The Good News is…

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I read a wonderful article recently entitled The Mormonizing of America.  It talks about the increase in media attention and the rise to positions of influence and power by members of the LDS faith during the last few generations despite the fact that they are such a small percentage of the global population.

I saw this article shared by Mayim Bialik (of Blossom, Beaches, and Big Bang Theory fame) that discusses modesty in Mormon culture and how it effects athletes.  Bialik stated in her description of the article “I’m not Mormon, but my in-laws are”.  She praises the young lady featured in the article for being well spoken and states that her decisions are “admirable”.

On October 10th, the documentary motion picture “Meet the Mormons” was released nationwide in select theaters.  The film features 6 diverse members of the church from across the world while “challenging the stereotypes that surround the Mormon faith”.

The first thing that I saw the other day in my news feed when Facebook came up on my screen was a friend commenting, “Today is just one of those Sunday’s that I want to stand on the tallest mountain and yell I KNOW THE CHURCH IS TRUE!!”

My 18-year-old nephew, who is currently serving as a missionary for the church in Ecuador for TWO YEARS, just wrote our family a letter in which he stated excitedly, “MIRACLES HAPPEN.”  What sacrifices he is making as a young man to bring families he has never met to the knowledge of the gospel!

It is remarkable to me, as a member of the Mormon church, the strength of our small numbers (less than 2 percent of the World’s population) in reaching the World on a global scale.  And the news is almost always positive despite the tendency that we as a nation have to make a mockery of all things good and praiseworthy.

I loved this quote in the article I mentioned above:

Plant Mormonism in any country on earth and pretty much the same results will occur. If successful, it will produce deeply moral individuals who serve a religious vision centered upon achievement in this life. They will aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society. The family will be of supernatural importance to them, as will planning and investing for future generations. They will be devoted to community, store and save as a hedge against future hardship, and they will esteem work as a religious calling. They will submit to civil government and hope to take positions within it. They will have advantages in this. Their beliefs and their lives in all-encompassing community will condition them to thrive in administrative systems and hierarchies–a critical key to success in the modern world. Ever oriented to a corporate life and destiny, they will prize belonging and unity over individuality and conflict every time.

It’s all true.  The Mormon church as a whole achieves success because it is based on deeply moral and selfless principles, with its individuals striving to be more like their Savior in every action.  How can you go wrong?

This fall we made the decision to enroll the twins in a pretty pricey all-day preschool.  Two of the days they are at school I take the “baby” to a wonderful day care and I spend my [suddenly very short] day running errands, cleaning house, making plans, and generally just being productive.

Recently I spent this free day at the temple.  This is a place I usually go with my husband.  We were married here and when we were first married we went at least every month.  When we started a family it became a lot more sporadic.

It’s important to me for one because, in a worldly sense, its a lot like renewing your vows.  When we’re there together I am reminded of why it’s important to protect our relationship and why being organized into families is so special.  It is also one of the only places we can go where we force ourselves to sit quietly, distraction and device free.  No one gets offended.  No one casts judgment.  The cares and stress of the world fall away and Heaven is close.

This time was a little different because in the times when normally I would look to Aaron’s side of the room, meet his gaze, and smile, or find an opportunity to hold his hand, I realized I was alone.  This was the first time I have been to the temple by myself.  I sat in the temple for two hours and something hit me very hard.

Heaven would be a very lonely place without the ones you love there beside you.

As I reflected on my experience that day, I realized that with all the positive sharing of religious views and experiences it should be easy for me to consistently be a shining light to the world of how the Gospel can change your life.

Instead I am terrified of how sharing the deepest parts of my faith could change my relationships with the people I care about most.  I’ve had enough religious discussions that ended (or started) with “Let’s not turn this into a religious discussion” to know my boundaries.  What are people afraid to hear?  Is it that they’re afraid that it is true?  What would that mean for them?

But there is proof in all things pointing to the existence of a Heavenly Father and His love for us.  He has His hand in the moving forward of His work on the Earth.  At some point every single soul will have an opportunity to hear His truth and accept it or deny it.  The choice I have to make is whether or not I, as all those I mentioned before, want to be involved in sharing that I know this.

I choose to be involved.

So if you’re ready, listen.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true church on the Earth today because within its teachings is the fullness of the Gospel, even if there is truth in all religion.

Our Heavenly Father has a perfect plan, one that we usually do not fully understand, and if we follow it and trust in it we will be able to live with him and with our families again when our mortal life ends.  Part of this plan was choosing his son Jesus Christ to atone for us as imperfect beings.  Another important part of his plans was restoring his true gospel to the Earth in this dispensation through a young and humble disciple of Christ, Joseph Smith.  Joseph’s courageous example to follow the Gospel even through trials and persecution is second only to the Savior’s.

I know that if I keep the covenants that I made when I was baptized and when I entered the temple, and that if I keep the commandments that were set for us many generations ago, that I will be able to more clearly see the path that God has set for me.  And the truth is, even if it weren’t true, there is no better way to choose to live our one and only chance at life.

But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true and I am eternally grateful to be a part of spreading this news.

 

Click here to request a free copy of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter one: The Boy Who Lived…

In the late 90’s, I was nearing the end of my secondary education.  I had precisely 3 interests: Boys, dance, and a social life…with boys.  Reading was definitely not on my to-do list.  So it wasn’t even on my radar that suddenly every person of every age in every country became enamored with a book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I don’t recall even being aware that this was a book until 2001 during my first year of college.  This was the year that this first book in the series became a movie.  A good [21 year old] friend of mine, Traci, was obsessed with this series.  We were in the dance company together, and at the end of the year we had an assignment called musical mapping.  The assignment required us to choose a song, “map” the dynamics of the song out using the medium of our choosing (pipe cleaner, macaroni noodles, string, etc…you know, college student stuff), and choreograph a dance to go along with our 3-dimensional music map.  We then presented the entire project to our class.  Traci chose the Harry Potter movie’s theme song, which at the time was unrecognizable.  She incorporated a magic wand into her choreography with which she led us through her map.  If that wasn’t enough to get me to read this book, I don’t know what is.

Over the years I received a lot of criticism for having never read this series.  About 7 years ago, I rode along with Aaron when he went to dig a grave (yes, this actually happened).  I had some time to kill while I sat in the car, and the Sorcerer’s Stone happened to be sitting on the bench seat next to me.  Aaron really loved the series and has read/listened to each book at least twice.  I picked it up, thrilled that I was finally about to jump on the HP band wagon.  I got to about the part where (spoiler alert, if you haven’t read it) Harry makes the glass disappear at the zoo and releases the snake.  That was where the wagon stopped for me.

Since that time I’ve been the epitome of a crazed YA fantasy fiction fan over all the big-time supernatural, dystopian, sci-fi, love-triangle type books and their movie adaptations (you should see my “I’d rather be in Forks” t-shirt).  All except Harry Potter.

Last fall, Jade started kindergarten.  I’ve been reading to Jade almost every night since she could sit up on her own, so it didn’t come as a surprise to me that she picked up the ability to read very quickly.  In October at her last birthday, she was given her first set of chapter books about fairies.  We devoured them and went back for more when the school book fair came along.  Suddenly books didn’t need pictures to be interesting.  This was my cue.

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“Jade how about we read Harry Potter together?  I’ve never read it before.”  I fully expected her answer to be, “You haven’t read Harry Potter???  Even I’ve read Harry Potter mom!”  But instead she answered yes, and our journey began.

Last night, we finished the first book.  I almost cried!  Literally.  And for more reasons than one.  I just finished a very long book with my first child and she sat still and listened and comprehended just about every word!  But I was also sad to close the book after that last page.  What incredible writing, and what a fun story!  We do own all 8 movies, but to be honest I don’t think I’ve sat through most of them and the ones I did I either fell asleep or didn’t have a clue what was happening.

But the best part about the whole thing is that I’m experiencing these books for the first time with my daughter.  How many parents of my generation get to say that?  I kept thinking what if I’d given in and read the series a long time ago?  I get to do this 6 more times!

Do you have any movies or books you wish you could experience again for the first time?  And its sad because you never will be able to!  You’ll keep re-watching Titanic hoping it will be as good as that first time, but it never will be.  Okay maybe that’s just me.

Chamber of Secrets here we come!

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The Insomniac Child

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Ever since my little Calder was an infant it has been a real struggle to get him to bed at night.  The twins have always shared a room, but when we first put them in separate beds Calder began his nightly ritual of screaming himself hoarse.  Luckily, at the time our closest neighbors were about a half a mile away so no one reported us.

Despite the lack of sleep, I do have fond memories of cuddling with my little boy as he stared at me, refusing to close his eyes.  I remember one night when he was about 18 months old that I sat in the rocker with him sprawled across my lap, gazing wide-eyed into my face, my arms falling asleep, and thought he’s so big, I’m not going to be able to do this for much longer. 

Eventually his terrified howls turned into hysterical laughter.  After an hour-long bedtime routine, the lights are turned off and we slowly exit the room.  Seconds later, the laughter starts.  I peek in his room and whisper “Quiet, Calder,” and the giggles instantly halt.  Before I’ve taken 2 steps out of the door frame, it starts right back up.

After a few minutes the room is quiet.  But then we hear a soft creak in the door and look to see two little eyes peeping through the crack.  As I start towards his room, he turns to run and I hear a fast pitter-patter as he jumps back into bed.  When I enter the room, I approach the bed and kneel beside it.  I whisper, “Calder, everyone is sleeping.  Can you go to sleep too?”  “Yes,” he says.  “You promise?”  “Promise,” he replies.  “Okay…I love you.  Goodnight”.

You can guess how this goes on for the next hour or so.  Promises mean nothing to a three-year-old.  Sometimes it results in a firm pat on the bottom and a few tears shed.  Many nights the same thing happens in the middle of the night.  Aaron and I take turns going to his room and trying to coax him into falling asleep.  Once he (and we) have exhausted all our tricks, there’s nothing left to do but just wait it out.

Several days ago, this happened.  At about 3 AM, I laid in bed looking up at the ceiling with my eyes wide opened, thinking about what I needed to do the next day and if any of it required a well-rested body and mind.

Suddenly I remembered that the previous evening, as we tried “the usual” to get Calder to bed, Jade burst into a song that went something like “Go to sleep, go to sleep, you need to get your re-e-est…”, to the tune of — what else? — Let it Go.  Aaron and I laughed and tried to continue with the song.

And that night, at 3 AM, I did continue the song.  And this is what transpired:

The light still shines through my window tonight.
Jammies on and teeth are brushed,
lullabies of twinkling stars, ABC’s and babies hushed.
The sun is setting but I’m still awake inside.
Couldn’t close my eyes even if I tried.

I need a drink, my diaper’s wet,
there’s a monster underneath my bed.
One more light on so I can see, Mom, please.

Stay awake, stay awake, don’t wanna sleep anymore.
Stay awake, stay awake, don’t know what this beds for.
Parents still watching TV.
Maybe Oso’s on…
I don’t think sleeping is for me.

Funny how the darkness makes everything more fun,
but despite my curiosity I can’t play with anyone.

Brother, wake up and play with me.
It’s more fun than your bed, you’ll see.
We’ll play dress up with our dirty laundry.

Stay awake, stay awake, I’m having so much fun.
Stay awake, stay awake, can’t be the only one.
Mom thinks its necessary,
but I’m not tired.

My bed is soaring through the air to outer space.
I’m strapped into my bright blue car and I’m ready to race.
My yellow submarine’s submerged beneath the sea.
Fire truck’s on it’s way with help to those in need.

Stay awake, stay awake, I’ll miss something if I blink.
Stay awake, stay awake, I’ll never sleep a wink.
There’s so much to do and see!
When will the sun rise?
I don’t think sleeping is for me…

I would like to take credit, but if it weren’t for my clever daughter and my insomniac son, none of this would have taken place.  Oh, how I love them!

In the days that followed, I got it in my head that this was going to be something big.  So I pondered and worked and sang and edited and three short days later…

 

 

 

Making unorganized matter…organized. And making it matter.

Several months ago I wrote the following in a post entitled Leave No Path Untaken:

“I have an innate need to be part of things.  And not only PART of the world, but CREATING it and IMPROVING it.  Somehow my ego thinks this is possible and actually necessary or the world just simply won’t go round…It’s really difficult for me to feel just mediocre.  I tell myself I am destined for greatness and need to be the best at everything I do.  There’s a lot of pressure that I put on myself to be this person every. single. day.  Even when I try to GIVE MYSELF A BREAK by taking a walk (or starting a blog) I still feel like it needs to be the BEST walk of my life, or the absolute most inspiring blog post ever written!”

I think a lot about the need I have to somehow make every moment a memorable one.  Blog-worthy.  Epic even.  Last week I had one such experience which I would consider to be particularly remarkable.

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For the last few years I’ve attended a conference called Time Out For Women with my Mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  It is, exactly as it sounds, an opportunity for women to give themselves a break from daily tasks, whatever they may be, and focus on what makes them (us) special and important.  Each conference has a line up of inspirational speakers and musical guests (both men and women).  This year the line up included an incredible singer/songwriter/guitarist and also husband/father named Justin Cash.

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Well, since I don’t really ever “give myself break”, I used his performance time to imagine a scenario in which I got him a job working for my dad and devised a plan for how I would make this a reality.  If/when this worked out, Justin would have a great job, Dad gets a fabulous artist, I have something to say to this singer after the show besides “I really enjoyed your music!”  Everybody wins!  Of course I couldn’t just sit and enjoy the show.

Ironically, Justin also had a few things to say between songs and what came out was a paraphrase of the following quote by Elder Dieter Uchtdorf (Member of the LDS church general presidency):

“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before…Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty… As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.”

Hey, that’s what I’m doing!  Thank you for the validation, Elder Uchtdorf.

So after the show, I approached Justin and, in the most composed voice I could muster, pitched to him my idea for his future.  Not wanting to offend him by implying that he needed a better gig, I think I apologized and smiled a lot.  But I was thanked with a hug and a napkin to write on.  I gave him my dad’s email address, with “Tell him Whitney referred you” scribed underneath.  Again I apologized and explained why I had written my own name on the napkin, he laughed and thanked me, I wished him luck and we parted ways.

I just realized how many times I referred to him as “Justin” so apparently from my end the meeting went well and we are now on a first name basis.

I was very inspired by this conference and did actually listen and not try to respond to or intervene with the majority of the show.  It was a good feeling to be recognized for the things I’m already doing, and encouraging to see that change is possible for me.  Probably the next few posts will have to do with things I learned from this experience.  But for now I’m going to make one last helpful (and hopefully profitable) plug!

If you’re reading this and you live in the Charleston, South Carolina area, please make this a priority!  It’s an incredible show created by a couple of people who I love very much, who also happen to have been very talented Broadway performers.  Maybe if you mention me they’ll give you a discount!

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I believe in karma.  Maybe…just maybe…now a spot will open up for me in their cast 😉

 

 

 

Easy Street, where the rich folks play.

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The first house Aaron and I lived in on our own as a married couple was actually on a street with this name.  I remember noting the irony of the situation as this was also where we brought our first child home and coincidentally where I began my quite long stint as a stay-at-home mom.  It seemed unlikely that the location of our home would live up to its name any time soon.

I pass Easy Street on a regular basis now, and when I do I think about just how easy life seemed in 2007 looking back from 2014.  In fact, I think about how easy life seemed in 2011 when I had 3 kids instead of 4, and 2 of them couldn’t walk or talk.  But definitely in the moment it did not feel that way.

The truth is, things have never felt easy to me at any time along the timeline of my life.  At some point, there have always been goodbyes, mean babysitters, unfair politics, moves, change, breakups, illness, loneliness, crushed expectations, sleepless nights, difficulty—

The opposite of ease.

But it really is all about perspective.  Of course now the idea of moving to a new house as a 10 year old who has absolutely no part in the moving process seems like a piece of cake.  No signing closing papers or writing a giant check or packing up decades worth of memories.  Just get in the car.

Of course now the thought of deciding between this boy or that boy seems like such a joke, when obviously I wasn’t going to end up with either one.  Plus one of them is fat and also bald now.

Of course now that goodbye moment with my dad at the airport (while still always a tearjerker) is not the end of my entire life.  A year passes a lot quicker now than it did when I was 7.  Or 12.  Or 18.

Of course that 15 hours I spent at the audition for So You Think You Can Dance that got me nowhere would not have gotten me anywhere even if I HAD made it to the final cut.  Where are the winners now?

Of course that night when I stayed up all night wanting to scream and cry and throw stuff while trying to get a crying infant to go back to sleep ultimately didn’t effect my future sleep habits.  She sleeps for 11 hours a night now.

But think about all the memories I have now because of those trying times.  And all the LOVE!  Sure, I could have decided not to have 4 children.  I’m pretty sure no one ever told me it was going to be easy and somehow people are still having kids.  No 75 year old woman ever says, “I wish I didn’t have all these *%!# kids”, but  a LOT of people have told me, “Raising young kids is going to be one of the hardest times of your life, but when its over you will have a big, loving family!”

And somehow I think that, even without the kids, difficulty would have found a way into my life in some other form.

Happy Vegas snapshots

I’m feeling rather uninspiring when it comes to writing after a long and wonderful visit with my mother, both in Las Vegas and my own home.  So to sum it up, I desperately needed this trip for so many reasons, but I’m happy to be back to…normal?  A more systematic routine anyway.  Here are some of the highlights.

Eating breakfast at the world famous Hash House (featured on Man vs. Food).

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Seeing Cirque du Soleil’s Love.  This was my favorite Cirque show so far.  I’ve also seen Mystere and Viva Elvis.  This one struck a major chord with the dancer in me.

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Jean Phillipe at the Bellagio.  The best desserts ever!  You can tell how in love I was.

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New York New York’s roller coaster.  I rode twice.  By myself.  Don’t feel sorry for me; as you can see I didn’t care.

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My mom’s friend John Salvatore was in Jersey Boys, so not only did we get REALLY good seats for a great price, but we got to go back stage afterwards.  I think the usher that reprimanded me for having a camera out wasn’t on such a power trip after he saw this.

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75 degrees {sigh}.  Enough said.

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Wow.  All I can say is…wow!  This is an incredible exhibit if you ever get a chance to see it.  It is especially exciting if you can recite lines to the movie while you’re walking through replications of parts of the ship like the steerage hallway or the grand staircase.  Maybe I’m the only one who does that.

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We walked.  A LOT.  We did zero gambling but we did walk through every. single. casino on the strip in order to get to where we needed to go.

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Bellagio fountain of course.

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And finally…

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I have no words for this experience.  Well, I do because I always have words.  But nothing that would do it justice.  It was a feeling similar to what I felt when I first fell in love with my husband but couldn’t tell him yet.  Its just this warm feeling that hovers there and there is nothing you can do about it but just laugh or cry or take a deep breath.

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We were actually supposed to be at the Pentatonix concert that night, but after seeing the Titanic exhibit we felt compelled to stop by the House of Blues to ask them where our “seats” were.  The man at the ticket counter looked apologetic as he explained that we probably should have called the box office and asked them about our tickets before we paid for them.  Apparently we were going to have a terrible experience (we had tickets for standing room only on the 3rd balcony).

The next day we decided to take a VERY long walk back to the north end of the strip (we were staying at the south end) just so I could get a refund on a shirt that I was overcharged for.  Right next to Fashion show mall was a half price ticket counter.  Seeing it sparked a conversation about how great it would have been to see the Celine Dion concert.  But my mom had looked at tickets prior to our visit and they were $250, so it wasn’t even a thought.

I suggested that maybe we just stop by the half price counter just to check, to which she responded “Its the biggest show in Vegas, there’s no way they sell tickets for half price”.  But I convinced her, as I’ve been known to do.

That night we sat in the 11th row orchestra seats at the Colosseum ($250 seats) for $98!  Ohhh, what a night.

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And then we returned home.  It was a surprisingly balmy 35 degrees as we exited the airport, which quickly turned into a blizzard that gave us 8 inches of snow.  But I had a half dozen excited, smiling faces to come home to.  We had a nice weekend with my grandma and aunt, watching Frozen (fittingly) and taking Jade to basketball and play practice.

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If you were one of the ones who was with me the last week — missed you Daryn 😦 —  you know that even when all the stars align to your advantage there is still room for stress.  Sorry for that.  But those are the moments that “get you from one happy snap shot to the next“, right?  So grateful for an incredible family to share these memories with, and for an extremely patient and supportive husband for staying home with 4 little kids!

Whitney’s Wistful Wednesdays

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I mentioned in one of my header pages that I’ve been a very diligent record keeper since I was a little girl.  Every few years I’ll get in decluttering mode and in the process will come across my box of journals, take one out, read several entries, and put the box back exactly where it was.

One year ago, almost exactly, I stopped writing in a journal.  It was at a point where I had a million things on my mind but absolutely no motivation and writing just became a burden.

Last week as I was setting up my home work space for my new class, I realized that last year’s journal was still sitting in a pile of books on my desk.  I picked it up, wiped the dust off, and opened it to see what the last entry date was.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

I don’t know what to do.  I’m miserable and it feels like that’s my usual lately.  Subconsciously I think I write with the intention that if someone reads this after I’m gone they’ll finally realize why I was so crazy. 

All I know is I can’t go on this way.  I have basically no quality of life, its just survival.  And I’m barely doing that because now I’m getting sick and starting to have MS symptoms.  I don’t feel like I can talk to Aaron about it anymore.  I’ve exhausted all my excuses for my behavior and I feel like I’m just crying wolf.  Nothing I say carries any weight, its just a lot of whining that just makes my family unhappy and scared to be around me.

I’m scared to be around me.

I keep thinking about my grandpa’s first wife who ended up in a crazy hospital and he divorced her and she never saw her kids again.  I’m really terrified I’m heading in that direction and I have absolutely no control over it.  This is not my choice. 

If I could choose, I’d be a loving wife and mother who tries her best but doesn’t panic if the house isn’t clean or dinner isn’t ready because spending time with family is priority.  I can hardly even see the things my kids are doing right in front of me.  I’ve just got blinders on to my own destruction.  I pray with all my heart that tomorrow will be a better day and that I’ll feel stupid for even writing this.

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Well I do feel sort of stupid for writing that, but I don’t feel stupid for sharing it.  Obviously that is how I was feeling at the time and I’m not feeling that way anymore.  Which means something I’m doing is working, or my prayers were answered.  Or both.

I’ve decided to share entries from my journals regularly and I’m doing this for several reasons.  Most of all its because rereading these unabridged versions of my experiences gives me a sense of continuity in my life, rather than compartmentalizing life into “the good old days” and “survival mode.  Days like January 14th pushed me to make changes and shaped who I am becoming.  I also have many days (like May 6th, 2006) that were wonderful, perfect days and were reflected in the way I wrote that day.  Those, I want to remind myself of.

Let’s hope that I can learn something from the bad experiences and not repeat them, and remind myself of the great days to help me get through the not so great.