Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No More ACTing, Just Being

On January 1, 2013, I posted my resolution/word for the year--to act.

"The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react."
--George Bernard Shaw
I summarized my three-part goal by recording this statement that day:

"I want 2013 to be a year of intentional action, a year of controlling my reactions, a year of prayerfully finding 365 ways to serve others."

I started out the year fully committed to acting--planning my days, controlling my temper, and daily praying for ways to serve others--and through the course of 2013, I held myself accountable by posting a monthly evaluation of my efforts.  I even wore a necklace (imprinted with the word "act") around my neck nearly every day for the entire year--a permanent talisman to focus my year and my days and hours on acting.
My dedication to these three ways of acting  fluctuated greatly.  January was stellar, and I told of palpable change in myself.  Most months, however, found me recounting failures and shortcomings--never fully regaining the change I had experienced earlier in the year. Ironically, I started to not berate myself so much on how often I failed (which was most of the time), but I began to see how I was growing and softening and changing in bigger ways.  I wrote this in July:

"This month I realized that what I had always dubbed "failure to accomplish" is actually just called "room for improvement." That realization led to fewer days where I beat myself up for falling short of what I had hoped to accomplish goal-wise. This was a big step for a goal-oriented gal like me. I wouldn't say that I've reached a point where this falling short is acceptable, but recognizing that it is okay is the first step."

I began to understand what Jeffrey R. Holland meant when he said, "Not failure but low aim would be the most severe indictment [of a person]." When I had originally aimed high, I thought that success would only be attained by perfection.  I began to see that the journey and the attempt were achievements of their own. One day in September, as I was absentmindedly fingering my act necklace (which I was wearing daily by this point), I noticed something different about it.

The once-round pearl was now flattening on the side where it rubbed constantly against the silver disk.  Daily wear and the movements of life had actually changed the shape of the pearl.  I rubbed it for a moment, then I understood that this pearl was a parallel for my soul.

I had experiences during the year that taught me great lessons about acting--I saw how others controlled their reactions (especially from Ben when I forgot to register him for the ACT, irony notwithstanding), and I recognized small changes in myself when I controlled my reaction when a young woman rear-ended my Suburban.

I then looked at the necklace in the mirror, and I noticed that not only had the pearl changed shape from bouncing against the disk, but the disk had also changed from daily contact with the pearl--a small crescent-shaped groove had been worn into its face.

Not only had I been changed, but my actions had changed others around me as well. I gave lunch to a wandering homeless man one day, and on another day, I interrupted my crazy holiday dinner shopping to help an older gentleman find the butterscotch morsels his wife had asked him to buy.  I played with my children even when I had pressing homework assignments, and I stepped out of my comfort zone to follow a prompting and reach out to a dear friend who lost her unborn twins.  The biggest compliment I received all year was from Heidi when I was visiting her a few weeks ago.  She said that she noticed a change in me this past year--mellower, more accepting, less intense.

The lessons don't end there.
When I removed my necklace this evening to photograph it, I noticed a very, very small dark spot on the upper corner of the disk. I could see that this spot on the disk had been worn down by the clasp of the chain which was forever twisting around to the front by the charm and rubbing a little groove at that small spot. Until that moment, I hadn't even seen this change to my necklace, and that's when the final lesson of 2013 came to my mind. The difference between who I am now as compared to me one year ago can't just be measured in the 365 days of one year, and hopefully, these improvements will manifest themselves in very, very small spots and interactions throughout the rest of my life.

So in this final blogging act of 2013, I write as a changed person--not the completely purposeful, fully controlled, and ever service-minded woman I had envisioned a year ago, but as someone I never anticipated.  Someone who isn't just acting, but someone who has become.

Someone better. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Review Extravaganza--Part 4

Once again I am linking up with Emmy mom for the 2013 Review Extravaganza--four posts over four weeks dedicated to reviewing my blog entries, one quarter at a time, for the entire 2013 year. I look forward to this every December, because it gives me a chance to reread all I've written about my family over the last year and remember.  Emmy Mom has also requested that we include five New Year's resolutions in this post.  I will write my concluding post for my 2013 goal on December 31st, then post my new word for 2014 on January 1st. Here is the final installment.

After more than three years of piano lessons, Micah learned to tell stories with his music.

I rewrote one of my most popular posts--written just before Heidi got married--as a final assignment for my first grad school class.

With months between start and completion, I finally posted the instructions for my giant photo wall, and The Handmade Home featured my post in their weekly roundup.  I was so happy!

After five years of blogging, I decided to share the birth story of my fifth child, our stillborn daughter.  I know it will never erase the pain for my dear friend Heather, who lost her twin sons that week, but it helps to know you're not alone in your suffering. So many women either commented on my blog or Facebook or emailed me to share their stories--thanks, friends.

I sneaked in a peek of Evie's Tinkerbell costume:

Evie's frequent bouts with nightmares reminded me of my recurring childhood nightmare of Pancho Villa.

And an offhand comment from Micah during Ben's football game sent me off philosophizing about my children and who they are.

 Grad school took a turn for the not-so-fun, and my baby turned four.

Benjamin won his homecoming game, lost homecoming king--then won homecoming king on the same night.

Miss Lily got her braces off.
And I retold one of the most important lessons I learned all year long--when Ben taught me the importance of not reacting in anger, even when anger was fully justified.

I celebrated my fifth blogging anniversary by listing the four reasons that I continue blogging after all these years.
I continued my yearlong writing obsession about gifted kids by revealing why Ender's Game is one of my top-five all-time books.  This may be my favorite writing piece of the year--in the top three for sure.

We had a do over morning that I documented, just to keep life real around here.
Evie went to the fire station on a school field trip.

Ben's football team won the semi-final game, then lost the state championships a week later.

I posted nine lessons I've seen my son learn from playing football, and I will always be grateful that he was able to play for such amazing coaches.

Hyrum learned to ride his bike with a single push, and Micah reminded me that little boys really do think their moms are perfect.
I dedicated a post to what I'd wished I'd said about my views of marriage, and I was surprised when it received over nine hundred views. This post was my most popular unlinked post of the year.

Then I closed out the month with a final post detailing my ACT goals for the final month of the year.

 My bestie, Karen, and I Black Friday'ed it, and I hated how stores were open all night.

Micah played in sacrament meeting, and I recorded his practice session:

I hosted a formal dinner for the widows in our neighborhood.
 I wrote a post dedicated to all mothers everywhere, spurred by lessons I learned from a mama spider who unfortunately chose the bumper of my Suburban as a place for her web.

"Bob Denton" had a memorable weekend and my little boys built a geodesic dome out of newspapers with their favorite teacher.

We went to the Mesa Temple's Christmas Lights.
And Evie surprised us all by actually singing at her preschool program.
I got to spend the weekend with Heidi's family, enjoying winter and my grandkids.

We hiked to the Wind Caves and went to the zoo to keep us all occupied as we waited for Santa, and we celebrated Christmas Day with a funny rendition of Rudolph.


The year I went back to school as a champion for gifted education.

The year Tucker and Karli got married.

The year Hyrum got three black eyes in two months.

The year my baby turned four.

The year Micah learned to make music.

The year Lily got her braces off.

The year Ben taught me about instant forgiveness.

The year I took time to really write and marked five years of blogging.

The year Heidi and Tucker both announced they're expecting babies in 2014.

I look back on this year as an amazing ride, full of ups and downs and joy and sadness.  Thank you, 2013.  What a great year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best Christmas Ever

Hyperbole notwithstanding, that was probably the best Christmas ever. 

I always find myself late on Christmas Eve looking at the pile of wrapped presents and thinking it isn't enough or questioning my choices for my family.  When will I learn that it isn't about the number of gifts or the amount of money spent? Maybe I'll remember it this time.

Pajamas fit every single body--and I made eleven pairs, so that's quite a miracle.

Kids slept in until 6:59 am--who ever heard of that?

One present is broken (Micah's helicopter) and one pair of pants don't fit (I mistakenly bought Ben skinny jeans, super skinny jeans)--and that's all.

I took no pictures because I was so caught up in the excitement of the moment, and Brad's video didn't work very well, but I know my memories aren't tied to who opened what.  What I will remember about Christmas 2013 is how I felt--the excitement surrounding every present.  Evie dubbing her new bag "my beautiful purse" and carrying it around all day. Ben's face when he saw his new monogrammed soda glass.  Lily's fashion show.  Hyrum concocting his own colors with a marker mixer.  Micah's fascination with Lord of the Rings legos. Brad cleaning the kitchen and family room after I was asleep Christmas Eve.  FaceTime to Rexburg.  And Tucker's and Karli's big announcement--another new baby coming to our family in July.

Our home was blanketed not with snow but with a sweet spirit of giving and receiving and loving.  For the first time in a long time, I felt the spirit of Christmas permeate our family for the entire day, and I won't forget it.

We did close out the day with a great family video of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer."  Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's Christmas Eve

And to all, a good night.
Merry Christmas.  May the magic of the season descend upon you and yours tonight.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Trying to Keep Busy Before the Big Man Arrives

I made my family hike to the Wind Caves today.  Just to annoy them.  Just to get them out of the house and away from the growing pile of presents.

Ben dried his hair out the car window on our way.
 I love looking at these mountains every day.
 In case you were wondering, Phoenix is that way.
 Evie was the most excited of all the kids to go on a hike.  She did the least complaining, and she walked most of the way--in a skirt. Now that's a girl.

 Micah and Hyrum brought the slingshots Micah made last summer with Grandpa Tucker, and they shot anything and everything--even once hitting Tucker on the head.
 I love this hike--it's steep enough to feel like a challenge, and short enough that the little ones can do it no problem.
 Tucker found a saguaro skeleton and made spears/walking sticks for himself and Hyrum.
 Lily won the crappy attitude award.  Somehow, she had missed lunch and breakfast, and she was ready to go home before we even started.

 Evie loved finding little hidey-holes all along the way.

 On the way down, Tucker regaled us with funny mission stories.  It made the descent go much faster.  We missed Karli, who was with her mom completing some last-minute errands.

 There really is nothing more beautiful than the desert in the winter--65 degrees, no wind, plenty of sunshine.  It was a glorious way to spend three hours.

 After a delicious dinner of pesto foccaccia bread (thanks for reminding us how yummy it is, Heidi!), we tried to mimic some Pinterest treats.
 We wouldn't classify them as a complete Pinterest fail, but they needed a little improvising to make them work.  The little kids lost interest quickly (including Tucker) . . . .
. . . but Karli hung in there till the bittersweet end.
Tomorrow morning we will frost the sugar cookies, deliver plates of treats and then head to the zoo for our traditional Christmas Eve distraction--watching the animals and eating kettle corn till it's time for dinner.

It's almost here!


Either Quick Trip or QTs--as in a quick visit to see Heidi's family this past weekend. My niece got married on Friday, so I flew up to Idaho on Thursday for a short Idaho trip.

What would be the worst possible problem (well, not worst, but worst as far as blogging and remembering go)?

My camera battery died just as we pulled into the parking lot at the temple in Logan.  And I forgot my spare and the charger.  It was such a disappointment, because eight inches of snow had fallen the night before, and all the trees were blanketed with the perfect amount of snow, with the perfect filtered cloudy light for perfect wedding photos.  Sigh.  I only have a few from my iPhone, and none from the wedding.  It was beautiful, and my teeny tiny niece shivered in her wedding dress as they snapped beautiful pictures in the beautifully wintered world.  You'll just have to imagine it.

Heidi and Sam moved into their new house over Thanksgiving (yeah, no photos . . . I know), and Heidi and I spent Friday night and Saturday organizing her kitchen cupboards, pantry, and laundry room.  We made a list of the storage bins we needed and then headed into town to find them.  Before we went to Walmart, we stopped by another niece's apartment  to help her with her cleaning (she was moving out for the semester).  The dumpster was overflowing with garbage, and there was a pod in the parking lot for thrift store donations.  Heidi and I saw it as a great opportunity to find some of the things she needed for her house . . .
 . . . until the apartment manager came out and told us what we were doing was illegal, and that people had been arrested for diving through the pod.  We were really embarrassed and quickly headed into the apartment building in shame.  Oh well.  It 's a funny memory--especially when Sam walked out of the building with the kids, saw what we were doing, and immediately turned back into the lobby because he was embarrassed to be seen with us.

Ellie bonked her head really hard at the wedding reception Saturday night, and this picture doesn't capture her Romulon bump between her eyes, but take my word for it when I say it was quite a bump.
I loved every single second I spent in Idaho. I loved helping Heidi and Sam with their new house.  I loved seeing all of my siblings and my parents at the wedding.  I loved the beautifully perfect winter weather--lightly falling snow, no wind, Christmas card views everywhere I looked.

I especially loved spending time with these two little monkeys.
You don't know the joy of grandparenting until you become a grandparent.  Then you get it.

As I got on the plane last night, I had a silent prayer in my heart for a perfect weekend.

Now I'm home, and it's time for Christmas to really begin! 

Merry Christmas Adam to all, and to all a productive day!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Review Extravaganza--Part 3

Once again I am linking up with Emmy mom for the 2013 Review Extravaganza--four posts over four weeks dedicated to reviewing my blog entries, one quarter at a time, for the entire 2013 year. I look forward to this every December, because it gives me a chance to reread all I've written about my family over the last year and remember.  Here's Part 3--July-September 2013.


 We inherited nine chickens, and Hyrum bonded with Elizabeth.

The monsoon blessed us with an absolutely beautiful storm.

Ben was a member of the Aida ensemble and rocked the dance moves.

Evie finally got over her fear of drowning and learned to swim.

And we all spent some time in southern Idaho with my family.  I love Idaho. Micah stayed behind and spent a week being spoiled by my parents--my fifth child to get this royal treatment.

I closed out July by acknowledging how hard it was to work on my resolution while traveling.


I spent the first five days of August seeing Long Island through the eyes of my missionary son.  I will never forget this trip--the people I met and the love they have for my son.  It is one of my favorite memories from the whole year.

I took all five kids shopping for our our traditional back-to-school kickoff.

Then I sent all five of them off to school

I had to catch up on a few neglected pictures from the summer, and this picture of Ellie is one of my favorites from the whole year:
And this one of all five of my boys on the dock at Dierkes' Lake in Twin Falls.
And this one of Grandpa's tent set up in his backyard for a cousin sleepover.

Lily got her head stuck in a fossil, and I got to share Herrett's Museum with my children.
I celebrated my 44th birthday with a week of posts dedicated to what I'd learned over the last year:

Then, on my birthday, I made a big announcement:
I was returning to school--for a master's degree in gifted education. It's been a ton of work, but I have loved almost every second of it.

My bestie's youngest son left for a mission, and we reunited all four boys.
Brad and I took a quick weekend trip to Rexburg where we squeezed the grandkids, I met a longtime blog reader (Hi, Kesa!), and we just happened to run a half-marathon.
I changed my ACT goal from one of perfection to goals toward improvement, and this mindset changed my approach to acting for the rest of the year.

Then, it was September.  Whew.  September.  
Tucker and Karli moved back to Provo to resume school.

And I showed photos of our soon-to-be cabin in the pines of Pine, AZ.

Heidi made a big announcement:
And Ben taught me an important lesson about taking responsibility for your actions.

I posted a few pictures from Tucker's engagement photo shoot:
And then it was the wedding.  I posted a last letter to my son before he became a husband--as long as I'm living, my baby he'll be.
September 20th--the biggest day of the year for the Sanatorium.  The day Karli Joyce West (after seven years of waiting!) finally became Karli Denton.  It was a beautiful day.

I hosted the wedding dinner with my clever game/center pieces about the newlyweds' favorite movie quotes.  It was a hit.
Three days after the wedding, Evie did this to her hair:
 It was one of my most popular posts all year.  Although many tears were shed at the horrifying cut, it turned out to be a blessing, because her pixie cut has become as much a part of her persona as her big blue eyes.
Don't you love it?  Instead of letting it grow out, I've actually had it recut into this same style twice since that fateful day.

September was an overwhelming month, but I found myself reflecting on my goal and I began to recognize how I'd changed over the past nine months.  And I was pleased with what I saw.

Only one more link left, then it's time for a 2014 goal.  I've been thinking about it for a month now, and I'll be excited to share where I'm headed next year!