Welcome to spotlight #7! Here is where I highlight one woman I believe to be a "strong woman". I believe we are here to learn from one another and be strengthened, so what better way to both learn from and celebrate a beautiful friend than a special blog post dedicated to her?
You have 5 children. How do you balance mothering/household chores/sanity? I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would never shrug off the needs of my kids. If they come to me and they need help with something, want me to listen to something, just want to sit on my lap for a minute, if at all possible, I do it. Right then, right when they ask. I want them to always know that even when life is busy and hectic and full of stuff to be done, they are what matters. Not the computer, not the blog, not the book I might be reading, or the floor I might be mopping.
As for housework, with five kids, I've learned it's really important not to fall behind. If I don't do a little each day, I spend all week trying to catch up. Daily maintenance is much easier than weekly catch up. Even still, I still have days where I've ended up with ten loads of laundry all waiting to be folded. (I'm not alone in this, am I?)
How do I maintain my sanity? I pray a lot. Not formal, official, on my knees prayers, but in my mind and heart, little shouts to heaven begging for strength that I don't have, patience, when mine is running short, insight to know what to do or say when I feel stumped. I also try and always do things for myself... exercise, writing, drinking cherry coke - all therapeutic when life feels tougher than usual.
What has been the biggest challenge in your marriage and how did you overcome it? My husband and I came from very different families with very different styles of communication. When disagreements happened, my family would talk and talk and TALK, and his family would silently retreat. I remember the first couple of years, whenever we would argue, true to form, I would start talking, and he would wordlessly pull away. We both had to learn that in order for the two of us to really communicate, we each had to give a little. I had to shut my mouth and give him some breathing room, and he had stretch a little bit too, listening more and talking more. I also had to learn that one argument does not mean divorce is on the way. People disagree, and they STILL love each other. Who would have thought?
Now, ten years in, we hardly ever fight. We've both learned a lot about respect and tolerance and acceptance. We also try really hard to make sure the other always feels validated. We both have hard jobs... me, at home with the kids, and him working to provide for a big family. One is not more difficult than the other, one not more important. I always try to make sure he knows how much I appreciate how hard he tries, how much he does. And he does the same for me.
Favorite Dessert? Fresh strawberries with melted chocolate drizzled over the top, and fresh whipped cream. So simple, and yet so completely divine.
What is your very favorite childhood memory? My family spent a lot of time hiking and playing in the National Forest not far from our home. We jumped off rocks into the river, we hiked to see waterfalls, we played and ran and picnicked. I can't remember one specific instance, but I remember the little details - the cold mountain water and the cold fried chicken we ate on our picnics. I can even conjure up the feel of the dirt on our feet when we piled back into the minivan to drive home - it always smelled of decaying leaves and river water and happy kid.
Have you ever felt at peace in your life, and if so, how/where/when did you find it? Peace is a funny word. We live in a fallen world, see? So even when the waters of life seem relatively calm, there simply isn't a guarantee that a storm isn't brewing in the distance. And yet, my faith anchors me in a way that I know, even when there are storms, I will still be okay. I think if we wait for the storms to pass before we feel at peace, then we might not ever find it at all. The goal, my goal, is to remain at peace even when life is hard - when there isn't enough money, or family members are sick, or things just aren't working out the way I hoped. For me, that's only possible through a complete reliance on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He calms the storms, if not literally, then at least within our own hearts.
What advice do you wish you would have been given, or listened to, before you became a mother? I remember one afternoon when my oldest child was a few months old, I wheeled his bassinet into the bathroom with me so I could take a shower. Half way through, he started to cry. With soap still in my hair, I jumped out of the shower and picked him up, certain that any extended period of crying would certainly scar him for life. It makes me laugh to think about it now. With five kids, if I waited until all was calm and peaceful before I showered, I'd never shower at all! I think what I've since learned is that being a good Mom means taking care of yourself too, even if that means walking away from a wailing toddler, or letting your baby cry for a few minutes while you finish your shower.
I've also learned that with very small children, it isn't personal. They don't make messes to make Mommy mad. They don't wiggle during prayers, or get out of bed one more time because they are set on ruining their parents lives. (Cue the words, "Are you TRYING to make my life more difficult?") They're just kids. They have terrible impulse control. They're clumsy. They makes messes. But we can't take it personally. It's our job, after all, to teach them how to be responsible, respectful individuals. They can't do it on their own, nor should we expect them too. That perspective has helped me be a lot more tolerant and patient as a Mom.
Who is your greatest example? I have to make it plural. My greatest examples are my parents. They live their faith completely, unequivocally. Growing up, they parented lovingly, gently, and with their whole hearts. And we, as their children, knew it. I remember growing up, when I didn't have enough faith to make decisions for the right reasons, I would often make them simply because I cared so much what my parents thought and I did not want them to be disappointed. In time, my faith grew to fill in the gaps. They managed to have a perfect balance of high expectations for us, and total acceptance of what we were, what we decided to be. I look to them often when I am making decisions about how to parent my own children. They are my examples as parents, but also as people. They are goodness, kindness personified.
Life can often seem mundane with the monotony of chores and tasks etc. What do you do retain "yourself" when most of the needs around you are not your own? I write. Writing is the most therapeutic thing I do and is does a lot to help me maintain perspective. I can very often write myself into understanding, into patience, into love that might not have been there before. I also make a point to exercise. I go to a gym that provides childcare and that's huge. An hour, a few times a week to sweat and breathe and sort of detox my body is really important to how well I function, and I how happy I feel. (The Mango Tango recovery shake I get after I'm done working out helps too.) Even still, there isn't always time for it. Five kids take up A LOT of time. When I start to feel lost, I remember that serving my family is serving the Lord, and there is no greater work. I also remember that there is a time and a season for all things. I can't do everything right now. Not now, when my kids are so small. And that's okay.
You are a great writer. How does writing influence the way you look at life and what are your goals for this talent in the future? Almost always, there is a running narrative in my head. Sometimes I narrate my own life (which I know is a little ridiculous, but seriously, I can't turn it off) and sometimes I'm lost in another story - characters, lives that exist only in my head. When I'm working on a specific project, I often dream entire conversations, then wake up and frantically scribble them down. I love to write fiction, and will always do so, but I also love the style and honesty of personal essay writing. (Which is just a fancy way to say blogging, right?)
I've finished my first novel, and am working now to get it published. I'm hopeful that something will work out. I'm determined though. Even if I can't get this one published, I'll keep writing. And sometime, someday, something will be published. (Ah, the power of optimism!) As for my blog writing... I love to blog. I love to connect with others, to shares parts of me that might make a difference and read parts of others that absolutely make a difference in my own life, with my own perspective. My most recent blog project involves partnering with a charitable organization that I love, to raise revenue through advertising and sponsorships. It's still in the works, but it's gotten me very excited about blogging with a purpose.
Thanks so much Jenny!