A week of looking back

This week was spring break for my family. I spent a lot of time looking back or rather looking up at the children around me. It’s amazing how fast the dynamic in my household has changed. It wasn’t very long ago that I would have to take a child by the hand to keep them moving on a hiking trail or convince them a theme park ride wasn’t so scary. Now, I’m the one lagging behind and struggling to keep up with their long strides.

At the theme park this week while I stood in line I realized I was now the shortest one of the group. How in the world did that happen? When my children were small, people always told me, “These years go so fast.” It’s not a lie, but what I consider the most important is that I would do it all over again. All the struggles, the tears, the disappointments, every single up and down, if I woke up tomorrow and had to do it over, even with the knowledge of what was coming, I would do it. My kids make up a huge part of my transformation over the years. It’s because of them I’m less selfish and can laugh at dopey mistakes I make. It has been a humbling experience to wade into the unknown of childrearing and still really like the kind of people my children are turning into. I needed them as much as they needed me. Now, if only they hadn’t all decided to grow so dang tall. Having to look up all the time really lessens my ability to look “tough” when I’m laying down the law.

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Who knew my kid had it in him?

My youngest son was asked to his first “couples” dance a few months ago. He’s almost sixteen but still has zero interest in romance at this point in his life. That’s fine with me, but when a young lady ask you to a dance, I don’t care what she looks like. If she had the courage to ask, he will have the courage to say, “yes.” Thankfully, he is still a good and fairly obedient son, so I didn’t have to twist his arm too hard to get him to answer the young lady.

For weeks he complained about not being ready to do this whole dance thing.

“I’ll teach everything you need to know,” I said. “It’s whatever she wants. If she wants to dance, you dance. If she wants to rest, you rest. And whatever she wants to do for dinner, so do you. See…isn’t that easy?”

“But I don’t know how to dance.”

“That’s why you have me.” I held my arms open and shook my spirit fingers for all they were worth. “You’ll be the coolest boy there because you’ll know how to waltz, and I can even show you how to give your date a twirl, and maybe even a dip.”

The day of the dance finally came, and I was worried. All morning long his attitude hadn’t been the best. What if Mr. Cranky decided to stay for this girl’s evening? I remembered how much going to dances had meant to me back then, so I threatened his life. “This is her night, so don’t you ruin it.”

The next morning I got a text message, first from the girl’s mom, then about an hour later from his actual date. My son had hit it out of the park.

“Thank you for letting your son go with my daughter last night. She said he was the life the party. It was the best dance date she’d ever been on.”

The girl even wrote that he was a “gentleman.”

It set my mind at ease. Maybe he does have a little bit of my goofball genes in him somewhere, though he would deny, deny, deny. Being unafraid, and having zero shame, always made it easy for me to dance however I wanted in front of people. And now that other girls have seen my son’s ability to be the “life of the party.” He might just get asked a few more times before he graduates in two years. Heehee…I’m so excited though he looks less than thrilled at the prospect.

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Yes, sometimes everything you have still isn’t enough

Last weekend was a powerful reminder of the influence I have on my children. My youngest son had made a goal last year that he wanted to make it to state this year in wrestling. At that time, I told him, “Put the work in during the off season, lifting and conditioning, hitting every single open mat practice, and you’ll get there.”

My son truly did as I said. Last summer, I would look out my windows and often see him lifting weights in our backyard. I even watched him do weird things like carry 40lb weights in each hand and walk the perimeter of our yard.

“What were you doing?” I asked at the time.

“Building my grip strength.”

Determined, that’s what he looked like. He was so excited for this year’s wrestling season to start, but sadly staying healthy ended up being a struggle for him. In four week’s time, he got strep throat three times. Four weeks is a huge chunk of the wrestling season so he ended up not being able to wrestle at his best a lot of the time. He went into divisionals ranked eighteenth out of thirty-two boys in his weight class. The meant he would be seeded randomly, but to get to state he would have to finish in the top eight. But what the boys in that weight class didn’t realize, my son was fully recovered and ready to give it his all.

The random seeing placed him the harder side of the bracket and his first challenger was a state champion senior. He fought hard but ended up caught in the second round so he fell to his first challenger. He shook it off, knowing that his road would be a hard for him. The next two matches he won, staying alive in the cons rounds and still determined to make in the top eight. His final match that night was a brutal one, neither boy wanting to go home early. Sadly, it was finally my son who found himself a few points short and the end of the three rounds. My son would end up being in ninth place, one place shy of going to state. My son shook the boy’s hand and then opposing coach’s hand and left the mat. I had to return to the table I was running so I follow not long after him to go to the other gym. When I turned the corner saw my son in the hall with huge tears running down his face. He cried even harder when he realized it was me who saw him.

“I know I shouldn’t be crying.” His words came out stuttered and hard to understand.

“Honey, you misunderstand me.” I always point out if I see bad sportsmanship on the mats, and pitching any kind of public fit after a loss is a big no-no for me. “I know this mattered to you, and it’s okay to cry here. You did the right thing, you shook that kid’s hand and his coach’s hand. You showed great restraint waiting to deal with your hurt until you got out here. There is a time and place for everything, even crying. And in my opinion you made a choice to do it here.”

“But I worked so hard. Why wasn’t it enough?”

It was valid question. I did tell him if he put the work in during the off season he would accomplish his goal, but life is seldom that simple.

“Because sometimes you can do all the right things for the right reasons and still come up short. I know that sounds super unfair, and maybe it is but that’s how real life sometimes is. It doesn’t mean that the effort you put into reaching your goal wasn’t worth it, it was. You’ve grown a ton as a wrester this year, even gaining twenty pounds of muscle from where you started last year. As long as you don’t give up, then it’s not really over, so pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. But most importantly, your dad and I love you right now.”

To be honest I really wished my son could have felt that gratification of accomplishment after working so hard, it would have been the easier lesson to understand. But if he can find the strength to keep working even after the disappointment of this season, he’ll be an even better all around person in the end.

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A personality flaw coming to light

This week I gained a new perspective on how others perceive me. I am often busy beyond belief so when I talked to people it’s usually only out of necessity, and few words are used. “I’ve got places to go and people to kill.” Is a funny motto I often say, playing on my years as a writer. I usually say it when I need my kids to get the led out and move faster.

While I don’t expect or really need people to check up on me, others are not the same. My mind is an analytical one, that deals with facts far more than emotions, so there isn’t much that bothers me, but my short interactions with people were making some think I didn’t care about them. Having it brought to my attention, I realized my mistake of thinking solely from my perspective. No, I still don’t need words of comfort and praise to feel good about myself, but it doesn’t kill me to try and make the effort toward others. The only problem I can see is that I tend to be laser focused when busy, so I need to find a way to force myself to slow down and take the time to be more thoughtful with my interactions. Habits are hard to break, I only hope those I’ve hurt will be patient with me while I attempt to adjust my behavior.

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How you deal with losing is just as important as winning

A couple of weekends ago our high school team hosted a wrestling tournament. This tournament draws teams from all over our state and even a few out of state teams. It’s a tough double-elimination competition every year.

This year a young woman who I got to know and love when we lived back in Wyoming was wrestling this year. She has become a very good wrestler in the few years she’s been doing it. Granted, the girls division has only been in existence for three years, but she’s become one the top wrestlers of her weight class.

She won straight through, making it to the final match where she was wrestling for first place. Sadly, she lost and wasn’t handling it well when I finally caught up to her. After a minute or so of listening to her loud frustrations and complaints, I finally said.

“I know it’s disappointing to lose, but I would caution you to change your perspective on this.”

She blinked at me through her tears like I’d lost my mind.

“How many young ladies on your team made it to the placing matches?” I said.

“Four,” she told me.

“And how many girls are on your team?”


“So, only a little over ten percent of your team will get to stand on one of those boxes and get a medal tonight. And you are the only one on your team that went for first and second, which means you are the highest finisher they got.”

She bowed her head. “You’re right.”

“I know you’ve won several tournaments this year, and that’s awesome, but it’s just as important to choose your actions carefully when you lose. All those girls over there look up to you, and you can show them that it’s okay to lose. Remember that’s what most of them are feeling at every tournament. They still have value, just as you do, because win or lose you all decided to find the courage to step out on the mat every single time you’re called up.”

She nodded her head and then I leaned down and whispered, “But be ready to give ’em hell the next time you see that girl.”

She smiled, her first in the entire exchange. “I will.”

“That’s my girl, fearless to the end.”

I’ve been around wrestlers for more than twenty years. In all that time I’ve watched the sport basically mold two kinds of people–ones who are really cocky or those that are extremely humble. You would think it’s the winning that would separate the two, but you would be wrong. It’s all about perspective. If the winning wrestler can remember how it felt to lose, they will always be considerate of their opponents after a match, and trust me every wrestler has lost at one time or another. The cocky ones have lost sight of that. And let’s be honest, it makes them really hard to be around most of the time.

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Want it to win it

Have you ever heard the cheer, “you’ve got to want it to win it, and we want it more?” While talent and hard work play a part when competing, I believe the words in that cheer are the key to unlocking someone’s full potenial.

Winning isn’t just something that happens, you have to want it–no, you have believe you can achieve it–then translate that into a shear power of will that transforms your body into something that will accept nothing less.

I’ve seen it in all kinds of sports and all kinds of levels of ability. I even remember doing it when I played softball as a young girl, standing out on the pitcher’s mound. There were times when my mind was so clear, not hoping to win but knowing I would win. My accuracy would rise, the velocity of my pitches would increase. It’s like I suddenly had complete control of the game and no batter could touch what I threw. Sadly, keeping that kind of mental assurity at all times seems to be the biggest challenge. To this day, I don’t know how get another athlete to feel what I’m talking about, because I’m not sure how I found it whenever “it” happened in the first place. It just sort of happened.

I’ve seen kids, especially in wrestling, who have seemed to crack that code. You can tell by the way they walk out on the mat every single time. “I’ve got this match,” is what their eyes say. And if their opponent doesn’t have the same look in their eye, it’s going to be a very short match. I don’t know how we get the boys of the wrestling team my husband coaches to rise to that level of believe, but until we do it’s going to be long season of suffering before mid-February gets here and wrestling is over.

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A Christmas Miracle

I experienced a miracle this week so I’m about to get very personal, letting you into some of my inner sanctum of beliefs that I only share with close friends. Remember the last time I posted, I wrote about singing the National Anthem. I had no idea what a pivotal moment that was going to be.

Shortly after that event, I became extremely sick. At the doctor’s office, I tested positive for strep, but this strep was unlike any I had ever experienced before. My throat was raw beyond belief and I struggled to not only swallow but breathe. The doctor prescribed for me an extremely strong antibiotic, trying to help me fight off not only the strep but what he thought was a sever sinus infection. After the ten days of doses, my head and throat felt so much better but my voice was gone. Every time I tried to pass air over my vocal chords to create a tone, nothing would come out. I could speak just fine, it was only when I tried to sing that I felt this weird band-like clamp around my vocal chords, keeping any sound from forming.

I had agreed at the beginning of November to sing for a special Christmas program being put on by my church for the people of my ward. When the sickness first happened I figured I still had plenty of time to heal and prepare. But by the Sunday before Christmas Sunday, I still could not sing. I had never suffered such a long dearth from my singing voice and I was scared that the sickness might have caused permanent damage in some way to my vocal chords.

Desperate, I asked my husband for a priesthood blessing. This priesthood is something worthy males in my church who are keeping their convents with God are ordained to. They must do their best to remain worthy for the power of that priesthood to take effect when blessing others. Now please don’t think of this priesthood blessing like a gumball machine. My husband can’t lay his hands on my head and just make the Lord give me the blessing of my choice. It doesn’t work like that. If it wasn’t in the Lord’s will, not even this blessing would change the plight of my voice. But I had faith that my desire for my voice wasn’t for me, but for the promise I had made to the woman who had planned the program so many months before.

After the blessing, the ratcheting stress I was feeling inside eased. Comforted, I went to bed that Sunday night only to awake and find I still couldn’t sing. Weirdly, I still felt comforted so I kept drinking warm lemon and honey water and speaking as little as possible. On Tuesday, I still couldn’t sing but I felt strongly it would still be okay.

By Wednesday, I woke up able to sing about three notes in my range. Clearly this wasn’t going to be enough to sing the song but hey it was better than the day before. I called my accompanist and told her we would hold off practicing until Friday. We were running out of time and because of my illness and subsequent issues with my voice we hadn’t practiced even once. By Friday, my voice could get through about ninety percent of the song but it was so weak it cracked several times during our short rehearsal. My pianist asked me what I wanted to do.

“We forge ahead, they are counting on us.”

Having only gone through the song twice with the pianist, I was far from prepared like I normally would be when it came to performing in front of people. And I hadn’t dared sing at all until Christmas morning, trying to preserve what voice I had until the moment I had to sing. My prayer before I left for church was short but earnest. For the first time in my life it wouldn’t be the strength of my talent that would pull this off, my talent had seemingly been taken from me. I knew I would not be able to get through this solo unless he willed it.

I gently sang a little of the opening hymn to give my voice an opportunity to warm up as far as I dared to, then I waited until it was my turn in the program to get up and walk to the microphone. I should have been shaking, but I wasn’t. Though I hadn’t been able to sing the song once without cracking so far, I had accepted my fate. This wasn’t about me anymore. If the Lord wanted the congregation to hear this song it would happen.

The music started and I opened my mouth. Shockingly, the sound that came out was completely free of the band-like squeeze I had been experiencing up until his moment. I couldn’t stop the tears from welling in my eyes, yet my tone still remined steady. I’m sure everyone there thought it was the words of the song that were bringing me to tears. Though the words were a touching tribute to the Savior, it was his miracle to me that had me tearing up.

Afterwards, the pianist marveled to me since she had witnessed how weak my voice had been only a few days before. I told her of my husband’s blessing and testified that it truly was a miracle made possible through the priesthood. This lovely woman is not a member of my faith, but I would have been remiss if I hadn’t given the full glory to my Heavenly Father in that moment. I always appreciate how willing this woman who isn’t of my faith is to come and play for me whenever I ask. I truly believe the Lord wanted her to experience this miracle with me, so we could both be strengthened. I can testify with boldness, through the Lord, all things are possible, even such small things as giving me back my voice at the exact moment I needed it.

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An unexpected opportunity

Getting older is a weird experience. I mean, I am my own person so I have absolute control over every decision I make, but that’s often not the reality. As an adult there’s this expectation that because you’re an adult, it’s okay if you step aside. The younger generation behind you should take precedence. And while I don’t disagree with that general notion–I mean the rising generation will eventually have to take over–but I’m not dead yet, nor do I want to be put out to pasture and be nothing but a spectator for the rest of my life. An example of what I’m talking about happened this week.

At our first wrestling dual of the season, the high school girls who were supposed to sing the National Anthem didn’t show. Half joking, the head coach asked if I could sing the National Anthem.

“Yes, I can,” I said.

“Really? You’d be okay to just hop up there in like five minutes.”

“I promise, it’s no problem.”

When I was in high school, I sang the National Anthem countless times, for sporting events, dance competitions, I even did it for a rodeo. But after I graduated high school I moved to a new town where people didn’t know what I was capable of, and soon I was thought of too old to even ask. It didn’t necessarily bother me, but I have stood through many a poor rendition of the National Anthem since, and thought maybe always looking to the youth might not be the best answer.

So, my name was called. I march to the table, took the microphone, and belted out the National Anthem just as clear and controlled as I had when I was a teenager. To say the audience was stunned is an understatement. There was about a three to five second pause after I finished before anybody started clapping.

One of the moms on the team caught me when I returned to my seat.

“I had no idea you could do that. It was beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I said only to be hit by the woman sitting next to her with a snarky comment.

“Shouldn’t a high schooler have done that?”

I forced myself to keep smiling. “They did ask for a high schooler, but they didn’t show up so I filled in.”

Part of me wanted to punch her for sucking some of my residual high away, but I let it go. I got to do something I hadn’t done in over twenty years–and I nailed it. And I don’t care if that makes me sound cocky, it’s actually more that I’m thrilled for being able to still do it after so long of standing in silence and watching others.

After the duel, my youngest son helped that high return one more time. “Mom, I’d never heard you sing that, but it was awesome.”

That very tall teenager got a very big hug. It’s nice to know every once and a while that this old lady has still got it.

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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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