Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Friend Eleanor

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I went to the funeral of a friend today.  I will miss her.  I want to be more like her.
In reading this week I came across something that describes her perfectly.
“If you want to shape your own hero’s story, you first must know yourself and then 
choose challenges that help you develop a sense of mastery.  You must be willing to 
invest in the growth of others, prepare for and learn to embrace adversity and practice
 courageous acts of character building.” 
I learned things about my friend I had never known before.  Her daughter gave an excellent life sketch that made me love her even more.  You see, Eleanor always gave to me and asked very little in return.  She was the grandma I needed when my kids were small and my own mother lived far away.  She had the uncanny ability to know when I needed her and had just the right kind of support ready to help me through whatever hardship or grief I was experiencing at the time.  She never let on of the things she had already suffered in her life, she only shared the wisdom she had learned from them. 
She was willing to invest in my growth having already embraced adversity and courageously moved on from it.  She was one of the happiest people I know.  
Much of my course work has talked about finding mentors, people who have been where I am and already know the ropes.  I am to search for those I want to emulate and learn to be successful from them.  But, am I a mentor for someone else?  This is the question I have had on my mind this week.  Am I helping to lead others down the paths I have already gone through?  Can I do more for others so they see the path for themselves?  Can I be an Eleanor for some else?
I want to be.  I can be.  This is what we are here for.  This is what I need to learn to do, to invest in the growth of others.  True Charity.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Becoming a "Yes Man"

  I admit it, I trend toward the selfish side with my time.  I always have a list of the things I need to do and have a schedule for how to get it done.  When asked to change this schedule, for whatever reason, I usually start thinking about what is left to be done instead of focusing my attention on the person who needs me.  There is a line in the Disney movie “Frozen” where Ana asks Christoff if her hair looks bad.  Although he answers her the way she wants, Olaf, the snowman, points out that he paused before answering which makes his answer sound manufactured.  I know I do this same thing to people.  I pause.  It’s not that I don’t want to help, I just know I have to rearrange things for myself before I can help another.  This is the attitude I don’t like in myself.
     I recently watched a recording of Guy Kawasaki (Garage Technology Ventures) speaking to a group of business students at Standford University.  He suggested we develop an attitude of always defaulting to Yes.  It should be an immediate response to requests.  It immediately puts us on the path to giving service to someone else.  It isn’t an attitude of martyrdom, there will be time after the “yes” to analyze and schedule.  It is simply a statement in the affirmative saying we will help in whatever way we can. 

     So, as I think about how to apply this to my life, I keep remembering the sweet sister in my ward who called on Sunday morning to ask me if I would feed the missionaries sometime this month.  What I said was, “I don’t know.  Let me look at my calendar. Oh, yes, this day works for me.” 
  Next time, I will say, “Yes.  How does such-and-such day work for you?”    

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Practice, Practice, Practice

Ugh, the dreaded "P" word.  How often, as a kid, do we hear that word and hate the teacher or coach for saying it?  As a piano teacher, I have said it many times, and as a parent many more.  Most of the time I get the same reaction I gave when I was a kid, namely the slump of shoulders accompanied by an eye-roll.  Why? Why do we hate it so much?  For me, it is the fear of the upcoming performance.

I often put too much pressure on my practice times.  When I am learning a new piece of music because someone needs me to accompany them or perform for some event, I feel the weight of the performance and it can overshadow any enjoyment I may get from the experience.  Maybe my imagination is too vivid because I can feel the emotion of being in front of the audience just as strong in my home, with no one around, as I do when actually performing. Contrast this to when I am just playing to play or learning a new piece just because I want to.  At these times there is freedom and if I make a mistake, I try again and move on.  Often these practice sessions feel more like prayer time.  As I make music, I let go of myself and I can feel a bond with eternity and there is joy.

I think this joy is what George Leonard is referring to in his book, Mastery: the Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment when he says:

"Practice, the path of mastery, exists only in the present. . . To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, to enjoy the inevitable spurts of progress and the fruits of accomplishment, then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them.  To love the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in your life."

We can apply this to all aspects of our life, not just music or sports.  Practicing my religion is one of the areas I can really apply this.  I am not a perfect Christian and will likely never be one, but I am better at it than I was last year, and I can be better tomorrow than I am today.  The Lord does not put pressure on me, only I do that to myself.  He celebrates my improvement and challenges me to keep going, but never belittles when I fail.  He is the perfect coach.  I will work at being a better student of Him.  I am looking forward to the practice.

Gifts and Something to Work On

The introspection of the last few weeks coupled with discussion of my personal character with friends and family (as per an assignment regarding my ability as an entrepreneur or manager) has caused me to think more about the gifts my Father in Heaven has given me and what I am doing with them.  Most especially, my ability as a public speaker and teacher.  I have come to a new realization that this ability is a spiritual gift.  I admit it isn’t one I have ever heard before on any list in relation to gifts of the spirit, but I don’t think that makes it unqualified as a gift.
 D&C 46: 11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts,
and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
I also ran upon this verse during my studies.
D&C 29:34 Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual,
and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal . . .
With this new understanding, I am wondering what to do with it.  I have been a teacher several times as a church calling and I always except the call to speak in a sacrament meeting, but is this enough?  Is there something I can do in my life to use it better in building the Kingdom of God?  Or to build my community?  How is my study of business going to make me better able to use this gift?  How do I use this gift in the business world?  Is it needed there?  Is it profitable?  What is the message I would share? 
With this ability also comes a level of confidence, or perceived confidence by others.  This confidence can make me unapproachable.  One friend said it was in much the same way a shy person is perceived as being a snob.  No one came out and said it, but it would seem I have an arrogance about me and it can rub people the wrong way.  I am glad they shared this with me, because I wouldn’t want to purposely make someone feel they couldn’t talk to me about an issue.  I need to work on being able to get my point across while still enabling others to share their view too. 
I love the Proverbs 31 woman and strive to be like her.  Verse 26 reads
She openeth her mouth with wisdom;
And in her tongue is the law of kindness.
I think I can be both confident and kind.  To find the balance will make my confidence a success trait instead of a stumbling block.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Life's Many Missions

 I am supposed to find a mission for my life, but what does that mean?  Is a life mission one big event?  Have I missed it?  Is it still waiting for me?  How will I know it when I see it?  What if I find it but I am unable to complete it? 

What is my mission in life?
The canned primary answer just slips off the tongue. We are sent to Earth to have a mortal experience with a body and learn to be more like our Father in Heaven. While this may be true in the most general sense, the mission of a specific individual is much harder to define.

I believe we have many missions in life.
The most obvious one for me is: It is my mission to be the mother of my particular children.  This has been the biggest one I have found so far.  But there are also many small missions which are easily overlooked.  These are the little acts we do for others as we live our lives.  Who know but that time you showed kindness to someone was a job only you could do.  I believe the Lord has us in situations to do His work for him.  He inspires us to action for the benefit of His children. 

Sometimes we can feel like we don’t have a mission because we are not part of something grand.  We feel small and useless, but the accumulation of mini-missions can add up to a lifetime of service, glorifying not only ourselves, but God as well.  Isn't this what makes a life well lived? 

Doctrine and Covenants Section 58: 27 reads:
"Verily i say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will,and bring to pass much righteousness."

 Most of the time, when we feel mission-less, it is because we have turned our thoughts inward to ourselves.  When we reach out, we find missions every day.  This mortal experience is about finding those missions and completing them well.

I also like the next verse. 28:
"For the power is in them . . ."

The power to find and complete our missions is in us as we follow the teachings of the Savior and listen to the guidance of the spirit.   This is comforting.  I am certain there have been opportunities to serve in mini-missions which I have missed, but that also means I have many more to look forward to. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ethicst Statement

I am an L.D.S. Woman.

In all things, I will strive to build upon my understanding and my relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ.  Each choice and action, even the most mundane, will be willingly and conscientiously directed toward him.  This attitude will allow me to grow and develop characteristics which reflect my commitment to covenants I have made.  Some of these characteristics include faithfulness, loyalty dependability, industriousness, peacefulness, preparedness and being service minded.

I have heard someone mention that whatever we do, do it as if doing it unto the Lord.  This attitude has been something I have worked to develop within myself for many years.  It has helped me become a better mother in ways I never would have seen before.  Often the chores of motherhood are mundane to say the least and I fail to find joy in my tasks.  When I remember this simple attitude even the smallest chores like folding socks becomes a joyful action celebrating my place and those I love the most.

I believe this same attitude carries over to other areas of my life, from callings, to paying my bills, and to my relationships with my family and those I come into contact with in the community.  I also believe it will carry with me as I re-enter the workforce.  If all I do is directed to the Lord, then there is no need to cheat, anger or make life difficult for another. With every choice I am forced to ponder the question of if I would perform the same way if I was actually doing it for, or to, the Lord. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Bucket List

          One of the assignments for this week was to write a “Bucket List”; 50 things we want to accomplish before we die.  I found this rather difficult, not because I have no aspirations, but because I have accomplished so much already and I thought it would be cheating to include those things on my list.  Some may think this is absurd, a stay-at-home mom in her mid 40’s, who feels accomplished, but I really feel this way.  Trust me. I have had my fair share and then some of run-ins with people who think my choosing to stay home is evidence of my lack of ability in the world.  Some think my intelligence to be inversely proportionate to the number of children I am raising. (I will include one little story about that at the bottom because it has nothing to do with this assignment.) I even see this attitude in reading assignments for my classes and from some classmates, although, I am sure my fellow students have not done this purposely. This attitude doesn’t usually bother me much, because the people who feel this way are the ones who don’t know me. I know I am intelligent and capable and I became Mom on purpose. I understand the honor and responsibility of the position. I am confident in the eternal perspective given me by testimony in the gospel.  Lately, it has bothered me, a lot.
          The problem is that this attitude is coming from me. I am feeling intimidated by reading of the start-up of Yahoo! and other giants of business.  I think, “Who am I to go out there thinking I can do these things?”  But, in the reading for this week I ran across one simple sentence I really appreciate.  In the book “The Start-up of You,” by Reid Hoffman, cofounder and chairman of LinkedIn and Ben Cosnocha, was this little gem.
“You can carve out a … niche in the job market by making choices that make you different from the smart people around you.”
          These authors assume I am smart and automatically put me in that group. I should too. They think my life experience is worth something. I should too.  I may not be interested in starting a company and making it into something like Yahoo! or LinkedIn or any of those other companies out there, but my ideas and dreams do have value and not just at home. 

A little anecdote about being rude.
I volunteer with my local emergency management office where I participate in community response to emergencies.  During one particular exercise I met several FBI officers who were assigned to my area of the command post.  As the day opened we introduced ourselves and because they all knew each other already, they began to ask me questions.  How long had I been working in Emergency Management?  What other events had I been part of?  Many people who are part of response, are really from other agencies like fire or public health.  Because of this, they asked what my usual day job was.  You could have heard a pin drop when I answered, “I am a mom expecting baby number 4 in two weeks.”  They literally turned their backs making conversation between themselves, never saying anything more to me.  I went to work fulfilling my responsibility.
During a break in activity their boss, the Regional FBI director who happened to be a  former member of my stake presidency, walked into the room and searched the faces looking for someone.  His gaze landed on me and his face lit up.  He walked right to me and shook my hand.  “Jennifer!  It’s great to see you.  How are the kids?”  We continued to have a conversation for a while catching up on life, then he asked if I had seen the person he was looking for.  After giving him direction on where he could find him he left without saying a single word to any of the officers there.  I turned back to the room to find all of them staring at me with their mouths agape and they fell all over themselves trying to figure out who I really was and how I knew their boss.  I think I took too much pleasure at their discomfort, because it was obvious they felt badly for the way they had treated me.  I still laugh about it.  Perhaps I should repent for that!


Most of the time I love a new beginning.  The excitement of what lies ahead propels me on my way.  This time is different. I am struggling with the start, because I can't see the path.  It is difficult to start a journey if you don't know where you going. Currently, faith is what is pushing me forward. It is pushing me to the next class, the next assignment, the next thing to learn that I didn't know I needed to learn.  This not seeing the next step until I am there is new and uncomfortable for me.

How I got in this position.
I have always been a learner, a doer, and adventurer.  If there was something I wanted to do, I set myself to learning and practiced new skills until I could do it.  Being an LDS woman allowed me the freedom to explore what ever caught my fancy, but I have always felt the desire to finish my college education.  When the Pathway program opened in my stake, I knew the time was right so I jumped in.  I thought I would finish school in the same direction I started.  I love people and places, language and literature so I thought I would be able to continue on the humanities path I started as a teenager.  I was wrong.  I tried and tried to work out a program that would keep me in the humanities field of study but I could never get it to work.  I never wanted to consider anything in business.  The more I tried to work out a plan, the more the idea of looking at the business school would come to mind.  I continually pushed it away.   Finally in frustration and desperation I looked into studying business.  It fell perfectly into place.  I was humbled.  I should have been listening to the guidance the spirit was trying to give me, but, I am stubborn.  So, I put my faith in the Lord and the way he was leading me and started my business studies.  
It isn't easy for me.  It has been hard so far.  In classes that say I should spend 12-15 hours a week in study, I spend at least 20.  I am not afraid of work, it has value and I understand it, but usually I can envision the end result of my work.  At the moment, I cant see the end other than finishing something I started a long time ago.  I don't know why the Lord has me here, I only know this is where He wants me.

What I am doing about it.
I keep doing my assignments, I keep signing up for more classes.  I keep going. I keep trusting.
I am trusting that as I develop a knew mind set and new skill sets that the path will open up and I will be able to see.  Until then, I cannot sit still and I wont.  I am proud of the things I have already learned and I am looking forward to learning more.