28 November 2011

J.K. Rowling on Failure and Imagination

A few years ago, I watched this speech given by J.K. Rowling at the 2008 Harvard Commencement (I wasn't there... I just saw it online) and I have not been able to forget it. She is a powerful, creative writer and a talented speaker. I admire her for what she has done with her life, even with hardships and disappointment. (You can also read it here.)

26 November 2011

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

25 November 2011

I should probably not say this out loud, but...

...I've been listening to Christmas music since October. My bad.

But this one's in Spanish! So if you didn't know better, it could be a multi-holiday carol, right?

24 November 2011

danke schoen

I am grateful to be a woman.

I am grateful to be a mother.

I am grateful to be able to continually learn.

I am grateful to have good books to read.

I am grateful for music that makes me want to dance.

I am grateful for my sisters and sisters-in-law.

I am grateful to have good food to eat everyday, not just today.

I am grateful for our apple tree.

I am grateful to be able to write here and be so open with all of you, strangers and friends.

I am grateful for the smells of the holidays.

I am grateful for 44 cent avocados... and 3 dollar milkshakes

I am grateful for our amaryllis.

21 November 2011

The Busyness Becomes You

I felt like my head would explode. Or my feet would fall off. Or my arms would give out. Or I would just fall asleep right where I was sitting. In yet another meeting.

Sundays have become my meeting days. Jumping from one to the next, with a baby on my hip and a diaper bag that seems much heavier than it should be. If the meeting is with all ladies, I can nurse the child right at the meeting. Otherwise I am scrambling in the 15 minutes between to get her fed and changed and ready for the next one.

When I finally reach my home, my husband opens the door for me and offers a hand and a kiss. All I want to do is sit and stare at the wall. But the lists of "To Do's" grew quickly at each meeting and if I stop and sit, there is a chance I won't ever get anything done. So I start right away. Call this person, email that one. Look up Christmas stories for the party or a song for the kids to sing.

Sometimes, I wonder what really is the point of all the busyness. Is there a point? Or is it like the movies say. Suburbia with it's matching houses and crazy neighbors, where everyone spends their time doing the same things over and over again, with little purpose but to keep ourselves busy.

But I don't really believe that. My to do list is not full of senseless things to fill my time. It is full of reminders to go talk to that child, who in class seemed so quiet and maybe a little bit lonely. It has reminders to make sure my neighbors remember the Christmas party that I am helping organize; or ideas of who would sing so pretty for that party. It is full of ways to improve, be more efficient, ideas that I had to be more thoughtful and what I could do for a friend.

I am grateful for my life. That I can see the people around me who I can help and love. And maybe each thing I do takes a piece of me so that by the time I get home, I wonder if I have anything left to give. But then I remember that I do it to help other peoples lives be a little happier, a little less lonely, and maybe even a little easier. And that makes me happy.

17 November 2011

"Be something, Abe."
The last words Abraham Lincoln's mother said to him.

14 November 2011


Before the child was born, I was absolutely terrified about being a mother. Flashbacks of babysitting as a teenager haunted my late pregnancy dreams. I tossed and turned, fearing the hell that my child would go through because I had no idea what I was doing. Kind friends would assure me that there was nothing to fear. They told me of my mother’s intuition that would kick in and I would just know what she would need.

But that particular gift or talent or whatever you want to call it seemed to elude me. Billy and I were so lost and confused we even had to ask the nurses at the hospital how to hold her and if we would ever feel less awkward doing so. She would cry and I had no ideas of how to soothe her. Secretly I cursed those who had told me to rely on my intuition; because all my intuition was telling me was that she had a fever (which she didn’t) and that she was lethargic (which she wasn’t). It seemed instead of mother’s intuition I had simply been endowed with eyes that were so tired they would not stay open and endless fears that kept me checking on her all through the night.

As time slowly (and yet so quickly) passed, I started to get to know our little one. I started to hear the subtle differences in her cries, informing me when she was tired or hungry. I knew what position she liked best to sleep in; which toys she liked best to nibble on; which animal noises made her laugh; which foods made her gag. I learned her sleep patterns, her ticklish spots, and how she cries when she is lonely.

I guess I had naively imagined mother’s intuition as a sort of dust that kind little fairies would sprinkle on my head the night before my child would be born. Instead it was the product of time and energy and tears. Many, many tears. It was earned during sleepless nights and showerless days. It came only after loving her and cuddling her and getting to know her.

And then one night she was sick for the first time. As she threw up all over herself and her bed, I suddenly felt like that brand new mother who was at a complete loss as to what to do for her child. I cleaned her up and took her temperature. “She is fine” the thermometer assured me in soothing tones. So we laid her in her bed with her clean, fresh sheets, said a prayer with her and kissed her good night. Not 60 seconds later she was throwing up again. What had been small worries in the back of my head became great fears.

What if something was really wrong. Did I feed her baby food that had gone bad? Had she licked something that had germs on it? The fears quickly escalated to more terrible things, stories I had heard of children with health problems that only showed themselves months after the child was born.

Panic was taking over. Who should we call? What should I do?

After I dressed her in yet another pair of pajamas, I held her in my arms while Billy cleaned up her bed once again. I rocked her and touched her soft little nose and her rosy little cheeks. I said a little prayer in my head, begging for a calm to help me separate what was real and what was simply my fears running wild. I caressed her arms and held her tiny little fingers between mine. I was reminded that, though we are still learning, that we know our little miss Millie. We are her parents. And we can know when something is really wrong. I breathed in deep, smelling her baby smells. She was drifting into sleep again and I could feel that everything was alright.

I sat there and for the first time in my life, I believed in mother’s intuition. I believed in my ability to take care of my baby. It was not something that had come as naturally as I had hoped or been told. It had come with work and time and effort. But it was there and I could and would trust in it.

12 November 2011

"... Don't pray for tasks equal to your abilities, but pray for abilities equal to your tasks. Then the performance of your tasks will be no miracle, but you will be the miracle."

~Thomas S. Monson

10 November 2011

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."

~Marie Curie (1867-1934)

07 November 2011

Guest Post: Passionate

Let’s Get Passionate!

Romantic even. Let’s get ridiculously silly sometimes.

And let’s face it: Passion is a woman’s catharsis. It heals. It refreshes.

Now let me expound….

Last night I was doing two of my favorite things—eating good food and laughing with family—and we were hit with a storm. First, it was just the wind building up. We noticed the trees bending and waving wildly. The evening sky turned shades darker as black clouds rolled in and covered our neighborhood. And as we all gathered outside to revel, the first drops started pounding the pavement.

I love a good storm. In a silly, unexplainable, passionate way! My husband knows this about me, and he grins when my “stormy side” comes out. Truly. Storms do something physical to me—my heart races. I suddenly wish I was wearing a dress from Sense and Sensibility, so I could run out into the rain and get soaked down to my bloomers. And in my disheveled state, I would expect my husband to run out and kiss me really fantastically!

Okay, so, passion. Storms make me passionate—romantic, silly, etc. But I get other kinds of passionate about other kinds of things. A Mumford & Sons song gets my blood racing also…. But in this case, it becomes a heady euphoria, and I feel like I could really, truly change the world. Equally unexplainable. But their music fills me with passion.

But I didn’t run out into the storm last night—not in front of everyone. How silly I would have looked! And I don’t tell people about my stormy side in casual conversation. Of course not. They would listen to a statement or two, a shine of embarrassment behind their eyes, and tell me that they hear their kids crying, or they really should get dinner started, or whatever.

But then I wonder if that’s how it would really play out. What if I told it to just the right person, who listened and then said, “I know! Every time I pass a field of golden wheat, I want to pull my car over and run through it. I can’t explain it. I just need to do it, with a passion!”

Or, “Yes! When I hear my boyfriend play the piano, I want to run over and jump into his lap, take his fingers, and kiss each one! But isn’t that silly?”

I imagine myself looking at that person entirely differently forever—in a beautifully passionate way. I would suddenly recognize a “bosom friend,” someone to be silly, deep and passionate with…

Aka, someone to be real with.

Wouldn’t that be amazing? To see everyone’s passions on the outside? To see a depth in someone—even about something trivial—that we have never seen before? To understand what things truly move everyone around us?

Why speak in Victorian-era statements, when we could be so much more real with each other? I certainly do not mean the kind of real where we tell people their clothing/hair/etc is ugly; where we go around offending people because “Oh, I’m just being real.” No, that’s not real. That’s narrow-minded. It’s mean.

I mean real, where people know I feel deeply about things. Where instead of saying, “Oh, yeah, thunderstorms are cool,” I say, “Yes! Thunderstorms make me want to run out into the middle of the street and hold my arms out in blissful welcome!” Where they see me as a person that is moved, that is emotional, that resounds inside. Someone with passion for….whatever it is that I feel passionate about. What’s wrong with being deep and silly anymore? Why must we look and act detached, controlled, serene, mild, benign, bland, flat?

I am passionate about thunderstorms! I am passionate about Mumford & Sons!

I am passionate about My Husband, My Children, My Faith!

I am passionate about books! About writing; and how words are put together!

I am passionate about the earth around me! About the ocean!

I am passionate! I am romantic! I am real! I am me!

(Ahh, doesn’t that feel good?!)

This essay was written by the delightfully passionate Charity Brooks. You can see her other essay here and visit her personal blog here.