Monday, January 25, 2010

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

My family has always enjoyed musical productions. We love to watch classic movie musicals. One of our favorites is "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," starring Debbie Reynolds. This movie is based on the life of Margaret Brown, who was known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown after her heroic efforts in helping some of her fellow passengers survive the traumatic sinking of the Titanic.

My siblings and I nicknamed our mother Molly Brown quite some time ago. To be honest, the challenges our mother has faced in her life are numerous and overwhelming. Here is a sampling:

A few months before my mother was born, her brother Jimmy died in a tragic accident at the age of seven. A passing motorcycle spooked the horses a crippled uncle was driving, and Jimmy was thrown from the milk-wagon, dying instantly when his neck snapped. My grandmother was understandably devastated and she was placed on high-powered medication to ease her through this difficult time. My grandfather was told that the baby his wife was carrying would be stillborn as a result.

No one was more shocked than my grandfather when my mother was placed in his arms a few months later. Not only was she alive and kicking, but she demanded immediate attention and a name. My grandfather dubbed her Genevieve, after his own mother.

Following her amazing start in this mortal realm, Genevieve lived a fairly normal childhood on a ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming. After graduating from high school, she went on to attend Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. That is where she met my father who was preparing to become a pharmacist. The two were married on August 5, 1959 in the Idaho Falls Temple. They spent their honeymoon in Yellowstone Park, and were in fact camping near Hebgen Lake, washing their car in that infamous lake just a couple of days before the earthquake. Luckily for them, they had left the area before disaster claimed several lives.

They moved to Pocatello where my father attended ISU, intent on earning his degree in pharmacology. About a year later, he developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome and was paralyzed from the neck down. This was the same time my mother found out she was expecting me. What a joyous time in their lives. ;) As my maternal grandfather later stated, "What the @#%$!! else is going to go wrong?"

It would take my father a year to recover from this debilitating condition. Gradually he regained the use of his limbs. During his recovery, they moved into a tiny trailer next door to his parents who lived in Roberts, Idaho. Dad's parents wanted my mother and father to give up their dreams of college and remain there on the family farm. My mother locked horns with her father-in-law and let him know in a big-time hurry that they were going back to Pocatello to finish school. And they did just that. My father graduated from ISU in 1964 and became a full-fledged pharmacist, my mother cheering him on every step of the way.

When I was about 3 years old, my mother brought home a baby brother for me to play with. She found out a week later that she had developed blood clots in one leg as a result and she spent several days down, relying on her mother to tend my brother and me. Mom survived that scary time, and went on to have 2 more children. Her leg filled with clots again during her final pregnancy and she was bedridden for most of that challenging time.

A few years after my youngest sister arrived on earth, my mother developed lupus. She has endured years of chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis, and other fun-filled adventures as a result. She has faced it all bravely and continued forward, setting a wonderful example of perseverance for everyone who knows her.

About a year and a half after I married, my father took his own life. This would prove to be one of the most difficult challenges that any of us would ever face. Dad had been suffering from a rare liver disease and when he died, he was not himself. This knowledge helped somewhat, but his departure from this world still left gaping heart wounds.

After Dad's death, my mother said that she was tempted to pull the covers over her head and never set foot outside of her bed. Instead, she moved to Wyoming to piece her life back together. Two of her daughters were still in high school, and her son wanted to serve a mission for the LDS Church.

Not knowing how she was going to survive the days ahead, Mom placed her faith in God that things would work out . . . and they did. Childhood friends of my father asked if they could send my brother on a mission in Dad's memory. It wasn't easy for my mother to step aside and allow this to take place, but she did. She and my two sisters learned how to repair the family car in his absence, as Tom served a mission in Montreal, Canada.

While my brother served in the mission field, my mother and sisters moved to Logan, Utah. Mom wanted to live in a college town, hoping that my brother and sisters could secure a college education. Shortly after her arrival in Logan, Mom attended a technical college with one of my sisters, graduating as the valedictorian of her class. After that, Mom worked as a dental assistant to help provide for herself and her kids who were still at home. And just as she had wished, all of her children attended college.

Mom worked hard for several years, then retired when complications from lupus surfaced. She turned 70 this past weekend, and we gathered together to celebrate her life. While her health isn't the best, she continues to take each day as it comes, pressing forward despite the obstacles that hinder her path. She is indeed a remarkable woman, and an example of fortitude. I have no doubt that she will continue to help everyone around her to survive the "Titanics" that surface without warning. Her legacy of courage and compassion will ease hearts and minds as we all strive to survive the challenging times ahead.

Monday, January 11, 2010

You Know It's a Monday When . . .

It seems for years I've heard people complain about Mondays. Monday signals the end of the weekend and for most of us, that means back to the grind, etc. This can often be a daunting thought. And interesting things tend to happen on the first day of the week. Take today for example. I showed up an hour early for an appointment. The sweet young things behind the counter looked at me like I was totally senile. These are the moments that keep us humble. ;)

Last Monday I went grocery shopping and after unloading my cart, I realized I had left my wallet out in the car. Nice. Maybe I am senile. ;)

Songs have been written about the illustrious day known throughout the world as Monday. Here are some familiar lyrics by John Phillips of "Mamas & Papas" fame:

Monday Monday, can't trust that day,
Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Monday Monday, how could you leave and not take me.

Every other day, every other day,
Every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes
You can find me cryin' all of the time.

And there are numerous cartoons depicting the joy . . . or lack thereof of Monday:

So for today's blog post, I'm venturing two questions:

1) What can we do to make Mondays a more enjoyable time?

2) What are some of your favorite Monday faux pas?

P.S. Can I just say that it's awesome trying to be intelligent enough to write blog posts on Monday? =D

Monday, January 4, 2010

Onto the New Year

I always rejoice in the beginning of a new year. There are endless possibilities and countless opportunities that lie ahead. I've decided that this year I'm keeping my New Year's resolution simple: Enjoy each day as it comes and make the most of it.

As the fearless leader in our ward's YW organization, it fell to me to teach yesterday's group lesson. It is a new tradition in our realm (we started doing this 3 years ago, actually) to begin the new year in YW by breaking down the new scripture theme into layman's terms. This helps us all to understand and treasure the new theme, savoring the comfort it can bring into our lives on a daily basis.

I've loved all of the scripture themes for YW so far, but this year's selection is a particular favorite. It is as follows:

"Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9

There is such comfort to be found in those inspiring words. No matter where we are, no matter what is going on in our lives, God is with us. There is no need to fear.

At the time that this scriptural gem was given, Joshua was in the process of taking over the helm from Moses. Moses had passed away and it fell to Joshua to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. This was a daunting task. I'm sure in the beginning, Joshua lay awake at nights, worrying over everything bad that might take place. I suspect most of us are guilty of doing that when a tremendous challenge lies ahead. ;)

What Joshua learned, and what each one of us must realize is, we never face trials alone. It is important to be strong and of a good courage, to avoid feeling depressed or discouraged, knowing that the Lord is in our corner and all things are possible with His guidance and help. We simply have to place our trust in Him.

I recently read a wonderful article in the December 2009 issue of the Ensign magazine. (It is entitled "The Prince of Glory," by Elder Bruce D. Porter, pages 26-30 if you'd like to take a gander.) In this inspiring article, we are reminded that our Elder Brother descended below a world of light and glory into extremely humble circumstances. He did this for two reasons: to provide the means for all of us to eventually enjoy eternal life, and to experience every trial, heartache, and challenge anyone of us would ever face. He endured more than we can ever imagine during the time He spent in the Garden of Gethsemane. I tear up whenever I ponder the sacrifice He made on our behalf.

In Elder Porter's article he states: " . . . the power of Christ is not limited to payment for our sins. Through that power, He also took upon Himself the pains and sicknesses of His people, and He took upon Himself every negative consequence of a fallen world. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, 'Since not all human sorrow and pain is connected to sin, the full intensiveness of the Atonement involved [Christ's] bearing our pains, infirmities, and sicknesses, as well as our sins.'

"Serious illness, family tragedies, and emotional struggles do not happen necessarily because we have sinned. Adversity and heartbreak happen to good people; such is the fruit of a fallen world. But having experienced tragedy, sickness and disappointment in His own life, the Savior knows how to strengthen us in such trials as well . . . We pay no eternal price for things over which we have no control, including harm done to us by others. The Atonement can heal us. The only thing for which we pay a spiritual price is misuse of our own agency, and for that the Savior has given us the Atonement."

The comforting peace that fills my heart whenever I think about all that our Elder Brother makes possible for us is a huge spiritual boost. The knowledge that no matter what happens in my life, I will have the help of heaven to survive, gives me the strength to continue forward.

Other ways to attain the strength we need for the challenging days ahead:
prayer---truly a life-line to our Heavenly Father. I remember hearing several times that there are numerous blessings our Father longs to give us, but we need to ask for His help to receive those blessings.

Reading the
scriptures daily fills my heart with peace, and strengthens my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It also helps me keep an eternal perspective when life happens and things don't turn out the way I had envisioned.

Temple Attendance is crucial during these turbulent latter-days. There are moments when I wish I could live within those sacred walls. And while I don't always receive the answers I might have been seeking while there, I always come away feeling fortified. More often than not, though, my heart and mind receive important promptings with regard to current challenges.

Keeping a positive outlook. I, for one, think this is important. Attitude is indeed everything in mortal mode. I suspect we often sink our own boats when we dwell on the negative side of things. Believing in ourselves and others is the way to succeed in life.

Build others up, don't tear them down. Emulate the Savior's example in reaching out to those around us who are struggling. We forget our own pain when we help someone else.

I could go on and on, but I think by now you're getting the gist of what I'm trying to say. This new year will be what we make it. True, we can't control the actions of others, but we can control ourselves. And in my opinion, if each one of us tried to make a positive difference this year,
2010 will be a year we'll remember fondly.