I’m turning into an unintended dating service

This week I had to opportunity to spend time with two young women on a long car ride into town. I always love talking with the youth and getting their perspective on things. Somehow we wandered into the topic of dating and I simply asked them, “Do you find you have a type of boy you’re attracted to?”

They both giggled at the question and surprised me by their different answers. One offered a list of physical traits that all the boys she’d dated so far seem to share. The other one said, “I don’t care what they look like, I just want them to get me, even when I don’t know how to explain myself very well.”

While I could appreciate her being able to get past always looking at the physical appearance, I couldn’t help but tease her. “So…you’re a ‘I need you to read my mind’ kind of girl.”

She blushed and shook her head. “Not exactly. I just have a hard time expressing myself, but my close girlfriends always seemed to get what I’m saying. I just want a boyfriend that can do that too.”

“I see…you need an empath.”

“What does that mean?” she asked me.

“A person who is sensitive to the emotions of others, they can often just feel them when they walk into a room. My oldest son has this empathetic personality. I have never been able to hide my real feelings from him. He knows when I’m upset, even when I keep lying and say that I’m not.”

“Is you husband that way too?”

“Kind of, but not to the level of my son. I’ve never seen anyone who seems to know how to comfort others like my son always does.”

“Oo…is he available?”

“He’s twenty-one.”

The fifteen-year-old girl’s face crumpled. “Dang it. Maybe after I graduate I’ll come look him up.”

I laughed. “Well…if you show up on my doorstep in a couple of years, and he’s still available, I’ll wish you luck.”

Oh, if my shy, empathic son had been in the car he would have been bright red. And the thought made me laugh even harder.

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Heaven sent burly men

I tend to walk around like the kind of woman who doesn’t ask for help. It’s a sad pride thing on my part to think I can handle whatever comes my way in life. I’m thankful this week that others around me noticed I’d bitten off far more than I could chew.

My husband and youngest child took off for the farm, leaving me behind with our foreign exchange student so he could play in a soccer tournament. About halfway through the tournament, I got text from my husband saying he needed some missing supplies picked up for the pump house they were building out on the farm. Leaving my foreign exchange student, I went to the building supply store to get the needed items. I know what OSB is and the siding they were using, so I sauntered over the right aisle with no issue. What I failed to realize was how heavy to actual stuff was until I started to try and lift it on my own. Yeah, remember I’m not really good at asking for help. But it didn’t matter, a man’s voice behind me says, “Can I help you?”

I give up trying to finagle the awkward piece on my own and turn to this stranger with a grateful smile. “Actually, yes, I do need help.”

Once we get all the pieces loaded on my cart, I, like the stubborn ninny I am, tell him I’ll be fine and he can go back to doing his own shopping.

When I get to my truck it takes a lot of heaving to slide the first piece free and load it into the back. I turn around to do the next piece and there stands a different man.

“Can I load those into your truck for you?”

That first piece was so hard on me, I didn’t even try to lie and say I was fine. “I would be so thankful if you could.”

Slick as snot, he had the rest of the pieces loaded, and he did it all by himself. He made them look like they didn’t weigh more than a foam board. Yeah, my inner self was cursing my girly arms and strength, but how grateful am I for chivalry. I know a lot of women think it’s passé to have a strong man around, but heaven help us if they really do disappear completely. And though I’m still the kind of girl who likes to do things on her own, it’s nice to know that it doesn’t mean I always have to.

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Wishing to be incognito

This last Sunday was my birthday but I really kind of wished it wasn’t. It’s not because I’m getting older–I’m way past the age of caring. I didn’t want to take away from someone else’s special day. My stepbrother had served a stellar mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. So many of his friends had come out to celebrate with him, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment. He deserved that, so I said nothing all day about it being my birthday. I’d almost pulled it off until my sister starting singing happy birthday to me while I was trying to collect my kids and things so we could travel the three hours home. Of course everyone reacted like they should, feeling sorry for ignoring me on my birthday, but I was actually happy that most of the day had been about him. Seeing the growth of my stepbrother’s testimony, a convert to the church himself as a young teenager, was the best present I could ever ask for. Birthday…Smirthday! I’ll have another one in a year!

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I’m back

Well, it’s been a hot minute since I posted, but honestly I didn’t have the energy to do one more thing for the last two months. My daughter got engaged to a very nice young man, but they had a conundrum. His job in the first of October was about to change to very long hours, so he wouldn’t be able to get married until January, maybe later. Of course, there was about seven weeks before this would happen at the time, so my daughter looked at me and said, “I don’t want to be engaged for months on end,” which I translated to mean, Mommy, you have six weeks to make this wedding happen.

Crazy as that sounds, I actually pulled it off, and the reception was lovely. I’m so grateful to all the people who helped me accomplish what felt like the rush of the century, but seeing my daughter so very happily married made it all worth it. And since she’s my only daughter, I figure I won’t have to do nearly as much for my sons wedding days, whenever those happen. Here’s hoping, because, people, that was exhausting!

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Well I didn’t want to win mother of the year anyway.

One of the hardest things in life is being wrong, but when it’s your child you’ve messed up with it’s even worse. It’s just one more reminder that parenting is a crap shoot, and I really don’t know what I’m doing. And yet, my older kids keep coming to me for advise. I mean that should kind of put my mistakes on them, but still I feel bad. There is only one good thing that has come from moments like these. I’ve learned to say I’m sorry quickly and without a defensive tone. The older I get the more I realize that batting a 100% in this parenting thing is impossible. My goal is to do my best not to cause harm. And if I do? I’m happy to hug them until they stop crying…or punching my arm.

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It’s all up to you.

Recently, I attended a thing called girls camp. Since I was in charge of the whole darn thing I got to choose the service project, and I picked tying quilts. It was a project that took several months to bring to fruition, but by the time the girls saw these child-size quilts up at camp their edges were already bound and they just needed to be tied. Nobody in my area had ever done quilt-tying for the girls camp service project so I’d had a ton of skepticism from other leaders. And even the girls when they initially got to camp didn’t look too thrilled at the quilting station.

“Tying quilts? I’ve never done that before,” a lot of them said.

“Well…consider this your opportunity to learn,” I said and handed out needles with yarn already threaded through the eye.

From that first day to the last day of camp I watched the attitudes of the girls change. Many came for their obligatory thirty minutes of work and ended up staying for hours upon hours. I was pretty confident this project would go well since I’m not the craftiest of persons, yet there is something strangely soothing about tying a quilt. And I wanted to give the girls an opportunity to learn what really is becoming a dying art, since most people just get their quilts from department stores rather than make their own.

Now, I wasn’t successful at reaching every girl. Some just flat out refused to participate. Things like that used to bother me but I’ve come to realize that another person’s attitude is not something I can control, and neither is that a reflection on how well I’m doing as a leader. My mother always said, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” So whether or not someone is discovering new skills, or even better enjoying the processes of learning them, really falls on each individual to make that happen. Hopefully, you find yourself in the camp of trying new things as often as possible, you’ll be a better person for it.

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No Touchy!

In my backyard I have lots of types of roses, because of my love for the traditional English garden. Some of those roses make up a living wall that splits my backyard into two sections. The beautiful New Dawns that make up this wall are considered a climbing rose, though they need far more structure than most ivies to actually climb. It took over five years for this wall to reach its full height, and it has been painstaking nurtured and trimmed by me along the way. They bloom only once every summer, and it is a spectacular sight to behold.

Last week, most of the blooms had reached their zenith but I allowed the withering blooms to linger longer so any late ones would also be completely finished. On Saturday I finally began the process of removing all the dead blooms and trimming the wall back into its perfect shape. The process is not easy and a little knowledge of climbing roses is necessary.

The process in total took over seven hours to complete. After the first three of those hours my oldest son, was taking his turn to clean up the discarded blooms, asked me, “Why don’t we just take the hedge trimmer to this? It would be way faster.”

“You’re right, but these are roses. If we cut them in the wrong place they won’t bloom as much the next year and it can cause lateral overgrowth that can even kill the roots.”

“Then at least let me help you prune them.”

“No, these roses have thorns so big it’s impossible not to get scratched.” I showed my son the little drops of dried blood along the many tiny cuts on my forearm.

“And your mother doesn’t want you possibly damaging her babies,” my husband interjected from the other side of the wall

I pursed my lips at him over a perfect section of trimmed wall but I couldn’t deny it. The darn man knew me too well.

I turned back to my son and decided to kick his offer further down the road, like next year or the year after that, or maybe after I’m dead and I won’t be able to see my beautiful babies destroyed by my impatient family’s hands. “You know there are other things in the garden that need pruning too.”

Looking back on the exchange I know my overprotective response is ridiculous but I can’t help it. I’m not this psychotic with anything else in my gardens or house, but these roses represent years of dreaming of my own English garden and it’s finally coming to fruition. No touchy!

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The worst excuse ever!

My daughter and youngest son have spent a lot of time driving each other crazy. They are like oil and water, and both think its the other person’s job to change before the irritation will stop. I spend a lot of time refereeing where I can and reminding them that they are family.

This week when I came around the corner I saw my daughter flipping off my youngest son before she turned to walk out the garage door. Yeah, that kind of crass behavior is not going to fly in my house. I told her to come here.

“Mom, I’m going to be late.”

Yeah, that excuse wasn’t going to fly. “Then you better get over here faster.”

Of course I got the arm-cross of attitude and eyeroll once she stood in front of me, but I let it slide for the moment. I wanted to tackle the more pressing matter. “Don’t you realize how vulgar it is to flip someone off?”

“What? I see kids do it all the time, it’s not that big of deal.”

And there is was, the very thing I hated most to hear. “Just because others are willing to do it, doesn’t make it any less wrong. You can’t rise to your full potential if you chose to wallow around in the gutter with everyone else. You are far too intelligent and know many better ways to communicate than that.”

Her arms stayed crossed but she did drop her gaze to the floor. “Yes, mom.”

I truly hope I hit a nerve with her. There’s nothing I hate more than the excuse of “well someone else it doing it.” The impact of bad behavior is not negated just because you can point many people doing the same thing. Trust me, those doing the bad behavior aren’t going to come to save you when the consequences of following along come due. It’s your life, so be sure you are always making a conscious effort in the ownership of it.

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Can life be fun? Well that’s up to you.

With two children out of high school, I find my house filled by a lot of twenty-somethings. The way they proudly state themselves to be adults, then two seconds later often lament about how hard their life is cracks me up. Finally, yesterday I said, “You know, having struggles is part of life.”

“You mean this won’t end as I get older?”

“Not really.”

She had such a forlorn look on her face, I feared she might jump from the nearest tall building if my small town had any tall buildings to speak of. Thank goodness we don’t. I decided it best to try and soften the reality blow I’d just landed on her head.

“Look, just because struggles are a part of life doesn’t mean it’s all terrible. We often grow the most when we overcome really challenging things. It’s the purest sense of accomplishment you’ll ever get to feel. And remembering those highs can help you face whatever will come next. I guess the struggles do kind of get easier over time, because with enough experience you’ll start to realize everything eventually passes. So you keep plugging ahead.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun.”

“Life is what you make of it,” I said. “I have found moments to laugh hysterically, even when terrible things were happening around us, like my husband being out of work for six months. Our attitude is more than half the battle, and I chose to see my life like a rollercoaster. Yes, there are ups and downs, but oh how I still love the speed of a rollercoaster and the way my tummy rises a falls. I just figure the harder the climb I have to go through means the bigger hill on the other side and I get to fly down for a time.”

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The touch of a mother

This week I found myself incredibly busy, trying to get ready for my daughter’s high school graduation while still carving out time to do the endless business of an editor for a publishing house. My husband happened to be home that day so he did his best to help me out with the household chores.

The next day, I opened the cupboard where we store our plates, bowls, and cups. The items were all on the right shelf, but not in the right order. I never store the glass items ahead of the plastic ones because my youngest son who is fourteen always seems to be in a hurry, and has broken more plates, bowls, and glass cups than I care to count. To alleviate the issue I’d been putting all glass and breakable items in the back for years. Had my husband never noticed this before?

Not long after this, my youngest son came into my room, unable to find leggings to put under his shorts for football practice. I sighed and went to his room, knowing I had thrown them into the wash the day before. I finally found them, but not in the draw I always put them in. Had my husband never notice that his leggings were stored with his underwear and not with his shorts?

This kind of stuff went on for the rest of the day, little things, here and there, out of their normal place. Even my own clothes hadn’t been separated like usual in my drawers, and I had to go searching for them. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful for the help my husband gave me that day. But what I found interesting is that even after all these years he didn’t innately know where everything went. I mean, after all, he’s lived here as long as I have. I know the ins and outs of every child’s room, even the shared spaces like the kitchen and living room. I even take care to pay attention to things like if the cereal in the canisters are getting low. Maybe my family just thinks they’re self refilling, because they are never empty though I don’t eat it.

My husband does all kinds of things well, but I guess being a mother means I pay attention to so much more when it comes to running this house.

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