Kyle and Iasmin’s Wedding!

So Kyle sent that video a few days ago. I have been prepping and prepping for Johnathan’s wedding and have not even downloaded Kyle and Iasmin’s wedding photos off of my phone. Funny story. Yesterday Darren finally posted the wedding photos of him and Sarah because Johnathan’s wedding is less than a week away! I have been trying for days to download the video of Kyle and Iasmin’s wedding without any success. So I will keep working on that….but not until I am finished with Johnathan’s wedding. And I will post about Darren and Sarah’s wedding after Kyle and Iasmin’s posts, but before Johnathan’s and Lenise’s. So you are just going to have to wait for me to manage all of that! But in the mean time, you can enjoy these amazing photos of our May wedding with the beautiful flowers, while we are all freezing in the winter weather. Maybe I will post the snow wedding photos next spring, just to keep thing interesting! Here you go…… ENJOY!!

First Look at the Bride and Groom….exiting the temple.
Iasmin and her father…

Aren’t they beautiful?? It was such an amazing day! I held it together most of the day, totally crying the night before and sobbing for the next three days. But their wedding day was so beautiful! I saw so many of my dear, dear friends who I really haven’t seen since I left Utah. When one of my favorite girl friends walked into the restaurant (where we were holding the reception), I walked up to her, threw my arms around her and just started sobbing. I was a blubbering mess, but I didn’t even care! It was so very good to see her!!

The first wedding of our amazing children……a family, organized for eternity. I know it took you some time Kyle, but Iasmin has certainly been worth the wait! As your mother, now you know what I have to say about your wedding!!

Avoiding Feelings

copyright: Karen Larsen photography

When I am in this place, I avoid writing. I know I need to. I don’t want to. I fight it. It is because I am sad, so very, very sad….and I need to access my sorrow, feel my emotions, and explore my feelings….and I don’t want to. I have been very sad the last several weeks. I have just kept myself really busy. I mean, I am a busy person anyway. It isn’t hard to do. But as soon as I have any down-time and my heart says, Oh, you have time for me now…. my brain says, I don’t think so and I find something else to do.

I have known for six hours that I need to write today. Yesterday I tried to polish off a few more of my wedding tasks, and I was told, Carin, just stop and cry. Do it now! You know you need to. I crumpled up on the love seat, the tears started flowing and just kept going for 45 minutes. I had plenty to do. After some serious ugly crying, I read a few scriptures, said a prayer, had a few insights and inspiration….then ran to take a shower and tackle my day. I ran all day long. By the evening, when it was time to make dinner, I was too tired. I was so grateful I had picked up that rotisserie chicken and threw on a pot of rice (my guys are hard pressed to eat vegetables anyway🤨) and even though it was my night for the dishes, I let them sit until this morning. I have known since I got up, that I really didn’t have anything pressing on me today and I would be free to just sit and write. And what did I do instead? A few more wedding tasks, wash the dishes, finish a book, and read my blog before I made my self start writing. I could have read the entire blog, taken all of my writing time and never even bothered…..just wasted the whole time. And now I have been writing two paragraphs and still have not even started to discuss what my feelings are…..except how sad I am. I am so good at stalling and procrastination!! It is really just my attempt to make myself start the process. Ugh!

Don’t you just love my self talk?

Be brave Carin, move forward. I am sad about the wedding. I am really happy for my boy! His bride is beautiful and really just perfect for him and we all really, really like her. There aren’t any problems with the wedding. Things are coming along just fine and there really isn’t a lot of stress. I am a really great plate spinner, so the balancing act isn’t too difficult for me. I am sad about people………people I love……..people who won’t be there………people who haven’t been there, people who still aren’t there and aren’t really in any kind of an emotional place to be able to be there. The people are what (who) is important to me….. I don’t care about all of the things or the place. But I am so very, very sad about the people. The closer it gets to the wedding, the more clearly I am reminded that the people are not there. We will have plenty of other people there and some of them are very important to me. But some other very important people, will not be there, and actually participating in the event, without them, will remind me of how sad I am about that and how my heart wanted them there. When I really let myself think about that, I am so full of sorrow I think I could just hug the floor again….for several more days.

There is nothing I can do about them not being there. They have been invited. They know. But they are choosing not to come. They didn’t come to my wedding and they have not come to any of my sons weddings either. My life reminds them that their life is not what they want it to be and so they avoid a relationship with me. I am so full of sorrow that they do not really know me or my kids or my family. So very, very full of sorrow.

Drew tries to remind me that we are building that kind of a family in the future. We are attending our kids’ weddings. We will attend our grandchildren’s weddings and significant events. We are creating those kinds of relationship into the future generations. My children and my grandchildren will have those kinds of families and relationships. But I am so very sad that part of my family is missing and I do not have those kinds of relationships with them.

I was thinking about this the other day. Do we hold ourselves back from blessings that could be ours because we don’t want to change, or because we are afraid of what might happen if we try? What things would be available to us if we went outside of our comfort zone and reached out in love to someone we have lost contact with? As Bob Goff would say, What if we weren’t afraid? (My friend Linzy sent me an amazing book! Bob Goff’s Everybody, Always! What a GREAT book! Thanks Linz!)

With my people and the wedding? It is not because I have not reached out. It is because when I reach out, they are uncomfortable and my efforts to encourage, to them, feels like I am pushing my agenda. I have to wait for them. They are not ready. It has been 30 years and they are still not ready. I do not know if they will ever be ready. And in the mean time, the gap between us keeps getting wider and wider and wider. I reach out once in awhile to try to bridge the gap, but they remind me that they like it where it is and they do not want to make the effort to come where I am. Unfortunately for them, I do not want to stay where I am. I want to grow and to keep becoming. They think they aren’t moving. But the truth is, they are slipping. It would be nice if we stayed in the same place when we decided that we just needed to rest and wait for awhile before we continued on our journey of becoming. But that is really just an illusion. We are never stagnant. We are either moving forward, or we are slipping backward. There is no staying where we are. And so the gap keeps getting wider, year after year, after year. These huge, milestone events in the lives of my children, just highlight the fact that the gap is ever increasing, and so is my sorrow.

There, I put some of it down. It must be a lot deeper though because now my brain says, don’t I have some other things I can do? This is enough, right? My clue that I am getting closer but have not quite hit the issue yet and I am still avoiding the the feelings. Sometimes I hate knowing myself so well.

copyright: Karen Larsen photography

I had a girlfriend when I moved here who used to say, You know Carin, I just really am not sure I like this whole agency thing. (Agency being the principle that we can choose for ourselves how we will act.) It is a doctrine that is foundational to our lives. We do not control other people. Trying to do so will cause significant damage to them and to us. Agency must be respected and owned if there is going to be moral development and growth. So even when people do things we do not like, we respect their agency to have made that choice. There have to be consequences when your agency restricts or inhibits the use my agency. If everyone did whatever they wanted, there would be chaos. In order to live in a society or a community, agency is respected to the degree that it does not infringe upon the rights of another or cause them harm. That is the basis of law.

Back to my friend, she was speaking as a parent of teenagers. She felt like her teenagers were not being so wise with their agency and she just wanted to tell them what to do and how to do it. She is actually an amazing parent, lest you think less of her. She is one of my role models. When she shared those thoughts with me, I really couldn’t wrap my head around why she would feel that way. After all, I didn’t have any teenagers at that point. But with or without teens, with the wedding people, sometimes I feel that way. I wish they would hear me when I want to say, Your choices are making you miserable! You could have so much more happiness and joy in your life if you just did it MY way. But that would infringe upon their agency, you see. So I just have to wait. I can pray. I can cry. I can feel sorrow and pain, but eventually, I have to come to the place where I love them, regardless of their agency…..I love them enough to let them live as they choose, even if those choices hurt me.

There….I think that is enough now! Don’t you?

California’s Chaos

Darren sent this to us yesterday

Well….our power is set to be turned off at any time now. For the second time this week. It has been quite a ride navigating all of life without power. Not bad, mind you. Just interesting. Our schools are trying to figure out if they are holding classes or not. Some do, some do not….some modify their schedule. Most of the traffic signals are out and we are all four-way stopping…except at that light that is a five way stop….that one is just nuts without the lights working no matter what time of day you go through it and it is the main way to Costco….so most of us go through it. When the power is on, we all run around and wash our laundry, run the dishwasher, vacuum, go to the bank, get gas, stock up on groceries, drop off packages to mail, download anything we can off of the net, catch up on email, phone calls, texts and if we are really lucky, we can find a few minutes to stick up a blog post. Haha!

I have been running around like a wild lady, because in the midst of all of this power outage craziness I am trying to help our second son plan his wedding! We have a THIRD wedding this year! Which means I am trying to email contracts back and forth, and ordering and returning clothes online, and trying to communicate plans with the many people who are involved in our celebration….all with intermittent power and internet. So lovely!!

In the mean time, several of the people I work with in seminary (my director, his secretary, and other members of his staff) are being evacuated due to the fires in their area. I am not too put out about the power issues when my friends have no homes and are crashing with other family members so they have a place to be safe, while they await word of whether or not their belongings and those of their friends and family will be there when the fires are extinguished.

And what about those amazing men and women who are battling those blazes?!! What about them and their families as they put their lives on the line to save the rest of us? I have a few friends here whose husbands are fire fighters and they take time out of their rotations at their stations to go and help battle these blazes that come out of nowhere and consume everything in their path, living or not. Their families worry about them while they are away and breathe sighs of relief when they return home.

Meanwhile in Idaho, my little daughter is experiencing her first major snowfall and she sent the winter coat and boots she ordered here to California instead of to her in Idaho. Utah is set to have one of their coldest winters on record—of course, during our wedding.

During all of this physical upheaval, for all of these people (200,00 just for the fire evacuations!), there is emotional trauma and stress that goes along with all of it, whether you are one who is experiencing evacuation, battling the blaze, patiently pursuing power….or freezing in a frozen wasteland (not really a wasteland 😉). People are grumpy and stressed. How do we manage all of this chaos and still treat each other properly?

It is hard work!

But here are a few suggestions, which obviously cannot all be managed well all of the time because of the circumstances. But as much as possible:

  • Get adequate rest
  • Drink water (lots)
  • Try to eat regularly
  • Take time out to feel and process–even in emergencies, people need down time. It may be awhile before you have the things you need to be able to do this, but take a few moments wherever you can find them. Step outside. Breathe deeply. Cry (just do it!). You will be much more effective if you are not a time bomb that may explode at the drop of a hat.
  • Pray….it may have been a long time. That is OK. God is still there and He can hear you even if no words come out of your mouth! Reach out to Him. Know He is aware of you, even especially when times are hard. He IS there…it may take you a little while to notice. But as you are in a more stable place and choose to reflect on your experiences, you will see His hand in your life.
  • Look to serve….whatever circumstances you may be in and however had things are for you right now, recognize that there are those around you who are hurting too. You may be able to relieve some of their suffering. As you reach out to serve, even in your difficult circumstances, your heart will be comforted because you have acted the way Christ would have if He was there. Just reach out to those right now in your immediate circle….even if they are strangers. One of them may become one of your best friends!
  • Express gratitude for all of the little things, especially people. As we look around, even through all of our loss, and recognize the good we have (even for little things, like a glass of water, blades of grass, electricity, or the good men and women fighting to save you and your belongings), as we can see these things, they will bring us peace even amidst our turmoil. It will remind us that there IS good in the world! Maybe we have just been too busy and distracted to see it!
  • Above all, know that there are people out there who are praying for you! We know you are hurting and times are hard. But we are all watching the news, and in our hearts and homes, we are praying for your safety and your peace. Hang in there! Hold on!

Sorrow

Copyright: Karen Larsen photography

A few weeks ago in General Conference, one of the speakers shared this poem:

Sorrow prepares you for joy.

It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter.

It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.

It pulls up rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.

Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.

See the Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi (1925-40) trans. Reynold A Nicholson, vol. 5, 132. Quoted from Elder L. Todd Budge, Consistent and Resilient Trust

I am not sure who the author of the poem is. BUT…..

I have been pondering it for a little while now. I love the imagery of violent sweeping, shaking yellow leaves from my heart, and rotten roots being tossed out. I love the thought that sorrow makes room for greater joy. I do not like sorrow. It is painful. It hurts. It is not fun and it takes a lot of energy. I have spent most of my life trying to figure out how I can avoid sorrow altogether. But I have experienced what the poem teaches. Sorrow has allowed me to clean out old feelings and dusty behavior and has given me space, emotional and mental space, to start fresh and make changes and those changes have brought me new hope and greater peace and a richer life. I AM more, because I have allowed space and time for sorrow.

There is a book I have that I LOVE! I was going to write a book review about it, but I will just tell you about it here. It is called, Bonds That Make Us Free. It is an amazing book! The basic premise of the book is that if we are angry at someone else, it is because we have mistreated them. I know, I know….you are thinking, (Scoff) No way!! That cannot possibly be true! I thought the same thing. In fact, the first time I read the book, this was my experience. I had just dropped a pretty nasty, scathing letter into the mail for one of ‘my friends’. We live in the same city. She was going to get the letter tomorrow. I had been sitting on it for three days before I mailed it. I had asked my husband to proof it for me and to help me to soften it or adjust it if it was not Christ-like. I thought I was completely justified in expressing my thoughts and feelings as I had in the letter. I sat down and read the first chapter. It is a very intellectual book. I had to close it a couple of times to process what he was saying and once I understood what he was saying, decide if I agreed with it. As I was processing, I thought, wait a minute….if what he is saying is true, then in this situation with my friend, I have mistreated HER? That cannot be true! I thought deeper about what he was saying. I walked back through the interaction in my head. I tried to look at it from someone who saw it from outside of the relationship. As I was doing so, I found the place where I mistreated her! I was dumbfounded…… Dr. Warner was right! I was wrong! I was hooked! I continued reading the book. But not before I called my friend and said, ‘Hey, uh, by the way, tomorrow you are going to get a nasty letter in the mail from me….and uh, I just want you to know that I have reconsidered my feelings and recognized that I do not feel that way and I am really sorry and I would appreciate it if you would just tear up that letter and throw it away BEFORE you read it.’ She just laughed. And said it was no big deal. When she got the letter she read it. Then we talked about it later.

I have read the book a couple of times since then. Every time, I am fascinated as I find new gems of information. The last time I read it, I recognized this truth: Sorrow and grief are emotions that do not carry accusation—meaning, those feelings are not necessarily blamed on others. I suppose we can blame others for them. But sorrow and grief are feelings inside, emotional pain that accompany a sense of loss—whether that loss is a relationship, an ability, a resource, a comfort, or any other number of things.

It has been my experience that most people do not know how to respond to another’s sorrow. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They do not know what to say or how to say it. They truly do not want to hurt the other person. They recognize things are sensitive and so to avoid the possibility of causing further pain or stress, they just avoid the person altogether. Then the person experiencing the sorrow feels isolated and alone. Sometimes that is OK. But a lot of times people just need to know others are thinking about them and wanting to help them. I have found the best response seems to just be direct, but gentle. “I heard about your loss. I am so sorry. That must be a very difficult thing to be managing. Would you like to talk about it?” or “Can I help you with anything?” People will usually just tell you if they don’t want to talk or want your help. How people respond to your compassion and outreach is more of a reflection of where they are emotionally, so you don’t have to take it personally. And if they need a friend or an ear, now they have one.

With my sorrow and grief over the last two years, I haven’t really wanted to talk to anyone about it. If I have, I call those I can trust and reach out to them. But for the most part, I have just sought out my Father in Heaven through prayer. That has been my greatest comfort. He knows what I am feeling, and why, and He can usually give me things to do that help adjust my perspective about my experiences and feelings. Service to others, paradoxically, provides a major focus shift. As I serve others, my personal sorrows and griefs are lightened. I know, I know…..how can you reach out and serve when you are so sad and hurting inside? You just decide you are going to. I don’t know how it works, I only know that when I do it, it does! Every time! Just try it! The next time you feel down and sad, say to yourself, who else is feeling this way? What can I do for them? And then DO IT! You will feel better!

Sometimes my sorrow, grief and sadness are due to the actions of others. Sometimes those feelings are a response to my own choices. Other times they come because of things that happen in my life, where I have little or no control over them. But regardless of why I am experiencing those emotions or what my reaction is to….eventually all of those responses culminate in an attitude of submission. I always end up at the place where this is just the way it is now. I can rant, scream, have a temper tantrum, be frustrated that this is where things are…..but always in the end, I cannot change it and I have to come to terms with my new reality. Like the poem says, I really am shaking out the yellow leaves, ripping up old roots, and violently sweeping things in my life and heart to make room for new and better and greater joy. But I have to be willing to embrace it.

I wish I could embrace the process. I wish I didn’t fear it or run away from it. Not because I like pain, but because I understood the process well enough to look to the joy at the other end–to recognize and to remember that the process of grief and sadness really is about changes that make me grow. I LOVE the story of the current bush!

Watch it here!

As I am mourning and lamenting when things have not gone as I have wanted, or as I have planned, I have to remind myself, I am not the Gardener here. God has a different plan for me than the one I have seen for myself. He knows me just a little bit better than I know myself. He loves me more too. And He knows the potential I have to become and He has already seen the vision of who I am and what I need to do to get there. I need to have faith and trust in His plan for me and recognize that He has removed those things from my life because He is making room for me to experience greater joy and happiness. Hang on, Carin……the Light will come!

Power Outage Adventure

A sunset at our house

Maybe you heard recently that California had the lovely opportunity of having their power cut off because of an impending weather threat? Sure you did! We received notice Tuesday morning that PG&E would be shutting off our power at midnight for an undisclosed time period….Please plan accordingly. If you want to see if you are in the shutoff area, call this phone number which directs you to this website (which by the way, was having so much volume you couldn’t get in or access it). So that was great!

I wasn’t too concerned. I like camping. Camping at home sounded fun. I think the Lord had been preparing me without me even knowing it. Last week, during grocery shopping day, I was purchasing pork loin for a dinner I was making and noticed that I could buy three times that amount of meat for the same money if I wanted to cut it up. I had the thought, Get the bigger package. OK. Then Costco had pot stickers (my favorite) on sale so even though I was not planning on making pot stickers that week, I grabbed a package of those too. On Monday (pork loin cooking day) I cut up that huge roll of meat and separated it into meals and shoved it into the freezer. We have been trying to follow the prophets’ instructions and be prepared for a rainy day by having food on hand at home, so we had plenty of rice, flour, sugar, oats, dried beans, and a few other things. So as far as food, I was not too worried about if we would have enough for however long we needed it. It may not be what we would want to eat, but we would eat. We also have a wood shed and it has plenty of wood in it since we rarely build fires and mostly pay for our heat.

Drew called me several times throughout the day to say, things are crazy at work. We are trying to prepare for no power here (he works for the court….so they have a lot of things going on). But he was also concerned that we would be prepared at home. He said you should probably go and grab some charcoal so we can use the bar-b-que if necessary, candles, matches, stick up lights and anything else you might think we will need. OK. So after I got the kids all picked up from school, that is what I did. The stores were crazy. But I found what I needed without too much fan fare. I heard from friends (while I was shopping and bumping into them) that the grocery stores were bananas. I was glad I didn’t feel like I needed to be there. I had plenty of water on hand (I store it for emergencies) and they weren’t shutting off our water. I had a full tank of gas in the car. I told the kids to dress warmly for bed or get an extra blanket. The Bishop and I touched base and we decided to cancel seminary because trying to study your scriptures in the dark….that might just be a bit much for our families. One of our schools cancelled classes, but the elementary school decided to brave the storm and held classes without electricity. Ryan was bummed!

That morning, as I got up during my usual prepare for seminary routine, the house was freezing. I forgot how dark it is without ANY light (no street lights, no neighbors, no stores, even the hospital looked dark). Grabbed my flashlight and went downstairs to read my scriptures. As I was doing that, I had the thought….Carin….this is an opportunity. Oh right, I am suppose to look for the opportunities presented as obstacles. Those high school boys of yours now have no school. They have no media. They have no computers. They will be all yours. Home all day. What do you want to accomplish? Waaaahahahahahhaha (evil, maniacal laugh)!!!! I made a list.

After I dropped poor Ryan off at school, (He was not happy. He was fretting about what school would be like without power. I just reassured him and told him to think of it as his great adventure! He didn’t know what was going to happen! It was all new! Then he could come home in a few hours and tell us about it! Ryan doesn’t do new well. He likes normal and predictable as long as he is in charge.) after I dropped Ryan off at school, I sat the big boys down and said here is what I would like us to do while the power is off. What would you like to help me with and what are you willing to do. They grumbled. But they made their choices. Then we jumped in!

Day One: chopped bushes, mowed the lawn, cleaned out drawers, moved laundry and reorganized bedroom space, and hand quilted the quilt I have been making for Joshua. The boys weren’t too hip about learning to do that. I let them off the hook by asking Joshua to mow the lawn and had Spencer walk to school to pick up Ryan. That left me home to quilt by myself! But the big boys were excited when I said one of you needs to chop wood and the other one needs to start the fire so I can cook on the wood stove. We started a little early (4:00) because I wasn’t sure how well our fire would go. Spencer was the master fire man and he had it high and hot by 4:15. So I started cooking dinner. Spencer kept the fire going. For dinner that night? We had pot stickers, rice and warmed up the stir fry from a few nights before. The elementary school sent word that school would be cancelled until the power was back on. (I knew they would do that.) Ryan was super relieved! The high school said, yep, no classes Thursday either. And we cancelled seminary one more day. PG&E said, power might be on tonight. Because it was so dark, I wanted the kids to see the stars. Drew and I were sitting in the car charging my phone😉. Ryan came out to join us and we opened up the sunroof and just admired the stars and the beauty of the night sky. The big boys fell asleep in the family room around the wood stove. Drew and I set Ryan up on the couch next to them so they could all be in the same place and be warm. Ryan still doesn’t like the dark and doesn’t like being alone.

Day 2: Woke up at 2:30 a.m. to see that the power was on! Yea!!! Looked like it had been on for 30 minutes. (We are on the hospital grid…we probably had power first😊.) Went to the bathroom. Tried to go back to sleep. Laid in bed, awake, for an hour. Finally got out of bed at 3:00. Set the clocks. Moved refrigerator stuff from the freezer back to the fridge. Sat down to study my scriptures. Sent out a text saying we would have seminary on Friday. Was up until 4. Decided I could probably take a nap. Slept until 6. Back up. The kids were up because they fell asleep so early. 6:30 got an email….elementary school is in session, power is on. Ryan started crying and declared he WAS NOT going to school and no one could make him. The power is suppose to be OUT! 😒 Ryan eventually decided he was going to school. Whew! Dodged that bullet. Wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it if he kept insisting that he wasn’t going. Got everyone up. Made apple crisp for breakfast. Sent Drew to work. Dropped Ryan at school. Went walking. Came home. Cut the big boys’ hair. Told them today was window washing day and gave them various other assignments and I mostly finished Joshua’s quilt. Picked Ryan up from school and finished out the day the usual way.

Alli sent me this yesterday!

Here are some things I learned from our power outage.

  • Always have a week’s worth of food on hand–for the cat too. Then there is just no stress. If an emergency comes up, I definitely have a week.
  • Think of your new situation as an opportunity to do new things.
  • The old day, where we didn’t have to drive people all over town to do their things? They may not have had all of the modern conveniences we do, but they had something better. They had time with their family…..without television, radio, computer. They had the time, or took the time, to have relationships with each other. It wasn’t only about them. Just to do the normal work to live? They had to work together as a unit to accomplish those things. They had to rely on each other. I think our society has lost a lot of that. Those are important things! We need them. We need to learn to be interdependent and to be able to rely on one another to help each other. That is part of our shared community as a family, neighborhood, state and nation.
  • I wouldn’t want to go for a week without power. But think of the things we could gain as a family if we did!
  • Ryan said, “I LOVE Power Outage Days!!” I think because it wasn’t as bad as he thought and building fires and cooking on the wood stove, using flashlights, and seeing the stars were great things that made his heart sing. And he was really sad that we didn’t have more days without power and use the bar b que to cook our pork chops.
  • I think I always want to have enough charcoal, wood, fuel, flashlights, medicine, etc…stored at my house so that if I needed to manage for a time without conveniences, I could–especially if I had to do it without any warning.
  • Before the power was out, I looked everywhere for one of those phones that just plugged into the wall….no electricity. That is the only reason we have kept our landline….in case of an emergency. Guess what? Couldn’t find one….anywhere I looked. I will do some more checking and see if I can find one–just to keep in the cupboard in case of an emergency.
  • I really like my family! They are a lot more fun when we spend more time together…working, playing, laughing, living and even sometimes when we bond together during an opportunity that appears as an obstacle!

Family Traditions!

Every group of people has patterns of behavior…ways they interact with one another. Families have sooooo many! Some are positive….some may be negative. Maybe there are things you do with your family that you didn’t even realize are patterns. Stop and think for a moment. What does your family do? Do you have special holiday traditions? Celebrations for family milestones? Individual milestones? Just things you always do on Sunday? Monday night football? Weekend getaways? Even weekend chores! All of those things can be seen as traditions.

For our purposes today, I want to discuss healthy family traditions, things you do or can do in your family that creates a sense of belonging…..a meaning attached to ‘Being a [fill in your last name]’. As you read through some of my thoughts, think about what you might want to intentionally institute in your family to help create the feelings you want to enhance with your loved ones.

Most families have holiday traditions. In the United States, where I live, we even have shared community traditions….you probably do in your country, as well. Here are a couple of things we do in the Lund house.

Holiday Traditions

We are a pretty casual family. Our food preparations are simple (usually) but we all really like food and it needs to have flavor and taste good. (We are very spoiled.) Sometimes for our meals, we don’t even sit at the table. But for certain holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter) we set a formal table with extra silverware (two forks, dessert utensil, sometimes a soup spoon), and usually a salad plate. We use china dishes, crystal glassware, cloth napkins, and sometimes we even have place cards. Before we eat we talk with our family and remind them of proper table manners: polite dinner conversation, asking to be excused, not reaching across the table, passing to the left (or however we are doing it that day), using the outside utensils first, etc…. We are not trying to be exclusive or better than we are. Here is how we started doing that. My mother had all of these amazing china dishes that she bought with green stamps (I don’t even think they do stuff like that anymore!) Anyway, her dishes were always in the boxes and never saw the light of day. She didn’t want any of them to be broken, so we never used them. I do not even know what they look like! I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted my children to feel special and important (like they were worth using the china on). And I recognized that as they got older, they may be asked to attend an event that was more formal in nature. I wanted them to have some experience and know what to do. So Drew and I decided that if we had a formal dinner a couple of times a year, that would satisfy those thoughts and feelings. As the children have gotten older and I was pretty tired from cooking all of the food (because those are feast days) sometimes I didn’t have the energy to set a fancy table. At those times, the children jumped in and did it for me. It was important to them. So they helped me with the work so the tradition continued.

Like most American families, we carve pumpkins for Halloween. It is a big deal at our house. Sometimes we fight over which pumpkin we get or if we have to share it with someone else. We cannot carve our pumpkins too early because we live in a very soggy area. If we do it too early, our pumpkins mold and it is no fun to try to remove squishy, moldy squash from the porch! Here is what we did last year.

Beginning
Middle
End

Faith traditions

In our faith, we have General Conference twice a year….the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October. It is a time where we would all gather together to listen to the prophets and apostles speak to us and tell us what God wants us to know and do for the next six months. As parents, we knew this could be difficult for little people to do as it is four hours on Saturday (sometimes six) and four hours on Sunday. We have two hours of meetings and then two hours of break and then two hours of meeting. We wanted the children to look forward to this time even though it is long for little people. (Sometimes it is long for big people too.) When the children were little, we bought them new coloring/activity books and new crayons or colored pencils. A couple of times we tried other activities (like eating a particular piece of candy every time we heard certain words….but that just made us all sick and the candy was gone after the first meeting….sometimes our traditions come about after a little trial and error). But we decided to couple conference weekend with really fun and special food. So on Saturday of General Conference, I would make cinnamon rolls or blueberry muffins or apple crisp for breakfast (yes, dessert for breakfast….) and we would buy pizza in between sessions of conference. Then on Sunday, we kept it simple and just had sandwiches and chips. It is time just for our family to be together and to talk about the doctrines and principles of our faith and how we are doing to apply those things in our lives.

Now, even though we are all spread out, I know that is what most of my kids are doing on that weekend! We still call each other, or text and talk about the things we heard and felt and what we are going to do about it. Here are some photos of all of us doing that this weekend!

Watching Conference and Kyle and Iasmin’s house
Watching at my house
Watching at Linzy’s house
Watching on the mission

Just because traditions

One of the things we also do as a family is March Madness!! Every year, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has their tournament to determine the National Champion. It always, obviously, happens in March. Selection Sunday tells us who is in the tournament, what seed they are, and which section of the bracket they fall into. Between Sunday and Wednesday night, every person in my family fills out a bracket. Darren has even been writing and testing an algorithm to try to determine the winner…good luck D! But the rest of us just have to use our raw skills and best guesses. Then Thursday through Saturday we all stay home from work and school and watch college basketball from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday we go to church and update our brackets as the scores roll into our cell notification systems! We razz each other about our choices and who is winning and who is loosing…we call and brag….we eat more food (that is a part of all of our traditions…have you noticed?)….then the next weekend we finish a few more rounds. By this time, the basement dwellers have been established (this is usually where I am…..) and only a few of us are left to vie for the glass slipper award (that’s what we call it). We do it every year!! It is us! And the bigger we get, the more people we add to the competition!

Kyle is a soccer man. He is trying to get us to participate the same way in the World Cup Match ….every four years, I think? (I am obviously not as big of a soccer fan….)⚽

Daniel in a basketball head

Regardless of the traditions you establish in your family, the idea is to create a sense of belonging, of unity, of love and harmony something that all can enjoy and participate in. These experiences help to bring us closer together as a family and give us a sense of identity. The best part of family traditions is that it can really be whatever you want it to be.

The tricky part comes when you are starting a new family where both people come from a family with established traditions. Drew and I have not had to navigate that too much, but where we have, we just talked about it and brought what we wanted from each family into our new family. You just have to communicate what your expectations are and what is important to you and then be willing to compromise. I will just use Thanksgiving as an example. Drew and I hate pumpkin pie…so we don’t have it, even though both of our families did. My family always had a fruit salad with marshmallows and whipping cream. Drew’s family had Great Grandma’s special green salad. Well, all of my children and Drew and I are allergic to milk and two of the kids are allergic to corn…so that made the decision easy….fruit salad out, green salad in. Of course, even though we have corn allergies, my mother made the best stuffing I have ever eaten! It is cornbread stuffing, not that gross soggy crouton stuff. I was unwilling to compromise on that…so we just make sure we also have mashed potatoes. And much to Drew’s dismay, I really only like dutch apple-pie. I am not a pie girl. I think most pie is just disgusting. So since I am the cook, I only make apple pie. Once in a while, we will buy another kind of pie, for Drew.

Another thing that makes us Lunds? We LOVE the beach and the redwood trees. THAT is home. THAT is the place to be. We may be landlocked while we are in college or establishing our careers. But the beach and the forest feed our souls. My kids love those things, and so do Drew and I. Whenever we can take the chance, we go. Luckily for us, we don’t usually have to go too far 😎

These are my kids!!

August 22, 2019

Starting on the back row from the left….Johnathan, Jacob, Joshua, Payton (Dani and Richard’s daughter), Richard (Kyle’s best friend), Dani (Richard’s wife). Front row starting from the left….Allison, Tammy, Sarah, Darren, Spencer, Iasmin, Kyle…..and the little guy in the front, Kyle’s mini-me, Ryan (the Lord knew they had to be 20 years apart because I could not handle both of them in the house at the same time!). The only one missing is Daniel…because he is serving his mission in Redlands, California. Daniel falls between Jacob and Allison.

I love that they are willing to spend time together and help one another.

Hanging out …
Eating at In N Out….a Lund family thing!
Tammy driving Allison to college
Kyle sending proof that he is winning….

Now, you need not suppose that our relationships are just super easy and happy all of the time. We fight and argue plenty. But we don’t take pictures of that. Plus, we have spent A LOT of time learning how to talk to one another and understanding our own personal feelings. There are still the occasional times when one or more of us will not be talking to another one because emotions are running high and we are trying to manage the relationship and/or the situation. But for the most part, we have learned to love and help one another despite each of our individual weaknesses. AND we recognize we are all works in progress and sometimes we are going to make mistakes and hurt each other. The trick is not to let our relationships stay in that place, but to work through our issues.

At Kyle and Iasmin’s pool
At the hotel for Darren’s graduation.

You just need to know that even though it has been a lot of work to have such a large family, I wouldn’t trade any of them! I love them all! Each one has taught me something unique and I have had to change and grow in learning how to parent that individual. I could go through the list, but it might just take too long. And they can just read it in my journal after I pass away. We are at a very fun stage…we are adding new people to our group….and from here, I think we will explode! I cannot wait to see who else will become a part of us!

Grief and Loss

copyright Karen Larsen photography

Well….it is time….time for me to write. I have been AWOL on the blogsphere for quite awhile. That is because for the last two years I have been doing some serious grieving. I haven’t known how to talk about it, without talking about IT. So I have just quit talking, and brought everything back into my little cocoon, to go through the grief and loss metamorphosis.

What happened to me? That is not necessarily significant. It is just a deep, deep loss that involves other people, who are still living, so it wouldn’t really be fair of me to drag all of the details out into the public arena. It isn’t even really new…..although, I am experiencing new grief associated with the old issues. That is an interesting phenomenon. And I will talk about that in a little bit.

I guess today, I just want to talk about how I have changed because grief has been a pretty constant companion for the last two years. It has been very private. I have eluded to it here and there. But even most of the people who I interact with every day? They don’t know. I haven’t told them. It is so very private and personal. My husband knows. God knows. And I have a couple of close friends who I have shared bits and pieces with but most of them do not know the entire picture or how deep the sorrow and sadness really are.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to attend a Time Out for Women. One of the speakers, Virginia Pierce, spoke about grief. She said this, “Only you will know when it is time to peel yourself up off of the floor.” For some reason, her words really hit me and I wrote them down in my notebook and put a star next to them and then I thought, that is really good. Now when I need it, I will have those words. I had no idea I was just days away from needing them….days. I have been hugging the floor. I have not been totally down and out. I am still extremely functional….but that is because I learned to shut my emotions off a long time ago. When I need to, I do that. But for the last two years, I have been trying to process the grief instead of stuffing it. I have shared bits and pieces of these thoughts in other posts….how I use food to stop feeling, how I have been learning about myself and stuffing my feelings, and how Heavenly Father has been trying to teach me that is not a healthy way to live. Then when all of this hit, it was like He was saying, OK, now you know the skills and you know your preferred patterns of behavior…..now apply your new learning…..GO!! And I hugged the floor….because the pain was so deep and severe I didn’t know how to manage, even though all of the theory was running around in my brain. The application was a LOT more work. And now, the instructions are to write….process…..stick it out there. Ugh!

I have a friend whose mother became terminally ill….about the same time this all hit with me. We were all supportive of her in our little group. A year into things, her mother passed away. Now it has been a year since her passing. My friend was going through all of this while I was managing my grief, but at that point, she didn’t know. At one point when she was really struggling, she called me and said, Hey, can I come over and talk to you? I don’t really know why, but I just feel like I should talk to you. Definitely, come on over! She did. As she was expressing her grief and sorrow and the difficulties she was having, she said, I really don’t know why I needed to talk to you, except you are so easy to talk to. It was then that I told her…..I know why. It is because I am experiencing the same grief you are but for different reasons. Heavenly Father knew we needed each other. We talk pretty regularly now. We share stories of how we are managing. We recognize some days are good. Some days are bad. We have shared how we cry in the middle of the night and wake up our husbands because we are trying to sob quietly, but we are shaking the bed. Then they roll over and hold us until the sobbing stops.

Here is an amazing experience I had with that friend. We were at a social gathering for our church. She came to sit with me and started talking about something she was learning about managing grief. Another woman who was sitting with us started sharing the grief she had been experiencing because her best friend had passed away. I was aware of her friend’s passing, but was not aware of the relationship between the two women. And then a fourth woman started sharing the grief she had been experiencing because of the passing of her sister three years earlier. When I chose where to sit, I was completely unaware of the grief of the other two women, and if my first friend had not started discussing grief, I would have never known! But here we were, all four of us, unaware of each other’s realities and all struggling with the same emotion! It was definitely a blessing for each of us to be aware of and share with each other our feelings……one of the Lord’s tender mercies in our grief.

This year, I have had two sons get married. I LOVE the women they have chosen! They are good people! My boys LOVE them! And they are so happy together! At both weddings, I am suppose to be happy, celebrating this momentous event in the lives of my people. It is suppose to be full of joy, happiness! I know that. I am happy for them. I really am. But the major life event (the wedding) is reminding me of the grief I am experiencing. I am so full of sorrow and sadness that I have to try to hold back my tears until after the ceremony and the celebrations and then when it is all over I come home and I just cry and cry and cry…for days. And I was crying before too. Does that happen to anyone else? It is so strange to have happiness and grief occupy the same space. Each wedding has been a little bit different in that I have cried about different things….nothing really related to the wedding itself—just different things that remind me of my grief. It is all just old stuff. Because of my super compartmentalizing skills, I can usually put my tears away to manage the events but if I am really trying to be true to myself and my feelings, I have to allow myself time and space to express my grief. So weird.

Here is what grief has done for me:

  • It refines the feelings of the heart. I am more sensitive to others, more willing to reach out to help those who are hurting.
  • It causes reflection and timeout. I have slowed life waaaay down. I use to pack my day full. Now I intentionally leave it open. I spend time sitting and doing nothing but thinking and feeling. That has actually been some of my very most productive time in helping me to define who I am and what I want and where I am going.
  • It refocuses priorities. All of those things that I once thought were so important and HAD to be done. They aren’t that important. They can wait….even if that means other people are not happy with me. The important people have my time and my energy, my children and my spouse, my family. All of the other things other people would like me to do to accomplish their agendas? I don’t have time for that.
  • It enlarges perspective. I see more–more people, fewer things; more light, less darkness; more joy, less worry.
  • It realigns desires and purposes. I evaluate why I want to do something and how important it is to me in terms of the happiness and joy it will bring to enhancing my relationships. If it doesn’t make life sweeter? Why am I stressing about including it in my life? I don’t need that.
  • It makes life/decisions more intentional. I live life much more intentionally. I spend less time doing the things others wanted me to do and more time doing things that matter. I spend time smelling flowers, watching beetles, enjoying the sunrise or sunset, helping others, talking to my kids, spending time with my spouse.
  • It draws my heart to God. I am so very thankful for the gifts and blessings he gives me! I am grateful for the people in my life! I like living!
  • It exposes my weaknesses (per my friend). I can see where my priorities have been out of line with where I wanted my life to go and how I wanted my relationships to be.
  • Grief touches all aspects of my life. It is everywhere!

Gerry

After her BYU summer camp performance…

I probably spelled that wrong….. (just so you know, I did….I spelled it Jerri….but then I asked Sun for the proper spelling…and I fixed it 🙂

I can tell it is really important for me to be writing today, because I decided to do it awhile ago and everything keeps getting in my way of sitting down and actually doing it. Sooooo many life changes have been happening this year! I think I will blog about some of them later. Today, I wanted to document something cool that has happened.

So my little daughter, Sun, is off at BYU I this semester. She graduated from high school, had an eventful summer of college decisions, and eventually landed at the I. She called earlier this week because she was having her second week away from home meltdown. She didn’t have one when she left. She didn’t have one the first week. It hit this week.

For you to understand the significance, you will need a little background. My dear, sweet daughter does not like to think about or deal with her emotions. She has plenty….more than the boys, so much more than the boys. But she is super stubborn, especially when it comes to knowing how she is feeling and acknowledging that. (She is more work for me than the boys too….as far as getting her to talk about her emotions.)

For the last seven years, we have been working with her. I recognized that she has this pattern of behavior: When she feels overwhelmed, she just quits working and finds some way to distract herself from her responsibilities. She keeps ignoring the piling work until it is so overwhelming or the deadline is so close that she just completely implodes and has a breakdown. She doesn’t usually ask for help until I press her so hard that she finally admits to me where she is and what she is struggling with. When she was younger, I rescued her. As she has gotten older, I have reminded her of the pattern, tried to help her plan for the pattern, and encouraged her to ask for help before the problems are so overwhelming that she cannot manage them. Every year, for the past seven years, we have been adjusting the process and her responses, recognizing the triggers, and dealing with some major catastrophe, usually school related. If the truth were told, there was a question of whether or not she was actually going to finish the work for graduation. But she did it! And she didn’t need the safety net that we put into place!! YEA SUN!!

As part of this process, at one point in her junior year, I think, I was completely exacerbated in trying to help her. I prayed silently for insight. I was pulling out all of my hair trying to get her to talk to me about what she was thinking and feeling. “I don’t know” she would say. OK….I relate to that. When I was her age, whenever an authority figure starting berating me, my emotional functioning would completely shut down and so would my brain. I think I just turned everything off. I really could not think. NO thoughts…..zero. So I understood what she was saying.

And THAT was the birth of Gerry…..

My daughter is visually oriented. She learns through music and what she can see. I recognized that she needed a go-between in her head between her conscious mind and her emotions that she could SEE. I told her to create a little person in her brain….Is it a boy or a girl? She told me. What does he look like? She told me. What is his name? She told me. What does he do? She told me. He doesn’t talk. He holds note cards. Sun can ask Gerry questions and he puts the answers on the note cards….in her head! She can say, what am I feeling? Why am I feeling that way? What should I do instead? Gerry is a non-threatening tool she can use to identify what is going on inside of her without having to come up with it on her own or feeling pressure when she needs to recognize what is happening. It was a painful process the first time we used Gerry. Sun thought I was weird and she did not want to participate. But when she would close her eyes and look at Gerry and think and relax….Gerry always came up with the answer. Sometimes that surprised her….that Gerry knew. Gerry ALWAYS knows. Because Gerry is really just Sun…..she just didn’t have enough confidence in herself to identify the problem. But she has learned that she can trust Gerry. Gerry loves her and wants her to be happy. But most importantly, Gerry is not afraid. And Gerry can just tell her without any drama or pressure….and Gerry answers when she is ready for the answer.

This week Sun called to say, Mom, I am doing it again. I am overwhelmed. I have recognized that I am not doing my work. I am avoiding my homework. Well, you did just make a major move, change all your people, your environment, your schedule, your food, how you spend your time……I can see how you might be overwhelmed. But you are calling me during week two!!! You are asking for help!!! That is HUGE for my little girl! HUGE!!! She doesn’t usually ask for help until December. What are you going to do about that Sun? No one is there to bail her out. No one is in Idaho with her. She has to do it! She can do it! She is ready to do it! She was sharing her process with me of how she was recognizing that she is doing it again. I won’t go into all of the details, but she said, “Mom, I saw Gerry. On his note card, it said, “STOP SELF-DESTRUCTING”! I wanted to start crying! We talked through her strategies….strategies for success….the behaviors we have put into place and practiced at home. She is doing them! She is doing them without me! Way to go Sun!!! I knew you could do it! Gerry knew you could do it!!! Keep going!! Every day, waking up, feeling the fear, and doing it anyway! One day at a time!!

Often when we are trying to help someone else, we have to try and put ourselves in their place and see things from their perspective. What would help them? What do they need? When we do not think or learn like they do, our efforts to help them can be completely frustrating because they cannot do it like we do. And we cannot always think about it the way they do. We need help. We need a go-between. Thankfully, for all of us, our Father in Heaven knows each one of us. He can help us to adjust our words or our behaviors so that communication flows more clearly and easily between two people who are completely different. But we have to ask for the help. I am always amazed at the help I receive in such matters, when I ask. With my sweet daughter? Sooooo grateful for Gerry! I don’t think I could have ever come up with that!

My Grandparents….

Dorothy and Melvin (Bill) Bryant

These are my grandparents! Aren’t they cute???! They are my father’s parents. I am their oldest grandchild. My cousin Shelly is about three weeks younger than I am (I think, maybe it is 3 months…?). Anyway, Shelly and I were doted on from the time of our birth. We had the same dresses. The same baby dolls. The same shoes. We were very, very loved and wanted. It was crazy.

My grandparents were killed in an automobile accident in 1983, when I was 13. They believe my grandfather had a heart attack that resulted in a head-on collision while he was driving my great-grandfather home from their Father’s Day activities. My great grandfather died on impact. My grandfather died at the scene. And my dear sweet grandmother was unresponsive in a coma for a month before her children made the decision to allow her to return home.

That Sunday I was preparing for girls’ camp the next day. I was so very excited! It was going to be my first one. I was living in Oklahoma the summer after I turned 12 so I didn’t go to camp that year. We had been home in Oregon for only two weeks when my grandparents had their accident. I remember being outside playing and my father running out the door, getting into his truck, and tearing off down the road. I don’t remember my parents telling me what happened. But I made the decision not to go to girls’ camp that year because if I did I would miss their funerals and I didn’t want to do that and I was hoping my grandmother would wake up. So I stayed home.

My father was only 32 when his parents passed away. He took it really hard. He really struggled and was pretty angry most of the time. I think that is really when he quit participating much in church. He was definitely mourning and struggling with grief, but I never saw or heard him cry. I have never even seen him weep. Actually, I have never seen my mother do it either. Somehow in my family, growing up, sadness was not an acceptable emotion.

I was recognizing that the other day. I was questioning why I do not feel that it is OK to be sad. (I will explain most of how and why I was contemplating that in another post.) But as a Family Scientist, I wondered, What was modeled at my house? Where did my philosophical underpinnings (deep seated beliefs) about sadness originate? As I was pondering about it, I recognized that I had never seen either of my parents cry…..never. I mean, I saw my mother shed a few testimony tears. But that deep, deep mourning, the ugly cry (as my friend Linzy would say)? I never saw either of my parents do that…….and believe me, there were plenty of reasons for sadness in my family—drug addiction, divorce, abuse, unemployment, debt, miscarriage at 6 months, not to mention the normal mortal life stuff. There were plenty of reasons to cry or to be sad. But I never saw either of them really shed tears of sadness and sorrow. Grief was not allowed at my house. That is unhealthy modeling.

I obviously did not have a lot of time to know my grandparents very well. But I wonder what was modeled for my father and my mother. On my dad’s side, his father was an alcoholic. He probably dealt with his sorrow with alcohol. My father was angry, just angry all the time, and distant. He probably masked his sorrow with anger. Anger is usually a secondary emotion. There are other emotions underneath it–emotions that are not acceptable (in a dysfunctional belief system) like sorrow, sadness, grief, hurt, and fear, among others.

I have come to recognize that I grew up in a very emotionally dysfunctional family. Mad or happy were the only acceptable emotions. Other emotions were not allowed. Now, I believe my parents would tell you otherwise. I do not think they did that intentionally. I think they probably believe that they have other emotions and would have allowed us to have other emotions. But no one ever talked about it. Emotions were not discussed or evaluated, or even really considered. They were dismissed and swept under the rug. There was no exploration.

I have emphasized the opposite direction in my family. We talk about emotions all the time. My children sometimes hate me for it as I make them sit and think about and talk about (that is what they hate the most) their feelings. We sometimes miss other events because I am making them talk about their feelings instead of sweeping them by the wayside to ‘deal with later’ because as we all know, later never comes. It is a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. But guess what? In most cases, we don’t have underlying emotional ‘sneaker waves’ that attack without warning. Unfortunately, even with all of their training, I am not sure my older boys have kept up with the emotional managing I have helped them to put into place. They are going to have to work those things out. And as I have been going through more of my own emotional baggage, I have had to put up some boundaries and ask them to manage some of their relationships without me. I have given them a great foundation, now they have to practice application of those principles. It is hard, hard work and it takes a lot of time.

But….that is part of why we are here on earth, to learn how to manage our emotions and still treat others properly, even when they don’t do that to us.

Anyway, just some food for thought…..what was modeled at your house? What are your beliefs about emotions and feelings? Do you live by those beliefs? What are you modeling for your children? Stuff to think about.