Friday, March 17, 2017

Sunny Day Chats

The weather has been  BE-A-U-TIFUL! Hooray for spring!!!
I'm pretty sure I willed it here, because winter and I were just not working out (as usual).

Yesterday I took the kids down the street to see if my friend Alexis and her kids were available to hang out. Lucky for me Alexis is the kind of person who is happy to stop what she's doing and visit with whoever drops by, even for hours. Remember when it used to be like that all over? We we sat on the front porch watching the kids play and had wonderful, wonderful chats in the sunshine.

It is so lovely to have a friend that you can talk to about every topic under the sun. I've had several friends like that, and I cherish every one of them, and the conversations we've had. I love learning from each other, and our different points of view.
We happened to talk about everything from chakras, to movies, to stones, writing, and teaching, stress, and more I can't remember at the moment. I love her insights, and she is definitely helping to guide me.

I love that God puts the right people in my life right when I need them. For instance, when Ben and I got married and switched to that stage where you're not going to single's activities anymore, and our friends no longer called, and when we did see them it was sometimes awkward. We were just on different train tracks and so it was different. I prayed that God would send me a friend, a really good girl-friend. Someone I could really talk to.

Well, I auditioned for The King and I at the Hale Center Theater in Gilbert, AZ, and happened to get cast as one of the king's wives. Well, Laura and Bethany also were cast as wives and we all became very close. Bethany and her family ended up moving to Colorado not long after, but Laura and I have stayed the best of friends for years. I miss her so much since we're all the way in up in Utah now. She is also one of those friends who I can talk to about anything, and do.

So, here's a toast to those great friends, who listen and chat, and who drop what they're doing and indulge in those fabulous deep conversations.

~Crystal

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Look who's back again."

^ A quote from one of my favorite movies, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Ha, I love it.

I've been inspired to come back to my blog because of my fantastic sister-in-law. She's made it a goal to write on her blog every day. Yep, every day. Sometimes it's something short and sweet, sometimes it's more, and I love it. All of it. She's very insightful, and hilarious too. Plus you can't find happily ever after like their's just anywhere. It will make your heart melt.
Check her out at rbdaily.weebly.com

I do love to write, so even if no one reads this I'm fine with that because writing is so therapeutic. My problem,  however, is that I have soooooo much going on in my mind that I tend to go on and on, and on, and on. Then it gets daunting to get ready to sit and write something because I know it'll take a while to get it all down. Well, here's to trying anyway. Hopefully I can keep them a bit shorter and write anyway if I become overwhelmed.

Lately I have been LOVING the Twilight Playlist on Spotify. I recently re-read all the books and watched all the movies (something I do every few years for nostalgia). Yes, yes, I know. So many of my friends, especially book lovers, love to knock that series, but I still love to go back to it every once in a while. So, I was trying to find a song from the second movie, and ironically I found a bunch a new favorite songs, and the one I was looking for wasn't even in there.

Top three new favorites are:

Turning Page, by Sleeping at Last



Requiem on Water, by Imperial Mammoth


- The last one is Flightless Bird, by American Mouth, but I couldn't find a good version on youtube. They all started a little lower than the actual song and it just changed the mood, so go find it on Spotify, then close your eyes and enjoy.

*And a bonus song:*

Shooting the Moon, by OK GO 
Hopefully you already know how talented OK GO is, in so many ways.
This song was so fun, especially in the movie.

It's all been very fitting to my mood as of late. For some reason I've been extra reflective. Mostly about who I am and who I'm supposed to be. How to fit the me I've been into the mold of a mother. I still don't feel like a Mom. Isn't that weird? Sometimes it's like I'm babysitting. I don't feel old enough to be a Mom, but then again, I feel so old sometimes. Especially when I talk to people younger than me. I can hardly talk with teens without cringing, unless they're especially mature. Even when I went back to school two years ago, it was so funny to me to listen and watch these kids that weren't that much younger than me. I was like "Man, I am so an adult now." 

Well, I'll leave it there for today. Until next time.

~Crystal



Sunday, October 23, 2016

Does He take a step back?

(PS, that's not Christian, or anyone I know)

Christian just learned how to walk! Yay!
After he turned one I thought he would start walking, at least a little, but nope. A month went by, two months, three months... then he would walk if someone held his hands, at least for a bit, and he would happily walk while pushing things around, like chairs or a walker toy. Then, a few weeks ago Ben stood him on the floor in the kitchen and stood about three steps away from him with his arms stretched out. I had done that a bunch of times, but he would just sit down and crawl to me. Here Ben was the incentive. Daddy was there waiting with arms wide open and hope in his eyes. Christian took his first steps while holding his father's gaze. After his first strong steps he was met with a big embrace and joyful cries! We celebrated for a minute, and then what do you think Ben did?
He put Christian back on the floor standing up and again scooted back from him to get Christian to walk again.
Why?
Because Ben knew he could do it. Christian knew he could do it too. Ben had put him back in a proper spot, standing upright, not laying down, but once again he took a few steps back and reached out for Christian. This time was different though. This time once Christian got close to him Ben did what every parent does, he scooted back a step or two more so Christian would get the hang of it and proceed to go the distance.

I've been thinking about this lately as I feel that the Lord is stretching me spiritually, which is life, not just spirit. I will start to feel like I'm finally on a good spiritual plane, even the highest I've ever been on before, when after a bit it feel like I'm increasing in distance. In a sense I feel that God has taken a step or two back from me. How frustrating when I have worked hard to get where I was! But I'm not left in a bad place, unless it's from my own faults or rebellion. God has left me standing upright, and still has His arms stretched out for me with hope shining in his eyes. This time I know I can do it, and He knows I can do it (even if I doubt myself from time to time), and he wants to see me walk farther, to improve, to get the motions down and stretch myself, and once I've walked that distance then he'll embrace me with cries of joy and triumph... then I think I can expect that He'll once again put me back down, standing upright and take an extra step back, and each time I thirst more mightily for that embrace and jubilation because with each sacrifice and effort it's so much sweeter and more potent. Because He is my incentive. With all the peace, understanding, and joy that comes with it. And soon I'll be able to walk well on my own, and then even run. Oh joy!
My, oh my, the things that parenting has taught me.

~Crystal

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Forgotten Letter


While dropping off my kids at my parent's house, not long ago, my Mom handed me a folded piece of paper and said, "Something for you to read while you wait for your appointment."

Puzzled, I took it and tucked it into my purse.

I checked in to my appointment and found a seat in the waiting room, then I pulled out the paper. After unfolding it I noticed the date first and began reading. I knew it was a letter from my Mom from when I was a kid, but at first I wasn't quite sure why she had written it. After a while I realized it was a letter she had written to me to read on the plane while I was traveling, by myself, to go stay in Mexico with my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. I was 11 at the time. I guess she found it while packing.
Hopefully she won't mind me sharing this letter with you. Because of it I have gained a Heavenly insight.

Feb. 18, 1999

Dear Daughter,

Today you are leaving on a big adventure. You have grown up so much, and we are so proud of you. I can hardly believe you are the same person as the little girl that went to Monterrey 5 1/2 years ago, that was so shy and scared to be away from her mommy. You are now quite an independent young lady, even though I know you love us a lot and will miss us.

You may have times when you will get homesick. That's O.K. and it's normal, but don't let it get out of hand. If you feel homesick, do things to take your mind off of it, don't just sit around thinking, because then it just gets worse. In any case, give us a call, or have Danny send me an e-mail telling me to call you at a certain time.

If you have problems with your cousins or your aunt or uncle, you will feel sad, and it will make you miss your family more. Just remember that you also have problems with your Mom and brothers and sister every so often. It's a normal part of life. The important thing is to learn how to solve those problems. Most of them can be solved simply by talking to the person, and sometimes by just apologizing, even if you don't think it was your fault. Talking always helps when someone hurts your feelings.

I know your Spanish will improve a lot while you are in Monterrey. That will be wonderful. It's a skill you don't want to lose. Remember to try hard to speak it as much as you can, but if you really need help with something, Danny and Norma can help you.

Remember to help Tia Norma as much as you can, at the school and at home. I'm sure you can be a big help with your cousins' homework too. When you see Tia Norma fixing dinner, offer to set the table or to help with something. That will make her feel really good about having you in their home, and it will help so there won't be any bad feelings. Remember to do your laundry too.

It's going to be hard having you away for so long. The house will be so quiet. I might have to invite your friends over to have a party, just so it won't be so quiet (just kidding) ;) :)

Have a great time! It's your only chance to be in Monterrey, away from home. Take advantage of the opportunity. Don't forget to call and to write. We want to know everything about what you're doing. 

Love,

Mom


When I first read her letter I thought it was so sweet, and I was again grateful for a thoughtful Mother who was inspired to give good advice to me before my big adventure (I was staying for a month, by the way). Into my purse the note went and then I pulled out my phone to read on the Kindle app for a bit. I've been reading a really great book called "Your Endowment," by Mark Shields, and I began where I had left off which was about how the story of Adam and Eve is taught in the temple so that we will understand that it is not only real, but also symbolic of us as mankind.

Before Adam became a human man he was with God and helped to create the earth. At that time his name was Michael, which means "Who is like God." When his spirit was put into a body on earth he was given a new name, Adam. We use this stage of his identity to symbolize mankind on earth. After he died he was taken to be with God again and he was once again Michael, which again means, "Who is like God." So...

"Michael: Who is like God
Adam: Mankind on Earth
Michael: Who is like God."

In the book Mark Shields says "Using our vocabulary terms, when Adam meets the son of God, he begins his journey back to being Michael." So are we sent from heaven to a fallen world where we strive to become like God and then return to Him.

Anyway, while I was reading all this (and there's SO MUCH, it's very deep and beautiful), I was thinking about the process of when I left my heavenly home with my Heavenly Parents, and gently I was prompted to read Mom's letter again.

I re-read it two more times. The first time I read it in the context of her writing to me as I set off on my adventure of being a wife and a mother, but I read it in a deeper light that really struck me after that.

What if my own Heavenly Father had written this letter to me, or one like it?

Suddenly the words were popping out in such a beautiful, intimate, loving, and longing way. Perhaps it would have read more like this:

Dear Daughter,

Today you are leaving on a big adventure. You have grown up so much, and we are so proud of you. I can hardly believe you are the same person as the little girl that was so shy and scared to be away from her Heavenly Home. You are now quite an independent young lady, even though I know you love us a lot and will miss us.

You may have times when you will get homesick. That's O.K. and it's normal, but don't let it get out of hand. If you feel homesick, do things to take your mind off of it, don't just sit around thinking, because then it just gets worse. In any case, talk to me anytime in prayer.

If you have problems with your parents, or your family or friends, you will feel sad, and it will make you miss your Heavenly Home more. Just remember that you also have problems with your family here every so often. It's a normal part of growing. The important thing is to learn how to solve those problems. That's a big part of why you're going to earth! Most of them can be solved simply by talking to the person, and sometimes by just apologizing, even if you don't think it was your fault. Talking always helps when someone hurts your feelings.

I know your learning and understanding will improve a lot while you are there on earth. That will be wonderful. Those are skills you don't want to lose. Remember to try hard to learn and grow as much as you can, but if you really need help with something, your Mother and Father are there to help you.

Remember to help your Mother, family, and others as much as you can, around you and at home. I'm sure you can be a big help with the learning of those around you too. When you see someone struggling or needing help with something, offer to help. That will make them feel really good about having you around them, and it will help so there won't be any bad feelings. Remember your own responsibilities and to take care of yourself too.

It's going to be hard having you away for so long. The house will be so quiet.

Have a great time! It's your only chance to get a body and be away from home. Take advantage of the opportunity. Don't forget to talk to me often. We want to know everything about what you're doing. 

Love,

Your Heavenly Father


I shared this story in our church's sacrament meeting this month and the holy spirit was so strong as I told my ward family how I felt when I read those words. When I think of the pre-mortal life I kind of picture it as just so full of people everywhere and I suppose subconsciously I figured I kind of wouldn't be missed while I was here on earth, but I know now in my heart that He does miss me. My Heavenly Father misses me. He misses hearing my voice next to Him, asking Him questions, and learning by His side. Perhaps his house in heaven has some quiet places where he often thinks of me and misses hearing me there. I picture Him waiting my whole life to hear my voice speak to Him whenever I remember to, then He feels joy. And I know that as much as He misses me, and misses hearing from me and having me by His side, He also misses you. 

~Crystal

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Emotional Painkillers

Everyone has pain in their life. No one is devoid of it.
Everyone also has to choose how they are going to react to that pain. Some will become apathetic to it, some will inflict pain on others in efforts to deflect it, some will turn to addictions, and some will turn to God.

There are many types of addictions. Drugs, pornography, sexual, food, etc. And it is now common knowledge that many people will "self-medicate" their problems with these things and more. It has become the most common and popular practice in response to our problems.

We know that there is no way to live pain free lives, or lives without trials and hardships of some kind. Recently I have realized that there is another point to our uphill climb in life. It is not just a test, and it is not just lessons, but it is also a way to determine which direction we will point ourselves each time we meet a boulder in our path.

What I mean to say is that the drawbacks in life give us a chance to say either "I'm going to medicate this pain with something that's not good for me," or "I'm going to give this over to God."

Recently I was on a spiritual high a couple months ago. I was learning incredible doctrine and understanding so many things, and feeling so much love! It was amazing! Then I felt like I was slowly coming down from that high, and then suddenly there were things in my life that I thought were dealt with, but they were coming back to pester and hurt me. I was still doing "everything right" and I was still trying hard to study and understand the gospel and God's word, but why couldn't I still have my spiritual high anymore? Why were hard things happening when I was turning them over to the Lord? I will tell you why. Because it's like choosing between a ladder or a slide. Chutes and Ladders if you will ;)
The ladder leads me to God, high spiritual understanding, and peace with each rung, but I can't just stay on one rung and expect to get higher at the same time. My hard times were God's push to say "Keep going, don't stop, don't get complacent."
To quote our beloved Dumbledore "We must all choose between what is right and what is easy." The slide is what is easy. Self medicating, choosing the filth that is heaped in front of us by that misery-loving serpent, Satan.
If we're not progressing we're regressing. It's that simple. God knows that and wants to help us get higher, but we can't if we stop where we're at. Hard times are a nudge and we decide which direction we will go from that nudge. Study harder, give our hearts, might, mind, and strength more wholly to the Lord and then we learn that the whole time it was exactly what we wanted from the beginning, but we couldn't see it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Peace of Mind... Let's Get Some

I've been thinking about peace of mind lately, and how I've slowly come to have more of it.
As a kid and a teenager you kind of figure that there are things that you should become exposed to and you want to know everything about the world, and most of all you think you should be accustomed to these things because everyone else is. Also, because of school setting and social structures you don't want to be the "weird one" that doesn't do what everyone else is doing. I guess you could attribute watching TV or scary movies being one of those things that only "weird people" wouldn't do.

When I was a little kid my older siblings (they're actually all older than me) would be watching something scary and I was told to go in another room. "It's too scary for you," I was told. Why wan't it too scary for them? Actually it probably was. Especially for my sister who has a sensitive soul to things that are meant to frighten. For some reason I remember watching Jurassic Park with them. I don't know if I was peeking out from behind the bedroom door to watch, or if I sat and watched it and they just didn't think twice about the fact that this 6 or 7 year old was watching Jurassic Park with them. Either way it doesn't matter, the result was that I had nightmares about dinosaurs for years. It wasn't that I thought they were real, I knew by then that movies were movies and none of it was real. Everyone tells kids (even I've done this) not to be scared because it's not real. But the terror was real. The idea was real. The feeling was very real. The feeling of fright and terror was what drove my nightmares and started me to be frightened of things that I knew were not real in my own home. I knew that there wasn't really a dinosaur behind my bathroom door, but I felt that scared feeling anyway every time I opened it. That's what scary movies do to us. They leave us with a feeling of fear that is accompanied by suspense and thrill. The suspense goes away first as the plot of the movie rolls along, and the thrill is gone soon too, but the fear takes far longer to subside. It's like a residue in your brain.

So, one of the things I decided as an adult was that I would avoid scary movies. As a teenager there were movies like "The Ring" and other horror movies I considered totally worthless. I avoided those at all costs. I knew what it would do to me. Call me a wimp if you like, but I know myself, and those things are not good for me personally. I would occasionally watch movies like "The Others," or "The Village" I considered those suspenseful and not terrifying. I guess I would still call them suspense movies, but they still evoke a definite feeling of fear. So, right after I got married, when I was 21, I watched the last "scary" movie I would ever watch. I believe it was Halloween and we had some friends over to our apartment to watch "Signs." After the movie I realized how much I did not need it in my life or in my mind. Not that movie or any like it. Then and there I swore off scary movies. I could have argued with myself that it was artistically done and worth watching because of the plot, or the actors, or the direction involved, but I needed something more than I need to watch that movie. I needed peace of mind. I needed to know myself and be true to myself. Yay for step one.


When Ben and I got married we didn't have cable. We figured we didn't need it. We were newlyweds; living on love and passion ;) We didn't even have a TV. But then the Summer Olympics rolled around and Ben was dying to watch it, so we got a TV and cable. All 250 channels, or maybe more. The evenings we used to spend just being together, and maybe talking or going places, turned into watching the Olympics at first, and then Project Runway, Everybody Loves Raymond, and several other shows I can't even remember now.
Everybody Loves Raymond marathon? Sure we'll just watch a couple. At least that's what we thought, until it was three hours later and we're finally getting off the couch. Every evening it became habit to get a bowl of cereal and sit on the couch.

Ben was in school and working, and I was working full time, so the few hours we had together in the evening became hours of TV time. Sure we were spending them together, and I'm not suggesting it was horrible or anything. Actually some of my fondest childhood memories of being with my family was just all of us sitting and watching sitcoms together. Maybe that's sad, I don't know. I don't look back on it as something bad, I look at it fondly. But if I really consider the alternatives that might have been possible... what if we had piled those hours of TV together and had gone camping instead. I don't doubt that it would have brought our family closer together and that maybe I would have had, and would now have, a closer relationship to my siblings (who are all much older than me), and it wouldn't have to be camping (which my Mom hates), it could have been something active outside, teaching each other something, etc. But I don't regret or resent not having done that. We had family time together and that's something that I think every child wants, consciously or not. And bonus, I have an amazing family all around.

One day I told Ben, "I feel like there's a different spirit about our home since we got TV." He thought about it and agreed. He said "You know we pay for all these channels and when we go to watching something we can't ever seem to find something we actually want to watch. And it's really a waste of time anyway." So we bagged it. We haven't paid for cable for probably the last five years or more. We do pay for Netflix and use it. The girls watch Jr. shows and movies on there, and we're really particular about what it is they watch, but that's the closest to cable we have.

Of course around the time we quit cable they started putting the TV shows online... or most of them. We could watch a lot of shows the day after it aired. We started watching more and more for a while (Celebrity Apprentice, and others I also can't remember now), but really Ben is into documentaries, so that's what he watches on his laptop when he feels like it. I made a decision that there were plenty of shows to watch and just because they were entertaining didn't mean they were good for me to watch. I also noted that when I had shows to "catch up on" and my girls needed something while I was watching it I would get very frustrated and angry at them for interrupting me. Didn't they know that I was in the middle of a fight scene on Once Upon A Time?! Of course not, and it wasn't fair to them that I would get so mad because they needed me when I felt it was inconvenient. I needed to be a better mother, and I needed to get away from my computer more often. I needed less excuses to sit instead of getting things done; so I made a resolution. I didn't ban all shows. Instead I decided that I wouldn't watch anything that wasn't inspiring to me. That narrowed it down to three shows a week.

Wednesdays I watch 19 Kids and Counting, each episode is just over 20 minutes. Fridays I would watch Biggest Loser, a little longer at around 45 minutes, and Saturdays I watch Shark Tank which is about 45 minutes. There are times I watch something on Netflix at night to fall asleep to, which is not a healthy sleep policy to me, but when you're pregnant and sleeping is a luxury that doesn't always come when you  want/need it, sometimes I need something to keep me from going crazy while being awake for hours, usually in the middle of the night.

You know what benefit I've found from this TV purge? I am not so distracted. I have a clearer mind. I feel like I can think my own thoughts more clearly. It's kind of like someone who needs glasses, but they can't tell. From their point of view the world around them looks mostly fine, they can see things, until... they put on that prescription pair of glasses and realize that there is so much more to the world, and so much more detail than they had ever seen before. They didn't know before that they were missing out on so much, they figured that was just the way it is, but after being able to see more clearly they know better. That's how I feel. I don't have TV plots (that are designed to keep you thinking about them all week, btw) distracting me, or making me feel good or bad depending on my favorite character's story line. I can focus so much better on being who I am, and being a good Mom and wife. I can be a blessing to my family in a much better way.

I'm not suggesting everyone take up a TV purge, although I would recommend it, my main point is to know yourself well enough that you can tell what it is that is keeping your mind from peace and get rid of it. It might be hard at first, try a test run going one or two weeks without that thing that keeps you distracted or afflicts your moods and see if it's worth it. Hey, it's worth a try.

~Crystal



Thursday, November 6, 2014

The "Gratitude" Red Herring



A lot of us suffer from something I would call a "blessing competition," or maybe even a "gratitude delusion." Such as when I was a kid I would start to feel down and pity myself and then say "Hey, at least you're not starving in Africa," or "At least you didn't have to cross the plains like the pioneers and lose the family you loved." Unfortunately it's something that's been passed down for generations. Think of everything bad in the world and all the misery others have endured to urge people to feel gratitude for what they have. It was the same in my family (with the best of intentions, of course).

Well, when I mentioned this to a very wise woman (actually, my therapist at the time) she said that the mental and emotional suffering most of us have today is just as hard as crossing the plains in winter, or any number of other hardships. Especially because it's such a lonely pain, it all happens within us personally. It's not a group trial. I think she would know since she saw the intense suffering of all her patients and their lives.

I know that every person on this earth will suffer trials in their lives. Everyone handles them differently, but what is hard for me, may not be hard for you, and vice versa. There were times when I thought I would much rather be pulling a handcart with my minuscule supply of belongings and empty belly, than deal with the trial that currently had me in it's grips. Everyone's trials are meant to test them and to help them build a stronger character, and since each person is unique, so are their trials. Makes sense doesn't it?

Anne Frank wrote in her diary about when her mother told a friend looking for advice, that since she was having a hard time she should think of "all the sorrow in the world and be glad you're not sharing in it." Personally that causes self-loathing in myself; feeling like I'm ungrateful. A feeling of shame for the pain I feel because my life could be so much "worse." Well, guess what, "worse" is relative. "Hard" is relative. My niece said "Hard is hard. My life is hard, your life is hard. Hard is hard." You've had trials in your life, and so have I. Comparing them is, to me, as bad as comparing how clean your house is to the neighbors'.

We try to force gratitude as a form of "perfectionism." The same way we always try to look perfect on the outside (house, family, clothes, etc.), we try to feel perfect on the inside too. But I strongly believe that it's okay to feel our pain and say "This hurts; this is hard." I'm not suggesting we just give up. There are a huge variety of things you can do to be happy again, or friends, or therapists you can talk to. We don't have to continue suffering, but I do hope that we stop feeling guilt and shame for our pain.
God wanted us all tested, the privileged and the poor. Don't EVER think that someone's life is perfect. Don't EVER assume that someone has it easier or harder than you. The blessings we recieve from the trials we endure are all different as well.
We're all in this together. And I also strongly believe that God could have put us all on individual planets to live out our own lives and trials, but he put us together because we need each other and we can help each other. I know that to be true, but it's still hard for me to accept the help of others. Pride, I know. 

Anne Frank wrote in her diary, in rebuttal to her mother's words: "What's the good in thinking of all the misery, when we are already miserable?... I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains." 
She also suggested going out into nature and feeling close to God and nature to cure your sorrows. 

That sounds like a much better plan to me. That and being there for each other without judgement. 

~Crystal