Sunlight and Shadows

Sunlight and Shadows

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Thinking about Human Relations 101...

Over the last few days, Kevin and I spent some time with a few of our young grandchildren.  There is nothing like conversing with a child to bring about a serious reality check. In one moment they can have you laughing and in the next moment test the reservoirs of your greatest patience.  If you take time to talk to them about their thoughts and feelings you can see a fresh perspective, in fact... a whole new world.

After an excursion to an area children's museum, I asked our seven-year-old Hadley Kristine what she wanted to be when she grew up. The first of many careers she listed was President of the United States.  (In fact she asked her Dad what she needed to do to start preparing now to be President.)

"Why do you want to be President, Hadley?" I asked.

"So I can make the rules."

"What rules would you make?"

"Number One..." she said emphatically. "Everyone will be nice to everyone else.  No hurting!"

"Rule Number Two... No kidnapping! No baby-napping, no mom or dad napping, no grandpa or grandma napping!

(I couldn't resist mentioning we might all be a little sleepy without naps.)

"Rule Number Three... Everyone will talk nice to everyone else! No bullies!"

She listed a few other rules before she ran off to play.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that just because there are rules doesn't mean people actually keep them. Somehow in her mind and in her inborn sense of justice she seemed convinced that if a President made good rules then everyone, including the President, would keep them...

I have thought a lot about Rule #3... Everyone will talk nice to everyone else.

Modern technology has given us new ways to communicate. Technology has even began to replace effective communication. Sadly, we have forgotten the rules we learned sometime way back in kindergarten. Often our manners and our sense of what is appropriate have been left by the wayside.

It has been a long time since I heard much about being polite, tactful, sensitive and kind.  Our entertainment, news and social media is loaded with daily examples of rudeness, crudeness, blatant honesty, criticism and lack of self control. Why should we expect everyday life to be any different without a powerful personal sense of need to rise above it.

Whatever happened to the old saying? "If you haven't got something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Or, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

My Father often used a quote from Dale Carnagie, "If you want to gather the honey, don't kick over the beehive."

Here are a few of my rules. School of hard knocks has helped me try hard to keep them.

1. Don't email, text, or write anything to anyone that you wouldn't say to them face to face.
2. Don't email, text or write sensitive personal information you wouldn't want everyone to read.
3. Don't monopolize conversations. Listen and ask questions more than you talk. Don't leave people out of group conversations.
4. Don't gossip.
5. As you talk on the phone remember that others, especially children and teens are not wall-hangings.

Wouldn't it be great if we could expect a few of these things from those we choose to be our government leaders. I hope someday, when Hadley is grown-up she still has the desire to help the world make some changes... even as President :)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thinking about... the whole wide wonderful world

From the deck of our small home we have a magnificent view of the surrounding valley and mountains. (It is the main reason I wanted to buy it a few years ago.)

In the daytime it looks like an expanded folk art puzzle with a few patchwork farms, silos and barns, near a park with a pond. There are many homes, large and small, with a beautiful lake in the distance. Sometimes on clear days, like the day before Thanksgiving, the sky is speckled with hot air balloons.

By night myriads of twinkling lights shine across the valley. In the center of it all is the beautiful LDS Mount Timpanogos Temple.

When we first moved in our, 3 year old grandson, Noah, would climb up on the deck railing, spread his little arms out and say, "Look!  I can see my whole wide, wonderful world!"
Often in the early morning and evening I retreat to the deck to relax for a few moments and look at Noah's whole wide, wonderful world.
My own problems become insignificant as I think of the thousands of people living within my view and even beyond. Each are in their own little mini-labs of life; learning, growing, changing, always in motion like molecules in a test tube... reacting to opposing forces.

It doesn't take rocket science to see that every person that lives has problems and challenges. Whether you believe that is by chance or by design... it is for most of us as my mother often says: "I've never met a person I would want to trade places with."
Thankfully, we have been given the power to do more than react.  We have the ability to reason, choose, and control to a large measure how we respond to our environment. How well we take control or yield to our physical, emotional and spiritual influences determines whether we will find ultimate personal growth, love, peace or utter misery.
I am reminded of a quote from the writings of Dr. Viktor E. Frankle: Man's Search For Meaning, wherein he shares his powerful therapeutic thoughts formulated in the terrible test tube of Auschwitz.
"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. Between stimulus and response there is a space."

As time moves us again to celebrations of the birth of Christ, known as The Prince of Peace, I give quiet thanks for my freedoms so often taken for granted, especially my freedom of personal choice which I believe is a gift from God given from before this world. This gift even he himself will not violate. Though God, our Heavenly Father, cares about us deeply, he will never force us to make good choices for our lives. Likewise he cannot take from us the consequences of poor choices except through our humility in accepting the redeeming gift of his perfect Son. 

Since all of us at some time in our lives have made not so great choices... how deeply thankful I am for that!

That is what I mean when I say Merry Christmas.
Believe in the Spirit of Christmas!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Thinking about... flags and Grandma Ora

Every time I think about flags I remember our feisty, patriotic, Grandma Ora. What a great teacher she was to me as I spent many growing up hours with her.

Today I drove past a half mast flag. It of course also prompted thoughts of the times in recent weeks our nation has been in deep mourning for those lost in radical acts of unexplainable violence committed by people who have lost all sense of conscience.

I thought about how much the world has changed since I was a child. In these short paragraphs it would be impossible to explain all the ways my secure, relatively safe, hometown was different from the world my grandchildren are facing today.

Numberless times I have said the Pledge of Allegiance or stood with my hand over my heart as the flag passed by since I was a child. There were school mornings, Scout and 4-H meetings, ball games, Fourth of July Parades, etc. Many frequent events of my life began by honoring our flag and country.
I would only summarize by saying, I believe my growing up years contained what I call the "American Golden Years" of morality and sense of responsibility. This was a time when Americans were safer, more dedicated to values of religion and family, and everyone I knew anything about was committed to freedom and justice for all.

My Grandparents were wise and strong. I could feel it as tangible as any physical thing. Grandma Ora and Grandpa Rex were educated from years hands on life experience; building, growing, creating, repairing, teaching, learning, thinking, participating, and worshiping and simply enduring through the challenges of their lives. She was a flag waving PTA President who supported strong education- a Democrat in a family of mostly Republicans who worried about taxes etc. (I'm pretty sure Grandpa Rex was a Republican :)

I remember my history lesson when Grandma Ora told me her feelings about the day Pearl Harbor was bombed in World War II.   

Her words were, "Those fools! They don't even know what they have done. They have attacked red-blooded Americans on their own soil." 

She was so right. The Japanese and most of the rest of the world did pay a very heavy price.  

Today where I walked down the street, there are many American Flags flying. Great heroism has been displayed by so many engulfed by tragedy in the events of the past weeks and even years. And, I can say with surety, there are still plenty of courageous, red-blooded Americans, as Grandma would call them...  ready to sacrifice for others and to stand up for what they believe and love.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thinking about... essential moorings

This year autumn colors have been spectacular in the Rocky Mountains and foothills. Early rains and a sudden cold snap created unusually deep fall colors.

We took a drive into the hills near my mother's home on a beautiful late September day. White grain fields, clear deep blue skies, bright sunshine and vibrant trees made me wish I were an expert photographer.

Kevin and I shared a deep sense of peace as we traveled the miles together.  We have traveled a great many miles of this life together since the day he first asked me to be his wife.

I am always thankful for our bond of solidarity and love. I know neither of us can never quit working to keep our marriage strong and sacred. For our family this relationship is an essential mooring.

A mooring is defined as a permanent structure to which a boat is secured.  In our lives we need moorings as the days and years of our lives bring new waves of challenges and learning experiences that test and refine us.

As increasing tragic events have populated the news in the past weeks, we are reminded that human life and existence on this earth is a fragile thing.  Fear and uncertainty can easily replace calm and confidence inside our quiet places.

We have witnessed in these events many people who have displayed unusual courage. I have wondered if I could maintain my own courage and ability to act quickly and in the best interest of others in the face of devastation and destruction. I would hope my own moorings would be strong enough.

I believe there are several things that help give our families the essential moorings they need.  Some of these include:
  • Being part of a family that is bound together by ties of love, commitment and faithful companionship.

  • Having a knowledge of and pride in our own unique family and cultural heritage and understanding that all people have a unique and wonderful cultural heritage.

  • Learning by serving at a young age; to be a contributing, building, responsible member of a community. By that process we learn to live our lives not only for our own selfish interests and desires but to contribute where we can.

  • Helping children (and later as grown adults) to respect and care for others by showing respect and caring for them as we interact with them on a daily basis. 

  • Having faith in a higher power that can bless our lives.  (For Kevin and I this faith comes from being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Thinking about... self confidence

 Often we travel.  Last evening we had dinner at a small restaurant. The waitress who seated us appeared to be the only one serving during most of the time we were there.  I took special note of her in my mental notebook.

She was probably around 45 or 50 years old and wore dark khaki pants and a uniform shirt.   She was unusually tall, medium build, had long lanky legs and arms, long straight brown hair twisted on top of her head.  There was a casual, cheerful way about her that put people at ease, yet she moved quickly and efficiently around the tables. It was easy to see she enjoyed her life, was confident, strong, mature and responsible.

The most interesting thing was that one of her eyes and part of her cheek had been disfigured either by a birth defect or severe accident when she was young, yet it appeared to have had no visible affect on her personality.  It was as though she could say to the world, "So what? This is who I am. I am going to enjoy my life! You can enjoy it with me if you like... no worries if you don't."

I thought about how she must have been as a teenage girl... awkward with her long legs and larger feet... growing taller faster than the boys around her.  How did she survive that time with such a great attitude?

How do you acquire that kind of self confidence?  How do you help your kids learn to have it?
Is it just a gift you are born with?  What causes social anxiety? How can you get rid of it?

It seems to me it has something to do with NOT being overly critical of ourselves and others.  What do you think?

p.s. The food was good. Kevin gave her an extra large tip.