Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Best laid schemes

One thing I've really tried to do for myself this year is to set reasonable goals, give myself a time
frame to complete them, and hold fast to my plans.  I'm not a great goal setter, and I really never have been.  I have, however, always been the type that my value is wrapped up in the amount of tasks I get done each day.  If I accomplish what I deem is nothing, then I get extremely down on myself.

So, this year has pretty much been a health disaster for me, and my family.  Not that we've had major diseases that put us in the hospital, but it's been a lot of small, minor problems with our health, like strep throat, asthmatic bronchitis, falling, car accident, back aches, ingrown toenails, etc.  These little crises have done nothing for my goal setting!  In fact, they have completely blown out of the water all of the things that I have wanted to accomplish.

My kitchen didn't get painted, we didn't go on a family vacation, I didn't clean out my sewing room and move Emily into it.  Because of all these goals getting shuffled aside as I took care of the incidents as they came, Summer vacation flew past me like a flash (totally unfair, seeing as how slow winter went by!) and the start of the school year hit me upside the head, and I never saw it coming!

It was the second week of school, and Heather was supposed to get packed and ready to move into Peter's parents' house so she could be closer to BYU; and we were already behind on shopping for her and making sure she had everything she needed.  My big plan was to use the time the other two kids were in school to get all this done before she had to go to First Year Orientation on Thursday and Friday, then Saturday we would take her down to the grandparents' house and we would make sure she was settled in.  The plan was all set in my mind of the tender tears of happiness we'd shed as we gave our final hugs, and Heather would have a couple of nights to settle into her new home before the first day of school.

Just as it had all year long, fate had a completely different idea of how the week would go.  I got a migraine (probably from all the stress).  No problem - I still have Tuesday and Wednesday to get Heather's shopping done and all her stuff packed.  WRONG!  Danny contracted Hand Foot and Mouth (it took us two trips to the doctor and 4 days to figure that out) and because he was contagious he had to stay home from school ALL of last week.  I was up all night with him a couple of nights because of fevers and a sore throat.  Then, Emily's vice principal called - she was having issues at school (she has mild Asperger's) and we needed to rearrange her schedule.  Oh, and I forgot that Daniel was scheduled to have surgery in two weeks, so better make sure the surgery has prior authorization (that took several phone calls instead of just the standard one, of course.)

Next thing I know, Friday night rolls around and I am chilling and coughing, and I don't feel well.  Seriously?!

Needless to say, the whole moving Heather to the grandparents' didn't happen.  And instead of tears of happiness, I ended up sobbing and depressed, having a meltdown because this was not the plan!

We did a "hard reset" of our plans, and afterward, as I sat in my room thinking, the phrase, "the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry," went through my head.  Best laid schemes, indeed!  Nothing happened the way I wanted it to go.

Robert Burns
But where did that phrase even come from?  I decided to look it up.  I knew that the book "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck was not the source of this phrase, but certainly used it in the title.

I was surprised to find that the phrase came from a poem written in 1785 by the very famous Scottish poet and beloved bard, and farmer, Robert Burns (1759-1796).  I tried to read the poem, but it being half Old English, part gaelic and another part highland slang it was really difficult to understand.  Fortunately, Wikipedia had a "translated" version of the poem.  Unfortunately, it didn't rhyme, and the original meaning of the poem got lost in translation.  I decided to try my hand at translating the poem while trying to keep true to the ideas and beauty of the original. (Here is a link to the original).  What follows is my version of the poem:

To a Mouse
by Robert Burns 
Tiny, sleek, cowering, timorous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
You need not start away so hasty
With your bickering brattle!
I’d be loath to run and chase thee,
With my murdering plow paddle.
 I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, my poor, earth born companion
And wee fellow mortal!
 I do not doubt, sometimes you may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, you must live!
An occasional ear in 24 sheaves
Is but a small request;
I'll get a blessing with the leaves,
The one ear never missed.
 Your tiny housie, too, in ruin!
Its flimsy walls the winds are strewing!
And nothing, now, to build a new one,
The fog grows thicker!
And bleak December's winds ensuing,
Both sharp and bitter!
 Thou saw the fields laid bare and waste,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter passed
Out through thy cell.
 That wee bit heap of leaves and rubble,
Has cost thee many a weary nibble!
Now your turned out, for all thy trouble,
But house or hold,
To bear the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoarfrost cold.
 But Mousie, thou art not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes of mice and men
Going oft awry,
And leave us naught but grief and pain,
For the promised joy!
 Still thou are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches thee:
But alas! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects drear!
And tho the future I cannot see,
I can only guess and fear!

This poem beautifully sums up this whole past year for me!  I feel like the mouse who had planned and worked so hard to set his plan in motion, but then an unseen force, much bigger than me, with plans of its own, came and plowed all of my goals, overturning them and causing the mouse to panic.  But, unlike the plowman in the poem who is simply trying to prepare the fall field for winter, the unseen force in my situation - aka Heavenly Father - has my own best interest at heart.  At least, I have to believe that to be the case, because to not believe that would mean that all my struggles and plans are in vain, and I should just give up now.

The fact is that with all of the things that have happened this year, I count my blessings that they have not all happened at once, that they are small manageable things, and that for every problem there are scores of blessings that I have been given.  One of those blessings is that if this year's succession of small crises had happened even two years ago, I am not sure I'd have been able to emotionally handle them in the way that I have managed to handle them this year.  Tally it all up and the summation is this: my plight in comparison to others' is minuscule.

So, here's to the best laid schemes of mice and men that often go awry, but in the end, it's not the trial itself that defines our outcome, rather it is our ATTITUDE that defines our outcome.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Not Alone.

I am going to try to start blogging again on a regular basis.  I love to write, and I think one of the few gifts we can give to each other as fellow human beings is to share experiences.  As C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we're not alone."  Well, hopefully as you read what I write, you'll know you are most certainly not alone!

Speaking of being alone, when I was about 3 or 4 years old, I had this shirt that said, "Leave me alone, I'm having a crisis!"
This is exactly what my T-shirt looked like!
A family member got that shirt especially for me because I used to say, "Leab me 'lone!" all the time.  I like alone time.  I have always cherished being alone with my thoughts and my music.

Having 3 children, especially with them being spaced 5 to 6 years apart, does not give me much alone time!  And usually when I do get those precious moments away from my children, I spend it cleaning or sleeping.

Today, for the first time, EVER, all my kids were at school, Peter was at work and I was all alone for HOURS.  It was both amazing and. . .well, frankly, boring!  I have so much that I CAN do, so much that I WANT to do, that I really didn't know where to start!

So, what did I do in those blissful alone hours?  I got on Facebook, of course!  I spent two hours stalking other people's lives so that I didn't have to focus on the fact that the house was way too quiet, and so I didn't have to hear that little voice in my head that said, "you probably ought to get something done!"   (This voice sounds a lot like my mother, by the way.)

Not to worry, though.  I know I'll adjust, and in no time, I'll be getting to the extremely long list of things that I've set for myself to get done when all the kids are finally in school full-time.  Or, I might just sleep; Heaven knows that I have years of that to catch up on!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


All of us, as human beings, search for happiness.  It seems to be our nature.  The search for happiness has caused us to conquer far away lands, to leave our homes and family to look for something better.  The search has built empires, destroyed civilizations, spawned myths and stories, fought and won many battles.  If you think about it, it is the seeking of something better that has driven history.  Sometimes the search has been selfish, but sometimes finding happiness has been for the betterment of all mankind.

Happiness doesn’t seem to be a permanent thing, though.  People who say they are always happy – well, either they are lying, or maybe something is wrong upstairs.  Perhaps there IS some permanent state of happiness, but whenever life gets too settled into happiness, one of two things usually happens: either we humans get bored with the constant peace, or some big catastrophe hits and our happiness is jarred loose from its moorings.  We just can’t seem to be happy for too long.

However, I have to say that as people age, their want for happiness and stability changes.  It is only the young, it seems, who can’t deal with the idea of long-standing joy.  Growing up, I had much older parents than my peers.  My mom was 42 when she had me, and because of this I was around her friends, who were also older.  I am very comfortable around older people.  My friends would sometimes say, “It creeps me out to think about getting older!”  Why?  I didn’t understand what my friends were talking about.  I saw something in older people, something that was relatively consistent.  With few exceptions, my parents and their friends (I am talking people over the age of 55) were content.  Yes, “old” people complain about aches and pains, they move more slowly, and don’t seem to want to party anymore.  But despite their wrinkles, age spots, thinning hair, and lack of modern style, they are happy.  For some reason experience has brought happiness to the more senior members of society.

I know that at age 36 I find myself happier than I was when I was 21, or even 30.  I remember very often saying to myself, “When this happens I will be happy.”  Or, “When I am such-and--such age/make more money, then I will be happy.”  Well, I became whatever magical age it was that I so hoped to be at the time, and I didn’t really find myself much happier.  We continually make more money each year (thank heavens) but we seem to always find ways to spend it, and it hasn’t made us any happier.  Ask anyone who has won the lottery and they’ll tell you that a year later, they haven’t found happiness – in fact, many will say that money has only brought them grief. 
When I was younger I found bits and pieces of joy, but it left as quickly as it came.  I said to myself “if” and “when” so much, that one day I realized my youth was gone.  I “iffed” and “whenned” it away.  And, while I kept waiting for the next joyful moment to come, life happened to me.  Sometimes life was great, sometimes the trials were so hard that I wondered if I would ever be happy again.

Through the years I’ve experienced so much:  The thrill of anticipation as the day I would marry my best friend approached, and then the happiness that filled my whole being when that day finally came.  My stomach falling through the floor when my husband and I found out that his job was no more, and we had just signed a mortgage six months earlier.  I felt more love than I ever thought was possible for one person to feel for another person when I held each one of my three babies for the first time.  My heart has broken in a million pieces as I watched loved-ones struggle with addiction.  The pride I had for my children when they learned to smile, talk, and walk.  All the stages of grief I went through when my mother died, oddly mingled with relief that she was no longer suffering.  Each experience has re-shaped my definition of happiness.

I think this is why so many older people are content as the years pass, and experience builds upon experience.  It is not that they settle for less, or that they have given up on obtaining joy.  They have found that happiness was always in their lives, but they were so busy looking for it, that they didn’t see it.  After all, how can you be happy if you haven’t known sadness?  How can you know joy, if you had never felt suffering?

To help illustrate what I am saying, here’s an example: there was a study I heard of in which they took babies just learning to crawl and they set the baby down on a floor made of glass that was suspended above the floor about three feet.  The half of the floor that they put them down on was painted solid white, so that it appeared to be solid ground, but the other half was left clear.  They put the mother opposite the baby and had her call for it to come to her, causing the baby to have to cross the clear glass to get to its mother.  Each of the babies in turn would get to the part where the white painted surface would end, and even though it would appear that they were up off the ground and might fall, they didn’t hesitate to cross the clear glass to get to their mother.  Two months later, after having experienced the trials and triumphs of crawling, they repeated the test again, using the same babies.  The second time through, every child stopped at the portion of glass where white became clear, and they would not cross the glass to get to their mothers.  The illusion of a fall was enough to stop them from proceeding further, even though they would not have fallen through the solid glass.  Before their experiences with crawling, they didn’t know anything about falling, and so they didn’t worry about it. They didn’t know it, so in their minds falling didn’t exist.  But after a few falls off the couch, a few tumbles down the stairs, they understood well what going off a solid ledge would do, so they wouldn’t take the chance.

That’s how happiness is for us humans!  We think we know what happiness is because people tell us about it from the time we are very young.  Our parents tell us stories about what happiness is, what it should feel like, and from time to time we glimpse happiness.  After a few happy experiences, and a few unhappy ones, we start to realize what happiness is.  By the time we are on the other side of the hill, as it were, we finally comprehend what it is to truly have joy. 

I watch my elders and I see that joy is sitting by your lifelong love and watching the sunset.  Happiness is the family, all together again, eating good food, laughing with one another, little ones running around the house and playing.  Happiness is seeing those same sweet little ones go home with their parents, knowing that you will see them again soon.  Happiness is following the same routine, and even though it is what you did yesterday, and what you will do again tomorrow, it’s alright, because it is constant.  True joy can be found in nearly every moment – sometimes there are sorrowful moments, but you know that, just like joy is fleeting, so is sorrow, and it can’t stay bad forever. . .

. . .and that’s something you can definitely be happy about!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fall is in the air. . .

Have you noticed that when the kids go back to school a couple of weeks later - almost like magic, there is this crisp clean feeling in the air?  The feeling is something you can't quite put your finger on, but it definitely feels a little like Autumn.  I wonder if it is some chemical the trees release as they ready themselves to change the color in their leaves.  Maybe it's just the drop in temperature.  I don't know - but what I do know is that I start craving apple crisp, and fresh, warm homemade bread with honey, and I get excited to pull out my sweaters and boots.

The garden is starting to wind down.  A couple of weeks ago it was bursting with ripeness, but now it looks a little faded and wilted.  It's kind of sad, in a way, but also exciting because it means that in a few months I get to plant a whole new crop.

We have had OODLES of tomatoes and cucumbers.  In fact, I hate to say it, but I got sick of the cucumbers.  They started tasting bitter when the weather got hot and I became wary of the taste!  We also have cantaloupe ( I NEVER spell that right so thank heavens-to-Betsy for spell check!).  The melons are huge and bursting with juice!  They're better than last year's crop.  The watermelon died, though.  We have a few, but the vines up and withered when we got that really hot spell.  We've tried one of them but it wasn't very good.  I've decided that watermelon from the fruit stand is better and cheaper.

We've also had carrots - still have another crop that's getting ready to harvest - and we have the scrawniest, most sad onions ever, and I'm not sure they're worth the time or space either.  Maybe I just need to plant a different variety, because last year's onions were scrawny, too.  We planted too late and got very few peas (plus the quail got into the seeds after we planted). 

The corn has been amazing, though!  So sweet and abundant!  I'm not sure it's cheaper to plant corn, but it is certainly worth it.

All in all, I think the best bounty that we've received from our garden can't be eaten, but it can be savored - and that is FAMILY TIME.  We've spent hours working together, watching, weeding, and harvesting.  Peter and I have done most of the work, yes, but even strengthening our relationship has had its own benefits for our kids.  Don't get me wrong - it hasn't all been sunshine and daisies - we've had some of our biggest family fights in the garden, too.  But, in the final tally, I think it's been an amazing harvest that we didn't expect!

I am so looking forward to the Autumn - raking leaves, long walks, Halloween, putting the garden to rest for the winter.  And definitely sweaters and boots!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's our anniversary!

Sweet 16!  How is it that I have been married for 16 years?!!!  I seriously just turned 16!  Actually, I've turned 16 twice, and then some.

So, what has happened in 16 years?  Maybe it would be easier to say what hasn't happened.  Here are just a few things that have happened.  We have. . .
  • had three kids.
  • moved  7 times, all in the first 7 years.
  • traveled 1,909 miles, 4 days, in a U haul, with a 6 month-old, and a sedated cat, from Orem, UT to Pittsburgh, PA, stayed 6 months, then turned around and traveled 1,909 miles, 4 days, in a U haul, with a 1 year-old, and a sedated cat from Pittsburgh, PA to Orem, UT.
  • been to California at least 6 times.
  • (Peter has) worked for 6 different accounting firms.
  • bought a house.
  • had to declare bankruptcy once.
  • amazingly enough, neither one of us has been kicked out of the house after an argument.
  • just since Danny's been born, we've had to call poison control 5 times (fortunately, it's never been serious!)
  • owned three cars, only one has been new.
  • I have had major hip surgery, knee surgery, and been on crutches for, cumulatively, over a year of our married lives together.
  • had the following pets: rats, fish, turtles, frogs, lizards, mice, parakeets, and so many cats that I can't even count.  Right now we have two cats. (I have to admit that the pets are all my fault - well, some of them have been Heather's fault.)
  • had countless computers and, but I don't think we've ever bought a brand new one.
  • for the first 2 1/2 years of our marriage we didn't have a T.V.
  • managed to stay out of debt for the past 7 years (excluding our mortgage.)
Obviously, we're not glamorous or exciting people, but, looking back on this list - and thinking of all of the things I didn't include on this list - we've certainly experienced quite a few things.  Marriage is not what I thought it would be.  I thought it would be my "happily ever after," but instead it was my "your life is just starting"!  It's a daily challenge for us to live with each other; even after 16 years, we're still dealing with a lot of the same things that we dealt with in our first year of marriage that caused a lot of arguments.  There are a lot of days that are boring, frustrating, and we feel a lot like two people who are living separate lives in the same house.  But I can honestly say that I wouldn't trade Peter for any other man on the face of this planet, and that I am glad that I am married.  We've seen a lot of marriages fail, and we've seen a lot succeed, and we both agree that staying married seems much easier than being divorced.

I think kids have added more of everything to our marriage: more happiness, more yelling, more smiles, more grief, less time together alone, less sleep, less boredom, less selfishness, less money, more laundry, and etc.  We've joked that we'd be better parents if we didn't have kids.  I cannot imagine life without them.  It's hard to explain, but even when we didn't have them it seems like they were always there, they just hadn't been born yet.

With all that said, this post is dedicated to Peter - Happy Anniversary, Honey!  Even though it seems like we're going through the "poorer, sickness, worse" part of our marriage lately, Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I was born this way

We got a letter from our insurance company - one that many of you have probably received - wherein they ask about a claim that they processed (six months ago, I might add).  They already paid the claim, but they want to know if there is any liability for someone else to pay it.  Basically the questions are as follows:
Is the reason for the above condition the result of accident or injury?
Did this condition happen at a location such as at work, at a business, or other residence?
Was this condition caused by someone's lack of care or caution?
Did this condition happen as a result of a car accident?
I guess I could have put that my parents are responsible, because I was born with this condition.  Technically my conception was "an accident", as it were; it did happen at their residence (as far as I know); and it was because of someone's "lack of caution"; but I don't think a car had anything to do with it (and I really don't want to know if it did.

The questions go on, and on - about 12 in all.  Basically, they could have saved time and paper by simply asking this:
Is there any way we can stick this bill to someone else?  Because we REALLY don't want to pay it!