My Thesis Statement

One evening, near the end of my son’s 7th grade school year, I was helping him proofread and edit his first official research paper. It was only 3 pages long, but was quite a feat for my son who prefers to complete a couple hours of science and math homework to a single paragraph of writing. I remember reading his first paragraph (you know, the one where you’re supposed to know what the rest of the paper is about by reading that special sentence included in this paragraph) and didn’t see any kind of map for the next two and a half pages. I asked him, “Where’s your thesis statement?” He looked at me, deflated and dumbfounded. “My what?” “You know, your thesis statement. The sentence that tells your purpose and what this is all going to be about….” There was still no sign of recognition in his tired eyes. Maybe his teacher had used a different term, but I sincerely hoped he hadn’t taught him to write a research paper without a purpose or plan. I took a deep breath and remained as patient as I could as I explained the importance and purpose of a thesis statement. We worked through it together and after a little rearranging and a some grammatical, spelling and punctuation corrections, he ended up with a really good paper. I was proud of him.

That teaching moment with him got me thinking…. How do we write our papers (live our lives) if we don’t know our thesis statement? I wonder sometimes about people who just live their lives, wandering aimlessly through, not knowing their purpose, understanding their potential, or even realizing their worth. I’ve thought about my beliefs, my knowledge, my values, my faith, my goals and dreams, and wondered, “what exactly is MY thesis statement?” I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think I’ve finally come up with something. I’m sure as the years pass and experiences and challenges come and go, it will evolve and grow into something different. But for now, it’s simply this:

I will live my life with purpose as a disciple of Jesus Christ and trust Him to help me become more.

I know that seems a bit generic. Maybe even a bit too simplistic. But it leaves room for me to add in all the learning experiences, testimony-building moments and tidbits of inspiration I gather throughout my daily life.

In my interactions with people, no matter who they are, what they look like, or how they treat me, I can remember that they too, are children of God and I can follow Christ’s example in serving and loving them.

Through my struggles, my Thesis Statement can help me remember that I have a purpose, that I matter to a lot of people (most especially to God), and that every little choice in my life is a gift, and it matters. Life is good. I can be the good for someone else.

It will help me find ways to work through the hard times, and become more than I was before. It can help me trust my faith in God and His Son to pull me through instead of waiting it out in fear. I know that through the Lord, all things are possible. He can make my weaknesses strong. He can replace darkness with light. He can take my hand and help me feel loved when I’m all alone.

Trusting Jesus Christ means that I can believe Him when he tells me I can repent and become clean, that I truly can. I can be forgiven. Made whole. Start fresh. Clean and pure.

If He can do all of that, He can help me become all that He knows I can be–all that I’m meant to be. I am a daughter of God, and His plan includes my Eternal Glory. I can’t think of a better plan than that. Trusting and following my Savior will get me there.

If it weren’t for CHD…

February is heart month and the week of Valentine’s Day (February 7th-14th) is CHD Awareness Week. Every February for the last five years, I’ve written and posted about congenital heart defects and how they affect lives. 1 out of every 100 babies born are born with some sort of heart defect. For some, they are severe and do not allow the baby to even survive birth, or live more than a few hours. For others, they are complex and complicated and related to a host of other birth defects, syndromes and problems they battle throughout their short but meaningful lives. For still others, they are life-threatening, but treated with many reconstructive surgeries to enhance and extend a child’s life. There are those who have a mild defect, one that could maybe go years without notice, or that is treatable with a specific drug, device or procedure. In the “Heart World”, the severity of the defect is irrelevant. These CHD Warriors and Angels are babies born (or lost) with beautiful, pure, “broken” hearts, and they all have amazing souls that match.

When my daughter was born with a very complex, very special heart, I didn’t know anything about those kinds of heart defects. I didn’t know anyone whose child had even one of them, and I didn’t know anybody else who had been through the journey we were just beginning. Now, almost 24 years later, we’ve been with her through 5 heart surgeries, numerous other surgical procedures, hundreds of doctor appointments, months (maybe years) of hospitalization, and ultimately a heart transplant. Things have changed so much in those years. We’ve accumulated a new “heart family”. Among those we have spent time crying with and love dearly, there are others we have never met in person. With these people, we share a common bond and recount our stories and experiences to help offer light and hope during their own journeys. Additionally, there are advances being made in technology and medicine almost daily that will create amazing outcome opportunities for the CHD warriors being born today. It’s an incredible, heart-wrenching, and faith-filled world I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of.

The past couple of years, I’ve had a little different focus in my posts. At first they were full of statistics to help create awareness and a call to action, but I’ve since felt like they also bred pity and sadness. That’s not what I want people to feel. For that reason, I am much more reflective and focus more on how having a child with heart defects has affected my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the journey I’ve been on with my heart warrior. She has affected the world around her, and by her example of gratitude, faith, positivity and perseverance, she has also helped change the lives of many more people than just me.

If it weren’t for CHD…

  • I wouldn’t know how miraculous the human body is.
  • I wouldn’t have learned how to simplify and decide what’s most important in my life.
  • I wouldn’t have realized that it really is true that “tomorrow is a new day”.
  • I wouldn’t have learned how to trust God and accept His will and timing.
  • I wouldn’t be so grateful.
  • I wouldn’t recognize God’s tender mercies and daily miracles as easily.
  • I wouldn’t have had as much experience with God’s grace.
  • I wouldn’t know how many people love and support my family.
  • I wouldn’t have learned that my needs are important too.
  • I wouldn’t know how to help other people through their struggles.
  • I wouldn’t understand that my Savior really knows and loves me, and that he can comfort me because through His suffering in the Garden, He knows exactly how I feel.

Because of congenital heart defects, I’m learning to live my life on purpose…with a plan that’s usually not my own. And I’m learning how important it is to just love. <3

(You can read more about Sarah’s journey on her blog, Sarah’s Second Chance.)

Social Media Perplexity

I open the Facebook app on my phone. Then, in just a flash, every one of my “friends’” statuses are right there. Staring me in the face. Invading my space. In seconds, I can scroll through and know that so-and-so had a really crappy day. That someone else is contemplating what to make for dinner, which cell phone company won’t screw them, or how to get their lazy kids to do their chores. There’s a rant (or twenty) about politics, the rude guy in the checkout line, or the husband that “just doesn’t get me.” There’s reposts of editorials, scantily-clad and mouthy celebrities, “news” articles spewing exaggerated thoughts and lopsided “expert” opinions as if the safety and peace of my life and the whole world depend upon them.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, I love Facebook. Like the time that I reconnected with my best friend from when we were four years old. I like our private family groups where reunions and special events are easily planned and photos and kudos are shared. I like the support groups I belong to where prayers and supportive comments are offered during difficult times, concerns are safe to share and questions are quickly answered. I enjoy when my friends share fun and yummy recipes or an enriching mom-power blog post. I love it when I see posts in my feed from family members and close friends sharing happy, funny moments and awesome things about their lives and loved ones. And when I get to hear about family milestones, see pictures of sweet little newborns, read about a life lived well at a passing, or about someone’s inspiring journey through life’s struggle. I like it for that. I like it when it uplifts, makes me smile, and makes my life better.

But it’s perplexing to me–the power these opinions and “you shoulds” have over our minds. Well, maybe it’s just my mind. This food is bad, that religion is bad, our country is bad, those people are bad. It just goes on and on…. Did you know you can find any side of any argument or issue on the internet? Just decide where you stand you’ll be able to find someone “important” that stands beside you. And if you can’t decide where you stand, your “friends” will be happy to lend you their opinions….

There was a movie my mom and I were planning to see together. In fact, we had planned it after seeing the trailer in the theater several months before. It was a sweet love story of a spunky girl changing the life and heart of a gloomy man who has met with sudden tragedy. Sounded perfect. We were both looking forward to our “girl time” and this fun chick flick. A few days before our movie date, someone I know and respect posted on their Facebook timeline an article that reported how immoral and horrible this particular movie was. It claimed that any decent person who values life in general should boycott it and join in the fight against such an atrocity, and that it was Hollywood’s attempt at romanticizing suicide as the only resolution for those who become disabled. …And I fell for it. I believed every word. I was appalled that I would even consider supporting such an awful thing. I began rethinking my decision to see this horrible movie, and considered calling off the movie date altogether. I mean, if this person I admire was on board, I should be too. Right? But then I knew how much Mom and I needed our afternoon out together, and realized that I was a smart girl and could decide on my own how atrocious and immoral this movie was. It was, after all, just a movie. Entertainment. I suppose there could be some underlying social statement being made by the writers or producers, but that’s their business, and mine only if I decide it matters to me. We saw the movie. We both loved it. In retrospect, I could see how someone might think there was a political agenda attached (and maybe there was), but it was a fun story with just enough laughter and tears to make it perfect. And I didn’t care about someone else’s opinion or agenda. I learned (once again) that I could no longer take the things I read on the Internet at face value. I know that sounds stupid. You’re probably wondering why I ever believe any of it. I guess I’m just gullible, trusting. Media used to give us news, report true facts, not the slanted opinions and “expert” generated editorials we have now that masquerade as news. I guess I’m just not used to it yet. I haven’t quite been hardened by the cynicism and negativity of the world around me yet.

Something else I have a hard time with lately is all that negativity right in my face. All the posts and comments that make people wonder whether their “friends” are going to “unfriend” them for posting their thoughts and opinions. People needing to “taking a break” because they can’t “stand the ugliness” anymore. All the anger. All the hurt. All the hate. If you don’t like what someone posts, you really don’t have to read it. If you don’t like what they think, it’s really okay. You are allowed your own opinions. It IS A FREE COUNTRY. If you don’t like what they said, you have the OPTION of NOT READING IT anymore.  And you ALWAYS have the OPTION of NOT COMMENTING. In fact, that’s probably the best option on Facebook these days. In 3rd grade, the teacher I work with tells the kids almost daily, “Just because you have a thought, doesn’t mean you get to say it.” Trouble is, people hide behind their screens and post whatever they’re thinking, without actually thinking. They post things they’d never say out loud. Things that would make them cringe if they had to look that person in the eye to say it. Things that would cut deep and hurt for a long time if someone said that to them….

The golden rule is still a good rule and I think people need to remember it when they’re browsing through the social media mayhem. In Disney’s movie, Bambi, by way of reprimand, Thumper’s mama asks him about what she’s taught him. Slightly embarrassed, he drawls, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all!” There’s another quote I’ve heard many different ways that I really love and use as my personal yardstick. (I can’t for the life of me find the real author of it though. Different versions have been attributed to The Rotary, Quakers, Indian spiritual leader Sai Baba, Budha, and even Eleanor Roosevelt.) Its message is this: “Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Coupled with “do unto others”, and the wisdom of Thumper’s mama, it’s a good way to measure your words before you hit that “post” button.  Please do me (and all of your social media friends) a favor. Think before you post. And don’t be offended just because someone thinks differently than you do. Engaging with all these unique and incredible people is supposed to be fun and rewarding. The world is too harsh and difficult. There are too many people telling us what to believe, how to feel, and darkening our hearts. I thought about taking a break from Facebook too, but I think instead this is a challenge I’m going to take very seriously this year. Use social media posting power as a source for inspiration and goodness. Share Joy. Light. Love.

My Apron Strings

We should have had a ceremony. One where we pulled out the scissors and my rarely-worn apron and symbolically cut the apron strings. Maybe that would have helped me learn to let go. My two oldest daughters moved out a couple of years ago. One in the fall to attend college at Utah State and the other only four months later to attend LDS Business College. All of the sudden, our family of seven was just a family of five, with room to spare at the dinner table. I was happy for them, but sad for me. I knew that once I let them go, things would never be the same…. But they went away anyway, and started living on their own, making their own decisions, and finding their own way.

When these girls were little, Steve used to tell them they couldn’t even date until they were 30. I used to fantasize about locking them in a pretty little love bubble so I could keep them safe and happy forever.  Kind of like a Neverland type of thing, where they’d never grow up, the world couldn’t hurt them, and they’d never stop needing me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the next stage of my life with my sweetheart and I sharing an empty nest and then little grandbabies to cuddle, too. But being their mommy is the one thing I’ve wanted (it seems like) my whole life. Taking care of my babies, kissing their owies, guiding them through hard things, and helping them…grow up. I want to protect them, keep them safe, make sure they’re always happy. Now that they’re grown up, it’s hard for me to let them make their own decisions, manage their own lives, and quietly go about their business without me. Sometimes it’s hard to see them doing things that could change that perfect future I’ve planned out for them. Or be happy about ideas and plans that could take them away from me. But because it’s the natural order of things (and when I’m painfully honest with myself, I know I’d rather not have them depend on me the rest of their lives), I’ve had to learn to let go… a little at a time, and sometimes, I even think I might be able to completely. …Someday.

Even my baby thinks it’s OK for him to grow up. Last summer, my then 10 year-old son came in from playing with his best friend and announced that the next day they were going to do a lemonade stand in our front yard. At a time when I wasn’t going to be home to hover and make sure everything went fine. I just about put a kibosh on the whole plan until I thought about it and realized that we’ve taught him well. He knows the rules about strangers and what is and isn’t allowed. He’s also got a pretty good head on his shoulders. And his big brothers were going to be just inside the house if he needed anything. But, still, it was hard to let him do this without me. But, four dozen cookies, two gallons of lemonade, four repeat customers, and five hours later, they had earned $72 together. Wow… and they did fine. And were safe. Without me.

My daughters are choosing their forever sweethearts, deciding the course of their learning and careers, and following their dreams. They’re learning what they believe in, who they can count on, and what they want out of life. Finding their path to happiness. Isn’t this what I taught them to do? What I want them to do? It really truly is. And, as I watch, it makes my heart happy to see that they’re doing pretty well figuring it all out.

My teenage boys are growing daily, one much taller than me, and the other seeing me at eye-level now. Sometimes I wish I could just freeze time and make all this growing up stop. But then I have a fun adult-type conversation with these talented, sensitive and bright young men and I’m in awe of them. The way their brains work. Their talents and thoughtfulness. They’re going to grow up, and be amazing men, husbands, and fathers.

These kids of mine – all five of them – are going to grow up, into loving, kind, and respectful adults, great contributors to an ever-changing world. Come to think of it, I can’t wait to see that happen. It will be like Mommy Pay-day, a hundred times over. I’m excited to see them chase their dreams and become anything they want to be. I’m excited to see how they raise their families, what family traditions and happy childhood memories most grounded them that they choose to continue. I’m excited to see how they influence other people’s lives and make a difference for good in this sometimes cold and lonely world of ours. I’m excited to see them grow. Yes. I really am.

Let’s go find a pair of scissors. It’s definitely time to cut those strings.

Wordiness and love

When my girls were little, I remember my mother cautioning me that I should be careful in my reprimands and keep them short and to the point. I’ve decided that’s even more important advice for parents of teenagers. She used to say, “Don’t use a paragraph when a sentence will do.” Well, all my life I’ve struggled with being able to keep things short and to the point. My voice messages ramble on and on, and then finally end with, “…well, just call me back.” I prefer voice-typing my text messages because it just takes too darn long to thumb-type all I want to say. In high school, one of my favorite classes was AP English and I loved to write. I honestly never remember getting a paper back that didn’t have the word “wordiness” scrawled across a paragraph or two in bright red ink. I suffer from prolixity. I love to talk, love to write, love to share. Sometimes I overshare. And talk too much. And then repeat myself a time or two just to get the point across.

When I decided last February after having my very first article published in a local magazine that I was going to grow up to be a writer, my husband suggested that I practice my writing with a blog. I love writing, and he thinks I have some pretty awesome thoughts to share with the world. Lucky you. You’ve landed yourself in the middle of my writings. I love life and I love words. The wordier the sentences, and the more commas I get to use, the better. That article I wrote was supposed to fit in a space with 500-600 words. It got bumped a few months and turned into a resident feature article because I couldn’t tell our story in less than 1,700 words. Really. Welcome to my world. It’s prolixity. And love.