Thursday, November 13, 2014

I am Grateful for Seasons

Kids get asked a lot about their favorites. What is your favorite color? What is your favorite subject? Who is your favorite teacher? Pet? Game? Food? Book? And on and on. We are expected to pick one. All kids know you can only have one favorite.

Except sometimes you have more than one favorite. One day I was talking to my Grandpa John. The conversation was rambling around and we landed on the subject of the weather and the seasons. He stated that he liked all the seasons. He liked that it changed. I realized then that I do, too.

When I was a kid I would have said that my favorite is summer. Summertime for a kid is fantastic. First, I definitely appreciated that it was warm. I am not a fan of being cold. Even in the hottest weather I will not swim in cold water. At Beaver's Bend Park in Oklahoma there is a swimming area. The water is river fed and it is cold, cold, cold. I won't put more than my toes in that water. Just enough to cool off. Mostly I sit on the beach and soak up the warmth. All that heat makes one appreciate a nice breeze. The second thing I like about the summer is the longer days. More time outside. In my corner of Texas the afternoons can get blistering hot, but the mornings and the evenings are delightful. Vacations happen in the summer. Independence day. Memorial Day. My birthday.

While I may not like being cold, I don't mind the cold. Winter has it's appeal. The cooler temps are a blessed break from the scorching heat of summer. It's a little exhilarating to be outside with the blustery winds. It's also really, really wonderful to get back in away from the winds. Those winds can cut right through you. Christmas happens. New Year's happens. I may not be able to wax as poetic about winter as summer, but I do appreciate it. I also appreciate that in Texas it is short. However, I would miss it if it didn't happen at all.

Spring and autumn almost don't happen at all here, so I think they are even more appreciated. Autumn smells good. That is my favorite thing about this time of year. It just smells good. Cinnamony and woodsy and crisp. Sometimes we get to see the leaves change color, although usually they just kind of give up and fall. Thanksgiving, which just might be my favorite holiday, happens in autumn. While we should appreciate the blessings we receive from the Lord all year, Thanksgiving is a time to give a special emphasis on it. We celebrate with food and family. I love food and family and together they are fantastic.

There are lots of things to like about springtime, but what I like best is wildflowers. Springtime is blue bonnet time in Texas. What an amazing site to see fields blanketed with that special blue. No wonder people pull off the side of the highways to get pictures. They are magnificent and then the Indian paintbrushes grow in. From the tiniest little flower that I don't know the name of to the purple coneflower and mexican blanket and lantana and sunflowers and all the others, I love wildflowers. They are hopeful and beautiful and refreshing.

I love the seasons. I love that they change. I would not want to live in eternal summer or endless winter. I want them all. Each has it's own unique flavor and beauty. I am grateful for the seasons.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Learning Responsibility

My friends post the most interesting things on Facebook. There are a few topics that almost guarantee that I will click and read. Parenting and education are at the top of my list. This morning I read an op-ed piece from the Washington Post. Homework is my kids job.

I didn't find anything earth shattering.  I agreed with what the author had to say about teaching kids responsibility. What I found amazing was some of the comments. Disregarding the ones that were just downright rude, there was a significant number of people that thought this was awful parenting. I'm not sure if they misunderstood what she was saying or if the really and truly believed it was their duty to do homework for their kids. Probably a mix of both.

Growing up I understood that homework was mine, among other things. Actually I would have been appalled if my mother had tried to take over my work. She certainly was there if I truly needed help or if I had a question. Unless I sought out her assistance the most oversight I got from her was, "Do you have homework tonight?"

That was it. There might have been some reminders about managing my time, but otherwise I was on my own. If I failed to complete my work, I got to live with the consequences. If I brought home grades that were not reflective of my ability, there were negative results at home. I think I brought home some drastically bad marks in fourth grade. I was grounded. No TV. No friends. Nothing fun until report cards came out again and I showed improvement. It only took once.

Just as my parents were not accountable for my work, I am not the boss of my children's work. As a matter of fact there are several things my kids are expected to accomplish on their own. Chores. Even a two year old can help unload the dishwasher and fold a washcloth. Find your own shoes. Twelve and up can do their own laundry. Although my 8 and 10 year olds have decided they can handle that on their own. Get yourself dressed and, no, a blanket does not count as clothing. High school kids have to pay for their own field trips. Ask Gramma yourself if you want a popcicle. 

There might be a few more things to add to this list, but I think you get the gist. 

How grateful I am for family that taught me to fend for myself. Actually, I think the real lesson was on choosing consequences and learning to live with the results of your decisions.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Do You Know Where You Came From?

I once read an op-ed piece about the great state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of those states in the middle that seems to not clearly belong to one of the cultural regions of the country. Is it midwest? South? Western? North? Ask any one person from Oklahoma (or outside for that matter) and you will get wildly different answers. I believe the answer depends on how your feel and maybe a little on where your people originated. My ancestors were largely displaced Cherokees and farmers from the deep south. There is also a generous number of Yankees and some up from Texas. Growing up I identified more with the Cherokee and then my southern roots. As I discover more about my ancestors, I am finding joy in some of these other aspects of my heritage. It is kind of fun to be a mix.

This is my grandmother, Amy Ellene Davis. This picture was taken when she was a senior in high school. I know a lot about my family because of her. She was a fantastic storyteller. She would tell stories about growing up in rural Oklahoma during the Great Depression. The drought was so bad they could stick broom handles all the way down into cracks in the ground. She was a bit of  a tomboy. She had a pet skunk named Jiggs. Her first daughter, Beverly, had a remarkable singing voice. I wish that I had recorded even half of the stories she would tell.

This is Jake Maggard. He married Ellene. I remember how all us grandkids adored him. My sister and I would play and play with him. He would try to get us to behave, but we never quite took him seriously.

This is their second daughter. She is my mother. From my grandmother, I know that Omicka Maggard got into a fair amount of trouble. I also know that she was a delight to my grandparents. Gramma Ellene in particular.

I learned a lot from family stories. Most importantly I learned a love of family and a desire to know them. I have an ancestor that was a essentially kicked out of Scotland for backing the wrong king. I have another ancestor that came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant. Some walked the Trail of Tears. Some migrated before they were forced to leave their lands in Georgia. Soldiers in just about every war that the United States has been involved. During the Civil War, family fought on both sides. Farmers. Lots and lots of farmers. I love my family. I love finding out about them. Not just their names, but their lives.

I am very, very grateful for my ancestors.

Sweet Restful Afternoon

There is something wonderful about work. It is satisfaction in a job well done. There is also something quite lovely about rest, especially on Sunday afternoons. Sunday afternoons seem an especially good time for a nap.

Gramma Ellene took a short nap every afternoon. She would get up early and work all morning. After lunch it was always time for a rest. I'm not sure it was ever more than a cat nap. When I was little I never understood why anyone would want to sleep in the daytime. There were too many things to do and explore. I have come to appreciate a little rest time. I don't take a daily nap like Gramma did. I wonder if maybe I should. Just a short little one. A long nap would be too indulgent. I would feel guilty. Except on Sundays. Long naps are guilt-free on Sundays. Sometimes a kid or two will even come lay down with me. Not often, but it is nice when they do.

Today I am grateful for naps.

See. Even Hannah knows that naps are good.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Am Thankful For Bones

The last ten years of my beloved grandmother's life were not the best. She was in nearly constant pain due to fractures in her spine. These fractures were the result of osteoporosis. The quality of her life was impacted. Sometimes I wonder if we would have had a few more years with her if not for the cascade of health problems the first fall precipitated.

Bone health is something for which I've had some degree of anxiety. I have many of the risk factors. Small framed. White. Female. Family history. The thought of having fragile bones has bothered me. I really would prefer to stay active and pain free.

Yesterday I had my first ever bone density scan. As much as I've tried to manage what factors I can (I try to eat right, stay active, get my calcium) I was a little afraid of getting a definitive answer. There is that irrational part of me that whispers to me that if I ignore a problem it will go away. If I don't know how bad it is, it doesn't exist. Stupid. Yes, I know. Ninety-five percent. That is how much I believe it is better to know. However, that five percent of me that is not a sane or reliable voice is rather loud.

So. Now I know. My bones are normal!

Isn't that fantastic! My bones are normal. What was I so worried about anyway? Today I am thankful for bones. Wonderful, beautiful bones. Good for dancing, walking, running, jumping, hugging, spinning, working and a million other things. I love my bones.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I Voted Today

Thankfulness Day 2.

I am grateful for the opportunity to vote. I am grateful that I have a say in the process, no matter how small that say may seem. Often I take for granted how amazing it is that I can participate. There have been times I have neglected to vote. I know. Bad, bad me. But I voted today. I try to make sure that I vote intelligently. You know, check up on the candidates and the issues. There was really only one issue this time around that I really cared about. I find that I get very tired of the candidates. But I tried. I tried to care and I voted. It means something.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Month of Gratitude

It is November. The time when we posted daily on Facebook those things for which we are thankful. I have joyfully looked forward to this time. Even before Facebook. This time of year is my favorite. I like the holidays starting with Halloween. I have come to love Thanksgiving most of all. It is a wonderful reminder of what is truly important and how very, very blessed I am. This year I want to not only name my gratitude, I want to explain it. My goal is to post everyday. I've already missed the first two days of November, but I will try not to think of that as falling behind. I will start fresh right now.

I am grateful for my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There was a point in my life that I did not take it seriously. Everyone else was having fun and I was alone. I made choices that were not the best. I admit that I had a good time, but I wasn't happy. And because I'm stupid it took me some time to realize that I wasn't happy. A friend started asking me questions about my beliefs and I had to look closely at myself. I had to evaluate what I really believed. I came back. I spent a lot of time on my knees. I came to realize that I had never actually been alone.

Every good thing that has happened to me has been because of the gospel of Christ. My husband and our children are two very large examples of the goodness. Some of my closest friendships began at church. I know that no matter where we go, if we can find a chapel we have instant community. There are opportunities to serve and be served. We learn from each other. We are strengthened and edified as we gather together.

I am grateful for the scriptures. There is so much to learn. Each time I read them there is something new. It amazes me how I can read the same passage and learn something each time. It amazes me how sometimes I'll be reading something I've read before and I notice something that I didn't see before. Isn't that fantastic! Something new every time.

When I was in high school I attended early morning seminary. The first year we studied the Old Testament. I don't really remember much from those lessons. What I do know is that I love and adore the Old Testament. Sometimes those people were just crazy. On the other hand there is much beauty and depth of gospel knowledge.

Now I have the opportunity to teach seminary. If you don't know, in our church seminary is for youth 14-18. We start at 6:00 am everyday during the school year. It can be challenging. It is not easy to get up that early. There are a lot of days that seem to accomplish nothing. On the other hand, there are a lot of days that are fantastic. These kids are reading their scriptures. These kids are hungry for the doctrine. They don't want it watered down. They are ready to tackle the hard things. They are simply amazing.

Well there it is. I suppose I snuck in a few extra gratefuls. But they overlap a bit. If you didn't catch it all, I am grateful for my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the gospel of Christ, my scriptures and seminary. Whew. That seems like a good enough start.

Until next time.