new roman font. How do you adequately explain how fantastic they are supposed to think you are, all while doing your best to sound humble and approachable? It's a difficult task and one that I hope you get to avoid.

In writing your cover letter, the goal is to be unique enough to stand out amongst the hundreds of other applicants, without coming off as irreverent or dull, overly meticulous or unprofessional. For one cover letter I actually composed a top ten list of why they should hire me. I received a lovely rejection -  they weren't interested, but they thoroughly enjoyed the letter. Not exactly the result I was hoping for. I always feel that if I could just speak to them in person they would actually be interested in what I have to offer as an employee.  I'm almost ready to show up at their office and wait to be seen - even though the ads always state to apply online. Now, if an online suitor just showed up at your doorstep, unannounced, I believe the words creepy, stalker, and police would come to mind. In this area searching for a job has the potential to be different. You could be considered to be a go-getter, confident....or a creepy stalker...please call the police.

Maybe I should add photos to my resume. When I operated a business I received many unique cover letters and resumes. One of the more unusual included two 8x10 glossies of his "guns." I don't mean weapons....I mean his arms - fully flexed and rippled. There was also a photo of him in his speedo, greased-up and spray-tanned for a body building competition. Clearly he didn't understand what we did at The Little Gym - but even to this day I remember him! (Although not in the way he hoped.)
There are many men online that would like a series of full body shots, with the woman sporting a bikini, surgical enhancements, and a tan. I do not have the confidence, nor the "assets" to pull off such a display. Quite frankly, it took all of my courage to simply get back "out there."

Now if you are lucky enough to have a profile that sparks someone's interest you may get an email. This is your foot in the door for a potential friendship - or more. This begins a series of email correspondence that you can conveniently tweak to fit your own agenda. What I mean is, you have no idea the tone of voice, or intention behind what they write - and so you inadvertently create who you want them to be. Some men come across incredibly well in written form - but in person....it's a completely different experience. For example, one gentleman that I exchanged emails and texts with finally wanted to meet. I am confident in most arenas - but dating is NOT one of them. I was very nervous driving to our meeting point. It turns out he was, too.

I sat down at the table where he was waiting and watched him fiddling nervously with the buttons on his shirt. (I truly believe it was a nerve issue - I don't think he was ready to disrobe.) This actually helped me feel more at ease, knowing that he was also nervous. One thing I can do, is get people to relax and start talking...which is exactly what I did. (If you are the interview-ER, for a job - this is very helpful...you wouldn't believe what interviewees ended up telling me!) It was like opening the floodgates. He talked without stopping once for 45 minutes. I didn't even have a chance to interject an "uh-huh or "really?" or "tell me more." At the end of the 45 minutes, he took a long drink and then began the interview portion of the date. "Are you a good cook? I need someone who can cook. I travel a lot and I like a home cooked meal when I'm in town. How about cleaning? I was in the military and I need a really tidy house. It doesn't have to be perfect. I mean, do you leave your clothes on the floor? My last wife left so many clothes on the floor you had to carve a path to the bed."

I never had to answer because he never gave me the chance. Apparently his Diet Coke was extra caffeinated and he couldn't slow down the verbal onslaught I was enjoying. When I told my cousin about this date she said, "Why didn't you leave?" I didn't leave because it was fascinating. It was like watching a train wreck. There's nothing you can do to stop it - and you just can't get yourself to look away. I also discovered, while sitting there with my chin in my hand, what felt like a small whisker. (This confession alone may prevent me from ever dating again.) I became obsessed with wondering if this whisker could be seen...would I get more...was it black...am I turning into a haggard old woman? It kept me entertained while he went on and on about his two, (I didn't know there were two) yes, two ex-wives. At the end of the date he told me how great it was getting to know me. Keep in mind, I had hardly uttered more than a few sentences, so unless he gleaned something from my newly discovered whisker, I'm not sure he knew me any better than before we met. I got in the car, checked out the whisker - it was blonde - whew! Still disturbing, but whew - and drove away. Three minutes after pulling out of the parking lot he called me...just to let me know how fun it was and that he swore he wouldn't stalk me.

I would only be so lucky to have a job interview along these lines. Just imagine if I could get them talking so much that they decided I was fabulously suited for the job and made me an offer then and there. In the mean time, I will continue to enjoy the variety of ways people can turn me down and pray for the day someone is brave enough to see my skills in action. Maybe it will give me just enough confidence to attempt dating again.

P.S. I have also met many nice and normal men....but who wants to hear about that? ;)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Story #40 Hail to the Chief (A Love Story)

In honor of my 40th birthday I decided to write 40 stories about my life. If you've been reading my blog you may have noticed that story #40 was missing. I've always known what it should be about - but it was never right...and now 5 months before 44 arrives, I realize it must be posted, even if it's not quite perfect.

I have always been lucky enough to have a big family. I'm not talking about brothers and sisters or aunts and uncles. I'm talking about the people in your life who open up their hearts, their arms and their homes and accept you as their own. People who share not only their love, but their wisdom and talents. That is what makes a family - open hearts. I am a believer in the concept of "it takes a village to raise a child." As a parent, I would be remiss to think that my girls' father and I were the only ones responsible for parenting my children. Many wonderful people have helped them, and still help them in becoming the best possible version of themselves.

I was lucky on this front as well. I have had many "parents." Joanie and Garr, Fred and Pattie, Elaine, Brenda and Jim, Deanna....and so many others. I could write a post about each one of them and the ways they have touched and changed my life, but the only reason I was lucky enough to be a part of their families was because I was lucky enough to be born to my Mom.

You may know her...I'm fairly certain she is friends with a significant portion of the global population. It seems that no matter where she travels she either runs into people she knows or makes new friends that last a lifetime. She is very loyal to her friends and once you've entered that ever growing circle you are guaranteed to receive calls and cards. I'm fairly certain my Mom is what keeps the Hallmark company in business. The postal impairment gene that my sister and I have does not come from her...it is some recessive gene that has only reared it's ugly head with the two of us.

There just doesn't seem to be an adequate way to talk about my mother and if I attempted some sort of biographical sketch I would most certainly get something wrong. So instead, I offer a few stories that will show you why my "family village" turned out so well...it's because of the chief.

Story 1 - Philadelphia

When I was around 7 or 8 years of age we took a trip back east. We visited Washington D.C. and went on to Pennsylvania to visit my Mom's sister. Being a teacher, my Mom didn't want to miss any educational opportunities, so we had to visit all of the tourist sites. It was summer - hot, muggy and crowded. The height of tourist season. As we were fighting through crowds on our way to see the Liberty Bell I spied a man in a wheelchair. This man, disfigured and shaking, was trying to sell pencils to anyone that would look his way. I was a little afraid, but my Mom grabbed my hand and pulled me over to where the man was sitting. She bent over and whispered something in his ear - slipped a $20 bill into his mug, made sure he had some food, then picked up my hand and we went on our way. I looked back at the man in his chair. He had a smile from ear to ear...his whole countenance changed. She never said anything about the incident, and I never asked - but I knew that $20 was a sacrifice for her and was in awe of the no-nonsense way she helped a stranger in need.

Story 2 - We All Work Together

As a teacher, my Mom was never paid what she was worth. She always had extra jobs: tutoring, selling encyclopedias, and writing curriculum, to name a few. Somehow she always managed to make it possible for us to take music lessons, play sports, and travel to visit family and friends. My brother and sister had an opportunity to go to Japan as exchange students, but it came with a steep price tag. My Mom came up with the idea for a summer school for pre/post kindergarteners. We all worked together. My parents taught reading and math, while Marc, Lisa, and I taught art, science, and supervised time in the back yard. The whole family worked together to earn the money for Marc and Lisa to go to Japan. Each year we offered the program with a different family goal in mind. No one complained, or asked for their share of the money - we were taught to see the bigger picture.

Story 3 - Just Get Her to Laugh

My Mom attempted to be a strict disciplinarian, but it didn't go well. We were pretty good kids, so there wasn't a lot of need for discipline, but there was one way to distract her where there was a need...get her to laugh. Marc and I went through a phase of playing practical jokes on the family, mainly on Lisa. Sometimes we went just a little too far, such as creating a lifesize dummy that in the dark looked like me and throwing it over the two flights of stairs onto Lisa while I screamed. Marc and I found this hysterical, but we were the only ones. The next day, Mom told us to go into the family room and sit down on the couch. While we were waiting for her, Marc said, "When she starts talking, start to laugh. Just keep laughing...no matter what. If we can get her to laugh we're in the clear." So, in came my Mom. She looked very serious. She began to talk about how there's a difference from being funny and scaring people. Marc and I began to giggle. My Mom, surprised, told us to listen. We kept giggling. Pretty soon she was giggling, too. We all had a tremendous laughing session and knew we were in the clear when she said, "Oh, you two!"

We all love to hear her laugh. Everyone knows she always has a smile on her face, but to get her into an uncontrollable fit of laughter is the best. Because of this she has 3 children with slightly off-kilter senses of humor.

Story 4 - There's Always Room

When my parents were first divorced we had to move into a small apartment. Our home and all of the furniture had been leased for a year, so our living situation wasn't the best. My siblings and I shared a room, and my Mom had a tiny room of her own. In it was a small single bed...it may have been a cot. Every night I would tiptoe down the hall and climb into her bed. As small as it was, there was always room for me. She was stressed and exhausted - but we always felt loved and cared for.

A few more tidbits....

My Mom has more energy than anyone I have ever known...ever.
She has a beautiful singing voice that has touched thousands of hearts.
If you want something done right, give it to my Mom. (I'm thinking of putting her in charge of my life.)
She has never known a grade other than an A.
She is always on the lookout for people in need of extra love and service.
She is courageous and will do whatever she can to fight for the well-being of the people she loves.
She always took time out of her schedule to go to students' ball games, rectials, and homes.
She loves the gospel of Jesus Christ and finds joy it sharing it with others.
She loves grammar. (I only mention this because it is baffling to me to enjoy grammar.)
I think her grandchildren could talk her in to pretty much anything. She is completely smitten with all of them....including her 4 great-grandkids.
And after 75 years it is clear to see that the world is a much better place because she is a part of it.

I love you, Mom! All hail to the Chief!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Shhhh! - Don't Tell My Sister She's Right

A few months ago, shortly after receiving the news that I did not get into grad school, my sister called me. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to talk because I was on my way to an exam. The following is the gist of our conversation:

Lisa: Do you ever watch TED talks?

Me: Yes - all the time. I told you about them.

Lisa: Oh, I didn't remember that. Have you watched the one on vulnerability?

Me: No.

Lisa: You should watch that....I thought of you when I watched it. I think it's hard for you to allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Me: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I'VE GOTTEN DIVORCED, ATTEMPTED DATING, AND JUST GOT TURNED DOWN FOR GRAD SCHOOL. I AM THE POSTER CHILD FOR BEING VULNERABLE! This is what I thought. What I said was, "I don't have time right now I'm on my way to take a test." (Almost the same thing.)

Lisa: You don't have to watch it right away. Just promise me you'll watch it. I think you'll really like it.

Me: Sure.

Lisa: Promise?

Me: Yes....(unsaid portion: Yes, but I don't want to. I am very skilled at being vulnerable and will soon be offering courses online.)

Fast forward to the next night. I was thoroughly enmeshed in a combo pity/study party when I decided I needed a break, so I actually pulled up the video on vulnerability that my sister recommended. I wasn't going to watch to figure out what it had to teach me...more to prove why I didn't need to watch the video.

After just a few minutes I thought, "Oh crap...Lisa's right...this is me! Shoot."

Pause the above story....

Many years ago I was helping in my daughter's kindergarten class. The teacher had taught art for many years and had the children do a lot of amazing art projects. One day, while helping her prep for the next project I asked her, "Why is it that most children love art when they are young and want to show off what they create...but as they get a little bit older most of them stop pursuing art?" "They stop believing they can do it." she said.

Unpause....

The video resonated so much with me that I got in the car and went to Barnes & Noble that night to purchase two of the books the presenter, Brene Brown, had written. One was, The Gifts of Imperfection, the other, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't) - Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough."

I started with The Gifts of Imperfection because, well, it was shorter. I was in the middle of finals, after all...that and I felt I had an abundance of imperfect gifts, emphasis on imperfect. The length of the book did not match it's depth and I found I needed to read it again...this time with my trusty highlighter. It took some time. After each chapter I needed time to ponder. When I finished it for the third, yes third, time I wanted to get a copy for every person I knew. It had that much impact.

I won't go into a summary of the book...you need to read it yourself, or at least watch/listen to the TED Talk. What really hit me was how much we stifle our wishes, our dreams, and our needs in order to appear to have "it" all together AND to avoid looking anything other than put together. What if I pursue this dream and fail? How embarrassing! (Grad school being the perfect example. I felt like I wanted to show everyone my transcript...look I got all A's! I'm not stupid!)

My battle cry most of my life has been, "Don't worry about me...I can do it all by myself." When I got divorced someone said to me, "You're so confident you'll be fine being alone." (I have been told many little gems like this.)  I had to check and see if someone else was behind me. I think I must look differently than I often feel. Asking for help, until recently, was humiliating...after all I should be able to do it all, right? I've always been willing and able to help others and would never look at them differently - but heaven forbid I have to ask for or receive help. My thought would be "I should be able to take care of all of this." I even knew, intellectually speaking, that there was an error to my thinking, but emotionally I just couldn't seem to change.

I've made some progress. For example, I actually asked a couple of very nice guys out. They both said no. A couple of years ago I would have been mortified that I had asked and been turned down. I would have felt foolish and gone down the if path. "If only I were (fill in the blank) they would have said yes." But this time I felt fine. The fact that these two guys had a momentary lapse in judgement...in that they said no ;) ...does not change the fact that I enjoy talking with them and consider each to be a good friend. Progress, right?

Now...back to the conversation I had with the kindergarten teacher. What if it's not so much that the kids stop believing that they can, but rather that they're afraid it won't be just right. Their art won't match what they think the world wants to see. They might embarrass themselves. What if no one else understands why they made the sky purple, or understand that the painting needed only 3 colors? What if their painting doesn't look like there neighbors'? Just imagine how the world would change if we could teach children to break the cycle of trying to be everything, while often feeling like nothing. My hope is that I can, at least a little, undo some of that within my own children by changing myself first. Let's be brave together.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Let's Find Joy in Rejection

I had a plan. It seemed like a good, maybe even great plan. Go back to school, get a couple more degrees, actually be able to support myself while working with children (something I love.) I worked hard, thought I did well, but apparently I didn't let the right people know about their role in the plan and so here I sit, with two rather not useful Bachelor's Degrees....and me without a Plan B. I'm now a Jack of all trades, master of none sort of gal. Hmmm....so my questions are these: 1) This is America, so there must be someone I can sue, right? 2) Is the Law of Attraction real and I somehow sabotaged myself? 3) Can I in someway blame math? (I really hate math...I just feel like it should take some of the blame.) Let's answer these in reverse order, because math deserves to go first.

First, can I blame math? Yes, yes I can. (Feel free to blame math for your life woes, as well. When you get upset scream, "MATH!" instead of swearing. It will make you feel better.) Yes, in spite of the courageous efforts of my fabulous math tutor who left my house on the verge of tears more than once, I did not fare well on the math section of the GRE. Ironically, there are NO math requirements for the Master's Degree in Speech Pathology...but they still look at your math scores. Since I have not taken math since my junior year in high school, I was more than a little rusty. I'll admit it, I have a fear of math. I am Michelle and I have mathematical anxiety. (This is a real thing. I looked it up on wikipedia. Everything on the internet is real.) Math makes me cringe, like spiders and snakes make other people cringe. I have a physical reaction to math...particularly algebra. Arithmetic I am very good at...in fact I was able to do a lot of the bookkeeping and accounting when I ran a business. AND there weren't any spots in QuickBooks where I put, "The balance is $X...just trust me." I think, considering my disability of mathematical anxiety, this is impressive. Never the less, it is something I am blaming for my inability to get into grad school. (By the way, my sister and I are both postally impaired. I just thought I would mention this so you would know that I am a well rounded unstable person. We will discuss that at another time. I'm still working on the wikipedia entry for that.)

Next, is the Law of Attraction real? I would like to think no...wait...yes...well, maybe, shoot did I just mess up my life? This is my reasoning for no: there have never been any monsters under my bed. Despite the fact that, as a child, I had to check under my bed every night because I was convinced there was a monster...there never was. Not even my brother trying to scare me. Just random dusty socks. I spent a great deal of time thinking about the monster lurking under my bed, there were even carefully drawn pictures and yet I was never able to conjure him up. Whew. Now, is there power in imagining yourself at your goal? Absolutely! Should you use that to keep yourself motivated to work hard and do everything possible to achieve that goal? YES! But...did the little bits of doubt (What will I do for a living if this doesn't work out?!) that lingered in my brain destroy everything else? Maybe...I hope not. Oh, Math it! (See it's a great curse replacement.)

Lastly, as an American, I should be able to come up with someone to sue for real life happening to me. Maybe the university? How dare they receive hundreds of applications and not pick mine! That doesn't work. I know, there must be a way to sue the government. If I'm to understand the posts I see on facebook, the government is either supposed to control everything or just make sure that nothing bad ever happens to anyone...ever- either way there has to be a case here. My neighbor is an attorney...I'm totally getting him on this.

In all seriousness, I still have no Plan B, but it's not all bad. For the past two years, even though I have been working and going to school I have been able to spend a lot of time with my kids. More than I was ever able to running a business. That alone, makes this worthwhile. I also have had the privilege of working with a group of special education students that I am completely smitten with. Life is not easy for these kids. There are a lot of outbursts, tantrums, and heartaches...but they give the most sincere compliments, the best hugs, and more than anything, they keep trying. I gave myself permission to spend yesterday wallowing, but today I'm moving on. One thing I do know is that the Lord has a plan for me and I look forward to the day when I can look back and see how this helped me get where I needed to be.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I was the Crooked-Neck Girl

(The following post is the talk I gave in church today.)

Think back to your first day of 7th grade. For some of you it may be just a few months ago, for some of you it may be decades. Even though it was 30 years ago for me, I remember it very clearly. I was excited and nervous. I was finally out of elementary school! That meant I was starting a new school. Anytime you start a new school, or even a new school year it feels like you get a chance to re-invent yourself. To show the world who you really are or who you really want and hope to be. I was no longer going to be the girl that made a fool of herself on a regular basis, I was going to be one of the cute girls. I had gone through 20 different outfits and found the perfect one; I had figured out exactly how my hair was going to look. I had organized everything in my backpack, and was going to go to school early so I could make sure that I could open my locker and find my classes. With this plan I was convinced I wouldn’t seem like the lost 7th grader, which, of course I was. These were my plans. This is not what happened. After a night tossing and turning, I awoke to discover that my head was wrenched completely to one side…ear to shoulder. I could not move it…not even a little bit. Apparently, I was much more stressed then I had let myself believe, and all of that stress went right to my neck.


I panicked. I called my Mom at work and tried to explain how awful the situation was. She was a school teacher and incredibly busy, and thought I was being over dramatic (which I was on a regular basis.) She told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to go to school, so I got dressed. It took a while. Getting dressed without moving your head or being able to lift it up is tough. Not to mention, all the crying had made my face splotchy and red. How did my hair look? Did it matter? I couldn’t lift up my head…no one would notice my hair. This day was off to a rough start.

The junior high was only two blocks away, but when your head is wrenched to one side it is nearly impossible to walk a straight line. It was a looong walk to school. By the time I got there, I had 5 minutes before the bell would ring. I thought walking was tough…but, opening my locker was impossible. So I had to take my backpack crammed full of school supplies with me, which meant every textbook I received had to be held in my arms. People gave me plenty of room to walk down the halls. I’m fairly certain news about me had spread and they were all thinking, “Watch out…see that splotchy faced, crooked necked 7th grader? She’s run into about 10 people. Stay clear!” In class it wasn’t so bad…I could put my hand to my face and simply look like a bored, aloof teenager. But, when the bell would ring and my hand would move...but my head would not, my disguise was gone. I was certain I had ruined my junior high career. I would forever be known by some horrid moniker like “crooked-neck girl,” or CNG, for short. I thought this one day would define me. Fortunately, I was wrong. It turns out that my friends from elementary school felt sad for me, some even bringing me icy hot and heating pads for my neck. By the end of the week I could open my locker, get to classes and actually hold my head up high. Did I end up with a nickname? Nope…by the end of the week no one mentioned it.

As a teenager you spend a lot of time thinking about what people think of you…and trying to decide what you think of yourself. It feels as though so many people have it together, and you’re just kind of a mess. A vicious cycle begins…the more you wonder about what people think of you the more you begin to notice your flaws…the vast majority of which are only seen by you. As you focus on flaws you forget all about your strengths. This is Satan’s clever trick. The more he can get you focused on yourself and your perceived weaknesses, the less time you think about those around you and the less time you spend building your relationship with your Heavenly Father.

So, Young Women, today let’s break that cycle…at least for a moment and focus on who you really are.

First and foremost you are a daughter of God. This may seem trite because you have heard it so often that you forget what a powerful statement this is. Elder Jeffrey Holland said the following when speaking to the young women in 2005:

“First of all, I want you to be proud you are a woman. I want you to feel the reality of what that means, to know who you truly are. You are literally a spirit daughter of heavenly parents with a divine nature and an eternal destiny. That surpassing truth should be fixed deep in your soul and be fundamental to every decision you make as you grow into mature womanhood. There could never be a greater authentication of your dignity, your worth, your privileges, and your promise. Your Father in Heaven knows your name and knows your circumstance. He hears your prayers. He knows your hopes and dreams, including your fears and frustrations. And He knows what you can become through faith in Him. Because of this divine heritage you, along with all of your spiritual sisters and brothers, have full equality in His sight and are empowered through obedience to become a rightful heir in His eternal kingdom, an [heir] of God, and joint-[heir] with Christ. Seek to comprehend the significance of these doctrines. Everything Christ taught He taught to women as well as men. Indeed, in the restored light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a woman, including a young woman, occupies a majesty all her own in the divine design of the Creator. “

I know that many of you worry that you haven’t reached your full potential, or that meeting the standards and commandments that we’ve been given is too hard. You worry that you are simply not strong enough to handle the problems that come your way, or brave enough to figure out the life that you have been given. Let me tell you simply and clearly that you are enough. You are enough. President Monson has said, that “whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” I promise you that the Lord has called you to be on this earth at this time, in this place, in this family. Because he has called you he has qualified you by giving you the talents and skills that you will need to fulfill your divine mission on this earth. Many of those gifts haven’t made themselves known yet, or they are mere seeds beginning to sprout – but rest assured, you do have the gifts and the power to reach your full potential. To fully access all that the Lord has blessed you with, and to feel and understand the promptings of the Holy Ghost you have an obligation to do all you can to build a relationship with your Father in Heaven.

You are old enough and wise enough to take on the responsibility of seeking out the truth of the gospel and to gain a testimony and knowledge that you have a Father in Heaven that loves you. There have been times in my life where I have felt overwhelmed and alone, during those times, when I have mistakenly turned away from the Lord I have found that anger and bitterness grew within me. But, when I have humbled myself and turned to him for comfort and guidance I am filled with a sense of love and gratitude for all that he has blessed me with. It hasn’t made problems magically disappear, but has given me the strength and courage to work through challenging times, knowing that I am not alone.

Some of the talents, gifts and inspiration you will need will not come from you, but from those around you. Look around this chapel. You are surrounded by men and women who want only to help you succeed. These men and women on the stand behind me love you and pray for you. I love you and pray for you. We want to provide you with the strongest foundation we can give you so that as you enter the world you will do so with a surety that you have a vast support system on which to call for help. When you need it, please call for help. In this ward you will see examples of bravery, courage, humor and kindness that will help you develop into the powerful women you are meant to be. Keep your eyes open and learn all that you can from your loving ward family.

So, if things haven’t gone as you have planned, if you have had your crooked neck days and can’t imagine that people will ever be able to see you for who you really are…today is your fresh start. What I see are beautiful daughters of God, who are loved and valued in ways they have yet to realize. Today is the day you can kneel down and ask your Father in heaven for confirmation that you are his. If you continue to turn to him you will be able to focus on those you can help, instead of your imperceptible flaws. You will have a source of strength to turn to when days seem unbearable. As it says in Isaiah, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” You are enough. You are loved. Never forget this. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to serve you. I know that you are daughters of God and I know that this is His restored gospel.